They had discovered a village of Indians on Blackfoot creek, about 25 miles from the fort in a northeasterly direction, consisting of about 60 lodges. They had ridden, greenhorn-like, into the village without any cere- mony or knowledge of the friendly or hostile disposition of the Indians, neither could they inform us to what nation they belonged. It happened, however, that they were Snake, friendly to the whites, and treated our men in a hospitable manner.
After remaining all night with them three of the Indians accompanied our hunters to the fort. Prom these we gathered through the mulatto who could speak a little of their language much desired information. The next day myself and the mulatto started to the village, where we ar- rived about sun half an hour high. We were conducted to the chief's lodge where we dismounted and were cheerfully saluted by the chief, who was called by the whites "Iron Wristbands" and by the Indians "Pah-dasher-wah-un-dah" or the hiding bear. Our horses were taken to grass and we followed him into his lodge, when he soon ordered supper to be prepared for us.
He seemed very much pleased when we told him the whites had built a trading post on Snake River. He said the village would go to the fort in three or four days to trade. We left them next morning loaded with as much fat, dried buffalo meat as our horses could carry, which had been given as a gratuity. We were accompanied on our return to the fort by six of the men.
On the 10th the village arrived and pitched their lodges within about yards of the fort. I now commenced learning the Snake lan- guage and progressed so far in a short time that I was able to understand most of their words employed in matters of trade. October 20th a village of Bannocks, consisting of lodges, arrived at the fort. From these we traded a consider- able quantity of furs, a large supply of dried meat, deer, elk and sheep skins.
In the meantime we were employed build- ing small log houses and making other necessary preparations for the approaching winter. November 5th some white hunters arrived at the fort who had been defeated by the Blackfoot Indians on Ham's Fork of Green River, One of them had his arm broken by a fusee ball, but by the salutary relief which he obtained from the fort he was soon enabled to return to his associates. On the 16th two more white men arrived and reported that Captain Bonneville had returned from the lower country and was passing within 30 miles of the fort on his way to Green River.
On the 20th four white men arrived and reported that a party of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, consisting of 60 men under the direction of one of the partners Mr. Bridger , were at the forks of Snake River, about 60 miles above the fort, where they intended to pass the winter. We were also informed that the two fur companies had formed a coalition. December 15th the ground was still bare but frozen and the weather very cold. On the 24th Captain Thing arrived from the mouth of the Columbia with 10 men, fetching supplies for the fort.
Times now began to have a different appear- ance. The whites and Indians were very numerous in the valley. All came to pass the winter on Snake River. On the 20th of January 12 of Mr. Bridger's men left his camp and came to the fort to get employment. They immediately made an engagement with Captain Thing to form a party for hunt- ing and trapping. On the 15th of March the party was fitted out, consisting of 10 trappers and seven camp keepers my- self being one of the latter , under the direction of Mr.
Joseph Gale, a native of the City of Washington. March 25th we left the fort and traveled about six miles northeast and encamped on a stream running into the river about 12 miles below the fort, called Portneuf. The next day we followed up this stream in an easterly direction about 15 miles. Here we found the snow very deep. From this we took a south course in the direction of Bear River.
Our animals being so poor and the traveling so bad, we had to make short marches, and reached Bear River on the 1st day of April. The place where we struck the river was called Cache Valley, so called from its having been formerly a place of deposit for the fur traders. The country on the north and west side of the river was somewhat broken, uneven and covered with wild sage. The snow had disappeared only upon the south sides of the hilis. On the south and east sides of the river lay the valley, but it appeared very white and the river nearly overflowing its banks, insomuch that it was very difficult crossing, and should we have been able to have crossed the snow would have prevented us gaining the foot of the mountain on the east side of the valley.
This place being entirely destitute of game, we had to live chiefly upon roots for ten days. Here we found the ground bare and dry, but we had to stay another night without sup- per. About 4 o'clock the next day the meat of two fat grizzly bears was brought into camp. Our camp kettles had not been greased for some time, as we were continually boil- ing thistle roots in them during the day, but now four of them containing about three gallons each were soon filled with fat bear meat, cut in very small pieces and hung over a fire, which all hands were employed in keeping up with the utmost impatience.
An old, experienced hand who stood six feet six and was never in a hurry about anything, was selected by a unanimous vote to say when the stew as we called it was done, but I thought, with my comrades, that it took a longer time to cook than any meal I ever saw pre- pared, and after repeated appeals to his long and hungry stewardship by all hands he at length consented that it might be seasoned with salt and pepper and dished out to cool.
But it had not much time for cooling before we com- menced operations, and all pronounced it the best meal they had ever eaten, as a matter of course where men had been starving. The next morning I took a walk up a smooth spur of the mountain to look at the country. This valley commenced about 30 miles below the Soda Springs, the river running west of south entering the valley through a deep cut in the high hills.
After winding its way through the north and west borders of the valley it turned due west and ran through a deep canyon of perpendicular rocks on its way to the Salt Lake. The valley laid in a sort of semi-circle or rather an oblong on the south and east of about 20 miles in length by five miles in diameter and nearly surrounded by high and rugged mountains from which flowed large numbers of small streams, crossing the valley and emptying into the river. There were large quantities of beaver and otter living in these streams, but the snow melting raised the water so high that our trappers made but slow progress in catching them.
We stopped in this valley until the 20th of April, then moved to the southeast extremity and made an attempt to cross the mountain. The next day we traveled up a stream called Rush Creek in an easterly direction, through a deep gorge in the mountain for about 12 miles, which then widened about a mile into a smooth and rolling country. Here we staid the following day.
We then took a northeast course over the divide and traveled about 12 miles through snow two or three feet deep and in many places drifts to the depth of six or eight feet deep. At night we encamped on a small dry spot of ground on the south side of a steep mountain, where there was little or no vegetation excepting wild sage.
We found he had been seen last dismounted and stopping to drink at a small branch at some distance before we entered snow. On the following morning I was ordered to go back in search of him. I started on the snow which was frozen hard enough to bear me and my horse. I went to the place where he was last seen and found his trail, which I followed on to a high mountain when I lost it among the rocks.
I then built a large fire, shot my gun several times and after hunting till near sunset without hopes of finding him, I gave it up and went to the edge of the snow and stopped for the night. The next morning I started at day- light in a gallop on the snow, traversing mountain and valley smoothed up with snow so hard frozen that a galloping horse scarcely left a foot print. About noon I arrived on a high ridge which overlooked the Snake Lake and the valley southwest of it, which had apparently been clear of snow for some length of time. At the southern extremity of the lake lay the camp, about two miles distant northeast of me.
