The First Laketown Area Fur Traders Rendezvous

rendezvousdepiction1William Ashley hired Hiram Scott and 46-60 men to take the supply caravan to the 1827 rendezvous. The caravan left St. Louis on April 12, 1827.rendezvousdepiction2

The pack train, with supplies, was valued at $22,447. The 1827 Sweet (Bear) Lake Rendezvous was the first where rum appeared on the list of trade goods.

The men accompanying this pack train were paid $110 for one year of service. Hiram Scott become ill, and he was abandoned. His body was found three years later near Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska.

canon copy-1240A four-pounder cannon, the first wheeled vehicle ever taken into the mountains, was part of this caravan. The route traversed the Platte River, then along the North Platte River and finally across South Pass – the eastern part of the Oregon Trail.  Jed Smith Image 6 - MapIt is thought the group arrived in late June.  They were definitely on site by July 3rd, greeted by Mountain Men and Native Americans already gathering in anticipation of the rendezvous at the south end of Sweet (Bear) Lake.  At the time, this rendezvous was within the territory of Mexico.

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Just prior to, or about the time of the arrival of the pack train, Blackfoot warriors attacked those gathering for the rendezvous. According to Daniel Potts, this event was more of a skirmish involving about 20 Blackfoot warriors. However, James Beckwourth, known as the “Immaculate Liar,” accounted it as a six hour, all-out battle involving more than 300 trappers, plus their Indian allies, where more than 173 Blackfoot scalps were taken.beaverpelt

At the rendezvous, 7400 beaver pelts were sold at $3 per pound.  Although a relatively new fur company, Smith, Jackson and Sublette appeared to have had a successful year, primarily due to mark-up of goods and supplies. 130 packs of fur, averaging 100 pounds per pack, were taken on the return trip.beaver2

There was a bit of grumbling among the trappers about the “exorbitant “ prices of goods. Powder was $2.50 a pound, lead $1.50, coffee, sugar, and tobacco $2.00 each, three point blankets $15.00, cotton and calico $2.50 a yard, with blue and scarlet cloth approaching $10.00 a yard.Trading_at_Pierres_Hole

The 1827 rendezvous broke camp on or about around July 13th.  When the trading concluded, all parties dispersed upon the return of Smith from a perilous journey to California.


Flash forward to the late 1860’s:

Meadowville, Round Valley, and Laketown were being established as “Mormon” communities in spite of disagreements with Native Americans over their “hunting grounds.”  It seems that the first white settlers in the valley had made a treaty with the Native Americans, which gave the north end of the Bear Lake Valley to the white people and the south end to the Native Americans.

GreenRiver_Rendezvous, William Henry JacksonLarge bands of Native Americans often gathered in the vicinity of Laketown. In 1870, a large community estimated at 3,000, camped on the south shore of Bear Lake. This caused the Mormon settlers a great deal of concern.  After a meeting of the settlers and chiefs, among them Chief Washakie, an agreement was forged and the Native Americans moved to Wind River, Wyoming.

Native American Dress

crow indiansNative American clothing has a long, diverse history. Each tribe used similar techniques of manufacture, but that is where the similarities stopped. Tribes dressed distinctively as a claim of their heritage. Great pride was taken in each design. Initially, tribal attire was quite different from region to region.

IndiananimalrelationhipNative American people believe that humans and animals are related and should treat each other with respect and kindness. Animals give themselves to humans for food and clothing.  The hunter thanks them for their sacrifice by using as much of the animal as possible. It is said that to wear an animal skin inside out or in any different way than the animal would “is disrespectful to the animal.”

breechclothleggings

Common items of clothing for men, among the tribes, were breechcloths and leggings. Often the breechcloth is all men would wear. As it got colder, the men would wear leather leggings, for extra warmth, that were attached to their breechcloths. Some tribes wore kilts. Some wore trousers made of furs. The Sioux wore war shirts. In some Tribes, women wore skirts and would also go without a shirt. The Cheyenne preferred a one-piece buckskin dress.

bark clothBark was stripped, dried, and shredded to make fibers which were then used to weave soft, comfortable cloth. The Pomo tribe wore skirts made from redwood bark. The Cherokee used mulberry bark. The Paiute and Washoe shredded the plentiful sagebrush bark. Tribes of the rainy Northwest Coast, such as the Tlingit and the Suquamish, used the bark of the cedar tree.

