THE MOUNTAIN MEN
MOUNTAIN MEN
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Prime period 1820-1840
Only about 200-300 a year
Lured by the west
Opportunity
to make
money
CHARACTERISTICS OF A
MOUNTAIN MAN
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Illiterate
Uneducated
Primitive
Relatively young
Reckless
Adventuresome
In need of money
However, some had
college degrees and were
very refined
DESCRIPTION OF MT MEN
• Many were very large-Natives looked at
them with awe and superstition
• Eventually occupation developed lifestyle,
conduct and habits, a culture of their own
– Harsh language
– Smelly and dirty
– They never laundered their buckskin suit and
seldom removed it
DESCRIPTION
• Many mountain men were more
savage than Natives
• Little concern for family or
comforts
• Not materialistic
• Traveled with a rifle,skinning
knife, horse, traps and utensils
DESCRIPTION
• Ate well at times and poorly at others
– Cut off horses tail and ears to make stew
– Tapped into horses veins
– Ate moccasins, ants, black crickets, deer
excrement soup, bark and berries
• Explored trails & helped name the west
• Traders gave Indians the whiskey trade,
small pox, diphtheria and cholera
• Trapped themselves out of business by
the 1840’s
TRAPPERS
• Trappers were divided into three
categories
–Free trapper-Unaffiliated, unfettered, most
colorful and romantic
–Company trapper-Affiliated with a
company
–Fur trader-Did not trap, but traded with
Indians (The whiskey trade was his bonanza)
Beaver Skin Hats
Where trappers sold pelts:
• Either in Taos, New Mexico
• Caravan that
brought supplies
to annual “rendezvous”
Taos
• A wild city, north
of Santa Fe Trail
• Pelts were sold
• Supplies purchased
• Gambling, whiskey,
women
Rendezvous
• Different location each year in Wyoming or
Utah
• Fur companies brought boats and wagons
filled with supplies
• Weeklong party,
dancing, story telling,
trading
• Mountain men left penniless
Hudson Bay Company
– 1670
– British
– Still operating-sells blankets
– Dominated fur industry in Northern Rocky
Mountains during the trappers era
– 250,000 skins sold in Europe
– One man earned $50,000 in one year
Missouri Fur Company
– 1808
– First in the US
– Owner was Manuel Lisa
– Base-Omaha
– Operated upper Missouri River system
– 1811-sent trappers to upper Arkansas River
American Fur Company
– 1808
– Operates in Yellowstone River system
– Owner-John Jacob Astor (America’s first
millionaire)
– 1811- Made settlement on Columbia river to
expand industry into NW
Rocky Mountain Fur Company
– 1822
– Upper Missouri River
– First Rocky Mountain success
– 1834-Was sold to American Fur Company
MOUNTAIN MEN
• 1840’s saw the end of the Mountain Men
• Silk hats had replaced the beaver skin hat
so there was no longer a market
• The rendezvous had been replaced by the
trading post
Legacy of Mountain Men
Discovered trail & passes
Established relations
with Native Americans
Established trade
routes and trails west
TRADE
• 1821-Mexican Independence
(Spain had not allowed Mexicans to trade with
Americans)
• William Becknell quickly took advantage of this
and became known as the “father of Santa Fe
Trade”
• Raiding Indians became a problem-Government
marked the trail and provided escorts
TRADE
• Santa Fe Trail was in its prime from 1820-1870
• Preceded the Oregon Trail, the 49ers and the
59ers
• Manufactured goods from the east sent west for
pelts, blankets and whiskey
• Tough trip because of long stretches without
contact with civilization, natural barriers and
Indian problems
BENT’S FORT
• Charles (25 and a West Point graduate) and
William (15) headed west to find their future
• To enter the fur trading businesscarried trinkets to help trade
• Located along the Arkansas River
(wood and water available)
• Established a good relationship
with Indians, purchased pelts
BENT’S FORT
• 1833-Chose a site on the Arkansas River
– Ceran St. Vrain suggested the Spanish
style (Bent, St. Vrain & Company)
– Chose the high ground
– Adobe instead of wood because:
• Wood was scarce
• Did not burn
• Warm in the winter and cool
in the summer
BELLTOWER
NORTHEAST BASTION
SOUTHWEST BASTION
ARKANSAS RIVER FROM SW BASTION
BENT’S FORT
• Tried to provide eastern culture (White
tablecloths, imported china and a wine cellar)
• Permanent employees-Blacksmiths, carpenters,
gunsmiths and hunters
• Six different languages spoken-French, Spanish,
German, English, Comanche and Arapaho
BILLIARD ROOM
PRIVATE QUARTERS
TRAPPERS QUARTERS
ST VRAINS QUARTERS
BENT’S FORT
• William Bent married a Cheyenne womanGood relations with Indians
• US annexed Texas in 1845 –Mexicans
viewed this as an act of war
• Bent’s Fort was used as an advance base
and rendezvous for General Kearney
(1650 troops); because of this trade
stopped
BENT’S FORT
• Charles Bent had been appointed governor of
newly annexed New Mexico
• He was killed by the Mexicans and the Pueblo
Indians
• St Vrain sold his interest in the fort to William
• Army wanted to buy it from him
• The fort was burned to the ground
– Did not like the price
– Possibly cholera
• Built a second fort 38 miles away
OTHER TRADING POSTS
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Ft Robidoux
Ft Davy Crockett (nw colorado)
Ft Lupton (S. Platte)
Ft St. Vrain
• Forts died out
– Indian trade fell
– Silk Hats
– Buffalo robes
were plentiful
John Fremont
• 1840’s- Manifest destiny
• Senator Thomas Hart Benton - from Mo. Pushed
for $30,000 to explore and map the west
• John Fremont led the topographical corps of
engineers in the US army
• Nicknamed “the pathfinder”
• Fremont eloped with Jessica Benton
John Fremont
• He led three expeditions (Jessica wrote the journals for
him)
• His fourth journey west was for a RR company-this was
a disaster
• His fifth journey was a private prospecting excursion to
California
• His books were well written and his maps and journals
were accurate-journals were best sellers and musts for
anyone heading west
• The Library of Congress published 100,000 journals of
his first expedition
John Gunnison
• John Gunnison went on a search for a pass through the
mountains that a RR could get through
• Gunnison concluded that a RR could not get through the
Colorado mountains
• After leaving Colorado Gunnison and his men were killed
and mutilated
• Fremont concluded on his fifth expedition that a rr could
get through the Colorado mountains
• Narrow Gauge railroad
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THE MOUNTAIN MEN - Arapahoe High School