On display in the lower rotunda of the museum through September is the collection “Engravings of Dramatic Moments 1882-1893” from Harper’s Weekly magazine. Compiled by Montana photographer Lee Sillman, these original illustrations launched Frederick Remington’s career. He became famous as a painter, illustrator, sculptor and writer and depicted the Old West with scenes of cowboys, Native Americans, wildlife and the U.S. Cavalry.
When many think of the animals that would have graced the western landscape during the Rocky Mountain fur trade era (1820-1840), they may assume that the animals encountered by trappers and traders in Wyoming were pretty much the same as we have today. However not all iconic “western” animals were present during the time of the mountain man.
That leads to the question: Were there moose in and around the area that would become the state of Wyoming?
Surprisingly, moose were not as common as they are today in the American West, especially Wyoming. While moose in the 21st century are some of the most favorite and popular of the western animals, their presence in Wyoming has not been found in the historical accounts and narratives from the early to mid- 1800s. Many of the fur trader’s journals or letters made references to the ecology of the Wyoming mountains, but none of them mentioned seeing moose.
Furthermore, artist Alfred Jacob Miller (AJM), known for his portrayal of common every day scenes of the fur trade, painted multiple interactions between the mountain men and the animals of the region in 1838. Of those include hunting buffalo, bears, elk, antelope, deer, and of course beaver. However AJM never sketched or painted a moose. In addition to this lack of visual reference, further evidence that AJM and his employer William Drummond Stewart were unfamiliar with moose in the Wyoming area, can be found in what Stewart himself called his “fictitious Auto-biography” entitled Edward Warren, where he penned that “Every animal of the land, except the moose, ranged around our course, less wild because less harassed than elsewhere.” Stewart wrote this passage when his party was “…rounding the south eastern shoulder of the Mountains of the Winds.” (The Wind River Mountains are located in Wyoming.)
Earlier in Stewarts book he stated that when heading to the 1833 Rendezvous on the Green River in Wyoming that “this was almost the finest part of the west for every species of animal the country affords, excepting the moose deer, which is to be found no lower down than the hunting grounds of the Blackfeet and the Assimboines, on the far sources of the Missouri.”
Although a fictitious work, Edward Warren no doubt described in detail many of the things William Drummond Stewart saw on his trip to and through the American West. For him to make mention that the moose was an exception to the animals found in Wyoming is as thought-provoking as it is noteworthy.
One instance of moose during the fur trade was recorded by Warren Ferris in his journal when traveling by Clark’s fork river near Deer Lodge, Montana in the early 1830’s. His entry states:
“On the fourth we passed into the Deer‑house plains, and saw the trail, and several encampments, of the Rocky Mountain Fur Co.; but no game, save one antelope.
On the fifth, we passed twenty five mile, west of north, down this valley. In the mean time, our hunters killed three grizly bears, several goats, deer, and two buffaloes; the latter, however, is seldom found in this country; though it abounds in black and white tailed deer, elk, sheep, antelopes, and sometimes moose, and White mountain goats have been killed here.”
“Sometimes moose” They were indeed scarce at the time, even when sighted.
Another reference to moose during the fur trade was noted by Alexander Ross. In late October – early November, 1824, Alexander Ross and company crossed the continental divide via Lemhi Pass. Interestingly, this pass essentially crosses the Bitterroots from Montana into Idaho. Lewis and Clark crossed it on Aug. 12, 1805. Their journal indicates the pass is about 3 – 4 days travel from the Dillon, MT area. After spending much time and ammunition shooting at geese and ducks, Ross reports, “We were at the same time surrounded on all sides by herds of buffalo, deer, moose and elk, as well as grouse, pheasant, and rabbit.”
In the book The History of Wildlife Management in Wyoming published in 1987, it states that:
“Moose and mountain goat were added to the list of protected species in 1882. Section 1 of the game code read: ‘It shall be unlawful to pursue, hunt or kill any deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, mountain goat, antelope or buffalo save only from August 1 to November 15 inclusive in each year, or kill or capture by means of any pit, pitfall or trap any of the above named animals.’ Moose were evidently extremely scarce in the area Wyoming now encompasses. Osborn Russell was a good observer and made an attempt to describe every species of big game and large predators that he observed. Russell spent a lot of time between 1834 and 1843 in the area where moose are now found in abundance but he did not mention them in his journals.”
The number of moose must have grown, although not by much, in Wyoming between the time of the fur trade and 1882 to be put on the list of animals hunted.