I descended the mountain and entered the camp. On the 27th of April we traveled down the west side of the lake to the outlet of the Bear River. Here we found about lodges of Snake Indians. We encamped at the village and staid three days. In the meantime our trappers were en- gaged hunting beaver in the river and small streams. The next day we started across the mountain in a northerly direction and after traveling about five miles we discovered a grizzly bear about yards ahead of us.
One of our hunters approached and shot him dead on the spot. We all rode up and dis- mounted to butcher him. He was an enormous animal, a hideous brute, a savage looking beast. On removing his skin we found the fat on his back measured six inches deep. He had probably not left his winter quarters more than two hours, as we saw his tracks on the snow where he had just left the thick forest of pines on the side of the mountain.
We put the meat on our pack animals and traveled up the mountain about five miles and encamped. The next morning we started about two hours before day and crossed the moun- tain on the snow, which was frozen hard enough to bear our animals, and at 10 o'clock a. This river derived its name from the numerous salt springs found on its branches. It ran through the middle of a smooth valley about 40 miles long and 10 wide, emptying its waters into Lewis' Fork of Snake River, its course being almost due north. This was a beautiful valley, covered with green grass and herbage, surrounded by towering mountains covered with snow, spotted with groves of tall spruce pines which, from their vast elevation, resembled small twigs half immersed in the snow, whilst thousands of buffaloes care- lessly feeding in the green vales contributed to the wild and 12 JOURNAL OF A TRAPPER romantic splendor of the surrounding scenery.
On the 10th of May we moved down the river about 12 miles to a stream running into it on the west side, called Scott's Fork. Here were some fine salt springs, the salt forming on the pebbles by evaporation to the depth of five or six inches in a short time after the snow had disappeared. May 11th, after gath- ering a supply of salt, we traveled down the river about 15 miles and encampedf near the mouth of a stream on the west side called Gardner's Fork.
Here we met with Mr. Bridger and his party, who informed us that the country around and below was much infested with Blackfeet. They had had several skirmishes with them in which they had lost a number of horses and traps and one young man had been wounded in the shoulder by a ball from a fusee. Upon the receipt of this information our leader concluded to shape his course toward the fort. On the 14th of May we ascended Gardner's Fork about 15 miles through a deep gorge in the high, craggy mountain.
May 15, traveled up this stream west about 10 miles, when the country opened into a valley ten miles long and two wide. Here we left Gardner's Fork, which turns almost due north into the high mountain, with the bend of it just cutting the north end of this valley. We traveled south about three miles and encamped on Blackfoot, which runs into Snake river, after a course of about miles. Here the snow was very deep over nearly the whole plain, which was surrounded by high mountains. On the 16th we traveled down Blackfoot, which runs southwest across the valley, then turns west and runs into a deep cut in the mountain upwards of a thousand feet above the bed of the stream, the entrance of which seems barely wide enough to admit Its waters.
We traveled through this canyon for about 10 miles, when it opened into a large plain extend- ing to the Sheep Rock on Bear river, which appeared to be about 40 miles distant to the southwest. There Blackfoot makes a sweeping curve to the southwest, then gradually turning to the north enters a narrow gorge of basaltic rock, through which it rushes with impetuosity for about 15 miles, then emerges into the great plain of the Snake river.
On the 22d we moved down 10 miles, where we found thous- ands of buffalo bulls and killed a great number of them, the cows being very poor at this season of the year. May 30th we traveled down to the plains and on the day following arrived at the fort after traveling about 30 miles In a south- west direction.
On arriving at the fort we learned Captain Thing had started in April with 12 men for the purpose of establishing a trading post on a branch of Salmon river, but had been defeated by the Blackfeet, with the total loss of his outfit excepting his men and horses. On the 10th of June a small party belonging to the Hud- son Bay Company arrived from Fort Vancouver on the Co- lumbia river, under the direction of Mr.
Ermatinger, ac- companied by Captain Wm. Stewart, an English half-pay officer who had passed the winter at Vancouver and was on a tour of pleasure in the Rocky Mountains. On the 12th they left Fort Hall and started for the grand rendezvous on Green river. We now began to make preparations for what the trappers termed the "Fall Hunt," and all being ready on the 15th, we started.
Our party under our former leader consisted of 24 men, 14 trappers and 10 camp keepers. It was the intention of our leader to proceed to the Yellowstone lake and hunt the country which lay in the vicinity of our route; from thence proceed to the head waters of the Mis- souri and Snake rivers on our return back to Fort Hall, where it was intended we should arrive about the middle of October next. We traveled to the mouth of Blackfoot creek, about 10 miles.
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Here we killed a couple of fine bulls and took some of the best meat. This country afforded no timber excepting the quaking asp, which grows in small, scrubby groves in the nooks and ravines among the hills. Here we were obliged to cross Lewis' Fork, which is about yards wide and might be forded at a low stage of water, but at that time was almost overflowing its banks and running at the rate of about six miles per hour.
We com- menced making a boat by sewing two raw bull hides together, which we stretched over a frame formed of green willow branches, and then dried it gradually over a slow fire during the night. He was a native of Pennsylvania, about 23 years of age. We succeeded in crossing our baggage and encamped on the east side for the night. Lewis' Fork at this place was timbered with large cottonwood trees along the banks on both sides.
On the east lay a valley about 28 miles long and three or four wide in an oblong shape, half enclosed by a range of towering mountains which approached the river at each extremity of the valley. This valley lies north and south in an oblong form, about 30 miles long and 10 wide, surrounded, except on the north, by wild and rugged mountains; the east range resembles mountains piled on mountains and capped with three spiral peaks which pierce the clouds.
These peaks bear the French name of Tetons or Teats. The Snake Indians called them the hoary headed Fathers. This was a beautiful valley, con- sisting of a smooth plain intersected by small streams and thickly clothed with grass and herbage and abounding with buffalo, elk, deer, antelope, etc. On the 27th we traveled to the north end of the valley and encamped on one of the numerous branches which unite at the northern extremity and forms a stream called Pierre's Fork which discharges its waters into Henry's Fork of Snake river.
The stream on which we encamped bows directly from the central Teton and is narrowly skirted with Cottonwood trees, closely intermingled with underbrush, on both sides. We were encamped on the south side in a place partially clear of brush, under the shade of the large cottonwoods. On the 28th about 9 o'clock a. All was confu- sion, each trying to catch his horses. We succeeded in driv- ing them into camp where we caught all but six, which es- caped into the prairies.
In the meantime the Indians ap- peared before our camp to the number of 60, of which 15 or 20 were mounted on horseback and the remainder on foot, all being entirely naked, armed with fusees, bows, arrows, etc. They immediately caught the horses which had escaped from us and commenced riding to and fro within gunshot of our camp with all the speed their horses were capable of produc- ing, without shooting a single gun, for about 20 minutes, brandishing their war weapons and yelling at the top of their voices.
