Mountain men make mark on Rockies
November 16, 2000
About 170 years ago, mountain men, fur trappers in search of beaver and fortunes, were brave individuals who placed their mark upon the unexplored and unsettled American West. Some of their names are familiar – John Jacob Astor, Jedidiah Smith, John Colter, Jim Bridger, Benjamin Bonneville, Kit Carson.
From 1825 to 1840, the mountain men looked forward to the mountain rendezvous each year. It was the social and business event of the year – a time when fur trappers and traders from all over the area would rendezvous to buy, sell, and trade their furs. Instead of having a permanent trading post, trapper and mountain man Jedediah Smith convinced William Ashley to bring a caravan of supplies from St. Louis and meet the trappers at Henry’s Fork on the Green River in July 1825 for the first rendezvous.
At each mountain rendezvous camp, the location for the next year’s mountain rendezvous camp was announced. After the business of trading beaver pelts for the essentials of life in the mountains, the mountain men got down to the serious business of gambling, drinking, telling tall tales, target shooting and general socializing.
Most of the men left the mountain rendezvous camp with little money, for what good was money in the isolated world they lived in? More important were their horse, rifle, string of traps and a fresh supply of tobacco.
Leaving, they would go to find new beaver streams, hole up for the winter in their isolated world, and hope to live to return to the next mountain rendezvous camp.