The History of Wildlife Management in Wyoming goes on to say that “It is also possible that some of the early explorers saw moose but called them elk after the European fashion.”
We know that Alfred Jacob Miller did not follow this fashion as his multiple paintings depicting an Elk hunt were indeed actual elk. Below is an example of this as well as an image of a moose to show that they are in fact two different animals. (Sorry Europe)
Today, moose are prominent in Wyoming. An animal that surely the mountain men would have enjoyed at the time.
Many are familiar with the 1960’s novel Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. For years children in Language Arts classes have read this book as part of the curriculum. The young main character of the book was actually based on the early 1800’s story of the “The Lone Woman of the Island of San Nicolas” who was believed to live for many years on her own in isolation. An interesting fact is that this famous novel has ties to a not-so-well-known but very important mountain man.
George Nidever, known for being a brave man was immortalized in a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson entitled “George Nidever”. Nidever was part of the small trapping party led by Alex Sinclair. Sinclair was one of the few men who were killed at the famous Battle of Pierre’s Hole. Nidever and his then leaderless party traveled to the 1833 Green River Valley Rendezvous right outside of Pinedale, Wyoming. George Nidever later joined Fremont’s forces and moved to California after the fur trade to continue hunting bears and otter.
In LeRoy Hafen’s Vol. 1 of The Fur Trade of the Far West an article by Margaret Beckman and William Ellison Santa Barbara, California stated:
“One of the most noteworthy, and perhaps the most widely known, of Nidever’s exploits was the search for and rescue of the ‘Lone Woman of the Island of San Nicolas.’ She lived without human contact on this island for eighteen years, until she was found by him and his long-time trapping companion, Charley Brown (Carl Dittmann), and taken to Nidever’s home in 1853. She died there seven weeks from the day she was brought ashore, and was buried in the Mission cemetery. This remarkable woman’s story, and the events leading up to her finally being found after many attempts had been made, involved too much to be detailed here. But in recounting the adventures of George Nidever, the hunter, it should be noted that it was through his indefatigable chase of the sea otter that he came upon the lonely and pathetic Indian woman who had been left behind, however inadvertently, when the rest of the island Indians were removed to the mainland n 1835. His gentleness, kindness and generosity toward this wild creature, and his rejection with indignation of offers of large sums of money for use of her as a sideshow attraction for gain, were typical of Nidever’s innate humanity, which he had demonstrated on many occasions during his years of wandering and during his subsequent years as a Californian.”
It truly is amazing how many connections there are to the fur trade. In the below Smithsonian article we read that Author Scott O’Dell used George Nidever’s journals to conduct research for his novel. Click Here To Read Article
Q) Did the mountain men travel back and forth to the settlements on the supply route or an alternate route?
A) By 1830, through exploration and information from Native people, the American businessmen and field leaders in the fur trade had a solid and fairly accurate picture of the geography from the Mississippi to the Pacific. Land routes to Santa Fe, the Upper Green River Basin, California and the coast of Oregon Country were well established and generally known among the mountaineers. The Missouri River provided a major water route west which, by 1832, had proven viable for steamboats as far as the confluence with the Yellowstone. These were features in the mountain man’s mental map he used to navigate from place to place. This is not to say that mountain men didn’t trail blaze new routes after 1830, just that there were preferred and accepted routes between the settlements and major locations in the west by that time.
Supply routes to and from rendezvous and trading posts generally followed the safest, easiest path that provided grass and water for stock, or navigable water for boats. A mountain man traveling to and from the settlements would have had the same needs and would have made the same calculations that guided company boats and caravans as to what was the best way to go. His challenge would be to get from wherever he was to a spot where he could connect with one of the major routes, and maybe there find a group headed his way to enjoy safety in numbers.
This was the test of his mental map: to have an accurate picture of what drainage he was on, where that drainage lead, and what landmarks on the horizon could tell him about where he was in relation to the drainage he wanted to be on. His own experience, or information collected around the camp fire, would help him make use of trade routes, existing Native trails, and courses through easier terrain until he could join one of the well-traveled routes that led to his destination.
Q) How did the mountain men know when and where to meet for rendezvous?
A) In general, the fur company(s) agreed on the next year’s rendezvous site before the supply caravan returned east, however the question touches on how the business communication of the Rocky Mountain fur trade took place throughout the year.
