Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, and the Mountain Men of the Rockies
Following Lewis and Clark's expedition, missionaries made their way to the West.
- Jason Lee, Methodist missionary to the Kalapuya tribe, who founded the capitol city of Salem, Oregon, and whose statue is in the U.S. Capital;
- Marcus Whitman, and his wife Narcissa, were Methodist missionaries to the Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes. He pioneered the Oregon Trail and his statue is in the U.S. Capitol;
- Henry & Eliza Spalding were Presbyterian missionaries to the Nez Perce tribe and helped found Lapwai, Idaho.
During this time, mountain men explored America's west:
- John Colter was on Lewis and Clark's Expedition. Afterwards, he explored Yellowstone National Park and the Teton Mountain Range, spending several months alone the winter of 1807–1808. He is considered the first "mountain man."
- John Frémont led five expeditions west. He was one of California's first Senators, Arizona's Governor, and the first Republican Presidential candidate;
- Joseph Meek was a fur trapper in the Oregon Territory who led the Champoeg Meetings, the area's first government;
- John Sutter owned Sutter's Mill, where gold was discovered, and established "Sutter's Fort," which became Sacramento, California's State capital.
- John David Albert worked on a Mississippi keelboat before he became a fur trapper. In 1847, during the Mexican-American War, he survived an attack by 500 Indians and Mexicans at Turley Mill in Taos, New Mexico;
- John "Grizzly" Adams captured bears with just a knife or his bare hands. His wilderness survival adventures were the basis for a movie in 1974;
- James "Bloody Arm" Beckwourth was a freed slave who lived with Crow Indians. A renown black frontiersman, he discovered Beckwourth Pass through the mountains of Sierra Nevada (Reno to Portola, California);
- Peter Skene Ogden explored with his North West Company through Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, often confronting the Hudson's Bay Company, North America's oldest commercial corporation and largest landowner from Great Lakes to Arctic Circle to the Pacific Northwest;
- Jedediah Smith pioneered the South Pass across the Continental Divide. He was the first to explore Salt Lake to the Colorado River, and the first to cross the Mojave Desert into California. Attacked by a bear, he had a fellow fur-trapper sew his scalp back on;
- William Sublette and his four brothers improved routes along the Oregon Trail. He was co-owner of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company;
- Hugh Glass was mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions. He crawled and stumbled 200 miles to Fort Kiowa, South Dakota.
Jim Bridger's trail-blazing tales include being chased by 100 Cheyenne warriors into a dead end canyon and barely escaping with his life.
Bridger explored Jackson Hole, the Teton Range, and discovered "Bridger Pass" across the Continental Divide, cutting some 60 miles off of what would become the Oregon Trail.
He was one of the first white men to see the geysers of Yellowstone, petrified wood forests, and the Great Salt Lake.
Though illiterate, Bridger spoke the language of Sioux, Black Foot, and Crow.
Singer Johnny Horton recorded a song dedicated to Jim Bridger in 1960:
"Once there was a mountain man who couldn't write his name
Yet he deserves the front row seat in History's Hall of Fame
He forgot more about the Indians than we will ever know
He spoke the language of the Sioux the Black Foot and the Crow ...
There's poems and there's legends that tell of Carson's fame
Yet compared to Jim Bridger, Kit was civilized and tame."
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Kit Carson was a fur trapper, soldier and Indian agent.
His exploits west of the Mississippi were as famous as Daniel Boone's east.
Kit Caron's father fought in the Revolutionary War, then moved his family from Kentucky to a tract of land in Missouri owned by Daniel Boone's sons.
At age 16, Kit Carson followed the Santa Fe Trail to Taos, New Mexico, which was the capital of the fur trade in the Southwest.
He stayed with a friend who had served with Carson's older brothers in the War of 1812.
Learning the skills of a fur trapper, Kit Carson became fluent in speaking:
- Shoshone, and
Francis Parkman, Jr., wrote in The Oregon Trail (1849):
"The buffalo are strange animals ... in order to approach them the utmost skill, experience, and judgment are necessary. Kit Carson, I believe, stands preeminent in running buffalo."
