Staff Writer


The North American Frontiersmen


Smoke Signals

Jan./Feb. '10



I thought I would share a little of those that went before us, I think you'll find this very interesting as well as informative.

The Busy West

It is surprising to hear of the all the people that went west during the fur trade. In fact, many more than most think made the trip, or trips west. These trips were to supply forts and trading houses, to bring goods to the rendezvous and to change personnel at the trading posts. Along with a few tourists, who came west for their health and adventure. As time went on, the trails were easier and more known (marked or even surveyed, as in the Santa Fe trail’s case) and this helped make the journeys shorter. Here is a partial list of the groups that went west from various points in Missouri. The information on these bands of men (and a few women) came from journals in my collection and from newspapers of the time.

Remember: these are only west bound trips. The lines I have made below show leader, date leaving, how many men and the guides for the trip, if known. If any well-known individual travels with the group or it had a affiliation with a fur trade company, you will see it mentioned. I have shown this is chronological order, to give an idea of how the trade increased and declined. You will notice a few things as you digest this: the Santa Fe Trail had much more travel on it, since more than one group traveled on it. The Oregon (or Rendezvous Trail, as I like to call it) had only one or two going to the west each year, then returning.

Thomas James June 1809 24 men Missouri Fur Co

McKnight, Baird and Chambers 1812 15 men

Stephen Long June 21st, 1819 19 men

Jacob Fowler September 6th, 1821 20 men Hugh Glenn

Benjamin Cooper early May, 1822 15 men

William Becknell May 25th, 1822 21 men

James Baird August 1822 40 men Samuel Chambers

William Ashley March 10th, 1823 70 men James Clyman

Stephen Cooper May, 1823 31 men

Alexander Le Grand mid May, 1824 83 men

James Pattie June 24th, 1824 5 men Sylvester Pattie

Manuel Alvarez / Francis Robidoux September 1824 12 men

James Bruffee / Hiram Scott late March, 1827 60 men AFC (Clyman with them)

Augustus Storrs May 16th, 1825 105 men

Jedediah Smith November 1st, 1825 60 men

Ewing Young late May, 1826 80 –100 men

Ezekiel Williams May 1827 105 men

Louis Robidoux early autumn, 1827 32 men

Jedediah Smith August 7th, 1826 (from rendezvous) 42 men

George Sibley October 28th, 1827 8 men

Alphonso Wetmore May 28th, 1828 50 men

William Sublette mid March, 1829 54 men (Parkman with them)

Charles Bent June 12th, 1829 70 men

Prince Paul of Wuerttemberg December 23rd, 1829 5 men

Lucien Fontenelle Feb. 16th, 1830 45 men (Ferris too) Dripps / Robidoux AFC

William Sublette April 10th, 1830 81 men

Robert Bean May 7th, 1839 48 men

John Gantt / Jefferson Blackwell April 24th, 1831 70 men

Zenas Leonard April 24, 1831 70 men Gant / Blackwell

Jedediah Smith May 4th, 1831 74 men (Francis Parkman with them)

Elisha Stanley May 15th, 1831 200 men and women (Josiah Gregg with them)

Charles Bent September 10th, 1831 30 – 40 men

Captain Bonneville May 1st, 1832 110 men Joseph Walker

William Sublette May12th, 1832 60 men RMFC (Wyeth’s 25 with him)

Jefferson Blackwell June 8 –9th, 1832 60 –70 men

Robert Campbell May 7th, 1833 45 men Louis Vasquez (Larpenteur with them)

Osborne Russell April 4th, 1834 58 men Wyeth Columbia Fishing and Trading Co.

Nathaniel Wyeth April 28th, 1834 40 men (Townsend and Russell with them)

William Sublette May 5th, 1834 37 men (Anderson travels with them)

Josiah Gregg May, 1834 160 men

William Anderson May 5th, 1834 37 men

James Hobbs 1835 60 men Charles Bent

Robert Campbell April 9th, 1835 12 men

Samuel Parker April 17th, 1835 60 men Fontenelle AFC

Missionaries May 14th, 1836 70 men Tom Fitzpatrick

Charles Bent May 1836 150 men Robert Newell

Alfred Miller 1837 45 men Tom Fitzpatrick AFC

Andrew Dripps April 22nd, 1838 45 men AFC Moses Harris

Louis Vasquez / Andrew Sublette July 1838 ? Jim Beckwourth

David Waldo / Manuel Alvarez May 1839 93 men

Captain Kelly early May 1839 30 men

Thomas Farnham May 1839 18 men

Fredric Wislizenus May 4th, 1839 27 men Mr. Harris Chouteau, Pratte and Co.

Matthew Field July 1st, 1839 17 men Captain Branch

Lancaster Lupton July 26th, 1839 small number

Louis Vasquez / Andrew Sublette August 6th, 1839 32 men

Hicks & Marney August- Sept., 1839 36 wagons

Andrew Dripps April 30th, 1840 40 men AFC

William Fairholme August 22nd, 1840 19 men Etienne Provost

Solomon Houck / William McKnight May 8th, 1841 87 men and 1 woman

Lancaster Lupton September 4th, 1841 18 men (Rufus Sage with them)

John Sibille & David Adams September 1841 10 men

William Hamilton March 15th, 1842 10 men Bill Williams / Perkins

John Fremont May 1st, 1842 24 men

Josiah Webb early August, 1844 40 men Colonel Owens

Francis Parkman April 28th, 1846 4 men Chattillon

Susan Magoffin June 21st, 1846 22 men and women Samuel Magoffin

Rufus Sage Sept. 2nd, 1846 19(?) men

Lewis Garrard September 12th, 1846 30 men Ceran St.Vrain

It was interesting to see the number of times that a individual made the trip west.

Some made this trip quite a few times. Another item I noticed was some of the supply trains that traveled to the forts on the south Platte went on the Santa Fe Trail instead of the Oregon Trail. They went along the southwest trail till Bent’s Fort and turned west along the Arkansas and then north to get to the small trading houses. They did this for a few reasons; one, the southern trail was used both in spring and fall to go west, while the more northern way was used only in the spring or early summer. This was to have the “greenup” (when the new grass was growing and the creeks were falling in depth). Second, some of the caravans that went to the small forts along the South Platte were connected with Bent’s Fort and they may have dropped off supplies, mail and personnel while going through.

These caravans I listed here coming west had a average number of 45-6 men in them. Some of the old news papers noted the number of wagons instead of number of men or had incomplete information, which makes it hard to figure out some of the information we like to have. But we do know that the 3165 men in these groups is a sizeable number. Some of them are repeats, they came out regularly or in more than one trip west.

Saint Louis was not the only starting point for the groups. Westport, Independence and others could be used, depending on where the supplies for the trip were purchased at or the point of meeting was agreed upon. The numbers here do not include the men who came west on steamships, which were quite a few, but that is another article.

You will note the women who came west in 1831, this is not a misprint. The women who came west were Mexican women traveling with their husbands, returning to their homeland. They came out the previous year, so considering that most people date Susan Magoffin’s 1846 trip as the first white woman down the Santa Fe trail, this fifteen year earlier date is impressive.

The routes west were busy at this time. In various journals, they mention meeting, passing and camping with other groups while on the trails, which we sometimes over look. The west was a complicated set of events as far as its history goes, and this is just a small part of it.

For those who would like to get more information like this, check out Louise Barry’s The Beginning of the West. It must have taken Louise a lifetime to gather all the information found in her book.

See you down the trail

Mike Moore


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