As American trappers got to know the Rocky Mountain West, they had in their mental maps the sites that had the grazing, game and space requirements to support hundreds of trappers and Native People, and their thousands of horses. Rendezvous sites were often where two well-known rivers met, or a recognizable point in a valley. They were in what is now Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho and all but three were west of the Continental Divide. The confluence of Horse Creek and the Green River, near Pinedale, Wyoming, was the site of six rendezvous, more than any other place. Today’s rendezvous, more social than historical, are usually not held in places that saw an original gathering.
Most years the company officers and field leaders would choose the next year’s rendezvous site before leaving the current year’s rendezvous. As the brigades and free trappers scattered at the end of July, they would have a rough idea of where everyone else would be operating, wintering and gathering the following summer.
Summer rendezvous was followed by the fall hunt. When the winter ice locked up the streams and ended the fall trapping season the mountaineers would gather in winter camps known as winter quarters. By this point in the year company field leaders would have an idea how successful the year was going to be and have a list of particular trade items as well as the amount of goods that would be needed the following summer. Letters and dispatches communicating this to the company headquarters in St. Louis would be given to curriers who would make the mid-winter journey to Missouri. This winter express, as it was called, had to reach the company by a previously agreed upon day, typically in March, to allow the company enough time to collect the goods, livestock and men to haul the needed merchandise to the upcoming rendezvous.
As the weather warmed with summer, company brigades and groups of free trappers would start to congregate at the pre-agreed rendezvous site. The expectation was that the supply caravan would arrive from Missouri in the first weeks of July. When the goods arrived, two weeks of trading and partying would begin, then the cycle would start all over again.
A location could be chosen late in the trapping year, or changes could be made, and this had to be communicated to brigades in the field. In 1825, William Ashley had not yet decided on the site of the first rendezvous, but he told his trappers where he would leave a mound of earth topped by rocks painted red marking where he would bury directions to the site once he chose it.
In spring of 1838 the site of the rendezvous was changed from Green River to east of the Continental Divide near the confluence of the Wind and Popo Agee Rivers. The point of this change was to stay out of reach of traders from the British Hudson’s Bay Company by holding the rendezvous in US territory. Notice of the change was written in charcoal on a storehouse cabin door at the Green River site to tell any trappers arriving there to go over to the new site where they would find, “…plenty trade, whiskey, and white women.” The White women were missionary wives, and a novelty in the mountains.
For further reading check out Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, by Fred Gowans, and The Fur Trade of the American West, 1807 – 1840, by David Wishart
Every year the Museum receives interesting questions that our fur trade historian’s do the research and help answer for us. Here is some research by AMM member Scott Walker.
Q: Did the mountain men use money or trade coins?
A: A mountain man lived in a financial world where the American money economy met the Native barter system. Fur companies kept careful account of the dollar value of furs brought in vs. the dollar value of goods taken out, however the actual transaction at rendezvous or at a trading post was goods for furs, rather than cash for furs. If a trapper had credit due him, it could be kept on the company books for future goods, or put in the form of a promissory note. To receive hard currency for what was owed to him by a company, a mountaineer would have to make his claim at the company offices, typically in St. Louis.
A trapper’s status with a fur company would determine how he traded with them. An engagee was a company employee who earned a set wage regardless of how many skins he brought in. In return he would receive his basic outfit and support from the company. In the mountains, any additional goods he purchased from the company were debited against his account.
A skin trapper would borrow the cost of his outfit from a company and in return would agree to trade only with the company who outfitted him, at a set price per skin, until the value of his outfit was paid.
A free trapper owned his own outfit outright and could trade his skins with whomever gave him the best price in goods or credit on the books.
The companies were interested in keeping trappers working in the mountains, where they could be supplied needed goods at inflated “mountain” prices. In effect the rendezvous and the trading posts were the fur trade version of a miner’s company store. If a company could keep a mountaineer’s finances on their books, they could keep him trading with only them. Company clerks kept track of each trapper’s account and some of these records have survived. An individual trappers’ debits and credits can provide rich background to a mountain man’s story.
Sometimes, during a particular trading session pieces of wood, quills or bone were used as counters to tally the number of skins traded. The counters were then used to purchase goods. Presumably, at the end of the trading session, any leftover credit or debt would be entered in the company books, as sticks would be easy to counterfeit.
