The 1828 Sweet Lake (Bear Lake) Rendezvous

“None of the mountain rendezvous has (sic) been more obscure than the gathering of 1828.”
~Dale Morganmural14-large

Phillip Covington was born in North Carolina on December 1803. He moved to Kentucky, where he became a school teacher.  Then, at the age of 23, he left his Kentucky home for the far western edge of Missouri.

Fast forward to 1879: Covington wrote a manuscript about his adventures in the mountains for the Greeley Colorado Sun. His lively account is quite informative and provides a lot of “new” information about the Rocky Mountain fur trade, fills in gaps, corrects assumptions and tells us more than we ever knew about the 1828 Sweetwater Rendezvous.

william subletteCovington relates that William Sublette arrived in Lexington on September 15, 1827 with a train of pack mules, laden with beaver, to meet William Ashley’s party from St. Louis, who had several wagon loads of goods and groceries ready for transport. Sublette advertised for new recruits and Covington, along with several of his bachelor friends, answered the call.  In exchange for $250.00, the men agreed to dedicate 12-14 months to pack goods and trap beaver. The men purchased from the company, at what Covington called “very low” prices, two blankets, a capote, two heavy red flannel shirts, and as much extra clothing as each thought proper to lay in. Most also purchased two pounds of tobacco and a pound of salt.  On or around October 1, 1827, Jackson and Sublette took charge of the pack train and, with 45 men – Covington included – and 80 mules heavily loaded with good and groceries, they headed to the mountains with goods and supplies valued at $20,000.00.

packtrain2It was a brutally cold winter that year and by the time they reached the mountains the mules were starving and freezing.  Every night one or more mule died until every man was on foot. There was no place to cache goods, so the men were forced to carry the merchandise. Just before Christmas, in the Black Hills near where Fort Laramie is now located, they stopped in a cottonwood grove and made camp.  On Christmas morning Sublette distributed pure brandy which was well received by the company after such hard traveling.

When March arrived and the snow began to disappear, the party found a suitable spot on a bluff along the Platte to cache the supplies. After that, the men started trapping beaver along the many streams that flowed from the foothills.

beaver_slowCovington reports that during this time, the principal food of these trappers was beaver meat. This contradicts long-held beliefs of many historians who claim the mountain men seldom ate the meat of the beaver they trapped.

fabric boltDuring the spring, blowing snow and rain caused considerable damage to one of the caches. Several bales of calico, red and blue cloths, tobacco, sugar, coffee and raisins became wet and damaged. Entire bolts of cloth had to be opened and spread out to dry.

muleBlackfoot Indians killed Joseph Coté at Birch Creek, which later became known as Cote’s defile.  Dale Morgan stated that Cote’s death was “almost the only clue that Jackson and Sublette’s were present in the mountains in the spring of 1828.” The Indian that killed Cote’ slipped in among the mules, cutting several loose.  Coté was on guard duty and  although he crawled close to the Indian, with gun cocked, the Indian fired first. Cote’ was the only man of Sublette’s company lost that year.

Bodmer_--_Blackfoot_Indian,_1840-1843

Approximately two or three hundred Blackfoot warriors attacked Robert Campbell’s party as it was just a few miles from the rendezvous site. Things might have gone poorly for Campbell’s group if it had not been so close to rendezvous. 60-70 trappers and several hundred friendly Indians quickly arrived from rendezvous to reinforce Campbell’s group. skirmish

Depending on who is telling the story, the Blackfoot Indians are believed to have retired from the field before the reinforcements arrived. Lewis Bolduc was killed during this skirmish. Corroborated by Campbell as well as Daniel Pott and Jim Beckworth, Covington’s articles relate that a war party left, then returned after a week or so, with several enemy scalps. A scalp dance was held upon the party’s return and Covington provides many details of this celebration in his writing.

Covington provides the most detailed description known of the location of the 1828 rendezvous site. He wrote:

meadowville01We camped at the south end of the lake. It had a most beautiful shore, sloping gradually to the water’s edge, sandy and gravelly, with a considerable quantity of cottonwood trees growing without any underbrush. South of the lake was a beautiful a valley as eyes ever beheld, about two or three miles each way, all covered with the most luxuriant grass, which furnished excellent pasturage for our animals. About half a mile from the lake, a large spring came up out of the prairie, which made a stream about two feet deep and fifteen or twenty feet wide, with plenty of the finest quality of fish. This was on the east, and on the west, not more than half a mile, came out another spring of nearly the same description, both boiling up on the prairie, and dry ground all round. Both of these streams ran down a gradual slope into the lake.”

