"Every military post shall have one Sutler, to be appointed by the Secretary of War."
General Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1841
About 100 yards in front of you an engraved stone marks the location of Fort Scott's sutler store. The sutler, a civilian licensed to run a store on or near a military post, sold goods not normally issued by the army. Serving soldiers and civilians alike, the sutler store was a vital part of a military post.
Imagine operating a store here in the 1840s. Among the many challenges were trips as far as St. Louis or even Philadelphia to buy goods. Loss of shipments by theft or natural disasters such as flood was part of the sutler's risk.
[Illustration captions read]
· This sketch (above) is the only known historic image of Fort Scott's sutler store. It appeared in a history of Fort Scott written in 1894. Historians are unsure of its accuracy, or whether the illustrator had ever actually seen the store.
· Hiero T. Wilson (left) became Fort Scott's post sutler in 1843. Fluent in Osage, Cherokee, and Creek, the six-foot-two sutler was called Big White Chief by local Indians. When the army left in 1853, Wilson stayed to operate his store, and helped establish the town of Fort Scott.
· Items on this March 1844 page (above) from the Fort
Scott sutler's ledger include clothes pins, eggs, and raisins. Other items often sold included newspapers, books, tobacco, candy, and beer. A council of military officers set prices.