American companies didn’t use trade coins or tokens in the Rockies during the rendezvous years, however the North West Company, a British fur company, had a token minted in England. These 1820-dated beaver tokens are extremely rare today, with approximately 100 known, although modern pewter replicas are common. Finds of originals have been concentrated in the lower Columbia and Umpqua valleys, and it does not appear that these tokens figured in the American rendezvous trade.
In the late 1850s, well after the rendezvous period, the Hudson’s Bay Company used minted metal tokens to replace locally-made wooden, bone and quill tokens in some of their Canadian trading areas. Their value was based on the worth of a beaver skin and rose and fell with the market.
For further reading check out the archive of fur trade business documents at http://www.mtmen.org/, as well as Clay Landry’s article tracing the story of two promissory notes written in the mountains in 1830, appearing in Volume 7 of The Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal.
An interesting view of the Museum from a drone flying above. Courtesy of Rocky Mountain Power.
We got an email from one of our visitors who lives in Florida, she was intrigued by the hide dresses of the Indian women and asked if by any chance they washed them, and if, then how?
Our historian Jim Hardee helped us reply to her in telling us the Yucca root is just one of the many soaps for washing buckskin. If there was a great deal of decoration, then it was washed around it. The main reason buckskin is smoked is so that it can be washed and used in bad weather without fear of hardening up when dry. That will happen some, but rubs out for a better hide with each washing. Also white clay balls rub out those stubborn stains. An interesting laundry procedure we thought you all might enjoy
Looking through some of our archives we came across a book that once belonged to local P.W Jenkins, who petitioned for Pinedale to be part of a new county, and now has a large collection of his items in the museum.
This book, entitled, LaBonte was a review of the original peice by George Frederick Ruxton published in 1848. It was dedicated to the Wyoming Pioneers and L.C. Bishop, president of the Wyoming pioneer association reprinted it in 1950. Ruxton actually interviewed the french trapper Labonte, and wrote of some of his adventurous experiences. We wanted to share one with you…
“One day LaBonte left camp for a last buffalo hunt in the mountains, preparatory to a trip to the North Fork (of the Platte) to trade his skins. Upon his return after 3 days he found his lodge burned and squaws and peltries gone. Since he was weary from his long hunt and saddened by his loss, he started a fire, and with rifle across his lap and a buffalo robe wrapped around his body, was soon asleep. During the night his squaw, Chil-co-the, who had escaped from her Arapaho captors, returned rebuilt the campfire and when morning came was seated by the fire opposite LaBonte.
With Cil-co-the on his buffalo horse and with his possessions packed on the mule, he shouldered his rifle and took the trail for the North Platte. On Horse Creek he came upon a party of french hunters and trapper encamped with their Indian wives. Several old companions were among them and in celebration of Labonte’s arrival a, a dog feast was made the order of the day. Six dogs were killed and a coyote and a wolf were added…In asking Labonte stated ‘It must be confessed that dog meat takes a high rank in the wonderful variety of cuisine afforded to the gourmand and the gourmet by the prolific mountains'”
A couple weeks ago, a visitor came in and asked another intriguing question. She was curious if the Mountain Men ate the meat of the beaver they caught. A common phrase most mountain men specialists, when asked this, say “If it was meat they’d eat it.”
True they were not very picky, but more importantly the beaver tail was considered a delicacy as the fat in the tail was very welcomed after a diet of lean wild meat.
Here is an excerpt from one of Nathaniel Wyeth’s Journal on his second expedition to the Oregon Country in 1834…
“22nd Snowed part of last night and rained the residue and the forenoon of today snow the rest and part of the night in morning our hunter went out and wounded a deer which the wolves ran down but before he could find him they had eaten up all but enough for 2 meals this morning breakfasted on two beaver tails which I had laid by and forgotten so we have not yet on this trip lost a meal as yet.”
Apparently in Canada, beaver tails are a delicacy too. But in a different way. Beaver Tails, a Canadian based chain of pastry stands formed their pastry to resemble a beaver tail…Canadians must be Mountain Men enthusiasts as well eh?
Did you know, that before Yellowstone was a National Park a group of Native Americans called the Shoshone or “Sheep Eaters” inhabited the area. Contrary to popular belief, this tribe was quite inventive, and intelligent. Instead of using horses to carry and pack in their belongings they used very large dogs. These dogs were quite loyal companions and very well behaved. Unlike other dogs that would hang around Indian camps, the Shoshone dogs would never get into food, or run away from their masters. The dog’s labor was essential to sheep eater survival so it was common that the dogs would be fed first at meal time.