Some had scalps suspended on small poles which they waved in the air, others had pieces of scarlet cloth with one end fastened round their heads while the other trailed after them. After securing my horses I took my gun, exam- JOURNAL OF A TRAPPER 15 ined the priming, set the breech on the ground and hand on the muzzle, with my arms folded, gazed at the novelty of this scene for some minutes, quite unconscious of danger, until the whistling of balls about my ears gave me to under- stand that these were something more than mere pictures of imagination and gave me assurance that these living crea- tures were a little more dangerous than those I had been ac- customed to see portrayed on canvas.
The first gun was fired by one of our party, which was taken as the signal for attack on both sides, but the well directed fire from our rifles soon compelled them to retire from the front and take to the brush behind us, where they had the advantage until seven or eight of our men glided into the brush and concealing themselves until their left wing approached within about 30 feet of them before they shot a gun, they then raised and attacked them in the flank.
The Indians did not stop to return the fire, but retreated through the brush as fast as possible, dragging their wounded along with them and leaving their dead on the spot. In the meantime myself and the remainder of our party were closely engaged with the center and right. I took advantage of a large tree which stood near the edge of the brush between the Indians and our horses.
They approached until the smoke of our guns met. I kept a large German horse pistol loaded by me in case they should make a charge when my gun was empty. When I first stationed myself at the tree I placed a hat on some twigs which grew at the foot of it and would put it in motion by kicking the twigs with my foot in order that they might shoot at the hat and give me a bet- ter chance at their heads, but I soon found this sport was no joke for the poor horses behind me were killed and wounded by the balls intended for me.
The Indians stood the fight for about two hours, then retreated through the brush with a dismal lamentation. We then began to look about to find what damage they had done us. One of our comrades was found under the side of an old root, wounded by balls in three places in the right and one in the left leg below the knee, no bones having been broken. Another had received a slight wound in the groin.
We lost three horses, killed on the spot, and several more were wounded, but not so bad as to be unable to travel. Towards night some of our men fol- lowed down the stream about a mile and found the place where they had stopped and laid their wounded comrades on the ground in a circle. The blood was still standing con- gealed in nine places where they had apparently been dress- ing the wounds. July 1st, traveled to the southeast extremity of the valley and encamped for the night.
Our wounded comrade suffered very much in rid- ing, although everything was done which lay in our power to ease his sufferings. On the 2d we crossed the Teton mountains in an easterly direction, about 15 miles. The ascent was very steep and rugged, covered with tall pines, but the descent was somewhat smoother. Here we again fell on to Lewis' Fork, which runs in a southerly direction through a valley about 80 miles long, there turning to the mountains through a narrow cut in the mountain to the mouth of Salt river, about 30 miles.
This valley was called "Jackson Hole. The southern part where the river enters the mountains is hilly and uneven, but the northern portion is wide, smooth and comparatively even, the whole being cov- ered with wild sage and surrounded by high and rugged mountains upon whose summits the snow remains during the hottest months in summer. The alluvial bottoms along the river and streams intersecting it through the valley produced a luxuriant growth of vegetation, among which wild flax and a species of onion were abundant.
The great altitude of this place, however, connected with the cold descending from the mountains at night, I think would be a serious obstruc- tion to the growth of most kinds of cultivated grains. This valley, like all other parts of the country, abounded with game. Here we again attempted to cross Lewis Fork with a bull skin boat. July 4th, our boat being completed we loaded it with baggage and crossed to the other side, but on return- ing ran it into some brush when it instantly filled and sank, but without further accident than the loss of the boat.
We had already forded half the distance across the river upon horseback and were now upon an island in the middle, having previously driven our horses to the other shore.
Where Warm Waters Halt…Part Four
We now commenced making a raft of logs that had drifted on the island. On this, when completed, we put the remainder of our equipment about 2 o'clock p. We being all tolerably good swimmers except- ing myself, I would fain have called for help, but at this crit- ical period every one had to shift for himself. Fortunately I scrambled to the shore among the best swimmers. Fortunately we had built a large fire previous to our departure on the raft, which was still burning. I now began to reflect on the miserable condition of my- self and those around me — without clothing, provisions or firearms and drenched to the skin with rain.
I thought of those who were perhaps at that moment celebrating the anniversary of our independence in my native land or seated around tables loaded with the richest dainties that a rich. Independent and enlightened country could afford, or perhaps collected in the gay salon relating the heroic deeds of our ancestors or joining in the nimble dance, forgetful of cares and toils, whilst here presented a group of human beings crouched round a fire which the rain was fast diminishing, meditating on their deplorable condi- tion, not knowing at what moment we might be aroused by the shrill war cry of the hostile savages with which the coun- try was infested, whilst not an article for defense, excepting our butcher knives remained in our possession.
The night at length came on and we lay down to await the events of the morrow. Daylight appeared and we start- ed down along the shore in hopes of finding something that might get loose from the raft and drift upon the beach.
We had not gone a mile when we discovered the raft lodged on a gravel bar which projected from the island, where it had been driven by the current. We hastened through the water waist deep to the spot, where to our great surprise and satis- faction we found everything safe upon the raft in the same manner we had left it. We also discovered that the river, with some difficulty, could be forded on horseback at this place.
Accordingly we had our horses driven across to us, packed them up, mounted and crossed without further acci- dent, and the day being fair, we spent the remainder of it and the following day in drying our equipage. This stream was very high and rapid. In fording it we lost two rifles. There was not a man in the party who had ever been at this place or at the Yellowstone lake where we intended to go, but our leader received information respecting the route from some person at the fort and had written the direction on a piece of paper which he carried with him.
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They directed us to go from the place where we now were due north, but he said the direc- tions must be wrong as he could discover no passage through the mountains to the north of us. This we followed down about six miles when the defile opened into a beautiful val- ley about 15 miles in circumference, through which the stream ran in the direction above stated and entered the mountains on the east side. Here a dispute arose about the part of country we were in. Our leader maintained that this was a branch of the Yellowstone river, but some of the trappers had been in this valley before and knew it to be a branch of Wind river.
They pointed out their old encamp- ment and the beaver lodges where they had been trapping two years previous. But our man at the helm was inflex- ible; he commanded the party and had a right to call the streams by what names he pleased, and as a matter of course this was called the Yellowstone. Three of the party, how- ever, called it Wind river and left us, but not before one of them had given our charge d'affaires a sound drubbing about some small matters of little importance to any one but them- selves. On the north and west were towering rocks, several thousand feet high, which seemed to overhang this little vale.