In 1835, at the age of 25, Carson went to the annual mountain man rendezvous in Wyoming, where he met an Arapaho girl named Waa-Nibe or "Singing Grass."
Carson fought a gun fight with a French-Canadian trapper over her.
Kit married Singing Grass and together they worked with the Hudson's Bay Company.
Later they worked with Jim Bridger and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
Kit Carson and Singing Grass trapped beaver along the Yellowstone River, the Powder River, and the Big Horn river.
They traveled throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
Carson considered these years as "the happiest days of my life."
It broke Kit Carson's heart when Singing Grass died of a fever after giving birth to their second daughter.
The trapping of beaver drove the exploration of the west.
It was fueled by demand for beaver top hats popular in eastern America and Europe.
Around 1840, silk from China allowed hats to be made less expensively and the demand for beaver suddenly ceased.
In 1841, Kit Carson married a Cheyenne woman, but she left him to follow her tribe's migration.
In 1842, Carson met Josefa Jaramillo, the daughter of a prominent Taos family.
Carson received religious instruction from Padre Antonio Jose Martinez, was baptized, married Josefa and together they had eight children.
Kit Carson led John C. Frémont on expeditions across the South Pass of the Continental Divide which "touched off a wave of wagon caravans filled with hopeful emigrants."
Carson led Frémont to map the second half of the Oregon Trail, from South Pass to the Columbia River, traveling along the Great Salt Lake into Oregon.
They came within sight of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Hood, and ventured into Mexican territory, where Carson's wilderness skills averted mass starvation in the Sierra Nevadas.
Traveling across the Mojave Desert, they arrived at a watering hole called Las Vegas (Spanish for "The Meadows").
When Congress published Frémont's reports in 1845, Carson's reputation as a frontiersman Indian fighter inspired writers to use him as the hero in dime novels.
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In 1846, Carson accompanied John Frémont to California.
Carson participated in several battles which eventually led to California being brought into the Union as the 31st State.
He even once courageously slipped through a siege at night and ran 25 miles barefoot through the desert to San Diego for reinforcements.
General Sherman wrote of meeting Kit Carson in The Memoirs of General William T. Sherman:
"As the spring and summer of 1848 advanced, the reports came faster and faster from the gold-mines at Sutter's saw-mill ...
It was our duty to go up and see with our own eyes, that we might report the truth to our Government.
As yet we had no regular mail to any part of the United States, but mails had come to us at long intervals, around Cape Horn ..."
"I well remember the first overland mail. It was brought by Kit Carson in saddle-bags from Taos in New Mexico.
We heard of his arrival at Los Angeles, and waited patiently for his arrival at headquarters.
His fame then was at its height, from the publication of Frémont's books, and I was very anxious to see a man who had achieved such feats of daring among the wild animals of the Rocky Mountains, and still wilder Indians of the Plains.
At last his arrival was reported at the tavern at Monterey, and I hurried to hunt him up.
I cannot express my surprise at beholding a small, stoop-shouldered man, with reddish hair, freckled face, soft blue eyes, and nothing to indicate extraordinary courage or daring.
He spoke but little, and answered questions in monosyllables ..."
"He spent some days in Monterey, during which time we extracted with difficulty some items of his personal history.
He was then by commission a lieutenant in the regiment of Mounted Rifles serving in Mexico under Colonel Sumner, and, as he could not reach his regiment from California, Colonel Mason ordered that for a time he should be assigned to duty with A.J. Smith's company, First Dragoons, at Los Angeles.
He remained at Los Angeles some months, and was then sent back to the United States with dispatches, traveling two thousand miles almost alone, in preference to being encumbered by a large party."
During the Civil War, Kit Carson was a scout and soldier for the Union Army, which carried out a Federal mandate of subduing the west.
