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James Liberty Fisk: Businessman
James L. Fisk was born in 1835 in New York. In the 1850s, Fisk joined the Army and served in Minnesota. There, he married and began farming, but when an opportunity to go west with an expedition to Wyoming came along, he took it.
That expedition began a life of adventure in the Northwest that included leading four wagon trains from St. Paul to Montana. Two of these wagon trains (1862 and 1863) traveled across Minnesota to Dakota Territory along the north side of the Missouri River to Fort Benton in Montana.
Congress was interested in developing a good route to the Montana gold fields and offered $10,000 in payment to those who would help develop that road. Fisk, who had left the Army before the Civil War began, obtained a Captain’s commission and the $10,000 grant from Congress to take yet another wagon train west in 1864.
Like most officers, Fisk gave up his military commission when the war ended in 1865. In 1866, Fisk took another wagon train along the northern route to Helena through Fort Abercrombie, the north side of the Missouri River, and the Milk River in Montana.
Fisk remained in Montana for several years working for a newspaper. His business ventures sometimes failed, and he had trouble with unpaid bills from time to time. He spent the rest of his life in Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. In the 1890s he moved into the Soldiers’ Home in Minneapolis. He died in 1902 at the age of 67.