About Jacques La Ramée
Jacques La Ramée (sometimes rendered Jacques La Remy or La Ramie) was a French or French-Canadian fur trader who lived in what is now the U.S. state of Wyoming after moving there in 1815. In 1820 or 1821, he left for the season to go trapping along what is now known as the Laramie River. After failing to arrive at the next year's rendezvous, a search party was sent out to locate him. Accounts of his disappearance vary, but many stories conclude that he was killed by Arapaho Indians, which they vigorously denied. A number of sites in Wyoming are named for him, including the Laramie River, the city of Laramie, Fort Laramie, Laramie Peak, and Laramie County, Wyoming.
- "NPS Historical Handbook: Fort Laramie". National Park Service. 9 December 2000. Retrieved 2006-08-22.
- "Jacques La Ramie". Platte County Public Library. 2000. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
- "The Legendary Jacques La Ramee". Retrieved 2008-10-10.
Extracted from The Legendary Jacques La Ramee (An Interpretation of “Hearsay Evidence” of the Life and Death of Jacques LaRamee), by Cameron Talbot Miller, Kathryn Bagby, Jeremy Rambo http://uwstudentweb.uwyo.edu/J/JRAMBO/
Throughout Wyoming many landmarks are named after an early French-Canadian trapper. These landmarks include the Laramie River, the Laramie Peak , the Laramie Plains, Laramie County , Fort Laramie , the town of Fort Laramie , and the city of Laramie . Jacques LaRamee (Laramée, Laramé, Laramie , De la Ramie, de la Rame, or La Ramee it is spelled different by almost all the listed sources) was a mysterious man with obvious influence (Chittenden, 1935; Coutant, 1899; Fetter, 1982; McDermott, 1968; Pitcher, 2000). However, there is little known about him. LaRamee’s significance is seemingly lost along with his complete history, but when researched further one can begin to understand his historical impact.
Not only are there various spellings of his surname, but some historians also question whether or not Jacques was his first name. Some go so far as to say it was Baptiste. There are others who state his given name was Joseph; this may be more accurate (Pitcher, 2000). J. Edmond LaRamee, a supposed descendent of LaRamee the trapper, traces the trapper’s lineage from Jacques Fissiau (who would have been the great grandfather of Jacque LaRamee). The parents of Jacques are thought to have been “Joseph and Jeanne Mondou LaRamee of Yamaska , Quebec .” Other records show that Joseph fathered five sons, “none of whom was named Jacques or Baptiste. However, the third son, who was born on June 8, 1784, bore the name Joseph.” The name Jacques was first used by Dr. C.G. Coutant and that is probably the reason many historians use it today (McDermott, 1968).
Among the remains of LaRamee’s fractured biography, a man of upright character and independent quality begins to emerge. According to Dr. C.G. Coutant’s History of Wyoming he entered the United States around 1815 with the North West Company – a major player in the fur industry that was involved in a continuous feud with a rival company, The Hudson Bay Company. These conflicting fur companies often created competition between their employees which resulted in violence. LaRamee strung together a group of “free trappers,” and they began trapping at the headwaters of the North Platte (Fetter, 1982).
LaRamee’s success was due to his renowned attitude and peaceful reputation. His fellow free trappers shared his “theory that the world was wide and there was room enough for all.” LaRamee led his band of hard working peaceful trappers to undisputed territory where they could trap an abundance of fur without quarrel. Apart from being peace loving and influential LaRamee had a reputation of honesty and equality. LaRamee and his party soon befriended many Indian tribes. “These natives from the very first held [LaRamee] in high esteem.” The band of trappers continued growing in success, with native friends, which would sell pelts to LaRamee’s organization (Coutant, 1899).
Jacques LaRamee and his honest enterprise helped bring an early significant event to Wyoming , the free trapper rendezvous. Rendezvous had been taking place in Missouri and Mississippi for years, due to their efficiency. At a rendezvous, the trapper could do his own trading and therefore avoid the middle man, who was often an employee of a large trading company. Thanks to LaRamee, and his new freedom of being able to trade with whomever he wanted Wyoming now had its own version of a rendezvous (Coutant, 1899). Trappers would meet annually and exchange their pelts for goods and supplies that they would need for the upcoming year. This would also be a time of celebration, and camaraderie. The trappers would share stories, and LaRamee, the chief figure, was usually the center of attention. His rendezvous took place at the mouth of the river which later, to the trappers at least, became his (McDermott, 1968).
Much like most of Jacques LaRamee’s life, accounts of his death are compiled from hearsay. It is said that LaRamee ventured off to trap along the Laramie River , and its contributories. This country was well known to be a dangerous battleground between northern and southern Native American tribes. Disregarding the warnings and pleadings of his companions, LaRamee courageously followed his plans to open up what he probably believed to be prime trapping territory. He set off faithfully putting his protection in the hands of his native friends (Coutant, 1899). When LaRamee failed to show up to his own rendezvous the next year a search party was formed to find him or his remains. One account is that his body was found in a small cabin. The party quickly pitched blame on the Arapahos, “but they vigorously denied it;” after all, they were LaRamee’s allies (McDermott, 1968). This sparked a new genocidal conflict between the “betraying savages” and LaRamee’s trappers; not to mention almost all other trappers who traveled through Wyoming . This was a horrific war, something with which LaRamee surely would not have associated himself (Coutant, 1899).
A different version, which was documented by Janet Lecompte, involves Pierre Lesperance, who claimed to be an eyewitness to LaRamee’s death. Lesperance’s story includes two other unidentified trappers that camped with LaRamee on the Laramie River . According to Lesperance the camp was attacked by “Indian marauders and LaRamee was killed. His comrades buried him where he lay” (McDermott, 1986). Most of the stories of LaRamee’s death pin the murder on Native American’s (the Arapahos). Some claim that the remains were stuffed under the ice of a beaver dam (Pitcher, 2000).
I do not question that Jacques LaRamee existed. However, when a great man dies a legend often succeeds him. These legends sometimes substitute parts of the truth with embellished tales of glory. The fable that envelopes LaRamee’s life is romantic and traditional. He led his people, fellow free trappers and traders, to adventure and prosperity at the cost of his own life. The historical truth may be diminished by such a legend, but LaRamee’s life, legend, and sacrifice helped shape Wyoming into what it is: a combination of tranquil beauty and a mix of contemporary and classic culture.
- Chittenden, Hiram M., The American Fur Trade of the Far West. Lincoln and London, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1935.
- Coutant, C.G. Dr., History of Wyoming and (The Far West). New York: Argonaut Press Ltd., 1899.
- Fetter, Richard, Mountain Men of Wyoming. Boulder CO: Johnson Publishing Co., 1982
- McDermott, John D., "J. LaRamee". In Leroy R. Hafen (ed.), The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West (Vol. VI) (pp. 223-225). Spokane, WA: The Arthru H. Clark Co., 1968.
- Pitcher, Don, Wyoming Handbook: Fourth Edition. Emeryville, CA: Avalon Travel Publishing, Inc., 2000
- Wyoming State Library, Jacques LaRamie