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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Local Histories, Pictures & Event Archives

article number 344
article date 05-20-2014
copyright 2014 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Colorado’s Early Adventurers, the Fur Trappers, 1810-40
by Leroy Hafen
   

From the 1933 book, Colorado, the Story of a Western Commonwealth.

HUNTERS and trappers were the real pioneers of the West, the original trail blazers and pathfinders of Colorado. To be sure Indians and wild animals had previously beaten trails to watering places, river crossings, and over mountain passes. But it was the persistent search for beaver that familiarized the white man with the western wilds, and eased the way for official explorers and settlers.

Even before the Louisiana Territory was purchased by the United States in 1803, adventurous Americans were pushing their way westward beyond the Mississippi. Daniel Boone, famous backwoodsman of Kentucky, had been for seven years on the Missouri frontier before he was visited by the Lewis and Clark expedition bound for the Oregon country.

When Captain Pike reached Santa Fe in 1807 he found residing there an American who two years before had traded with the Indians and hunted in South Park of present Colorado—James Purcell, the first American in the state of whom we have record.

Frenchmen had for years engaged in the fur trade, trapping the Great Lakes region, following the streams in their canoes. From them the Americans learned the art of fur gathering, and in the earlier years employed keelboats and pirogues, using the streams as highways.

Before the year 1800 and for many years thereafter, parties of trappers and traders (for they traded with the Indians for furs as well as trapped) went regularly far up the Missouri River. Then as wandering bands worked southward to the region of the central Rockies they found the streams too shallow for regular navigation.

Hence they were forced to change their methods—the horse replaced the boat. Creeks and small streams were rich with beaver, and the Indians of the mountains and plains were possessed of much peltry; so the white men came in increasing numbers.

With beaver skins seling at $6 and $8 apiece, with markets in St. Louis, New York, and London demanding prime beaver for the manufacture of the fashionable tall hat, with virgin streams dotted with the houses of these industrious denizens of the wilds, where better for thrifty and fearless Americans to trap for beaver than in these Colorado streams?

Riding horses, trailed by pack animals carrying beaver traps and a few meager supplies, these trapper bands broke trails into the central West. And when they reached the mountains, the stream or upland park never before visited was the one most likely to yield the greatest return in skins.

   

There was thus a money reward for trail blazing. The very nature of their work made these hardy men the real path finders of Colorado. It is to them we are indebted for the first thorough exploration of our territory.

The training they here received equipped such men as Kit Carson, Jim Bridger and Thomas Fitzpatrick to become the scouts and guides to official explorers such as Fremont and Gunnison and to the emigrant parties that later trekked into the far West.

These western trail blazers were young men, strong, hardy, adventure loving. Most of them were from the frontier settlements where book learning was rare, where physical strength and courage were the qualities prized.

As they journeyed into the West they little realized that they were performing important explorations which later generations would be anxious to learn about. But most of them could not have written a record of their discoveries even had they thought it worthwhile.

Fortunately, some few were able to, and did.keep records of their travels. From letters published in eastern newspapers, from diaries, from records in fur company account books and other stray sources, present historians gather the bits of information which tell all too briefly the fascinating story of the life and work of these pioneers.

Though the record is broken and the data far from complete, much more is known than we can present here. Our brief space will permit mention of only a few events and characters.

Ezekiel Williams of Missouri, with a party of nineteen men, entered Colorado in 1811 to trap on the upper Arkansas. The following spring he sought beaver in the South Park country. From there half of his men crossed to the streams of the western slope and are lost from the record.

After returning to the Arkansas, four of his remaining men went to Santa Fe, while the others remained with him another year hunting and trapping in Colorado. Three of these later were killed by hostile Indians, and Williams and his two surviving companions spent a wretched winter (1812-13) as captives of the Arapaho Indians. In the spring Williams managed to escape, cache his furs and make his way back to Missouri.

The following year he joined a party of twenty-one westbound trappers under Joseph Philibert, hoping to recover his furs and rescue his two companions. Upon arriving at the Arapaho village on the Arkansas he learned that his two men had been killed by the Indians.

Williams uncached his furs and with the help of two of Philibert’s men transported them back to the States. Williams’ party had suffered greatly in the venture but this did not deter others from setting forth hoping for better success.

In fact, the Indian difficulties encountered by Williams’ men were unusual, for during the fur trade days in Colorado the trappers and Indians of this region usually maintained friendly relations with each other.

Many of the trappers and traders including such prominent characters as Carson, Fitzpatrick, Bridger, Lupton and Bent married Indian women, while certain squawmen lived with the tribes and adopted generally the Indian mode of life.

   
COLORADO FUR TRADERS OF THE 1830s: Jim Baker and Jim Bridger.

On his second trapping expedition to Colorado in 1815, Philibert was accompanied by A. P. Chouteau and Julius DeMunn. These latter, on the outward journey, purchased Philibert’s outfit and the services of the men he had left to trap in the mountains.

During the two succeeding years Chouteau and De Munn conducted a successful trapping business in Colorado, maintaining about fifty trappers in the field. Not only did they gather furs by trapping, but through trade with the Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Kiowas obtained peltries.

One large trading council with these Indians was held on the Platte River a few miles south of present Denver. Twice DeMunn went to Santa Fe to seek permission to trap south and west of the Arkansas, in territory which was considered as belonging to Spain; but each time, permission was delayed or refused.

