Mountain Man Attire

fabricFABRIC was the first choice of the mountain newcomer. Shirts and trousers came in off white, natural, blue, red, large prints or striped calico. The newcomer might also have teamed up his wardrobe with boots or brogans. Fabrics, although comfortable, were not durable under the hard usage in the mountains, and replacement was not possible except at rendezvous or the widely scattered trading posts.

buckskinBUCKSKIN  replaced fabric clothing as those wore out. Buckskin clothing was generally patterned after white styles, rather than Indian styles. The fringe appeared to be mainly decorative, although it may have softened the wearer’s profile making him less of a target in the woods. Buckskin, although cold in the winter and hot in the summer, had the advantage in that it was extremely durable. It wore like iron, provided protection from mosquitoes and other biting insects, as well as from thorns and brambles. Buckskin also had the advantage in that the raw materials were available in the wilderness and could be secured from the Indians.

shirt

SHIRTS worn by the mountain man would have been a simple pullover design with a large body and loose fitting sleeves. Solid colors, especially red, but including blue, green and yellow were favorites. Shirts were a popular trade item at rendezvous and in any year hundreds might have been taken to the mountains.

pants

TROUSERS were mostly blue  color. They were high-waisted, full in the hips and seat, with fall-front or fly type closures. There were three basic kinds of legs:

front

  1. Stove pipe
  2. Tapered small to the ankle
  3. Close to the leg.

Belts were not used to secure trousers at this time, but rather suspenders, ties or cinches. Instead of trousers, a Mountain Man may have chosen to wear Leggings and a breechclout.

leggings2buckskinleggingsLEGGINGS were held up using either ties or garters. Leggings and breechclout had the advantage in that they were simple to make, very comfortable and functional. Also, when setting traps, leggings were very easy to remove and put on.

belt

The purpose of a BELT was not to suspend the trouser. They were generally not wider than two inches and used to carry weapons such as sheath knives, tomahawks, and perhaps a pistol. Belts were left simple, without tacks or rivets, and a buckle, when visible, was generally worn to the side.

knifeKNIVES were kept in simple sheaths at the back. Decoration was limited to a single row of tacks along the blade edge of the sheath. Most sheaths did not have a belt slot, but were simply thrust through the belt.

coatHUNTING COATS were often of leather and open in the front.  These coats were elaborately fringed along the shoulders, sleeves, fronts and bottoms. They range in length from mid-thigh to knee, and are generally shown with well-fitted sleeves and collars. The coats do not have buttons, but close using ties. For cool and cold weather, the Mountain Man would wear a capote.

capoteA CAPOTE is a long coat of simple design often with a hood. It was made from wool blankets, or wool blanket material which could be cut and assembled in the mountains. Capotes were also available for trade at rendezvous and at the posts. The capote dates back to at least the early 1700’s and was popular to at least the 1870’s. Although designed as a coat, the capote could also be used as an extra blanket for sleeping during cold weather. The capote alone is warm and comfortable, however, was large and loose enough that it could be worn over multiple layers of winter clothing.

BUFFALOROBEBUFFALO ROBES are made of the tanned and softened whole-hide of the buffalo. Robes which include both the head and tail were exceptionally valuable to the Indians because they believed that the skin would inherit the spirit of the Buffalo in its completeness. Robes were prized both by the Indians and Mountain Men as a type of overcoat worn during the coldest times. Robes were simply draped over the shoulders, and held closed with the hands, or they were sometimes belted in the middle.

plowsharesmoccasinsAs boots or BROGANS wore out, they were replaced by MOCCASINS. Some men of the period, while outfitting in St. Louis were reported to have traded their boots for moccasins without waiting for them to wear out. Shoes, both men’s and women’s styles, were not an uncommon item on trade inventories. The women’s shoes were obviously intended as trade items for the Indian wives of men stationed in the mountains.

man hatHATS worn by the Mountain Men were wide, flat brimmed felt styles with a low crown that became twisted and bent from hard use. Felt hats were mostly light colored, off-white, tan or grey. Hat bands were simple cord, strap or ribbon. Hats were often decorated with feathers or tails and a clay pipe is often held in the hatband. HOODS were also worn and appeared to be made from blanket material or leather. Many were constructed with “ears” and a flap reaching down to the shoulders. Fur hats, especially those with face, legs and tail, which are so popular at modern rendezvous and Hollywood movies, are not shown in any paintings or drawings from the time and were most likely not worn. Hat fashions changed by the beginning of the 1850’s, reflecting high crowns. Hats made of fabric with a leather bill also emerged.

beadquillBEAD and QUILL WORK, when present, they were simple narrow bands of color or bands of alternating colors and were actually rare decor. Elaborately beaded or quilled clothing would be analogous to wearing gang colors and a mountain man would be asking to lose his scalp if he found himself in the wrong neighborhood.