Another unique feature of this tribe is that their main weapon was the sheep horn bow. These bows were considered a thing of beauty as they were skillfully made with either sheep, elk or buffalo horn and decorated with porcupine quills and/or snake skin. A fine trade item they were well sought out.
We have an original sheep horn bow on display at the museum. And the book featured below by Lawrence L. Loendorf and Nancy Medaris Stone is quite fascinating as each chapter goes into depth, the detail of these creative and caring people. Click Here to order this book!
To those who have ever read Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” can recall with quite fondness and curiosity the character of the Mad Hatter.
In his book, and later in the Walt Disney cartoon, The Mad Hatter was portrayed as a lively, witty and quite entertaining individual.
The inspiration behind the character, however, was not.
Carroll as a child grew up in Stockport, a large city in the greater part of Manchester England.
Here the business of hat making was a large industry.
As we know the Mountain Men in Europe, as well as out in our part of the West, would trap beaver to send pelts back to these factories for hat making.
Unlike the beaver muffs and coats, primarily used to keep one warm, the demand for a felt-like glossy hat, required for the use of mercury. Mercury, a metallic element, would cause the fibers of the fur to separate and mat easier, causing that timeless; shiny, durable AND waterproof hat that was so desired.
Lewis Carroll no doubt must have seen a number of hat makers who suffered from the prolonged exposure to mercury. It would, in effect, cause the individual a neurological reaction confusing speech and sight. This probably inspired the author to create the character of the Mad Hatter, as everything in his novel was interesting and whimsical. I’m sure all of us can be grateful though, that the process of using mercury in hats is long outdated.
An Interview with Richard Ashburn.
“Mr. Ashburn how long have you been a mountain man?”
“And what initially drew you to it?”
“Probably my love of nature, I’m very intrigued just by the whole era, and I appreciate that it was before the genocide of the Indians. It was trade not battle, there was no war…there was peace. I also love the education on the harmony with nature and the earth…it’s sort of a spiritual aspect for me. Also I’ve always sort of been a mountain man, I love horses and was a professional outfitter for 25 years.”
An Interview with Jim Langstein…
“How long have you been a Mountain Man?”
“What drew you to this way of life?”
“My Dad gave me my first black powdered rifle when I was 14, I started going to Rendezvous and decided this was the life for me. Now I’m a historian.”
“Tell me a little about your outfit…did you make it?”
“yep, it’s brain tanned hide, and I made this necklace outta Elk Ivory’s”
“That’s too cool 🙂“
For years a small 1826 journal was mistaken to be Robert Campbell’s diary. The journal was donated to the Campbell House Museum in St. Louis Missouri in an envelope marked “Campbell’s Diary” and it wasn’t until recently that an analysis of the handwriting revealed the the diary was not written by Campbell.
The question remains…who’s diary was this?
In comparing the writing in the journal to other fur trade documents there is considerable evidence that the owner was William H. Ashley. What a find!
A tangible piece of history, an actual item containing thoughts of William H. Ashley, one of the famous co-owners of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Co.
Ashley’s diary contains numerous ledgers and drawings of rivers and topographical details.
For more information and the full story on the discovery of this item check out Vol. 8 of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal which has a page by page transcript of the diary!
Go back in time as you follow Ashley’s travels. This little book is quite a discovery for the fur trade community, and leaves the question…what other valuable fur trade items are out there waiting to be found.
Today’s Mountain Man Term is: Cache – A safe place, often hidden, for storage of food and other supplies.
The mountain man, whether an explorer, a trader, or a trapper, cached goods for several reasons. The explorer could lighten his load for a difficult part of his journey, or cache important items (such as food, lead and gunpowder) for his return trip. The trader could store some of his trade goods for later retrieval. The trapper needed a place to hide his beaver pelts until he was ready to transport them to the markets back east. A successful cache had to be built in secrecy, in a safe location, and with the utmost care to avoid leaving even the smallest bit of evidence.
We have a replica on display at the museum, with intriguing information on how it was built and what all they could contain.
Below is an excerpt from Meriwether Lewis about building his cache…
“The cache being completed, I walked to it and examined its construction. It is in a high plain about 40 yards distant from a steep bluff of the south branch on its northern side The situation a dry one, which is always necessary. A place being fixed on for a cache, a circle about 20 inches in diameter is first described, the turf or sod of this circle is carefully removed, being taken out as entire as possible in order that it may be replaced in the same situation when the cache is filled and secured. This circular hole is then sunk perpendicularly to the depth of one foot, if the ground be not firm, somewhat deeper. They then begin to work it out wider as they proceed downward, until they get it about six or seven feet deep, giving it nearly the shape of a kettle, or lower part of a large still. Its bottom is also somewhat sunk in the center.
