Big Guns of the Old West at Fort Seward July 24-25

Living history demonstrations, activities for children and adults part of events planned.

ft seward jen marks 072021
Jen Marks, director of Fort Seward, sits beside a Howitzer cannon and talks about the events scheduled for the Big Guns of the Old West this weekend. John M. Steiner / The Sun
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From children’s events to demonstrations and a chance for some to “fire” a Howitzer cannon, Fort Seward is packed with events for its Big Guns of the Old West on July 24-25.

Big Guns of the Old West is being held in conjunction with Buffalo Days in Jamestown. Admission is free as are most activities.

“I think it probably is the biggest event we have done,” said Jen Marks, director of Fort Seward. It’s all designed to create more interest in the growth in programming at Fort Seward and to gear up for the 150th anniversary of the fort, which is in July 2022.

Big Guns of the Old West will offer a scavenger hunt, races and watermelon eating contest for children, plus other activities. There are also activities for adults such as a soldier’s relay race, watermelon eating contest and fashion show.

The Howitzer cannon and Gatling Gun demonstrations are a big draw for adults and children alike, Marks said. The Howitzer cannon will be demonstrated at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, followed by the Gatling gun demonstration both days. Chuck Keller of Bismarck, who owns the Gatling gun, will be available both days to answer questions about the gun.


There are also opportunities for people to pay to “pull” the Howitzer cannon, which is a sound burst rather than a live charge, Marks said. Ten spots are available at each time slot - 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. People could purchase them through a presale and if any remain they will be available for purchase on the days of the events. They are $50 a pull and those taking part must be age 13 and older and sign a waiver. Marks said those taking part will get a T-shirt and certificate.

The pull event is a fundraiser for the 150th anniversary next year of Fort Seward, which was once served by soldiers stationed between 1872 and 1877 to protect railroad construction crews.

Vendors will be selling food and crafts, and the interpretive center will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

Marks noted there will be crafts for children at the children’s tent and toys will also be at the site.

“A lot of the things that kids are going to see in the children’s tent are things that we’ve done throughout the summer, and were crowd favorites and we’re bringing them back,” she said.

Fort Seward offers programming throughout the summer for children on a variety of topics.

Most activities are free. Activities for which there is a small fee include the watermelon eating contests.

Marks encourages people to come to Fort Seward this weekend.


“You should definitely come check it out. The site looks just so alive,” she said. “It’s so different the weekend of Guns. You really get the feel of what life was like in the 1870s and Chuck Keller does an amazing Gatling gun demonstration.”


Tent City and living history demonstrations are planned Saturday and Sunday.

Tent City includes a laundress station, bake house, scout tent, school tent, officer’s tent and hospital tent that give people a look into what life was like in the 1870s.

Ann Marks will cook pies and bread on Saturday as they were made during that time, and the pies will be auctioned off on Sunday afternoon.

Kerwin Lund, Hazen, N.D., will demonstrate blacksmith work with 1843 Army forge equipment both days.

Megan Smith will make butter with children at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. both days.

Jen Marks will do soap making throughout the days at different times.


Saturday schedule

10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tent City and living history demonstrations.

10:30 a.m., flag raising

11:30 a.m., fashion of the 1870s - fashion from the time featured

Noon-5 p.m., children’s scavenger hunt

12:30 p.m., children’s relay race

1 p.m., soldier relay race

1-3 p.m., photo booth opportunity, dress up, photo packages with Michelle Weatherly

2:30 p.m., life of a soldier drill

3:30 p.m., Howitzer cannon demonstration

4 p.m., Gatling gun demonstration

Sunday schedule

10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tent City and living history demonstrations.

10:30 a.m., Tea with Mrs. Patterson - children learn about tea socials with tea and scones, biscuits

11 a.m., Fort Seward 150 years presentation on next year’s planned celebration

1 p.m., infantry drill

1:30 p.m., Howitzer cannon demonstration

2 p.m., Gatling gun demonstration

2:30 p.m., pie auction

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