Visitors to The Bear Lake Rendezvous who choose to come in authentic dress will gain free admission!  Gate fees for all other guests are $3.00 per person, per day. Lodgers in the Primitive camp and Traders must adhere to authentic dress requirements.

requirements-nationals

We want everyone to enjoy the rendezvous!  If you have any questions about authentic wear, please contact Kash Johnson

Email:  kash@bearlakerendezvous.com
Telephone: 801-452-1518
Mail:  Bear Lake Rendezevous, P.O. Box 44, Woodruff, UT   84086

Lodging

teepee1

           Many different styles of lodging were used by the mountain man but most of it was quick to setup and easy to move. The replica shelters that we use today are usually made of heavy canvas, and some are even coated with a fire resistant material. There are many affordable ways to create your own authentic shelter. Here are some of the more common styles used during the mountain man era.

Lean-To Sheltertent6

          This shelter can be easily created using a single large piece of canvas such as a painterʼs tarp or several smaller pieces stitched together.

Open A-Frametent5

          This shelter can also be created using a single large piece of canvas, or several pieces sewn together. Cloth loops, or re-enforced holes need to be added to the edges of the canvas so that it can be staked down. A wooden pole is placed at each end, and can be stabilized by a support rope staked in front and back , or by a ridge pole running between the two upright poles.

Closed A-Frame or Wedge Tenttent4

          This shelter is very similar to the open A-frame, but it has flaps added to the front and back. It adds more privacy and warmth. Adding ties to the flaps so that it may be secured to the upright poles, cuts back on the wind blowing through.

Converted A-Frame

tent3          For warmer evenings, two additional poles can lift the side of the closed A-frame up.  This creates a small awning. If the wind picks up simply lower the side again.

Plow Point Wedge
tent1

          This shelter is made from a single square piece of canvas. The canvas is staked out on three corners and then the forth corner is lifted, and tied to a pole or near by tree. Often a second pole is used inside to push the center of the square up. A more effective way of doing this is to add a loop of fabric or a tie on the outside, in the center of the square and to tie it to a ridge pole or tree.  This shelter is also known as a diamond shelter. It can be tent2configured in several ways depending on how many poles you wish to use, or where there are near by trees to attach it to. It can also be made into a simple Lean-To, or an Open A-Frame. The primary features of a diamond shelter are its square shape, ability to be tied or staked on all four corners, and a tie directly in the center of the square. You can purchase versions of this shelter with ties all along the four edges, which make it more versatile. It is a rather inexpensive shelter to buy pre-made, but can also be made easily out of a piece of heavy canvas.

          The Bear Lake Rendevous is an event spread out over several days with opportunity to witness many and varied activities and demonstrations.  For those able to stay the entire event there is camping space available.  In addition to primitive camping, we provide plenty of wide open and flat range for trailers or RVs.  We encourage mountain man enthusiasts and their families to make their rendezvous campsite a home base to relish the richness that is Rich County, participate in water sport on the lake, hike in the pristine beauty of nature and take advantage of the many amenities provided by our surrounding communities.  Reservations may be made now at http://www.bearlakerendezvous.com

The Mountain Man Diet

RENDEZVOUS FOOD1

What did a Mountain Man eat?  Meat, meat and more meat!  Or, conversely, whatever there happened to be to eat!  Food stuff was often salted or dried to preserve it, so cooking consisted of attempting to make the food palatable.  And if it wasn’t, they ate it anyway.  Imagine a daily diet of bacon, salt pork, smoked ham, dried or corned beef, smoked, salted, and dried fish, and the occasional fresh game.  Other staples included biscuits, pancakes, fry and corn bread with the occasional bean, hominy, rice and peas to round out the food pyramid.  It’s a good thing Mountain Men were always on the move!