The dimensions of the cache are in proportion to the quantity of articles intended to be deposited. As the earth is dug, it is handed up in a vessel and carefully laid on a skin or cloth, and then carried to some place where it can be thrown in such manner as to conceal it, usually into some running stream where it is washed away and leaves no traces which might lead to the discovery of the cache.
Before the goods are deposited, they must be well dried. A parcel of small dry sticks are then collected, and with them a floor is made, three or four inches thick, which is then covered with some dry hay or a raw hide well dried. On this, the articles are deposited, taking care to keep them from touching the walls by putting other dry sticks between as you stow away the merchandise. When nearly full, the goods are covered with a skin, and earth thrown in and well rammed until, with the addition of the turf first removed, the hole is on a level with the surface of the ground. In this manner, dried skins or merchandise will keep perfectly sound for several years.”
Captain Meriwether Lewis, 9 June 1805
Westbound Lewis and Clark expedition, near the mouth of the Marias River (about 50 mi. NE of Great Falls, MT)
Rufus B. Sage
Rufus B. Sage was an American writer, journalist and later a mountain man. He is known as the author of Scenes in the Rocky Mountains published in 1846, depicting the life of fur trappers. Rufus B. Sage was born on March 17, 1817 to the family of Deacon Rufus Sage, in Cromwell, Connecticut, beforehand known as Middletown. He was the youngest of seven children. His father died when Rufus was 9 which left him in trouble of self-educating and raising. However, due to his vigor and determination Sage was able to self-tutor himself and start working as a printer in the Middleton newspaper.
In fall of 1836 he ventured to Washington County, Ohio, where he became teacher and junior intern at the Marietta Gazette. Thereupon in the spring of 1838, he embarked on an enterprise which took him southward with a cargo of ice. It did not result in mundane earnings yet proved rich in observations; the events he observed in Louisiana and Mississippi made his mind upon the subject of slavery.
After returning to civilization, in Circleville, Ohio he became well known as a writer, speaker and activist. He organised a debating club, which became very popular, and his press connections brought him in contact with the most prominent citizens of the country. In 1839 he ventured to Columbus, Ohio and thereupon he engaged in Ohio State Bulletin.
In the early 1840 Sage became a part of political campaign obtaining to promote William Henry Harrison for president. A weekly campaign paper, and later on a daily, was edited and published by him, that did most effective service in bringing about the grand result of electing the whig national ticket by an overwhelming majority. Sage even exposed a democratic plot to smear his candidate.
After the struggles of political campaign his attention was once again drawn to the unknown – so little was known about the territories between Missouri and the Pacific ocean. Incited by a strong desire to explore the vast region beyond the Missouri frontier, Sage organized a party to explore the west. Despite the fact that his party was scarce, Sage ventured onwards and later joined a party of Indian traders. This period was later described in his famous recollections entitled Scenes in the Rocky Mountains.
In July, 1844, he returned to Columbus and commenced a campaign to support Henry Clay in becoming U.S. president, protesting against the annexation of Texas and the condition of Black slaves. His effort was grand but the election was won by James K. Polk.
Later on Sage became editor of the Chillicothe Gazette, and worked there until 1845, when returned to visit his home town. In the quiet of his house he prepared his recollections for printing. But his future ideas of travel and adventure had to be changed – his elderly and invalid mother convinced Rufus to marry and settle down which he did and lived for the rest of his life in Cromwell.
Rufus B. Sage died on December 23, 1893.
When it comes to fur trade history there is nothing quite as well known as the 100 enterprising young men ad. This first call for adventurous and ambitious mountain men has been known as what started it all.
This advertisement appeared in Missouri Gazette & Public Advertiser, St. Louis, February 13, 1822. A similar ad was placed in Missouri Republican, St Louis, Mar 20, 1822 and in Missouri Intelligencer, Mar 16, 1822.
TO ENTERPRISING YOUNG MEN
The subscriber wishes to engage ONE HUNDRED MEN, to ascend the river Missouri to its source, there to be employed for one, two, or three years — For particulars, enquire of Major Andrew Henry, near the Lead Mines, in the County of Washington, (who will ascend with and command the party) or the subscriber, at St. Louis.