Thousands of mountain sheep were scattered up and down feeding on the short grass which grew among the cliffs and crevices, some so high that it required a telescope to see them. Our wounded companion suffered severely by this day's travel and our director concluded to remain at this place the next day. He now began to think that these were not the waters of the Yellowstone, as all the branches ran southeast. Finally he gave it up and openly declared he could form no distinct idea what part of the country we were in. We left the camp and traveled in a northerly direction about two miles, then turning to our left around a high point of perpendicular rock entered a narrow glen which led northwest up the moun- tain.
Through this we directed our course, ascending over the loose fragments of rock which had fallen from the dark, threatening precipices that seemed suspended in the air above us on either side, for about five miles, when the ascent be- came so steep that we were obliged to dismount and lead our mules. After climbing about a mile further we came to large banks of snow 8 or 10 feet deep and so hard that we were compelled to cut steps with our butcher knives to place our feet in, whilst our mules followed in the same track.
We succeeded in reaching what we at first sup- posed to be the summit, when another peak appeared in view, completely shrouded with snow, dotted here and there with a few dwarfish, weather-beaten cedars. On either hand were large bands of mountain sheep carelessly feeding upon the short grass and herbage which grew among the crags and cliffs, whilst crowds of little lambs were nimbly skipping and playing upon the banks of snow.
After resting ourselves a short time, we resumed our march over the snow, leaving the mules behind. We reached the highest summit in about a mile of travel. On the top of this elevation was a flat place of about a quarter of a mile in circumference. On the west and north of us was presented one vast pile of huge moun- tains crowned with snow, but none appeared so high as the one on which we stood. On the south and east nothing could be seen in the distance but the dense, blue atmosphere.
We did not prolong our stay at this place for the north wind blew keen and cold as the month of January in a northern climate. We hurried down to where we had left the mules in order to descend to a more temperate climate before the night came on. Our next object was to find a place to descend with our mules, it being impossible to retrace our steps without the greatest danger. After hunting around some time, we at length found a place on the northeast side where we con- cluded to try it. We drove our mules on to the snow which, being hard and slippery, their feet tripped and after sliding about 30 feet they arrived in a smooth green spot at the foot of the declevity.
We then let ourselves down by cutting steps with our butcher knives and the breeches of our guns. After traveling down out of the snow we encamped on a smooth, green spot and turned our mules loose to feed. At sunset we built a large fire, ate supper and laid down to sleep.
The next morning at day break I arose and kindled a fire and seeing the mules grazing at a short distance, I filled my to- bacco pipe and sat down to smoke. Presently I cast my eyes down the mountain and discovered two Indians approaching within yards of us. I immediately aroused my compan- ion who was still sleeping. We grasped our guns and pre- sented them upon the intruders upon our solitude. They quickly accosted us in the Snake tongue, saying they were Shoshonies and friends to the whites. I invited them to ap- proach and sit down, then gave them some meat and to- bacco.
They seemed astonished to find us here with mules, saying they knew of but one place where they thought mules or horses could ascend the mountain, and that was in a northeasterly direction. The small stream which was formed by the melting of the snow above us, after running past where we sat, rushed down a fearful chasm and was lost in spray. After our visitors had eaten and smoked we began to question them concerning their families and the country around them.
After getting this desired information we left these two sons of the wilderness to hunt their sheep and we to hunt our camp as we could. We traveled over a high point of rocks chiefly composed of granite and coarse sand- stone. In many places we saw large quantities of petrifac- tion, nearly whole trees broken in pieces from one to three feet long completely petrified. We also saw immense pieces of rock on the top of the mountain composed of coarse sand pebbles and sea shells of various kinds and sizes.
After crossing the summit we fell into a defile which led a wind- ing course down the mountain. Near the foot of this defile we found a stone jar which would contain three gallons, neatly cut from a piece of granite, well shaped and smooth. After traveling all day over broken rocks, fallen timber and rough country we arrived at the camp about dark. On the 14th we raised camp and traveled north north- east over rough, craggy spurs about 15 miles and encamped in a narrow glen between two enormous peaks of rocks.
As we were passing along over a spur of the mountain we came to a place from which the earth had slid at some pre- vious period and left the steep inclined ledge bare and diffi- cult to cross. Our horses were obliged to place their feet in the small holes and fissures in the rock to keep themselves from sliding off.
An unfortunate pack horse, however, missed his footing and slid down the declevity near the brink of a deep and frightful canyon through which the cataract nearby dashed some hundred feet below. Fortunately his foot caught in some roots which projected from a crevice in the rock and arrested his terrible course until we could attach ropes to him and drag him from his perilous situation. We then assisted him from his horse and carried or pushed him to the top of the divide over the snow. In the meantime it commenced snowing very hard. After gaining the summit we unloaded our animals and rushed them on to the snow on the other side, which being hard they went helter-skelter down to a warmer cli- mate and were arrested by a smooth, grassy spot.
We then lowered the wounded man down by cords and put our sad- dles and baggage together on the snow, jumped on the top and started slowly at first, but the velocity soon increased, until we brought up tumbling heels over head in a grassy bench in a more moderate climate. Now we were down, but whether we could get out was a question yet to be solved.
But for my part I was well contented for an eye could scarcely be cast in any direc- tion around, above or below, without seeing the fat sheep gazing at us with anxious curiosity or lazily feeding among the rocks and scrubby pines. The bench where we encamped contained about acres nearly level.
Some went down the stream to hunt a passage, while others went to hunt sheep. Being in camp about 10 o'clock I heard the faint report of a rifle overhead. I looked up and saw a sheep tumbling down the rocks, which stopped close to where I stood, but the man who shot it had to travel three or four miles before he could descend with safety to the camp. The sheep were all very fat, so that this could be called no other than high living, both as regarded altitude of position and rich provisions.
This we ascenaea aue nortn about eignt miles and encamped on an- other green spot near the snow at the head of the glen. Here some of the trappers knew the country. This stream was called Stinking river, a branch of the Big Horn which, after running about 40 miles through the big plain, enters the above river about 15 miles above the lower Big Horn mountain.
It takes its name from several hot springs about five miles below the forks, producing a sul- phurous stench which is often carried by the wind to the distance of five or six miles. Here were also large quarries of gypsum almost transparent, of the finest quality, and also appearances of lead with large, rich beds of iron and bitumi- nous coal. We stopped at this place and rested our animals until the 23d.
