This powder magazine was built circa 1875 and housed much of the Fort Buford ammunition supply and other ordinance stores.
Fort Buford has two earlier magazines. This 1875 building replaced a partially underground magazine which had stone-lined walls and an earth roof. Poor ventilation and moisture made the structure unfit for ammunition storage.
Special design considerations were given to a building intended to house ammunition. Ventilation was important, ammunition had to be kept dry to fire properly. Because fire and explosions were a concern, all nails and the wood floor were counter sunk to prevent sparks. Soldiers had to remove their boot or wear felt boot covers to prevent the hobnails on the soles from sparking, and munitions crates had all screws and nails countersunk and the holes filled with putty. The door was metal and the walls were thick so that if an explosion occurred the force of the blast would take the path of least resistance, upwards through the roof instead of outwards. The powder magazine was also well built as protection against theft of its contents.
Because lanterns were not permitted in this building, storage crates had to be clearly marked and easy to identify in dim light. As you can see, crates were sometimes color coded. Each box was marked to indicate the number and Caliber of the cartridges,
kind of weapon in which they were to be used, and the day and place of manufacture. Tarpaulins were used to cover crated to protect them from roof leaks.
Not all the fort's ammunition was stood in the powder magazine. Some of the weapons and ammunition were kept in the barracks with the men. The Quartermaster's storehouse contained some the ordnance such as crates of firearms. Cannon munitions were stored in separate buildings.
The quantity of ordnance inventoried at Fort Buford in July 1877 suggests that this frontier post was busy with military activities of the time:
Rifle = 590,993 rounds
Carbine = 129,513 rounds
Pistol = 15,081 rounds
Cannon = 1,942 rounds