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- 1840 Mountain Man Rendezvous
All the rendezvous were held west of the Continental Divide with the exception of the 1829, 1830, and 1838 rendezvous. Six of the sixteen rendezvous were held outside the United States in territory belonging to Mexico. Except for two sites in Utah and one in Idaho, all of the rendezvous were held in Wyoming; six of the sixteen rendezvous were held on Horse Creek in the Green River Valley near present-day Daniel, Wyoming. All of the rendezvous were held in the territory of the Shoshone, or Snake, Indians.
After the 1825 rendezvous, the next year's rendezvous site was selected during the rendezvous. The sites selected were in a lush valley, big enough for up to five hundred mountain men, several thousand Indians, and grazing and water for thousands of horses. Members of the Shoshone, Crow, Nez Perce, and Flathead nations attended most of the rendezvous. Another consideration was the site be readily accessible to the supply trains.
The rendezvous campsites were grouped around various suppliers spread out for several miles; no one point can be called the "site". When my brother Bert Eddins and I took the pictures of the rendezvous sites, we took these factors into account. The longitudes and latitudes given represent the probable center of the rendezvous.
James Beckwourth left this general description of the mountain man's summer rendezvous.
July 1, 1825, on Henry’s Fork of the Green River, Ashley wrote:
Part of Ashley’s one hundred and twenty men were at least twelve men with Etienne Provost from Taos and possibly other Indians besides those defecting from Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson’s Bay Company with seven hundred pelts.
Ashley left the day after the gathering and took his furs over South Pass and down the Bighorn Canyon to near present Thermopolis, Wyoming. The furs were loaded into bullboats and floated down the Bighorn and the Yellowstone rivers to the Missouri River where Ashley met the Atkinson-O'Fallon Expedition. General Henry Atkinson and Indian agent Benjamin O’Fallon had come up the Missouri in a paddle wheeler to negotiate treaties with the various Indian tribes along the Missouri River, and they hauled William Ashley’s furs to St. Louis.
The site of the 1826 rendezvous in Cache Valley (Willow Valley) is disputed between Cove and Hyrum, Utah. The renowned historian Dale Morgan believed the rendezvous was on Blacksmith Fork near Hyrum. Dr. Morgan based this assumption on the July entries of Jedediah Smith's Journals.
Dr. Morgan took the term cache to mean where goods from the 1826 rendezvous were cached. Dr. Morgan further speculated Smith's direction of travel was up Box Elder Canyon and over Sardine Pass. Based on these assumptions, he located the 1826 rendezvous in the area of Hyrum, Utah. For me, there are several fallacies to these assumptions. I will state three, and if anyone is interested, email me and we can discuss several others.
At the conclusion of the 1826 Willow Valley rendezvous, Ashley met with Jedediah Smith, David Jackson, and William Sublette on Bear River between Georgetown and Soda Springs, Idaho. Ashley sold his interest in the Ashley Smith Fur Trade Company to the new company of Smith, Jackson and Sublette. The previous year, he had taken Jedediah Smith as his partner after Andrew Henry had left the partnership in 1824. Ashley had made enough money from the fur trade to quit and pursue his interests in politics. Ashley remained as the rendezvous supplier for the new firm of Smith, Jackson, and Sublette.
Cache Valley received its name because it was an area mountain men used to cache their supplies.
Ashley's hired forty-six men to take the 1827 supply caravan to the Sweet Lake (Bear Lake) rendezvous near Laketown, Utah. The trade goods sent out this year by Ashley is the first listing of alcohol (Rum) being sent, but there are reports of it at the two previous rendezvous. With the caravan was a small cannon mounted on two wheels. This two-wheeled cart made the first wheeled tracks over South Pass. On the way back with the furs, Hiram Scott become ill, and was later abandoned. His body was found three years later near Scott's Bluff, Nebraska.