RENDEZVOUSFOOD5Mountain Men might eat the same foods, day after day, for months at a time.  There was no room for being fastidious or finicky.   Journals of the Mountain Man often mention eating such things as moccasins, saddles or rawhide straps during the lean moments.  Maybe that’s where the myth came about that Mountain Men softened their leather by chewing it?

cans

Canned goods were first produced in 1813 for the English military, and 20 years later were provided in British grocery stores, but canned goods in the West didn’t really come about until the California Gold Rush in 1849.  The first show of any canned goods at a Rendezvous was in 1837 when Sir William Drummond Stewart brought sardines.

RENDEZVOUSFOOD3

Buffalo was probably the biggest staple of the Mountain Men diet.  Fat cow was generally the most desirable, however, poor bull was acceptable in lean times.  In his journal, Osborne Russell describes the preparation of “poor bull”, by Jim Bridger’s party.  He writes,“It would doubtless be amusing to a disinterested spectator to witness the process of cooking poor Bull meat as practiced by this camp during the winter of 1835-6. On going through the camp at any time in the day heaps of ashes might be seen with the fire burning on the summit and an independent looking individual who is termed a Camp Keeper sitting with a “two year old club” in his hand watching the pile with as much seeming impatience as Philoctete did the burning of Hercules.  At length poking over the ashes with his club he rolls out a ponderous mass of Bull beef and hitting it a rap with his club it bounds 5 or 6 feet from the ground like a huge ball of gum elastic.  This operation frequently repeated divests it of the ashes adhering to it and prepares it for carving. He then drops his club and draws his butcher knife, calling to his comrades.”

boudin

Portions of the intestine of Buffalo were filled with wild onions and other herbs and spices, tied off and roasted until sizzling. Called Boudins these “sausages” were considered a delicacy and were always a favorite, while also providing vitamins and nutrients otherwise lacking in a diet composed largely of red meat.

pemmican

Pemmican is made with a combination of dried meat, dried fruit, and rendered grease.  The dried meat and fruit are pounded to very fine particles or meal.  Just enough hot grease is poured over the mixture of meat and fruit to moisten it. The mixture is then packed into a skin sack or bladder.   It was the Mountain Man “Power Bar” and a source of high energy food, easily transported or carried, that wouldn’t spoil for months on the trail.

allspice

The Mountain Men ate most of their food without any seasoning at all. Spices, however, were shipped to rendezvous, and for at least limited times after rendezvous, must have been available for seasoning foods.  Spices known to have been packed to rendezvous included: sugar; salt; pepper and allspice.  Salt for seasoning or for curing hides could also be obtained from salt springs and salt deposits found at some localities in the western mountains.

Hixton, WI antique store Old Lettering

When available, coffee and tea were the preferred drinks of the Mountain Man. Large quantities of both were shipped to the mountains for rendezvous.  Milk was sometimes available at forts or posts, or from the semi-wild cattle that roamed ranches in Mexico and the southwest.  Then there is Mountain Cider, Bitters and High Wine.  Google them if you would like to be disgusted.

flask

Alcohol was an important element in the fur trade from its origins in the earliest 1600’s through the end of the era in the 1840’s.  During the rendezvous period (and earlier) all distilled liquors were colorless.  Large profits were assured through use of alcohol prior and during trading with the fur gathers, whether they were free trappers, company men or Indians.  Alcohol packed to rendezvous was extremely high proof.  Once at rendezvous or trading post, the alcohol was generally diluted with water at a ratio of 1:2 or 1:4 or even more.  This increased the volume of the product and profits.

Interested in the origin of the term, “Firewater?”   In order to test the potency of a liquor, a mountain man, or Indian would dash some of the liquid on the campfire.  If the fire roared up, it was determined to be the good stuff. If the fire was doused, it was determined that the liquor had been too diluted.  This, however, may also be one of those mountain man myths.

Kash’s Korner

KASH’S KORNER

The fur trade started when the first Europeans landed on this continent.  It was only with help from the Natives that the first settlements were able to grow enough food to survive the first few years after they landed here. For commerce, they began trading maze for fur with the interior tribes.  Jamestown and Plymouth both paid their way by trading fur with the Native Americans.  images Throughout history fortunes were made and lost in the trading of FUR.  The Louis and Clark Expedition began their sojourn just after the turn of the 19th century (1803-1805).  The Rendezvous Era (1825-1840) marks the near end of the Beaver population.  It only took 300 years to come to that point.  In comparison, it only took about 30 years to deplete the population of the Bison.