The valley Covington mentions is most likely modern day Meadowville Valley. The spring to the east could be Falula Spring and the spring on the west is probably what is now known as Big Spring.

cabinCovington stated that a small cabin was built up about eight feet high with poles laid across, then covered by cottonwood limbs with the leaves still on, forming a good shaded covering. They split poles for shelving for the dry goods and two or three poles formed a counter on which more goods were laid. The only other mention of a log building at a rendezvous comes from the 1838 event.

campRendezvous this year would last through the early part of July. Covington describes a lively time at rendezvous.  “Plenty of fine horses; plenty of fine brandy and whiskey at $2.00 a pint or tin cup full; plenty of goods and groceries of almost every description. Horse racing and shooting was carried on to a considerable degree, while card playing and drinking was not neglected.” Like so many rendezvous yet to come, the men let their hair down and celebrated another successful year in the Rocky Mountains.

hughglassMany of the most famous of mountaineers were present. Hugh Glass retold the famous story of his encounter with a grizzly and even pulled off his shirt to show the scars on his back and body as proof. Covington mentions becoming acquainted with Jim Bridger, Ezekiel Abels, Jim Beckwourth and Black Harris. Harris is believed to have gone west with Sublette in 1827. His whereabouts were unknown up until 1829, but it is now apparent that Harris was at Bear Lake in the summer of 1828.

joshuapilcherSupplied by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company and to add a little competition, Joshua Pilcher’s fur company was also present at the 1828 rendezvous.  Most of their supplies, which had been cached, were destroyed by water seepage. They were, however, successful in trading for 17 packs of beaver with the meager supplies that they were able to salvage. Many historians link Johnson Gardner to Pilcher, claiming Gardner acted as Pilcher’s clerk, but he did not hire on with Pilcher until after the end of the rendezvous. Covington’s dialogue indicated Gardner was a free trapper, who had the best rifle in the company short of Captain Sublette.  Gardner must have accompanied the furs east, then hired on with Sublette’s supply train.

packtrainThe partners of Smith, Jackson and Sublette were responsible for the task of returning furs themselves to St. Louis.  The company made their departure from rendezvous for St. Louis around the fifteenth of August, with 45 to 50 men and about 80 or 90 mules heavily laden with fur valued at nearly $36,000.00, consisting of 7710 pounds of Beaver pelts, 59 otter skins, 73 muskrat skins and 27 pounds of castoreum.  Antoine_JanisThe “big Bushaway” (probably Sublette) lead the way and the “little Bushaway” (most likely Antoine Janis) brought up the rear. Some of Pilcher’s men, also carrying their proceeds from trading at the rendezvous, accompanied Sublette back to St. Louis.  Although Sublette and Pilcher were competitors and rivals, it was not unusual for them to travel together, for the greater safety provided by their numbers.scouting

Camp fare was pretty rough. There was no bread, but Sublette brought along two or three mules loaded with side bacon and five or six fat steers to butcher.  That meat was gone well before the caravan got to buffalo country.

buffalo-herdOn the Platte River Plains the company was surprised to spot several hundred Indians riding toward them at full speed. The men halted, formed a circle, unpacked the goods and piled them up for breast works.  The mules were then picketed within the perimeter and the men hunkered down behind the packs, rifles aimed and ready, but the Indians proved to be Pawnee merely looking for buffalo.  A few tobacco plugs earned the company passage.

mtn-men-sleeping2a1Jackson and Sublette arrived in St Louis on October 13, 1828, netting a surplus of $16,000.00.  Upon their arrival, the men of the party all stood in front of Ashley’s fine home and unpacked the mules. General Ashley, his wife, and his sister-in-law hosted the company for a breakfast of coffee, tea, white biscuits, and good butter. Nearly all of the men were still attired in suits of leather, hunting shirts, and blanket coats – just as they came off the plains. Says Covington, they had not washed with soap for months!

50With breakfast over, Ashley gave each man $50 to go to town and purchase new clothes. Covington went to the barbershop for a shave and a haircut, got himself a new suit, then went to a hotel and called for a tub of hot water with PLENTY of soap. He returned to Ashley and settled accounts, receiving $210. He was only docked $40 for clothing and expenses for his year in the mountains.

“So you see I did not gamble nor spend much on alcohol, as some others did.”
~Phillip Covington

Advertisements

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.

Countdown……10,9,8……..

Ten more days! Things are going well. We have had lots of questions about the exact location of the rendezvous. On our website www.bearlakerendezvous.com you can view the map with directions including exact mileage from highway 30 in Laketown. Also, included is our contact #’s. ReminIMG_0243ding you that cell ser
vice can be spotty so LEAVE A MESSAGE and be patient. When service is available we can call you back.