By this time our wounded comrade had re- covered so far as to be able to hobble about on crutches. On the 28th we crossed the mountain in a westerly direc- tion through the thick pines and fallen timber, about 12 miles, and encamped in a small prairie about a mile in cir- cumference. Through this valley ran a small stream in a northerly direction, which all agreed in believing to be a branch of the Yellowstone. The stream, after running through the center in a northwesterly direction, rushed down a tremendous canyon of basaltic rock, appar- ently just wide enough to admit its waters.
Its use was short lived, however. Fort William, on the Laramie River, was the first permanent trading post in the state. Built in by William Sublette, it would later be renamed Fort Laramie and become a frontier base for the U. Alfred Jacob Miller , an artist employed by the Scottish nobleman Sir William Drummond Stewart, 18th Lord of Grantully and 6th Baronet of Murthly, left the only visual record of the mountain fur trade from a first-hand perspective.
Stewart brought Miller along in to document the trip. His paintings are the only representation of life during the Rocky Mountain fur trade painted by someone who was actually there. Fashions, of course, change. The ideal hat morphed from felt to silk in the mids. Just as well, in many respects, for beaver populations throughout the Rocky Mountains had been nearly wiped out.
At the same time, less expensive furs with nearly identical felting capacity, the pelts of the nutria, were being imported from South America. The demand for beaver decreased dramatically and it was difficult to maintain a living based solely on trapping beaver. The last official rendezvous was held in Many of the routes initially developed by trappers were soon finding use by others. Wagons made their way to the rendezvous of , east of the Continental Divide, and were finally brought over South Pass for the first time by Benjamin Bonneville in His wagons were followed in ensuing years by the wagons of missionaries including Marcus and Narcissa Whitman in , and Cushing Eells two years later.
These parties also brought the first white women into Wyoming. By , the year of the last rendezvous, wagons bound further west were becoming a regular sight. For Drouillard, see M. Clark Company, For Lisa, see Richard E. Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Company, , Todd, ed. Rollins, ed. Gowans includes a map of the rendezvous sites, indicating that eleven were within the boundaries of Wyoming.
Louis: The Missouri Historical Society, , Oregon, or a Short History of a Long Journey. Thwaites, Rueben G. Some sources erroneously state Montero built his post in For Fort Bridger, see Fred R.
Gowans and Eugene E. The museum first opened in and continues to develop new exhibits. The museum is open May 1 through November 1. Open Memorial Day through September. Extensive exhibits of the goods used in the fur trade, including textiles, beads, silver, and a remarkable collection of more than Northwest guns, standard in the trade.
Six miles west of Pinedale along Highway where the Cora Highway intersects to the north, make a left onto the gravel Green River Road to the south and an immediate right across a cattleguard. From this vantage you can also see how the Green and New Fork Rivers sweep toward one another and then away, creating an hourglass-shaped strip of land that funnels migrating wildlife into a narrow area.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation is funding construction of a wildlife overpass to be built in to let migrating deer and antelope safely cross Highway Fur trade enthusiasts will want to visit the fur-trade rendezvous sites. As it has every year since , Pinedale , Wyo. Skip to main content. Home Encyclopedia. The Fur Trade in Wyoming. Jim Hardee. On a crude map where there are numerous similar streams various combinations are possible. Section from map of depicting Lewis and Clark route.
The phrase also suggests that Colter mapped a geyser basin. After crossing the Absarokas, he evidently descended one of the creeks that empty into Clarks Fork. No one on earth can be certain about this part of his journey. There is no reference anywhere, and the Map of gives no clue. Still, he did reach a tributary of Clarks Fork, which he followed to its junction with Dead Indian Creek, thence to the Yep-pe band. As stated above, Colter left the Yep-pe village in returning to Fort Manuel by a different route than the one that brought him there.
Companions were duly apprised of these marvels. Louis, William Clark was officially informed. Upon this evidence alone, John Colter became accredited as the first white man to enter the Yellowstone Park country, hence its first discoverer. Here, indeed, was a man worthy of making a great discovery. He was a dreadnaught, if there ever was one; completely self-reliant; unafraid of forests, deserts, rivers, or mountains, including all of their denizens; yet withal, a serious-minded person of integrity.
He is entitled to everlasting credit in the field of western geographical exploration. He was the first white man to touch upon the northeastern perimeter of majestic Jackson Hole country. Then, as the climax of all, he was the first to climb still higher and gaze upon the marvels of a never-to-be-forgotten land. Has it ever been the fortune of any other man to explore such a vast domain of virgin territory? Colter was apprehensive about Indians, and since perpendicular banks obstructed their view he advised hiding.
However, his impulsive companion accused him of cowardice; why run from buffalo? Colter kept cool and rowed for the bank. As they drew closer to the enemy, Potts dropped his paddle and picked up his rifle. This gesture was interpreted as an act of defiance by the Blackfeet braves. The Blackfeet were now swarming through the brush, but Colter, calm and poised, raised his hand palm forward in the peace signal.
Potts, now convinced that flight was the only hope, nosed the canoe toward mid-stream. As the chief sized up the situation, a dozen warriors identified the survivor as the white man who raised havoc among them in a battle with a band of Crow Indians. We will see how bravely he can die. To this query Colter replied with a chop-fallen air that he was slow. Actually, he was an excellent sprinter. Several hundred Indians swarmed about, working up their emotions toward the victim. Colter had drawn a chance to save himself if he could!
He accepted the challenge and resolved to make the most of it. As the war whoops sounded, Colter was away with the dash of an antelope. He bounded and ran until his lungs burned within him, and he ruptured a blood vessel in his nose. On he sped, mile after mile, until the chorus of Indian yells grew fainter and fainter. He looked around and beheld a spear-armed warrior some twenty yards behind him, coming fast to split him in two. Upon impulse, Colter whirled in his tracks, and running obliquely, gave the signal for mercy. The reply was a thrust spear, but the brave made a false step, stumbled, and fell.
The badly launched spear struck in the ground and was broken off. In a surge of hope and strength, the powerful Colter lunged like a stag at bay, and overpowering the Indian, he seized the barbed half and impaled his fallen foe to the earth! If the Blackfeet had possessed a spirit of chivalry they would have called quits to this ordeal by running and combat. Here was a man who had outrun the cream of the redskin sprinters and, unarmed, had slain an armed warrior. But the Blackfoot code made no allowance for heroic behavior in the enemy.
On came the braves, more ruddy than usual by reason of their exertions and more fleet than normal because of the caliber of the quarry. Colter needed no spear now; he fairly vaulted until he gained the river bank, and diving into the stream he concealed himself under a jam of driftwood or beaver dam that impinged upon an island. After seven days of hiding and nights of painful travel and exposure he found his way through Bozeman Pass and eventually reached the fort at the mouth of the Bighorn.