The Bear Lake Rendezvous is a representation of the end times of those glory days of the trade. The West was still young and unexplored.  The Far West was ripe with flavor and there for the taking.   As a group we do our best to show what it may have been like during those glory days of our rich past.  We try to expel the myths, prove the theories and explain why, where and how.

img23776729Our rendezvous site location is as close to the original 1827-28 as can be determined.  It is a mere mile or two off the main road that cuts through the valley, and a short distance, from pavement, via a ranch road.  We are authentic!

IMG_3407

As we begin work toward this year, I sometimes entertain the thought that, perhaps, I am only fulfilling my own fantasies.  Do people really care about the history we are trying to interpret?  It is said that “it will take as much as five years to become established.”   I have been dedicated to rendezvousing for over 17 years.  With that investment of time I have learned that organizations, like ours, are often the last place most people will consider when it comes to support through monetary donation.

Then, I look at our Facebook page, with over 800 likes.  I recall the local schools, 592which make our event an annual part of their curriculum by bussing in 100 elementary children who are then treated to being amazed at the skills and techniques demonstrated by our dedicated traders, and I think YES! Folks do care.

We have only been at this for two years.   It is unfortunate that last year was a near washout due to poor weather.  We would not have made it through without a generous donation from the Kearl Ranch, located in Round Valley and just south of the Johnson Ranch, where we hold the rendezvous.  The rain kept the road soggy, even as the ranch owner remained diligent in keeping the road passable.  But our spirits remained high!  We, as Mountain Men and Women, are used to all kinds of weather.  We very seldom, if ever, will cancel our rendezvous due to a grumbling, roaring or raining sky.  So even if it looks threatening out, we’ll still be there to meet you, greet you and teach you. And, there will always be plenty of canvas shelters to keep you dry as we welcome you in. 617

We have all seen the Kick-starter and the GoFundMe campaigns on Facebook.  You turn on the television and there are dozens of commercials suggesting that just $19.00 a month will make all the difference in the world to a specific cause in which you may have interest.

This got me thinking.  If all of our 800 Facebook friends made a one-time donation of $19.00, we would be funded for the next three years and that would put us past the “getting established” window.  Be assured that all donations go to the cost of the event.  No one in our organization receives any pay.  We are all volunteers.  As a non-profit organization, like any other, The Bear Lake Rendezvous will only survive if it receives the support from those interested in the preservation of the period of our history we wish to keep alive.cropped-picture1.gif

The Bear Lake Rendezvous Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) organization under the Internal Revenue code and is fully qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the code.  Your contributions are tax deductible under section 170 of the code.

We are also looking for corporate sponsors to sponsor Native American Indian dancers, facilities maintenance, Black Powder shooting competitions or general sponsorship. Sponsors are noted on our website and social media and donations are tax deductible.

kash4

Click HERE to donate using your credit card and our Paypal account or call us directly. We need the support to help us grow and produce a quality event.

Thank you all for your interest and support, and for those who have been so generous in helping our efforts thus far. Thank’s also to Rich County, the Johnson Family and the citizens of Rich County. We are in this for the long haul. We have a lot of work to do in the development of the site. If anyone has questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me or anyone connected to our organization.

See you in August!

Kash Johnson

Mountain Men – Myths and Legends

As a small and unique cultural subset of the U.S. population in the early 1800’s, Mountain men distinguished themselves by forging into the wilderness between St. Louis and California. They mapped the rivers and mountains, established relations with Indian populations, saw unimaginable sights, survived uncivilized conditions and experienced incredible adventures.

When the energy of the nation was focused on westward expansion, the Mountain Man was at the forefront of that expansion and consciousness.  Subsequently, who and what they were become distorted until today popular knowledge holds, as truth, multiple misconceptions. It did not help matters that Mountain Men were also masters of spinning tales.  Many an experience was embellished into a larger than life story that made it into the books of American history.

Some of these misconceptions include:

  1. Mountain men always have beards
  2. Mountain men were solitary and loners
  3. Mountain men softened their leather by first chewing it
  4. Mountain men cheated the Indians by trading worthless trinkets for valuable furs
  5. Mountain men were illiterate

What are some myths/legends  you may have heard? Post them on our face book page.