When General James Carleton and Colonel Chivington used severe tactics against the Indians, Carson strongly objected and sent a letter of resignation, February 3, 1863, but General Carleton refused it.
Kit Carson's fame was such that "Buffalo Bill" Cody named his son after him.
His sister, Helen Cody Wetmore, wrote in Last of the Great Scouts-The Life Story of Col. William F. Cody 'Buffalo Bill':
"The first boy of the family was the object of the undivided interest of the outpost for a time, and names by the dozen were suggested.
Major North offered 'Kit Carson' as an appropriate name for the son of a great scout and buffalo-hunter, and this was finally settled on."
Helen Cody Wetmore described "Buffalo Bill":
"He may fitly be named the 'Last of the Great Scouts.' He has had great predecessors.
The mantle of Kit Carson has fallen upon his shoulders, and he wears it worthily."
Buffalo once roamed the western plains, numbering in the millions, and were hunted for blankets, meat and leather.
When railroads began moving west, buffalo were shot by the thousands to clear the way for the tracks.
Documenting the changing West, frontier artist Frederic Remington wrote:
"I knew the railroad was coming — I saw men already swarming into the land.
I knew the derby hat, the smoking chimneys, the cord binder, and the 30-day note were upon us in a restless surge.
I knew the wild riders and the vacant land were about to vanish forever ... and the more I considered the subject, the bigger the forever loomed.
Without knowing how to do it, I began to record some facts around me, and the more I looked the more the panorama unfolded."
The Federal Government adopted a big government solution, namely, force migrating plains Indians onto reservations by killing off the buffalo.
A bill to protect buffalo was introduced in the Texas Legislature in 1875, but U.S. General Philip Sheridan retorted (John Cook, 164):
"They are destroying the Indians' commissary. And it is a well known fact that an army losing its base of supplies is placed at a great disadvantage ...
For a lasting peace, let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated ... as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance."
As herds were slaughtered, Indian hostilities increased.
The Federal Government made treaties with Indians, which were later often ignored by greedy politicians if gold, oil or other valuable minerals were found.
Corrupt, deep-state bureaucrats profited by taking Indian lands in crony insider deals, such as the Teapot Dome Scandal.
Sympathetic to the Indians' plight, Kit Carson was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Colorado, January of 1868.
Like Sam Houston, who in 1818 escorted a delegation of Cherokee to Washington, D.C., Kit Carson escorted Ute Indian Chiefs to Washington, DC., to arrange a treaty.
Though physically weak and having difficulty breathing, Carson led them through northern cities where they met crowds and posed for pictures with western military notables, such as General James Carleton and Former California Governor John C. Frémont.
While staying with the Indian Chiefs at New York City's Metropolitan Hotel, Kit Carson almost died.
"I felt my head swell and my breath leaving me. Then, I woke ... my face and head all wet. I was on the floor and the chief was holding my head on his arm and putting water on me.
He was crying. He said, 'I thought you were dead. You called on your Lord Jesus, then shut your eyes and couldn't speak.'
I did not know that I spoke ... I do not know that I called on the Lord Jesus, but I might -- it's only Him that can help me where I now stand ..."
"My wife must see me. If I was to write about this, or died out here, it would kill her. I must get home."
Carson successfully arranged the treaty, as President Andrew Johnson wrote:
"I herewith lay before the Senate ... a treaty made on the 2d day of March, 1868,
by and between Nathaniel G. Taylor, Commissioner of Indian Affairs; Alexander C. Hunt, governor and ex officio superintendent of Indian affairs of Colorado Territory, and Kit Carson, on the part of the United States,
and the representatives of the Tabeguache, Muaehe, Capote, Weeminuche, Yampa, Grand River, and Uintah bands of Ute Indians."
Carson returned to Taos, New Mexico, but unfortunately, his wife Josefa soon died from complications after giving birth to their eighth child.
A month later, Kit Carson died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm on MAY 23, 1868, at the age of 58.
He was buried next to his wife.
His last words were: "Adios Compadres" (Spanish for "Goodbye friends").
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