There were few trade goods for the 1828 rendezvous on Sweet Lake. Sublette had brought out the trade goods the previous fall, and they were pretty much gone. Joshua Pilcher arrived with a few goods he cached the previous year...Pilcher, Lucien Fontenelle, Andrew Drips, Charles Bent, and H. H. Vanderburgh had formed a company and brought their trade goods out the previous year. Crow Indians stole their horses near South Pass, and they had to cache their trade goods.
In both the 1827 and 1828 rendezvous, there were fights with the Blackfeet near the rendezvous sites. There were no trappers killed in the first battle, but Lewis Boldue was killed in the 1828 fight.
1829 rendezvous on the Popo Agie (Popoasia, Little Wind River) north of Lander, Wyoming was the first rendezvous held east of the Continental Divide. There was a small gathering of mountain men on the Popo Agie, and as soon as the trading was concluded, Sublette left for Pierre's Hole in Idaho with the remaining trade goods. Sublette traveled over Togwotee Pass into Jackson Hole and then over Teton Pass into Pierre's Hole. There he found Jedediah Smith, who had been in the Oregon Country for two years, and David Jackson. Robert Newell recorded here was one hundred and seventy-five mountain men at this second rendezvous.
The 1830 supply caravan, led by William Sublette, consisted of eighty-one men on mules, ten wagons drawn by five mules each, two Deerborn carriages, twelve head of cattle, and a milk cow. Sublette left St. Louis on April 10th and arrived in the Wind River Basin on July 16th. The supply caravan averaged fifteen- to twenty-five miles a day. Sublette stopped for a rest on July 4th, 1830 at a large rock outcropping on the Sweetwater River. The rock is called Independence Rock.
The Smith, Jackson and Sublette firm collected one hundred and seventy packs of furs with a value of eighty-four thousand four hundred and ninety-nine dollars. This was the firm's most profitable year, but the partners had concerns over the future viability of the fur trade. At the Riverton rendezvous of 1830, Smith, Jackson, and Sublette sold out to a partnership of Thomas Fitzpatrick, James Bridger, Milton Sublette, Henry Fraeb, and Jean Gervias, but William Sublette remained the St. Louis supplier for the rendezvous.
Fitzpatrick, Bridger, Sublette, Fraeb, and Gervias named the new company the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Although the term Rocky Mountain Fur Company is widely used in fur trade history, the period from 1830 to 1833 is the only time there was an actual company called the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
Word of Caution: The 1830 and 1838 rendezvous site is off of Monroe Street in the southeast section of Riverton, Wyoming. The map in Dr. Gowans' book, Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, shows the site several miles north of Riverton.
1831 Rendezvous: Same site as 1826 Rendezvous.
The supply train did not reach the rendezvous area in time, so no general rendezvous was held. Thomas Fitzpatrick had gone to St. Louis after supplies, but Smith, Jackson, and Sublette had left for Santa Fe...Comanche killed Jedediah Smith on the Cimarron River. After outfitting Fitzpatrick in Santa Fe, Sublette and Jackson dissolved their partnership. Jackson went to California, and Sublette returned to St. Louis.
Henry Fraeb met Fitzpatrick east of South Pass and took the supplies to Willow Valley. He distributed the supplies out from there. Fitzpatrick headed for St. Louis to make sure the next year's supplies arrived on time.
Sublette and Campbell were the main suppliers to the 1832 rendezvous, which was held in Pierre's Hole a valley below and west of the Tetons. As was the usual case, the American Fur Company supply brigade did not arrive until after the rendezvous was over. When William Sublette renewed his fur trade license, he was allowed to take four hundred and fifty gallons of whiskey for his boatmen. The route Sublette used to the Pierre’s Hole rendezvous did not require the use of a single boatman (Chittenden).
