This column ran in the Sept. 21,Â edition of the Prairie PostÂ
They may not have had a computerized inventory at Fort Seward but they still managed to keep track of everything. And they took it seriously when something showed up missing.
Take, for example, an incident from September, 1874.
An inventory of the company stores, the stockpile of supplies at the fort, turned up a little short. Missing were most of the contents of a barrel of lard and part of a case of raspberry jam.
Yes, it was the great Fort Seward grease and jelly caper.
These kinds of shortages were taken seriously by the officials of the military. A Board of Survey was convened to investigate the situation. These officers would take testimony and try to determine what happened and who, if anyone, was responsible.
Lt. Ribbel was evidently the supply officer and submitted his testimony in writing to the board. He stated he had gotten the barrel of lard from his predecessor, Lt. Hunt, and the barrel had never been opened or tampered with.
He continued that the barrel was part of the original supplies transferred to Fort Seward from Fort Ransom when that post was abandon in 1872. This means this was a fairly high mileage barrel of lard.
The report of the Board of Survey found no theft or crime associated with the lard. The smoking gun, so to speak, was the grease spot on the storeroom floor. They determined the lard had run away when the wood barrel developed a leak.
But the mystery of the missing raspberry jam was a little more difficult.
Ribbel said the shipping box for the jam had never been opened. However, while the shipping box said 24 cans of jam there were only 11 cans found in the box when it was opened.
Moreover, the shipping box showed the indentations where all 24 cans of jam had set for some time.
But just as in the case with the lard the Board of Survey absolved Ribbel of fault. They reported that while it was certain that 13 cans of jam had disappeared, it was impossible to say who had tampered with the box and made off with the jelly.
The board ordered the inventory, or return as the report was called, show the reduced quantities.
And I imagine the officers at Fort Seward kept an eye on the soldiers for anyone with the smell of raspberry jam on their breath.