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Fur Trappers and Mountain Men

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  • Charles Louis Reevis (1803 - 1902)
    Name: Charles Louis REEVIS OR RIVET Sex: M Birth: 4 JUL 1803 in St. Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri Christening: Prob., St. Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri Death: 31 DEC 1902 in On Milk River, , Montan...
  • Stephen Meek (1807 - 1889)
    Hall Meek (July 4, 1807 – January 11, 1889) was a fur trapper and guide in the American west, most notably a guide on a large wagon train known as St. Joseph's Company. A native of Virginia, both he an...
  • "Col." Joe Meek (1810 - 1875)
    Lafayette "Joe" Meek (1810–1875) was a trapper, law enforcement official, and politician in the Oregon Country and later Oregon Territory of the United States. A pioneer involved in the fur trade befor...

Add fur trappers and mountain men to this project. There is a separate project for fur traders and managers of trading posts. You can visit HistoryLink to find out which projects include your ancestors.


"The North American fur trade began as early as the 1530s and was a central part of the early history of contact between Europeans and the native peoples of what is now the United States and Canada.

"In 1578 there were 350 European fishing vessels at Newfoundland. Sailors began to trade metal implements (particularly knives) for the natives' well-worn pelts. The first pelts in demand were beaver and sea otter, as well as occasionally deer, bear, ermine and skunk."

Source: Fur trade at Wikipedia

"The fur companies were a central force in the lives of the mountain men. They provided the economic system and often the initial capital that was necessary to the trapper's life. But if the fur giants helped the trapper operate, they also controlled him. The mountain man was a slave to the fur market created by the competition between companies. The amount of control a company had over a trapper depended on what contract for his services he was under. "Engages" were men that were supplied and salaried by the company. The furs which they collected were all company property. "Skin Trappers" or "Share Croppers" were outfitted by the company in exchange for a set share of the pelts at the end of the season. The "free-trapper" was at the top of this social pyramid. He was beholden to no company. He outfitted himself and trapped with whom and where he pleased. "

Source: The Fur Trade: "Beaver Powered Mountaineering"

Because mountain men and trappers were typically the first European inhabitants in large areas of North America, after the decline the fur trade many of them became frontier scouts.

Famous Trappers

  • James Beckwourth (1798-1866). Mountain man, fur trader, and explorer.
  • Benjamin Bonneville (1796-1878). Fur trapper, fur trader, explorer, and military man. He was educated at West Point.
  • Jim Bridger (1804-1881). Fur trapper, fur trader, and army scout.
  • Christopher "Kit" Carson (1809-1868). Fur trapper, fur trader, army scout, and buffalo hunter.
  • John Colter (1774-c1813). Fur trapper, fur trader, army scout, farmer, and explorer,. He was picked for the Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • Lucien B. Maxwell (1818-1875). Fur trapper, fur trader, and rancher.
  • Jedediah Smith (1799-1831). Fur trapper, fur trader, and explorer. He Joined William Ashley's Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1822.
  • William Sublette (1798-1845). Fur trapper, fur trader, and explorer. He was a partner in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
  • William Sherley Williams (1787-1849). Fur trapper and fur trader. Known as Old Solitaire or Old Bill.


Rocky Mountain Rendezvous (in trapper jargon) was an annual gathering (1825–1840) at various locations held by a fur trading company at which trappers and mountain men sold their furs and hides and replenished their supplies. The large fur companies put together teamster driven mule trains which packed in whiskey and supplies into a pre-announced location each spring-summer and set up a trading fair—the rendezvous—and at the season's end, packed furs out, normally the British Companies to Fort Vancouver in the Pacific Northwest, and to one of the northern Missouri River ports such as St. Joseph, Missouri, if an American overland fur trading company.

Rendezvous were known to be lively, joyous places, where all were allowed- free trappers, Indians, native trapper wives and children, travelers and later on, even tourists who would venture from even as far as Europe to observe the festivities. James Beckwourth describes: "'Mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic, with all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent.'"

  • 1825: McKinnon, Wyoming. The first rendezvous of white traders and trappers in the Rocky Mountains occurred in July 1825 just north of McKinnon along the Henrys Fork river. They joined members of William Henry Ashley's expedition.
  • 1826: Cache Valley, Utah, either at today's Cove or at the more southern Hyrum – Jedediah Smith, David Jackson and William Sublette bought the fur company from the founder Ashley
  • 1827: Bear Lake, near today's Laketown, Utah – conflicts and fights with Blackfoot Indians during the meeting
  • 1828: Bear Lake, near Laketown, Utah – fights with the Blackfoot
  • 1829: Lander, Wyoming
  • 1830: Riverton, Wyoming – the company was sold to Jim Bridger, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Milton Sublette (the brother of William), Henry Freab and Baptiste Gervais
  • 1831: Cache Valley, Utah (as in 1826) – the support trek was late, so there was no real rendezvous
  • 1832: Pierre's Hole, Idaho
  • 1833: Daniel, Wyoming
  • 1834: Granger, Wyoming – the Rocky Mountain Fur Company is dissolved, the American Fur Company takes over supplying the rendezvous
  • 1835: Daniel, Wyoming
  • 1836: Daniel, Wyoming
  • 1837: Daniel, Wyoming
  • 1838: Riverton, Wyoming
  • 1839: Daniel, Wyoming
  • 1840: Daniel, Wyoming