In 1880, Fort Spokane was a long way from the centers of white population. The fort was situated on the edge of the Indian reservation to keep Indians on the reservation and keep white encroachment off. Fifty-five miles from the nearest railroad, and hours from there by rough wagon roads, supplying the fort and its nearly two hundred hungry and thirsty soldiers was a cumbersome task.
It was the job of the quartermaster to retrieve the needed supplies. This building was the quartermaster’s stable, also known as the mule barn. At the height of the fort’s activity this barn was crowded with 13 army wagons, 4 escort wagons, a spring wagon, 3 trucks, and 6 carts, 8 horses, 65 draft mules, and 9 pack mules. The men who cared for the animals apparently had their favorites: you can still see the names of some of the animals written above the stalls.
What kinds of supplies were carried to Fort Spokane? The rations of the soldiers provide some clues. There was “much reliance on potatoes and onions” for the diet of the soldiers. Other rations included canned baked beans, bacon, maple syrup, beef, dried peas, rice, hominy, and a gallon of vinegar every day per hundred men at the fort. In addition to food, the wagons would have been filled with uniforms, ammunition, medical supplies, mail and government correspondence, and personal effects for the enlisted men, the officers, and their families.
The quartermaster's stable is one of the last buildings still standing on the fort grounds. After the fort was decommissioned, the building served as a barn for the Indian boarding school and then the hospital. After the government was done with the land, it was leased to a local farmer who continued to use the barn for his work. Today, the mule barn is unoccupied, but you can still see the inside of the building on a tour.