The Mountain Man

­­­­­­­­­­­

THE MOUNTAIN MAN

mmThe Mountain Man and Trapper lead a life that was dangerous and often ended in violence either by Indian attacks and ambush, or through encounters with Grizzly Bears.  Many drowned while crossing rivers, or died while preparing a cache which had collapsed.  Starvation and exposure was always a threat, particularly during the long winter months.  Exposure and arthritis were common ailments of mountain men.

But still they came.  Mountain Men were drawn to the wilderness.  High prices paid for furs and skins, particularly for beaver fur, held out the promise of a quick income.  Life in the mountains provided other motivations: adventure, freedom and independence.

In order to survive, mountain men learned skills including mastery of both rifle and pistol, swimming, mountain climbing, combat skills with gun, knife, and tomahawk, hunting, sign reading, horsemanship, trapping, and extreme condition survival.

The ability to speak a foreign language, particularly French, or Spanish was important.  The ability to communicate with Indians, particularly the Crow, Blackfoot, Sioux, Ute, Cheyenne or Shoshone was also of great value. Sign language fluency allowed a degree of communication with nearly all of the Western Indians.images (1)

Personal attributes included physical, mental and emotionalprowess as demonstrated in survival situations and remembered today in the stories about  the most famous of mountain men.  Because of these requirements, there were never great numbers. In all, there may not have been no more than 3,000 total.  Most mountain men were young, in their teens, twenties and thirties, although there was no limit on age.  Jim Bridger was 17 when he made his first trip to the mountains, Kit Carson was 16.  Conversely, Edward Robinson was in his late 60’s, Jim Beckworth was 68, and “Old” Bill Williams was 62 when they lost their lives. Then there were those mixed-blood children of a trapper/trader father and an Indian mother, who were born and raised to the life, knowing no other way of living, except to be a “Mountain Man”.

 
Contrary to popular notion, the Mountain Man was not a solitary individual, pitting his strength and skills against nature and man for survival in the wilderness.  Most commonly the mountain men traveled in a well armed and organized group called a “brigade” containing 30, 50 or sometimes more than 100 men.  Only after the brigade images (2)reached the area in which the hunt was to be conducted, would the brigade split into smaller groups which would again split into smaller groups.  Small groups of two, three and sometimes one man would go out and trap an individual stream or reach for a day or so before returning to join up with one of the larger groups.  Indian wives and families would often accompany the brigade.

The social structure of Mountain Man society was stratified, with two basic levels, the free trapper, and engagés, with further stratification of the latter.

Engagés, or hired men, worked for the company and depending onimages the terms of employment, would receive a wage, and all or part of their equipment and supplies.

The free trapper represented the pinnacle of Mountain Man society.  The Free Trapper was responsible for equipping himself, but traveled and trapped with whom he pleased, and sold his furs and skins to whoever offered the best
prices.  In spite of their elite social standing, the free trapper was at the mercy of the fur markets, and might leave the annual rendezvous penniless, or even indebted to the company suppliers.

The exploits and adventures of the Mountain Men became legendary as these individuals represented the cutting edge of exploration, at a time when the entire nation was focusing its attention to westward expansion.

 

Welcome to 2015

This coming August 26 – 30 2015 we are excited to present the 3rd annual 2015 Bear Lake Mountain Man Rendezvous located in Laketown Utah. The  Bear Lake valley is the site of two (2) of the  16 original mountain man annual gatherings.

As the new year begins we also begin the planning and preparing of the rendezvous. We are exited for the challenges of 2015!

Dana doing what she does best. Teaching History.

Dana doing what she does best. Teaching History.

We are happy to have Dana Kearl on board as our historian and official rendezvous recorder/photographer PR person. Dana is the person to contact for press releases, BLR history and official BLR photos/videos. She is producing a series of blogs this winter to inform and educate any who have an interest in the Bear Lake area as well as the mountain man culture. Dana’s family heritage originated as settlers from Laketown. She has a deep passion, as we do, to share the rich and colorful history of the area especially during the fur trade period which was a time of wonderment and discovery,

We can use all the help we can get as we prepare. We’re not asking for lots of time or lots of money. Sometimes a comment or good idea is just as valuable.

594

So sit back and enjoy the research from Dana. She also plans on a slide show/video of the previous Bear Lake Rendezvous’s. As we settle into winter and a new year stay warm and dry and dream of the of green grass of springtime and the sound of song birds at sunrise.
599

Contact us and keep up with us at;

http://www.facebook.com/bearlakerendezvous

http://www.bearlakerendezvous.com

info@bearlakerendezvous.com