Meriwether Lewis' promise to the Shoshones of American guns and ammunition
went unfulfilled. Even six years later, in 1811, the Astorian's overland
party noted that weaponry amongst the Snakes still consisted of bows
and arrows. Guns were few and far between.
Traders and trappers occasionally traversed the territory of the Shoshones
and Bannocks during the next decade. Beginning in 1823 trappers with
Hudson's Bay Company became a common sight; in fact, way too common.
The goal of this effort, known as the Snake River Brigades, was to wipe
out the fur-bearing animals in order to discourage American free trappers
from moving closer to the Pacific Northwest. The environmental consequences
were substantial, and encounters with local people were common and not
October camp on the Snake River
, ca. 1842
Many of the expedition leaders for the fur companies left accounts of their
travels including observations of encounters with various bands of Shoshones
and Bannocks. Some of these resources are listed below, chronologically, with
links to online transcripts, and other published references.
Wilson Price Hunt led the overland trip of the Astorians to
the mouth of the Columbia in 1811-12. This journal covers the trip from the
Arikara villages on the Missouri to Astoria.
Hunt, William Price. Overland diary of Wilson Price Hunt. Translated
from the French and edited by Hoyt C. Franchere. Ashland Oregon Book Society,
See map showing routes of Hunt and Stuart:
[Map is from Irving's Astoria.]
Robert Stuart, led an overland journey of Astorians eastward from
Astoria to St. Louis in 1812-13. With only a handful of men, they went
by canoe, horseback and mostly by foot, from the mouth of the Columbia
to St. Louis, then eventually to New York.
Stuart, Robert. Philip Ashton Rollins, Ed. The Discovery of the Oregon
Trail: Robert Stuart's Narratives of his overland trip Eastward from Astoria
in 1812-13. University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
Alexander Ross was the leader of the Hudson's Bay Company's 1824
trapping expedition into Snake Country, covering some of the same country
traversed by Lewis and Clark. With Salish guides they traveled from Flathead
House up the Bitter Root River to a prairie where they were snowbound
for a month, then they crossed Gibbons Pass into the Big Hole, over to
Lemhi valley and then spent the summer trapping streams of central Idaho.
Ross, Alexander and Kenneth A. Spaulding, Editor The Fur Hunters of the
Far West. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1956.
Peter Skene Ogden was a chief trader with the Hudson's Bay Company.
In the period 1824-1829, he led five trapping expeditions to the "Snake
Country", all along the tributaries of the Snake River.
Binns, Archie. Peter Skene Ogden: Fur Trader. Portland, Binfords &
William H. Ashley's partner, Andrew Henry, spent the winter of
1810 attempting to establish trade in Shoshone Territory. Although this
attempt was unsuccessful, Henry and Ashley recognized the rich potential
of the area. These men determined to establish trappers in the region
of the Snake and Green headwaters. 1825 papers.
Ashley, William H. The Ashley-Smith explorations and the discovery of
a central route to the Pacific, 1822-1829, with the original journals, by
Harrison Clifford Dale, Cleveland, The Arthur H. Clark company, 1918.
Ashley's Diary is from the William H. Ashley Papers, Missouri Historical
Society, St Louis, MO. Read online:
John Work, a trader of the Hudson's Bay Company, describes his
trapping expedition to the Snake Country in the year 1830-31.
Lewis, William S. & Phillips, Paul C. The Journal of John Work. The
Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland, 1923.
Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. XIII. (1912) pp. 363-371
Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. XIV. (1913) pp. 280- 314
Warren Angus Ferris was an ordinary trapper, employed by the American
Fur Company, who left a record of his day to day experiences as a mountain
man. He provides one of the most detailed accounts of the fur trade in
the Central Rocky Mountains during the years 1830 to 1835.
Ferris, Warren Angus Life in the Rocky Mountains: A Diary of Wanderings
on the sources of the Rivers Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado 1830-1835.
Old West Publishing Company, Denver, 1983.
Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth organized and led two expeditions to the
fur country, in 1832 and 1834, with the purpose of establishing a fur
trapping business to compete with the entrenched companies.
(See August and September
entries in 1832 journal.)
John Ball (1794-1884) was member of Nathaniel Wyeth's 1832 expedition
to the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. Ball provides an account of:
Sublette's expedition across the plains to the 1832 Pierre's Hole rendezvous,
the battle with the Blackfeet that occurred there, and the continuation
of Wyeth's remaining men to Oregon.
Ball, John, Autobiography of John Ball, Grand Rapids, Mich., The Dean-Hicks
Benjamin de Bonneville explored beyond the Rockies (1832 - '36)
in hopes of breaking the British grip on the Columbia River fur trade.
The account by Washington Irving, although based in fact, is replete with
Irving, Washington. Adventures of Captain Bonneville. Binfords & Mort,
Publishers, Oregon, 1954.
[See chapters 28 - 30.]
View Bonneville's map:
Osborne Russell - The Journal begins when Russell hired on with
Nathaniel Wyeth's 1834 expedition. He participated in the establishment
of Fort Hall, and later became a free trapper. He trapped for nine years
in the greater Yellowstone region before leaving the mountains to settle
Russell, Osborne. Journal of a Trapper. Oregon Historical Society, Oregon.
John Kirk Townsend. a young ornithologist, and his companion Thomas
Nuttall, a botanist, accompanied Nathaniel Wyeth on his second expedition
to the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia in 1834. Specimens taken by Townsend
were an important contribution to the work of Audubon.
Townsend, John Kirk. Narrative of a journey across the Rocky Mountains
to the Columbia River. University of Nebraska Press, 1978.
[See chapters 6 - 8]
Thomas Jefferson Farnham a young lawyer from Vermont, was inspired by
missionary Jason Lee's descriptions of the Oregon Territory, and set out
in 1839 from Illinois with a party of nineteen. The group had diminished
to four by the time they left Brown's Hole in Colorado and obtained a
Shoshone guide to Fort Hall.
Farnham, Thomas J. Travels in the Great Western Prairie, the Anahuac,
and Rocky Mountains, and in the Oregon Territory; May 21-October 16, 1839.
Reprint of the London edition, 1843.
Reprinted in the series:
Early Western Travels, 1748-1846 (32 vols.), ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites, Cleveland,
OH: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1904.
Farnham, Thomas J. An 1839 Wagon Train Journal, Travels in the Great
Western Prairies, The Anahuac and Rocky Mountains and in the Oregon Territory.
Greely & McElrath, New York, 1983.