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A condensed history of the fur trade in North America

The evolution of cuisine has come a long way from the heyday of eating when possible to the French Canadian Voyageurs and American Mountain Men serving as the first workhorses to withstand both the burdens and dangers of early trades. of Canadian and American fur. Eat whenever possible thanks to contemporary and well-equipped high-tech kitchens.

In popular folklore, the American Far West fur trade is generally considered to have started with John Colter, a member of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition. As they returned to St Louis, Missouri from their winter quarters at Ft Clatsop on the south shore at the mouth of the Columbia River, their nearly two-year sojourn in the unknown western desert near its end, they arrived in the spring of 1806. In the towns of Mandan near present-day Mandan, North Dakota.

There, they encountered two frontiersmen traveling up the Missouri River to hunt fur, Forest Hancock and Joseph Dickson. Colter approached the captains, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and asked their permission to join Hancock and Dickson as the only man authorized to leave the expedition before it was completed. Because of his exemplary service throughout Calvary, the captains granted his request and thus began two extraordinary years of adventure and wanderings during which, among other accomplishments, Colter “discovered” Jackson Hole in present-day Grand Teton National Park and “Hell. of Colter “. it is commonly believed to be the geyser basin of what is now Yellowstone National Park. In fact, it was most likely an area that would later be called the “Stink Hole,” an equally geothermally active region of the Shoshone River, east of Yellowstone Park, near present-day Cody, Wyoming.

But Cody’s best-known misfortune, some might say, occurred in 1808 when he and his catching partner at the time, a man named John Potts (also a veteran of the Lewis & Clark expedition), were canoeing down the Jefferson River. in what is now the south. Montana south of Three Forks, when they encountered a large band of the hostile and notoriously fierce Blackfoot tribe. The Blackfeet demanded that they go ashore. Colter obeyed and, as he did so, he was disarmed and stripped of his clothes. But Potter refused and was shot and injured. Potter returned fire and was immediately dispatched after being riddled with Blackfoot bullets and his body mangled.

The Blackfeet then held a council to determine Colter’s fate, after which Colter was summoned and told in Crow to start running. Thus began a most remarkable sequence of events. Stark naked and realizing he was literally running for his life, pursued by a herd of brave young men, each eager to capture the honor of reclaiming his scalp, after several miles of very fast running (notice this, all marathoners! !) Colter, utterly exhausted and his nose bleeding profusely, turned his head to see that everyone except one brave loner had fallen behind in the race. The rest would be raiders who soon beat Colter. What happened next is best described in the immortal 1817 words of John Bradbury, a Scottish botanist who traveled extensively throughout the western United States in the early 1800s:

He turned his head again and saw the savage less than twenty meters from him. Determined, if possible, to avoid the expected blow, he stopped suddenly, turned, and spread his arms. The Indian, surprised by the suddenness of the action, and perhaps at Colter’s bloody appearance, also tried to stop; but exhausted from running, he fell while trying (sic) to throw his spear, which dug into the ground and broke in his hand. Colter instantly grabbed the pointy part, pinning him to the ground and then continuing his flight. ”

Colter also grabbed the unfortunate aspiring hero’s blanket and continued his flight toward ultimate escape and freedom until he reached the Madison River, after which, with an incredible presence of mind, he jumped, saw a nearby raft of trapped fallen trees. Against the opposite bank, he grabbed one. of the reeds that grew along the length, then he dove and hid under the raft, using the hollow reed as a straw through which he could breathe while feeling the vibrations of the brave Blackfoot as they scampered back and forth across the raft in search of him the rest of the day (notice this, all divers!).

In early 1827, Smith finally obtained his exit visa, but as he cleared the settlements he turned north, exploring and working his way through California’s San Joaquin Valley to the American River, which joined the Sacramento River near present-day Sacrament. Upon arrival, his group tried to find a route through the Sierra Nevada by following its canyon upriver, but was forced to retreat. Realizing it was too late to get to the Columbia River, Smith led his group party to the Stanislaus River, where they set up winter camp. Smith then chose two men and forced a difficult crossing of the Sierra Nevada Range, eventually descending into the vicinity of present-day Walker Lake, from where they took the fastest possible route to make the third encounter at Bear Lake. After a terrifying crossing through the Great Basin desert during which they nearly died of dehydration under the merciless early summer sun, they arrived at Bear Lake in early July just as the rendezvous began. Long abandoned hopelessly lost in their meanders or dead by then, the men were enchanted by the appearance of the three hunters and scouts who unexpectedly descended upon them and greeted them with cannon fire.

Smith left immediately with eighteen French Canadian men and two women, following the same route as the previous year to pick up the men he had left behind. This time, however, the Mojave had turned hostile after a clash with the Taos trappers and a shooting ensued when Smith attempted to cross the river during which ten of Smith’s men were killed, one was seriously injured and the two women they were captured. The eight survivors withdrew and crossed the Mojave Desert on foot before reaching the San Bernardino Valley, where they were well received. Smith then continued through the San Joaquin Valley until he encountered the group from the previous year and together they traveled to Mission San José, where they were greeted with reserve and suspicion, before proceeding to Yerba Buena (now San Francisco) and finally to Monterey, then the capital. from Alta California where the governor resided at the time.

The governor again arrested Smith, along with his men, and held them until several English-speaking residents vouched for him, after which they were released and again ordered to leave Alta California by the most expeditious route possible. Once again out of sight, Smith and his group stayed in the Sacramento Valley trapping and hunting for several months. Upon reaching its headwaters, after exploring it, they determined that the northeast route that the Pit River provided was impassable, so they headed northwest toward the Pacific coast, renewing their commitment to find a way to the Columbia River for their salvation and on the way they became the way. first men to cross into the Oregon Territory along the coastal route, reach the Columbia River, and return to the Rocky Mountains.

Under the Treaty of 1818, the Oregon Country was under joint British and American occupation. Smith and his men soon encountered the Umpqua tribe who distrusted their presence. When one of them stole an ax from Smith’s group, he and his men treated them harshly enough to force their return. In mid-July, on a night when Smith had led two men to scout a trail leading north, the remaining group was attacked while camping on the banks of the Umpqua. At the end of the first week of August, one of them showed up at Fort Vancouver, at the mouth of the Columbia, seriously injured and in tatters. He informed the Factor that he believed himself the sole survivor, but did not know the fate of Smith and his two men. Two days later, they also came forward, reporting that upon learning of the attack, they had returned, climbed a nearby hill, and witnessed it. A relief expedition was organized and dispatched to the site, but all were found dead and decomposing, and were buried at the site. Smith remained at Fort Vancouver until 1829, during which time the Factor, Dr. John McLoughlin, treated the survivors, resupplied their supplies in exchange for the furs that were recovered from the scene of the massacre, and restored their health to where they were at. shape for a long time. trip back to Bear Lake, which they completed without incident.

Smith returned to St. Louis in 1830 and decided to abandon the northern fur trade, which had already begun to decline due to a combination of beaver depletion caused by over-trapping and a decrease in demand for beaver fur caused by the fashion changes in Europe that spread.

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