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