He seemed only a shadow of his former self. Soon after his recovery, he ventured again into the forbidden Three Forks region. Whereupon, he vowed to his maker that he would never return. Acting upon this resolution Colter started his third voyage down the Missouri. While he was resting in one of the upper Minnetarre villages, probably in September of , Manuel Lisa arrived.
The Three Forks country was his destination and Colter must show him the way. By midwinter a strong detachment was on its way, headed by Pierre Menard as bourgeois commander, Andrew Henry as field captain, and John Colter as guide. The party arrived at Three Forks on April 3, and built a post.
History of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest
Within a fortnight the Blackfeet attacked. Five trappers were killed, and most of the horses and equipment disappeared. It was a crushing blow to the enterprise, and for Colter, the final straw. From there the two men departed for St. Louis in a dugout and reached that frontier capital on the last day of May.
They had negotiated the distance of 2, water miles in the incredible time of thirty days. For over five years he had been among barbarian people, and of certain torments he had more than enough. His life had been 57 one of hard toil and high adventure; now he would seek peace and quiet. Captain Meriwether Lewis had passed away, but William Clark was a person of authority. To Clark, Colter gave geographical data, a part of which appeared on the map published in in the Biddle-Allen edition of the journals.
Colter was unable to collect the wages due him as a member of the famous expedition so he brought suit against the Lewis estate and secured partial compensation. His trapping claims for services to Thomas James were unavailing as the latter could not collect from the fur company. While in St. Louis attending to this vexatious business he undoubtedly related his experiences to General William Clark. Brackenridge, an American author. Such men accepted his report at face value. Colter took up a tract of bounty land on the south bank of the Missouri in the vicinity of Dundee village, Franklin county.
There the great wanderer, with his bride Sally, turned to the prosaic routine of farming. Bradbury said he accompanied them for several miles, balancing in his mind the charms of his bride against those of the Rocky Mountains. However, the life of steady habits won, but not for long, as he died of jaundice in From the present perspective he appears much more than a scout and explorer. He was something of an economist and prophet, because he is said to have told Henry M. May it ever stand aloof, towering and quite inaccessible; a fitting monument to a gallant scout. Such a man should never be forgotten because he was master of the untamed West.
A description of the Indian background is an integral part of all early American history. Yellowstone was not the original homeland of any distinct Indian tribe. In comparatively recent time, probably about , it became the refuge for a small and degenerate band of Tukuarika, or sheep-eating Indians. They had formerly lived in the Montana and Dakota country but had been driven into seclusion by the powerful Blackfoot nation.
The Crows came from other Indian sources. All of these Indians possessed certain racial characteristics of the red race. In view of various conflicting ideas, a few observations about the people as a whole are expedient. Indians are human beings possessing the sensibilities and emotions of white men. However, their manner of living and conception of life has been relatively low. Even so, it is difficult to generalize upon them as a people. They could not learn because they would not admit that they lacked anything.
As a rule Indian braves were arrogant lords, not to be degraded by menial toil. It was enough for them to expose themselves to the hardships of fighting and hunting. They would proudly bring home the trophies of war and the hunt. They were also diligent in caring for their weapons and horses in preparation for future exploits. Much leisure time was expended upon personal ornamentation and in talking about the news of the day and affairs of the tribe. The men in particular possessed a free and easy bearing. This natural grace of action was probably facilitated by their practice of living in a semi-nude condition.
Indians were much more cunning and adroit than the wildest game. They were fleet and stealthy, deceitful and cruel. To gain an advantage over prey or an enemy by strategy was their greatest joy and constituted the primary requisite for leadership. Making coups entitled the brave to wear an eagle feather in his hair and emblazon it upon his robe; by this token he was distinguished for heroic action. On the whole they were revengeful and vindictive. If an injury, real or fancied, were done to them by a particular person, it was a solemn duty to retaliate either against him or someone else.
Many cases can be adduced to sustain this principle. In , 61 a trapper named Carson accepted a banter from a band of Arickaras to shoot among their enemy Sioux, who were across the Missouri a half mile away. The reckless trapper shot and killed one of the Sioux warriors. The following year three white men were slain by the Sioux to expiate this crime. The Indian code demanded blood for blood, the more the better. They were seldom inclined toward chivalry; mercy had no part in their code.
It was hard, relentless, and primitive. By the strong hand they lived, and by the strong arm only were they awed. Forays, feuds, battles, that was the life! They painted, dressed, danced, and prayed for war. And yet, in a way, they had poetic souls. The beauty and grandeur of nature revealed itself in their dignified bearing. Many were majestic in appearance, poised of manner, and eloquent in speech. Some of them were gifted storytellers who entertained their hearers. Others were great speakers who instructed them in the legendary lore of the tribe.
Still others were artists, musicians, skilled artisans in many lines; and there were medicine men. Tribal organization was based upon the family unit, which was monogamous, except in the case of the chief men who usually had several wives. The women, too, observed a style of dress in keeping with their respective stations. Heredity in leadership was unknown; men became chiefs by reason of their cunning and courage in war, wisdom in council, and generosity toward the tribesmen.
In the matter of economics most mountain Indians were novices. It is undoubtedly true that early American settlers received important initial aid from the Indians in raising crops. They taught the whites how to raise the very products that still constitute the backbone of American production: maize, potatoes, 62 tobacco, cotton, squash, and beans.
But instead of improving along with the settlers, they generally preferred the ways of their fathers. They did not lack the means for the production and preservation of food so much as the energy and ability to anticipate future necessity. In the Rocky Mountains, where nature was quite inhospitable without irrigation , the natives were even less thrifty than elsewhere. When food was plentiful they would gormandize to the uttermost, living contentedly.
When confronted by famine they would languish in starvation. Natural forces battered them roughly. The women and girls were practically slaves to their husbands and brothers. They were inured in hardships and possessed much forbearance and self-denial. Their homemaking work was arduous. They dressed all game and gathered nuts, berries, fuel, and roots. They made bows, arrows, lodges, travois, and clothing. Maidens were required to be modest, wear robes at all times, and look seriously upon life.
Marriages were arranged by parents with the consent of near relations. Meat was the mainstay of life among Indians, and a considerable supply was available before white men came. In spite of inadequate weapons, the natives had numerous effective methods of securing wild game. Most hunters were masters of what was called the cabalistical language of birds and beasts. By this means they were able to approach many animals closely and slay them.
Bison were sometimes driven into natural arenas where a gory slaughter ensued. Occasionally these great beasts were maneuvered into runs, from which they were stampeded pellmell over a precipice. This procedure required great dexterity in loading and discharging weapons. He anticipated every move of the prey. The war horse was even more highly prized than a hunter. Animals of exotic appearance had double or treble value over ordinary steeds and were claimed by the chiefs. The proud warrior went to as much pains to adorn his horse as he did himself.
