Mountain Man Rendezvous, 1832: Fur Trappers and Traders Meet at Pierre’s Hole, Idaho

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The Mountain Man rendezvous of 1832 was held at Pierre’s Hole. Hundreds of mountain men, trappers, Indians and fur company traders met to sell furs or trade for supplies.

Pierre’s Hole

The 1832 Mountain Man rendezvous, like those before it and the few that occurred after it, was the yearly affair held for the fur trappers to gather and, amongst other events, sell their furs and resupply themselves for another season of trapping. The owners of various fur-trading companies would arrive from the east, their pack mules loaded with anything the trappers could want, including plenty of whiskey, or need for the upcoming year. The rendezvous of 1832 was held at Pierre’s Hole at the foot of the Three Tetons. Pierre’s Hole, present-day Teton Basin, is located in Teton County, Idaho.

During the time of the fur trading there was a trail that reached the Snake River from Green River. The trail then branched off towards Pierre’s Hole through a gap between the Big Hole Mountains and a range called the Palisades. Pierre’s Hole was named after a Hudson’s Bay Iroquois

Trading Furs for Necessities and Whiskey

If the trappers were employed by a particular company they turned their furs, mainly beaver, over to their boss and received their pay, less the amount used to cover what they would need for another trapping season. What money they had left over would go to purchase, usually, the whiskey that the company owners also transported to rendezvous. The system was basically the same for the free trappers; those men not connected with a company.

The 1832 rendezvous was no different than any of the other such gatherings. Everyone would have a rousing good time mixed with swapping furs, swapping lies, drinking whiskey, as well as fighting, gambling, and drinking more whiskey. Also, a prime entertainment was getting an Indian woman to bed down with.

William Sublette and Thomas Fitzpatrick

The rendezvous that year was well attended. William L. Sublette and his caravan had pulled in on the 8th of July. Thomas Fitzpatrick had been there earlier but had backtracked to meet Sublette and hurry him up; Sublette had the much-wanted whiskey with him. Fitzpatrick had then gone on ahead to let the fellows know that Sublette, and his supplies, was on his way.

Broken Hand and the Blackfeet

But events turned sour for Fitzpatrick on his way back to rendezvous when he ran into a party of Blackfeet Indians. He had quite a time of it before he eventually got away from them and made it back to Pierre’s Hole. Most of his comrades had begun to figure that Old Broken Hand, as Fitzpatrick was known, had gone under. That is, they figured he was dead. He was in pretty bad shape when he arrived back at rendezvous and probably wasn’t feeling any to charitable towards the Blackfeet.

Rocky Mountain and American Fur Companies

Both the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, numbering between one hundred and two hundred men, and the American Fur Company were in attendance at this rendezvous. The American Fur Company consisted of a large party under the leadership of W. H. Vanderburgh and Andrew Drips.

Bonneville, Wyeth, Carson, and Bridger

Two new faces to the mountains, with their followers, made their appearance at rendezvous that year: Captain Benjamin Bonneville and Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth. Other small groups of trappers also began to arrive at Pierre’s Hole, many of them from the Colorado Rockies. Of this stock of men one notable face was absent that year. Kit Carson was not in attendance. But the presents of Jim Bridger and his tall tales well made up for the absent comrade.

Joe Meek and Milton Sublette

Joe Meek, now a veteran mountain man of twenty-two years, showed up some time later. His friend, Milton Sublette, brother of William, had gotten into a fight with an Indian and wound up on the whipped end of the fracas. However, after six weeks of Meek’s attentions, Milton was as good as new and, like the other mountain men, was ready to enjoy all that the 1832 rendezvous had to offer.

Sources:

  1. Chittenden, Hiram Martin. The American Fur Trade of the Far West, Volume 1. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 1986.
  2. De Voto, Bernard. Across the Wide Missouri Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1947.