Mountain men from several different companies attended the rendezvous in Pierre's Hole: Rocky Mountain Fur Company, American Fur Company, Hudson's Bay Company, plus independent companies such as Bean and Sinclair, Gant and Blackwell, and Nathaniel Wyeth. The Pierre's Hole rendezvous was one of the largest rendezvous held in the Rocky Mountains. It is estimated there were four hundred mountain men, one hundred and eight lodges of Nez Perce, eighty lodges of Flatheads, and over three thousand horses. Indian and Mountain Man camps extended from Teton Creek on the south end of Driggs, Idaho north along the west side of the Teton Mountains to Tetonia, Idaho. The Rendezvous covered an area of seven square miles, or more. The main reason for being so spread out was to keep the various horse herds separated.
Joe Meek left this description:
The most significant occurrence at the 1832 rendezvous was the Battle of Pierre's Hole. This was the largest engagement between the mountain men and hostile Indians in the Rocky Mountains. Dr. Fred Gowans, through meticulous research using satellite imagery, has located the Battle of Pierre's Hole in the marshy area near the junction of Fox Creek and the Teton River N43° 39' 3.1" W111° 10' 16". The above picture is to the right of the battle location. Dr. Gowans places the main encampment of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company a little ways upstream from where Highway 33 crosses over Teton Creek on the south end of Driggs, Idaho.
Most journals refer to the Indians as being Blackfeet, but they were from the Gros Ventre tribe...the Gros Ventre belonged to the Atsina Nation not the Blackfeet as is often stated.
There is a wide discrepancy in the written accounts associated with the Battle of Pierre's Hole. Captain Bonneville was not an eyewitness to the battle, but his information came from two of the main participants, William Sublette and Robert Campbell. A few weeks after the Battle of Pierre's Hole, Campbell recorded in his journal:
Bonneville's account of the battle, as told to Washington Irving a few years later, is the generally accepted one. The following is from The Adventures of Captain Bonneville by Washington Irving.
Dr. Gowans' book gives five different eye witness accounts of the Battle of Pierre's Hole: Warren Ferris, George Nidever, Zenas Leonard, Joe Meek, and Nathaniel Wyeth. These chroniclers vary to such a degree it makes you wonder if it was the same battle. The journals do not even agree on how many were killed. Of the five eyewitness accounts, the cowardly act of Antoine Godin appears in Meek's account and a distorted version in Nidevers. The other writers do not mention it at all...journals, with the exception of Ferris, were written many years after the mountain man-writer left the mountains.
Lucien Fontenelle and Andrew Drips arrived with the American Fur Company goods on July 8th. The central gathering place for the rendezvous was at Fort Bonneville. But as the rendezvous progress, the American Fur Company moved approximately five miles downstream to the junction of Green River and Horse Creek. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company was camped on the Green River five miles below the mouth of Horse Creek.
A new company called the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and Christy was formed at the 1833 rendezvous. The new company, organized on July 20th, was to operate for one year. The new partner had invested six thousand six hundred and seven dollars in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
A highlight of the 1833 rendezvous was the following incident from Joe Meek (Victor).
After the rendezvous broke up, Thomas Fitzpatrick and Milton Sublette entered into an agreement with Nathaniel Wyeth to bring the supplies for the 1834 rendezvous.
Nathaniel Wyeth left Independence on April 28, 1834, with Milton Sublette, Jason Lee, a Methodist minister, and two naturalists, Thomas Nuttall and Kirk Townsend, plus seventy-five other men and two hundred and fifty horses. When William Sublette learned of the arrangement between Fitzpatrick and Wyeth, he left a few days later. Sublette over took Wyeth and passed him during the night. When Sublette reached Laramie Creek near where it empties into the North Platte River, he left several men to start construction on Fort William (Fort Laramie).
Once at the rendezvous, Sublette forced Fitzpatrick to buy his supplies from him; he still held notes on the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. When Wyeth arrived a few days later, he noted:
The suppliers at the rendezvous were the American Fur Company, Sublette and Campbell, and Nathaniel Wyeth. The American Fur Company was camped near the junction of Ham's Fork and Blacks Fork where the above picture was taken. Sublette and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company were five to ten miles up Ham's Fork and Wyeth was another five or so miles above them.