Nothing could induce him to neglect or mistreat his favorite. In their palmy days, the Indians largely confined their efforts to pursuit of big game. In later years they had reluctant recourse to smaller animals. Rabbits were encircled—sometimes by a chain 64 of fire. Ground squirrels were drowned out, and all types of animal life were utilized for food. The products of the buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, goat, bear, beaver, and numerous small animals and fish gave them strength for the pursuit of more game and the enemy.
Many different combinations of meat, roots, nuts, and berries were known to the Indians. Pemmican was a mixture of pounded dried meat, grease, and service berries. When properly prepared and packed in skins this food would keep indefinitely. These roots are about an inch in diameter, and they have a sweetish taste while fresh, but they are more palatable when baked in earthen ovens. Either of these roots contains nutriment sufficient to support life, and often mountain Indians were obliged to subsist on this slender fare.
A stark animism prevailed in every cult. They believed that the different animals had either good or evil spirits and that they should be revered or feared according to their nature. The sun in particular was an object of worship. Each young man diligently sought his own strong medicine. The ritual varied but usually involved solitude, exertion, fasting, and extreme exposure.
During this vigil the youth received a new name and a symbol of power. In due time these signs of maturity were manifest among the tribe and a status therein was secured. Illness and death were attributed to the influence of evil spirits. The chief remedy for sickness was the sweat house. This was a mystic shrine both for temporal and spiritual blessing. The health seekers would rub their bodies with the tips of fir boughs, and thus the steam would effectively penetrate their bodies in a few minutes.
Several sweats, each followed by a dip in a stream, constituted a bath, except when the spiritual interest predominated. In respect to amusement Indians had unusual interest. That they were stoical at all times is an erroneous idea. They laughed and joked and engaged in many games. In general, the social life of Indians was notable for its excesses. Certain seasonal festivals were held in which the element of worship was interwoven with hilarity.
Before going upon a hunt the Indians were wont to clothe some of the hunters in hides of the game, buffalo, or elk. In all this there was an air of expectancy and supplication. Smoking was another semi-sacred ceremony by which oaths and agreements were secured. A ritual was usually observed. They relied heavily upon innumerable supernatural symbols and routines.
Such were the general characteristics and customs possessed by all of the mountain Indians. A marked degree of differentiation among them would justify a brief description of each. Of course these differences are only apparent to the discerning eye. Factors of physiognomy, dress, and speech are recognizable upon close observation.
There were approximately two thousand Bannocks in , and they claimed the country southwest of Yellowstone. It was this tribe which made a deep trail across Yellowstone in going to and returning from their buffalo hunts. Bannocks were tall, straight, athletic people, possessed of more physical courage than most Indians. In a defensive way they were the most warlike of all Indians.
According to Alexander Ross, the Snake Indians were so named because of their characteristic quick concealment of themselves when discovered. TyGee was a leading chief during much of the nineteenth century. The Targhee Forest was named after this Snake chieftain. They were a short, very dark, heavy-set people, with small feet and hands but large chests and shoulders. Their disposition was quite peaceful and friendly toward other people, although they were very suspicious.
They were excellent horsemen and good fighters when aroused. Their great and constant occupation was to obtain food, and they were disposed to eat almost anything. Photo by W. Jackson Family of Sheepeater Indians. They wore furs and skins and lived among the rocks in the Gardner River canyon in Yellowstone and in the Salmon River Mountains of central Idaho. There were some two hundred Indians in the Yellowstone tribe. Their main support was from game and fish.
These Indians did not possess any distinctive culture of their own, but, hermit-like, they seemed concerned only to carry on by themselves until further notice. The Flatheads— This tribe lived in western Montana. Lake Flathead was their favorite rendezvous. These Indians supposedly derived their name from an ancient practice of shaping or deforming the head during infancy. However, in , Ferris claimed that not one living proof of that practice could be found among them. They were noted for humanity, forbearance, and honesty.
They were certainly one of the few tribes in the Rocky Mountains who could boast that they never killed or robbed a white man nor stole a single horse. The Blackfeet— This was a branch of the great Algonquian Nation. Their hands were against every man, and the hands of all men, both red and white, were against them.
The Blackfeet were great meat eaters and because of their energy they were generally well supplied. They had horses and guns from an early time, and they wore leather clothing, often highly decorated with beadwork. The Absaroka or Crow Nation— Absaroka means sparrow hawk. The name was derived from a species found in Mexico. Does that imply a southern origin? Surely the name suggests their nefarious traffic in stolen horses. They would steal them on one side of the range and dispose of them on the other.
That is to say, Crowland was a transitional area that skirted the east slope of the Rockies along the Yellowstone and Bighorn rivers. Therefore, these people were masters of both plain and defile. They were notorious travelers. They roved in several villages of six or seven hundred each. Indeed, they prided themselves upon their superiority over all other nations.
The men were tall, active, intelligent, and brave.
Biography & Autobiography
They had a particular penchant for adornment. Men wore long hair; women, short. They were a well-disciplined people. Women were given a voice in council but were most noted for their industry and skill. Ferris, Crow women were notoriously unfaithful, which, if true, was measurably contrary to the general condition among Indians. Among the men lust for fame was the end and purpose of life. Crow war psychology was a blend of cruelty, vanity, greed, foolhardiness, and magnificent courage. Old Sapsucker was the most famous Crow Chieftain.
He won this distinction by many years of fighting. Horses were at once their passion and glory. Even infants of two years could ride, while older youths rode horses that careened and dashed up and down among the most dangerous places. The nation of 3, people owned some 10, horses. Adult Crow horsemen were unexcelled. They combined agility and dignity to an unusual degree. Mounted on fine-mettled animals, without saddle or bridle, and bounding bare-bodied over the prairie in the panoply of speed and power, they were fine pictures to behold! Crows made free booty of everything that chanced in their way.
Horses in particular were the objects of their depredations. They developed astonishing skill and audacity in capturing them. As horse thieves they were world-beaters. One thing is certain: They can discount all the thieves I ever saw or heard of; in short, they have to be seen to realize their superiority over all thieves, either white, red, or black, in the world.
They would steal the world-renowned Arabs poor in a single hour. Other mountain Indians whose activities had less bearing upon the Yellowstone area were the Herantsa or Gros Ventres. They referred to themselves by the former name; whereas the latter was a French designation. Of course, it was inappropriate because they did not have large paunches. Their homeland was the Wind River range. They were civil, well-behaved people, cleanly in their persons and decorous in their habits. The men were tall and vigorous, with aquiline noses and high cheek bones. Some were almost as naked as ancient statues and might well have stood as models for that purpose.
