Fort Owen hosting ‘Mud Party’ Saturday, Sept. 18

Posted September 14, 2021

This article originally appeared in the Ravalli Republic.  By Perry Backus.

Friends of Fort Owen invites the public to a “Mud Party” hands-on interpretive event on Saturday, Sept. 18, anytime between 11 am and 3 pm at Fort Owen State Park in Stevensville.

Interpretive stations will focus on the art and science of making adobe brick, which is a rare building material for Montana. Bring the kids and be prepared to get your hands muddy and have some fun at Fort Owen State Park.

The event will feature touchable examples of various types of adobe bricks, as well as soil scientists and adobe and historic preservation experts to show how to look for clay, what John Owen said in his journals about making adobe bricks, what’s in them, how to make them and use them to build a building.

Earlier this year, Friends of Fort Owen received a grant from the Montana History Foundation to work in partnership with Montana State Parks on the restoration of the East Barracks at Fort Owen State Park. The East Barracks building contains the oldest remnants of pioneer settlement in Montana and is the most historically significant structure in the park.

To establish his trading post, John Owen began to replace older wooden structures he had purchased from the St. Mary’s Mission with adobe beginning in the mid-1850s. His journals are filled with references to “making adobe,” “hauling dirt and adobe,” “building the bastions,” and “making progress on barracks.” Some days it was too wet for them to dry, other days no bricks were made due to other work priorities. Thousands of bricks where made and hauled to the fort to build two barracks and the 14-foot-high and two-foot-thick wall that once enclosed the hacienda-style courtyard.

Understanding the composition of the original bricks is key to developing a plan to restore the barracks.

“We have been researching how John Owen made his adobe bricks for the Fort and want to share what we have learned with the public,” said Margaret Gorski, President of Friends of Fort Owen.

The nonprofit Friends group exists to work in partnership with Montana State Parks to protect and manage Fort Owen State Park in Stevensville. For more information, visit, or their Facebook page, Friends of Fort Owen.