Renowned as a hardy mountain man, he ranged the Missouri, Big Horn, Yellowstone, and Sweetwater River country between 1823 and 1833. He hunted beaver, fought Indians, and unwittingly opened the West for settlers by proving that wagons could be used effectively on the Oregon Trail. But financial success and silk hats, which strangled the fur trade, eventually led him to take up a less adventuresome life in St. Louis as a gentleman farmer, businessman, and politician.
Sublette helped develop the rendezvous system in the fur trade and blazed the first wagon trail through South Pass. He also established the post later renamed Fort Laramie, helped lay the foundation for present Kansas City, and left a large fortune to excite envy and exaggeration. One of the most successful fur merchants of the West, he also helped to break John Jacob Astor’s monopoly of the trade.