East of the Crow and Cheyenne homelands ranged various divisions of the great Siouan family. The Sioux of Dakota, Arapaho, Omaha, and Mandan were the most distinct clans on the near-eastern slope of the Rockies. These tribes were typical of the plains Indians and as mutually hostile as any of the others. Indian proper names were more appropriate than those given by the settlers. Some of the latter were commonplace, stupid, and, at times, ribald. The aboriginal tribes sensed the magnificence of nature.
Therefore, their characterizations were both significant and euphonious. All in all, the Indian regime of life was a curious blend of love and hate, of work and warfare. Indian life had as many facets as there were periods, places, and tribes involved. The character of the barbarian elements that encircled the Yellowstone area has been given. Their position was sufficiently menacing to prevent penetration of the continental crown except by a chosen few. The Rocky Mountain fur trappers were a distinct group. They were just as singular in dress, interests, skills, and general characteristics as the cowboys and miners who succeeded them.
When was their genesis and exodus? It falls entirely within the scope of nineteenth century history. Hence, the record is clear; it has few legendary figures. However, a generalized characterization would seem appropriate. Their predecessors were the earlier explorers of several nations, French, Spanish, English, with a sprinkling of other races.
All of these elements pressed ever westward, chained by neither time nor distance. In their migrations from Kentucky to the River of the West Missouri excitement had become as necessary as life itself; adventure, as the breath of their nostrils. Until those woodsmen found hunting and trapping on the plains sufficiently challenging, but after the return of Lewis and Clark they donned buckskin suits and moved into the Rockies. From these shining mountains they were not to emerge until they learned by heart the geography upon the sundown side of the wide Missouri. The French couriers of the woods were best endowed by nature for this roving life.
Their easygoing temperament inclined them toward song and laughter. Their courage and gallantry adorned the barren path of life with the varied hues of their mercurial spirits. They never failed to adjust to the circumstances at hand, and the speculative character of enterprise could not wear them down.
The Englishman had the necessary foresight and tenacity to effect such an organization and procedure as best calculated to bring adequate financial returns. However, the supreme mountain scouts were of American vintage. The best in the west were cool, longheaded, deadly-shooting backwoodsmen from Kentucky and Virginia. They had what it took to deal with Indian treachery, wild beasts, and constant danger in a thousand forms.
The fur business demanded men of great force and energy. Hence, the successful trappers were hard-working, 73 hard-fighting men inured to hardship and exposure. Their vanity was in fast riding, straight shooting, prowess in trapping and trailing, and enduring privation without wincing. However, most of them were capable of complete relaxation in the fashion of drinking and gambling. The tides of trapper fortune were capricious. One year they rolled with promise; the next were empty as a beach. The competition was always keen, and they were ever on the move.
Some of them became veritable walking maps possessed of uncanny perception of distance, condition, and landmarks. All this knowledge was susceptible to sudden erasure by one deft blow of a tomahawk. The passing of time, together with kindly, indiscriminate sentimentality toward the lore of the Old West, has enveloped all of her buckskin-fringed denizens in an enchanting blanket of romance. Legend endows them with a uniform mantle of heroism and self-sacrifice.
Among this advance guard of the human flood were turbulent spirits. Surely persons of the wild and reckless type have their place in pioneering the way for the more conforming populace. Although they were generally of a kindred spirit, no company personnel ever conformed to a particular type. Indeed, a more heterogeneous assemblage could not be imagined. Some were cross-grained and lazy; some, young or superannuated; others, 74 half-breed and faithless—a real challenge to the leadership of their employer.
In time the ordinary men were weeded out, but those remaining were still as diverse as humans could be. However, it was not as conscious agents of civilization that these rowdies entered the west. They reacted to the eternal impulse of personal curiosity and profit.
For such ends they willingly perambulated the dreariest wastes, always at home, living from meal to meal, from day to day. Chance and danger were their daily lot and they gained the rare capacity to accept whatever came with good graces. Pleasant experiences produced rollicking good humor; hardships and trying scenes were soon forgotten. They became absolutely fearless, for destruction stalked them on every side in the form of famine, blizzard, wild beasts, and wilder savages.
Death was a constant threat, but its grimaces only tended to develop men of nerve and hardihood who delighted in reckless feats. There was the hazard of perishing from hunger and thirst, of being cut off by war parties of the Sioux who scoured the plains, of having their horses stolen by Absarokas who infested the skirts of the mountains, or of being butchered by the Blackfeet who lurked among the defiles. Trapping did not require literacy, but skill was indispensable to success. Any neglect of these lessons was at his peril. They were fur, meat, and danger. Signs of beaver, buffalo, and Indians must be read with the utmost accuracy.
How did he perfect his craft? Beginning with the objects about him, the trapper observed everything minutely. He learned to read the meaning of a turned leaf, a broken twig, and the behavior of domestic and wild animals. He achieved an intimate association with nature, and she talked to him.
Not only did he form indelible impressions of topography by discerning senses, but he talked about them around the campfire. Each trapper learned from the others. One referred to this process as the Rocky Mountain college course. By reason of such apprenticeship frontiersmen were able to differentiate buffalo and grizzlies at astonishing distances.
They read the clouds, understood bird flights, and sensed ambuscades. Practiced eyes, ears, and noses enabled them to classify Indians as to tribe, place, and even intent.
lesson plans osborne russells journal of a trapper edited from the original Manual
They could converse with the representatives of many different nations and tribes. A smattering of French, Spanish, and several Indian languages—supplemented by signs—made conversation possible under all circumstances. The trapper was not always at liberty. There were organization responsibilities. The fur brigade was under strict discipline. A junior partner in the company was usually in charge, and he was the law. There was a semi-military set of regulations regarding division of work; guard duty was rigorously enforced; efficient service and prompt obedience were required of every trapper.
Sometimes terrific exertion was involved in reaching a given trapping ground at the most opportune time. Upon one occasion Alexander Ross fairly forced his caravan to cleave a road through a snowbound pass. Said he:. Making this road through the snow seven feet deep took the united labour of fifty men and horses, with all the other available means within our power, for twenty-one days.
It must be allowed to have been an arduous undertaking, with such a medley of people and so difficult to manage; and more so, when it takes into consideration that our supper at night depended on the good or bad luck of our hunters during the day. To their exertions and perseverance, indeed, no small merit was due. Such a time of travail was enough to elicit an occasional prayer from these sons of the wild.
Related Lesson Plans Osborne Russells Journal of a Trapper: Edited from the Original
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