Fort James, the rosy stone fortification of the Dakota prairie, was built along the James River in 1865. Fears of mounting tension between the pioneer settlers and the Santee Sioux prompted the U.S. government to erect the unique fort. Unlike most frontier forts, which were largely made of wood, Fort James was built with a local rose-colored stone known as Sioux quartzite.
The Dakota War (or Sioux Uprising), between 1862-1864, was a result of the U.S. government's failure to distribute the supplies promised to the Santee Indians by treaty. In desperate need of food and resources on the reservations, tensions grew between the Indians and the white settlers occupying their former lands. Although the area had not seen conflict for over a year, in 1865 the U.S. Cavalry Army was sent out to the site as a means to keep peace on the prairie.
Fort James was built and occupied by First Lieutenant George W. McCall and the 6th Iowa Volunteer Cavalry. The fort was erected in the summer of 1865, and was home to around 80 enlisted men, their horses and a handful of civilians. Most of the Sioux had long since left the area of Fort James, and the fort operated quietly and peacefully until its closure in the fall of 1866. Although it saw no conflict, the sturdy fort served to soothe the minds of the uneasy settlers moving to the region. Documentary sources suggest that the fort burned to the ground shortly after it was abandoned.
Today the ruins of Fort James sit on the Rockport Hutterite Colony. Since 1890, Hutterites have been living and working around the site of Fort James. In the late nineteenth century, materials from the fort ruins were salvaged for the construction of Hutterite buildings, but the site has nonetheless survived relatively undisturbed. Faint outlines of stone walls are still visible amidst the flowers and grasses of the working Hutterite farm, and remain as a testament to the sturdy fort that once stood there.