Wm. H. Ashley
This next ad was placed in Missouri Gazette and Public Advertiser, Jan 18,1823:
FOR THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
THE Subscribers wish to engage One Hundred MEN, to ascend the Missouri, to the
There to be employed as Hunters. As a compensation to each man fit for such business,
$200 PER ANNUM,
will be given for his services, as aforesaid.— For particulars, apply to J.V. Garnier, or W. Ashley, at St. Louis. The expedition will set out from this place, on or before the first day of March, next.
Ashley & Henry
Many flocked to the source of these ads in hope of financial success and exploring new lands. These days ads for adventure are few and far between, but the lucky who stumble upon them may go down in history like these brave mountain men.
AMERICAN MOUNTAIN MEN ASSOCIATION
Brief History of the American Mountain Men
By Walt Hayward
The organization “The American Mountain Men” was started in 1968 by Walt Hayward. Of the original seven members, five; Walt Hayward, Fred Hutto, Ken Smith, Dennis Jackson, Stan McDade, Mark McDade and Brad McDade are still members [Feb 1986]. At this time, the organization was not primitive but rather a modern survival club known as “The Brotherhood of American Mountain Men”, a rather long name for a rather small club, small in numbers, but large in ideals and dreams.
The brotherhood had not been in existence long before it became clear to us that we were taking the wrong path, that modern survival concepts could and would only mislead us, that the true survivalists were those we took our name from. This started our study of the history of the Mountain Men, or at least our attempts to study the history and methods of the original Mountain Men. We soon found out that they were the forgotten pioneers of American history. Still we did what we could, picking up bits and pieces here and there.
In 1972 it was suggested by Ken Smith that there must be a few others across our nation who held the same interests that we did and that these individuals might be interested in joining with us. By now anything modern was strictly (almost, anyway) forbidden. We were working within the 1820 – 1840 era. We felt this fact alone would keep the number of interested individuals down to a very few if any. At this time, one of the pioneers of modern blackpowder sports was Major Slim Ackerman of New Mexico, who just happened to be writing a weekly blackpowder and related activities article for “Gun Week”. Walt Hayward wrote a letter to Slim, outlining what we were attempting to do and what our ideals and goals were. Slim took the information from this letter and devoted one of his articles to us, giving our address so that any who might be interested could contact us.
The few responses we thought we would receive turned into several hundred, enough to keep both Walt and Fred busy three or more hours each night for several weeks. Naturally not all who took the time to write to us were to become members, many wanted another magazine and nothing else, others wanted just another black powder club. These did not fall within our objective and were refused membership. We wanted men who would attempt to embrace the total life style of the original Mountain Men, who would research all they could about these rugged individualists and then go into the field and through practice see if what they were able to find out was even possible. We needed men who would be able and willing to take the time to share their findings with the other brothers through the medium of our magazine, “The Tomahawk & Long Rifle”.
There was still much to be done before we could call ourselves a national organization. For practical reasons the name was shortened to “The American Mountain Men”, a symbol was accepted and a rough set of by-laws was written and accepted. This gave us a base to work from and helped to cement our objectives and goals. From this time on growth would be slow but steady, and not without the usual growing pains. We have still not realized our total goals, perhaps we never will, but we will never give up our attempt to do so. We are not a large brotherhood and it is not our desire to ever be so, but rather to remain a small compact group of select brothers working together for a common goal, just as the original American Mountain Men were.
The AMM has continued its growth and knowledge through the years. Members have done a considerable amount of research, both academic and “getting on the ground”, to learn the ways of the original mountain men.
AMM members have written articles for every one of the eight Book of Buckskinning, a series of books on the history and “how to” of the mountain man. Members have penned innumerable articles for magazines concerned with the mountain men and the fur trade era.
Members of the AMM started the Fort Bridger rendezvous, and for the first years, were in charge of this event which has developed into the largest rendezvous in the West.
A memorial to “Liver Eating” Johnson was built in Cody, Wyoming by AMM members. The tradition was continued as other notable mountain men were honored at the memorial.
Hollywood has noted the skills and knowledge of many AMM members who have appeared in, and acted as technical advisors for many movies (including The Mountain Men, with Charleton Heston and Brian Keith) and numerous television documentaries.
AMM members continue their quest for knowledge of primitive skills of the original mountain men and Native Americans. We are happy to share the knowledge that we have gained with those who are interested.