weaving loomMany tribes used handmade methods of weaving, but natives of the American Southwest were the first group to develop a loom for weaving cloth. In 1200, well before the arrival of the first Europeans, Indians in the Southwest grew cotton and wove it into cloth. They also wove yucca, wool, feathers, and even human hair. Breechclouts, leggings, and skirts were often made of woven fibers.

trousers

Tribes living in colder regions needed thicker clothing, so they wore trousers, jackets, and hooded anoraks. Women also wore leggings under their skirt or tunic. The Iroquois and Pequot chose to accessorize their clothes with fur, claws and shells. Southeast tribes like the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole and the Shawnee of the Plains used feathers and teeth.elktoothdress

In Native cultures, women often wore the same dress for years, so the garment was designed to tell the woman’s story.  Symbols referred to her tribe, marital status, and the hunting prowess of her husband or father.   A dress bedazzled with dozens of elk eyeteeth spoke of the skilled hunters in her family .tanning hides

It takes about 40 hours of hard, physical work to prepare a hide properly.  At first, a single animal hide was folded in half. The two edges were then sewn to create a straight tube dress, which made movement difficult, twohidedressso women in nomadic tribes began making two-hide dresses. Garments were cut to take advantage of the natural shape of the hides.  The tail of the animal was placed at the top of dress, and was a highly desirable neck embellishment.  Later in the nineteenth century it became fashionable to remove the tail from the hide and replace it with intricate beadwork . Two-hide dresses evolved into three-hide dresses, with the third hide folded like a short cape over the two-hide garment.

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Dresses were warm and weather appropriate.  They were often additionally adorned with porcupine quills, bits of tin, carved bone, animal sinew, coins, animal teeth, fossilized shells, and the brightly colored glass beads that traders brought from the glass factories in Europe. Thousands of hours would go into the embellishment of Native American wear, often with the entire yoke covered in beads.

In the 1800s, the Cherokee Indians were the first to begin to adopt the culture that the white man brought to them. They began to dress more European, and even adopted many of their farming and building methods.

Mills in England wove wool specifically for trading with Native Americans and by the mid-nineteenth century, dresses made of this “Indian cloth” were common.  The wool was often dyed a vivid scarlet or dark blue, with the un-dyed selvage incorporated in the design to fall at the edge of the garment.  It was also in the 1800s that rows of ribbon, shells or beads were added as another design element.

mukluk

All the tribes had similar styles of footwear, from moccasins to mukluk, although they too were often distinguished by tribe, via cut, beadwork and painted designs.  Native Americans living in the East wore soft-soled moccasins decorated in zoomorphic or flower designs. The designs covered everything except the sides of the moccasins.  The western plains Indians wore hard soled moccasins made from two pieces of leather.  Designs on these moccasins covered the entire top of the moccasin but left the cuffs free of marking.

Once colonization began, tribes intermingled more, and their clothes became more and more alike.   To understand fully the distinctions of each tribe, the years before colonization must be studied.  As Native Americans had continued contact with Europeans and white settlers, they eagerly incorporated new items, such as the glass beads and silver ornaments previously mentioned, into their wardrobes.  As they moved to the reservations, their new circumstances forced them to buy clothing from whites, which drastically changed the way Native Americans dressed.

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To the Native American, imitation is not the highest form of flattery.  Children dressing up as an Indian at Halloween, the Hippies of the sixties wearing fringe, and feathers in their hair, to Woodstock, and the current trend of pop stars to wear a headdress during a grammy performance, is highly offensive and is believed, by the Native American population, to disregard Indian spirituality.

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.

BLR Connected

Hello All,

This is the first Bear Lake Rendezvous blog. This is where folks that don’t love, understand or hate Facebook can also find information about the rendezvous and participate in duscussions.

The blogs will also be posted as a link to our Facebook Page.

We also have a Twitter account for those of you who follow that.

Of course there is our website www.bearlakerendezvous.com .

Kash Johnson is the director of the Bear Lake Rendezvous. He brings with him 30 plus years of rendezvous and mountain man experience. He doesn’t just “talk” the life, he “lives” the life. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please contact him:

info@bearlakerendezvous.com

Phone: 801-452-1518

We encourage everyone to take part in the discussion. We need lots of good ideas and comments to mold this event into something we can all be proud of.

Now, finally, please be patient and understand, this is a group effort! Expect the unexpected. Be critical only if you have suggestions to improve. There is a wealth of experience among us, but a lot of this is new to a lot of us. If you have expertise or specialties that you can share and contribute please do. If you have questions please ask.

Our goal is to provide a fun, family friendly event that will offer information to folks eager to learn about an era rich with allure and colorful characters. .