At the end of the 1834 rendezvous on Ham's Fork, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company was dissolved and a new company Fontenelle and Fitzpatrick emerged. A year later, William Sublette sold Fort William to the Fontenelle and Fitzpatrick partnership and agreed to leave the mountains. Thus ended the major influence of the "Ashley men” on the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade.
This same year, Jacob Astor ended his fur trade career with the selling of his holdings in the western department of the American Fur Company to Pratte, Chouteau and Company of St. Louis. The remaining portion of the American Fur Company was acquired by Ramsey Crooks. Operating on the Upper Missouri and the Great Lakes area, Crooks retained the name American Fur Company. Pratte, Chouteau and Company was now the chief supplier for what was left of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, however most journals continued to refer to them as the American Fur Company.
Two trading posts built in 1834, Fort William (Fort Laramie) by Sublette and Fort Hall by Wyeth, would have a lasting effect on travel over the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail. Along with Fort Bridger (built in 1843), these posts were the major supply and layover points on the Mormon, California, and Oregon trail for hundreds of thousands of weary travelers.
1835 Green River Rendezvous: Same location as 1833:
Accompanying Lucien Fontenelle with the 1835 supply train was two missionaries, Dr. Marcus Whitman and Samuel Parker. During the rendezvous, Dr. Whitman removed a metal arrowhead from Jim Bridger’s back. Bridger had been shot three years before in the Blackfeet country. The Nez Perce at the rendezvous were so receptive to having missionaries among them that Dr. Whitman returned to the East to recruit more missionaries.
Samuel Parker left a description on the plight of the mountain man.
1836 Green River Rendezvous: Same location as 1833:
Narcissa Whitman and Elisa Spaulding on the way to the Oregon missions with their husbands Dr. Marcus Whitman and Henry Spalding were the first white women to attend a rendezvous and to cross South Pass on the Oregon Trail. At the conclusion of the rendezvous, the missionaries were escorted to Walla Walla by a Hudson's Bay caravan under the leadership of Thomas McKay and John McLeod. McKay's father, Alexander McKay, was with Alexander Mackenzie on his crossing to the Pacific Ocean in 1793, and a partner in the Pacific Fur Company. Alexander McKay was killed on the Tonquin at Nootka Sound.
1837 Green River Rendezvous: Same location as 1833:
Accompanying Thomas Fitzpatrick with the supply train of 1837 were Etienne Provost, Sir William Drummond Stewart, and a young artist, Alfred Jacob Miller. Stewart had brought Miller to capture on canvas the activities of the rendezvous. Stewart later took Alfred Miller to Scotland where he painted large murals based on the sketches he had made in the mountains. During the sixteen-year history of the rendezvous, neither mountain man, traveler, missionary, or visitor left a more detailed description of the wilderness experience than did Alfred Jacob Miller (Gowans).
1838 Wind River Rendezvous: Same site as 1830 Rendezvous:
The 1838 rendezvous was scheduled for the Green River Valley, but to escape trading pressure from the Hudson's Bay Company, the location was moved to the site of the 1830 rendezvous on the Wind River. This note was written with charcoal on an old storehouse door:
According to Jerome Peltier (Mountain Man and the Fur Trade Series), Moses "Black" Harris wrote this note. Harris a frequent companion of William Sublette, has been described on several internet sites as a black man, but there is no evidence to support this other than his nickname "Black". This description of Harris was left by Alfred Jacob Miller:
Andrew Drips was in charge of the supply train, accompanying him was August Johann Sutter. Sutter went on to California and built Sutter's Fort where gold was discovered in 1849. Drips was also accompanied by a large group of missionaries headed for Oregon and Sir William Drummond. Stewart was making his last visit to the mountains before returning to Scotland. The 1838 rendezvous is one of the best documented rendezvous. Four of the missionary wives kept diaries.
According to Robert Newell, the company men were hard nosed in regards to business at the rendezvous. Prices were extremely high and some trappers slipped away from the rendezvous because they could not pay their Company debts. Credit was a thing of the past (Gowans).