We are doing our best to have signage. We expect that travelers are sharp enough to get to Laketown Utah. If you are really savvy here ya go..  41.83030296550294, -111.36064572259784

 

Additional Mileage Landmarks to the Laketown turnoff:

Rendezvous beach east 1.8 miles

Ideal Beach Main Gate 6.6 Miles

Garden City 9.7 MilesIMG_0323

Logan 49.2 Miles

From Sage Creek Junction 12.1 miles

From Randolph Utah 20.8 Miles

From Woodruff Utah 30.7 Miles

From Evanston Wyoming 53.4 Miles

Click here for Map

Also a reminder. Bring ice and water. We have a limited supply of water available at the “spring” tent located at the food court. Ice is available at Dee’s service in town. We have asked that they have an ample stock.

We want to remind you:

If you have any questions we can be contacted by cell or text. Service can be spotty so leave a message and contact number an we will call back.

Kash Johnson 801-452-1518

Joel Marler 801-567-1194

Reminders:

This is an outdoor event. Dress accordingly and prepare for inclement weather, uneven ground , loud noises, animal encounters and unpaved roads.

Dogs must be on a leash and poop picked up and discarded

This is a family event. Please act and dress as if your kids and grand kids are watching you.

Please bring ice and water for personal use. Please pickup after yourself. This is a non profit all volunteer event. If you leave it behind leave it in the appropriate location.

We are looking forward to a great event with fun for all.

Remember, we expect to make mistakes. Complaining without a solution is whining! Criticism with ideas for a solution are not only welcome, but solicited.

20 Days

IMG_0323

IMG_3406

The site has been mowed and prepared

So the countdown begins.

We had a chance to visit the site this week. We plotted out traders row, primitive camping area, day parking and tin tipi camping area. We have a great area for shooting competitions and demonstrations. Archery and knife & hawk throwing areas. We located the entry/gate area and food court location where the “spring (water) tent” will be located.

IMG_3407

Kash and Landowner Rick discuss the layout

We met with landowner Rick Johnson to discuss access points as well as issues from last year.

There is lots of work left to do. Signs to be made and posted. Contact radio and television to promote. Permits to be pulled and notices to be posted.

But that is the fun of it. We have a great site and look forward to all who can attend.

For any information watch the website www.bearlakerendezvous.com for the itinerary and contact information. IMG_3408

Time Travel is possible

Image

 

The cool dawn breaks. As the eastern sky begins to lighten, wood smoke from dozens of cook fires wafts across the valley. The smell of bacon frying makes bearded mouths water. The stomachs of buckskin clad men growl in anticipation of a morning meal.

Such was the start of a typical morning at the 1827 Mountain Man Rendezvous at Sweet Lake (Now Bear Lake) and such is the way a typical morning will play out at the 2014 Bear Lake Rendezvous in Laketown Utah. August 20-24.

History comes alive as authentic trappers, traders and Indians recreate the glorious hey days of the fur trade. There will be dancing and singing, trading, tall tales and tomahawk, knife, archery and black powder rifle competitions. Browse the trade tents where authentic mountain man and Indian goods are available to purchase. Everything from buckskins, teepees and canvas tents to black powder rifles, bull horns and bows and arrows will be laid out in an amazing array of accurately recreated history. Marvel as the modern day craftsmen use primitive techniques and tools to make the everyday items of mountain man culture.

It wasn’t and isn’t all about the men either. You’ll see women adorned in buckskin dresses, beads and feathers or cotton shirts and calico dresses throwing knives and tomahawks at targets. (Not mountain men, though some may deserve it!)

So if you’re looking for a new and exciting adventure, step back in time and join us. Bring the family, spend an hour, a day or stay for the duration. Wrap a lip around some tasty mountain man cooking. Primitive camping is available.

For more information go to: http://www.bearlakerendezvous.com/  Text and photo by Dave Petersen

Here We Go

August 22nd-25th 2013

Hello The Camp!

Thanks to all who have pledged their support. We are happy to report the 2013 Bear Lake Rendezvous is ON!

Our plans are underway to make the 1st annual Bear Lake Mountain Man Rendezvous the “best / first” rendezvous you have ever attended.photo (4) - Copy

To all the Bear Lake visitors, seasoned buck-skinners and Rich County residents. Please mark your calendars and plan on attending.

 

 

 

For any questions, comments or offers please contact

kash4

Chairman:  Kash Johnson             801-452-1518

Booshway: Roger Backus             435-616-5159

Segundo:    Craig Miller                435-901-3322

 

http://www.bearlakerendezvous.com

Facebook/bearlakerendezvou

Email: info@bearlakerendezvous.com

Mail: PO Box 44, Woodruff UT 84086