• Sutler Hiram Rich part of post history

  • Hiram Rich was the Fort Leavenworth sutler from 1841-62.

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Fort Leavenworth has always needed civilians to make it function. From its earliest days, officials with the Upper Missouri Indian Agency, federal district courts and other government employees were joined by laborers, teamsters, warehousemen, building trades, peddlers, domestic servants and even the slaves of Army officers before the Civil War, and many others have always supported soldiers, families and the Army mission.
    A copy of an annotated drawing in the files of the Frontier Army Museum of Cantonment Leavenworth made in 1828 shows more huts for laundresses than fighting positions for soldiers.
    Prominent among these was always the post sutler.
    The sutler was a civilian merchant who supported the troops in garrison from a fixed facility on or near post, and in the field from the back of a wagon or a tent. Often the only non-military supplier of items much in demand in remote areas, he ran a general store under contract to the Army that supplied soldiers and civilians and their families with tobacco, coffee, sugar, household items, liquor and other sundries not available through the Army supply system, a distant forerunner of the modern post exchange and commissary system.
    Sutlers occasionally provided recreation such as gambling, drinking and other hospitality services to the troops. Sutlery was a cash-and-carry business but the sutler frequently allowed his repeat customers to buy on credit payable on the sometimes infrequent paydays on the frontier.
    Hiram Rich was the Fort Leavenworth sutler from 1841-62. Rich was born in 1799 in Vermont and worked as a trader from 1822-1841 in Missouri and elsewhere in the Midwest trading mostly with the Indian tribes. He obtained a contract from the federal government to supply the Pottawatomie Indians in 1836 and later traded with the Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Sioux in the late 1830s.
    Rich obtained a contract as Fort Leavenworth sutler in 1841 and was appointed fort postmaster the same year. John James Audubon visited him and stayed in the sutler’s house in 1843 when the famous artist was painting birds along the Missouri River.
    Rich accompanied Col. Stephen W. Kearny and the 1st Dragoon’s Mexican War Santa Fe expedition in an official capacity as sutler, 1946-47. In 1852, he was secretary of a commission from Kansas to Congress to urge the establishment of a territorial government. He was identified as “colonel” as an honorific title, which indicates his importance to Fort Leavenworth. He is buried in the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery under an unusual horizontal grave marker.
    One of the oldest structures on post, the Sutler’s House at 611 Scott Ave. was originally a story-and-a-half log cabin, now much renovated. It is the only wooden set of quarters on post painted white. Through the years it has served as a general store, post office and most recently as designated quarters for an Army general officer. It has a great setting next to Zais Park and surrounded by broad lawns with stately old trees. The Sutler’s House has been an important part of the life of the fort for a long time.
    Page 2 of 3 - The Sutler’s House at one point served as the designated quarters for the depot quartermaster, the senior logistician on post in the 19th century before the reorganization of the Army after the Spanish-American War.
    A framed engineer drawing of the house titled “Depot QM Residence,” which includes the layout of its two floors, hangs in a hallway of the house. The drawing has no date, but looks to be a copy of a 19th century drawing.
    Rich’s great-great-granddaughter, Clara Flint Vanderstaay, still lives in Leavenworth. A great-great grandson still lives on a farm in Salt Creek Valley west of post that Rich bought in 1857.
    For information on his book: Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the Names, visit here.
    For the 1st installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 2nd installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 3rd installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 4th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 5th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 6th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 7th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 8th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 9th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 10th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For information on his book: Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the Names, visit here.
    For the 1st installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 2nd installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    Page 3 of 3 - For the 3rd installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 4th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 5th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 6th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 7th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 8th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
    For the 9th installment of the People Behind Post Places series, visit here.
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