A Majority of Scoundrels by Don Berry is especially interesting from the business aspects of Ashley and the St. Louis fur trade suppliers. After reading Majority of Scoundrels, it is apparent why most Mountain Men left the mountains with what they started with...nothing.
1839 Green River Rendezvous: Same location as 1833:
The only account of the 1839 rendezvous is in the journal of Dr. Frederick A. Wislizenus, a German physician. Moses Harris led the train with only nine helpers...a far cry from Sublette's train to the 1830 rendezvous.
1840 Green River Rendezvous: Same location as 1833:
Andrew Drips, Jim Bridger and Henry Fraeb led the caravan to the 1840 Rendezvous. Leaving Westport on April 30th, 1840, it was the last fur trade caravan headed for the Rocky Mountains. With the supply caravan was Father Pierre DeSmet and the family of Joel Walker. The brother of Joseph Rutherford Walker, Joel and Mary with their five children continued on to the Oregon Country; they were the first homesteaders to travel what would become the Oregon Trail. According to Joel Walker:
At the close of the 1840 rendezvous, an exciting chapter in American history came to an end. A. B. Guthrie, Jr. in the The Big Sky expressed it best:
The Rendezvous Site article was written by O. Ned Eddins of Afton, Wyoming. Permission is given for material from this site to be used for school research papers.
Citation: Eddins, Ned. (article name) Mountainsofstone.com. Afton, Wyoming. 2002.
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Fur Trade Trivia Mountain
Joseph R. Walker
Fort Bonneville Myth
Oregon Trail Historical
David Thompson Related Articles:
Bailey, Thomas A., Kennedy, David M.. The American Pageant - A History of the Republic. D. C. Heath and Company. Lexington, Mass. 1994.
Brown, Stephan R. The Astonishing Astronomer of the Great Northwest. Mercators World, The Magazine of Maps, Exploration, and Discovery. Vol. 6 March/April 2001. Mercator’s Bookstore, Eugene, Oregon.
Chittenden, Hiram Martin, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, Volume I, 1986.
Harrison, Clifford Dale. The Explorations of William H. Ashley and Jedediah Smith 1822-1829. Bison Books. University of Nebraska Press. Lincoln. Nebraska. 1991.
Gowans, Fred. Rocky Mountain Rendezvous. Perrigrine Smith Books Layton, Utah. 1985.
Hafen, LeRoy R. (Ed.). Mountain Men and The Fur Trade. Vol. I-X. Arthur H. Clark Co. Spokane, Wash. 2000. 1966.
Lavender, David. The Fist in the Wilderness. Bison Books. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska. 1964.
Mackenzie, Alexander. Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Laurence, through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the Years 1789 and 1793. London, England: T. Cadell, 1801.
Merrill J. Mattes. COLTER'S HELL & JACKSON'S HOLE The Fur Trappers' Exploration of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Park Region. Regional Historian, National Park Service. 1962.
Morgan, Dale L.. Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West. Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska. 1969.
Newman, Peter C. Company of Adventures. Penguin Books, New York. 1987.
Newman, Peter C. An Illustrated History of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Penguin Books Canada Ltd., Toronto, Canada. 1995.
Oglesby, Richard Edward. Manuel Lisa and the Opening of the Missouri Fur Trade. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman Oklahoma. 1963.
Rollins, Phillip A. The Discovery of the Oregon Trail. Bison Books. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska. 1990.
Russell, Osborn. Journal of a Trapper [1834-1843]. Bison Book. University of Nebraska Press. Lincoln, Nebraska. 1970.
Sunder, John E. Bill Sublette Mountain Man. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma. 1973.
Wishart, David J. The Fur Trade of the American West 1907‑1840. Bison Books. University of Nebraska Press. Lincoln, Nebraska. 1979.
Mountain Man Fur Trade Journals -many of the journals quoted in the article can be found on this web site
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/statutes/native/na024.htm - Avalon Project