On a third attempt in the spring of 1817 he was escorted back to the Arkansas River by 200 Spanish troops. The Americans now decided to turn northwestward toward the Columbia River, but on encountering deep snow in the Colorado Rockies they turned back.

The prosperous trading venture, of Chouteau and DeMunn came to a sudden termination in the summer of 1817. Already the bundles of furs were assembled at the mouth of the Huerfano River in readiness for transportation eastward, when Spanish troops came upon the trappers and took them and their furs to Santa Fe.

After forty-eight days’ imprisonment the men were tried, sentenced to leave Spanish territory and to forfeit all their property except one horse apiece. It was poor reward for the months of work and the dangers they had faced. An account of the outrage was carried to the United States government but not until more than thirty years afterward was the damage claim of these Americans paid.

News of the confiscation of property by the Spanish officials was carried to the Missouri frontier and had the effect of deterring others from seeking furs on the borders of New Mexico.

But with the achievement of Mexican independence from Spain in 1821 matters changed. The exclusive and monopolistic system of old Spain was replaced with one more friendly to the United States. In New Mexico especially were conditions improved, for American visits and Yankee trade were now welcomed.

Perhaps the first Americans to trap in the portion of Colorado that then belonged to Mexico (that region south and west of the Arkansas, as defined by the treaty of 1819) were the Glenn-Fowler men who traveled up the Arkansas River in the fall of 1821. Jacob Fowler, one of the leaders of this party of twenty men, kept a journal which, though rated low in English grammar and spelling, ranks high in history. It is a valuable diary of the entire journey and gives some important data on early Colorado.

   

Fowler reached the present boundary of Colorado on November 5th and in the latter part of the month reached an Indian camp near the present town of Fowler. Here the weather turned cold, a foot of snow fell, and the river froze over. Fowler quaintly writes:

“the Indean Children that is able to walk and up to tall boys are out on the Ice by day light and all as naked as the Came to the World. . . We Have Seen more than one thousand of these Children on the Ice at one time and Some that Ware too young to Walk Ware taken by the larger ones and Soot on a pece of skin on the Ice and In this Setuation kick its [legs] Round and Hollow and laff at those Round it at play—I have no doupt but that to take one of our White Children and Put it In Such Cold Weather in that Setuation it Cold not live Half an Hour.”

There were 900 lodges of Indians here and the native hunters furnished the white men with meat, not permitting the whites to hunt the buffalo lest they should drive the “Indians’ cattle” away.

In January, 1822, Fowler built a three room house of cottonwood logs at the present site of Pueblo and did some trapping in the vicinity. Later in the month emissaries previously sent to Santa Fe returned to the Arkansas with a welcome to the party. The trail by Greenhorn Creek, along the upper Huerfano, across Sangre de Cristo Pass and through the San Luis valley they now followed to Taos—the first Americans known to have traversed this “Taos Trail” through southern Colorado.

In February, 1822, Fowler conducted a trapping expedition into the San Luis Valley, reaching the South Fork of the Rio Grande above Del Norte. On the last of April he left the valley and after returning to Taos took his furs and journeyed back to the American frontier on the Missouri.

In the ‘twenties, Taos became a base for trapping operations in southern and western Colorado. The San Luis Valley, the San Juan, the Gunnison and the Colorado River regions were all visited by trappers, and a harvest of furs was gathered.

James Ohio Pattie in his “Personal Narrative” has left us an account of the adventures of the parties he accompanied. We cannot follow his numerous wanderings in western Colorado, but shall quote his description of his crossing of the continental divide in the winter of 1826-7:

“The passage occupied six days, during which we had to pass along compact drifts of snow higher than a man on horseback. The narrow path through these drifts is made by the frequent passing of the buffaloes, of which we found many dead bodies in the way. We had to pack cottonwood bark on the horses for their own eating, and the wood necessary to make fires for our cooking.”

In 1824 William Becknell, “Father of the Santa Fe Trail,” and William Huddart had trapping parties on the Western Slope, where they fell in with another fur trader, Antoine Robidoux, and his trapping band.

Robidoux conducted a fur business for many years in western Colorado and built Fort Robidoux near the mouth of the Uncompahgre River.

   

The itineraries of most of these expeditions were never written and never can be, but we know that all of Colorado was overrun by the adventurous fur gatherers in the ‘20s and ‘30s. For many of these, the trails beckoned on and on, and the journey ended only when some grizzly caught the hunter unprepared or some Indian sent a deadly missile from ambush.

While trapping parties were working into Colorado from the southeast, others were coming in from the north and northeast. One of the most prominent of these fur gathering organizations was the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, begun by General William Ashley of Missouri.

With Ashley there came into the West a group of young men many of whom became famous as western explorers. Jim Bridger, Jim Beckwourth, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Louis Vasquez and Jedediah Smith were numbered among these.

After operating in the Montana and Wyoming country Ashley’s men pushed southward into Colorado territory. In the winter of 1824-25 Ashley led an expedition up the South Platte, the Cache la Poudre and after turning north and west crossed to the valley of the Green River.

Here he built two “bull boats,” made of buffalo skins sewed together and stretched over a wooden framework, and in these rude crafts set out to explore the lower Green River and search for rich beaver regions.

In the meantime the majority of his men, after being divided into small bands, set out in various directions to trap in the mountain streams. A suitable place on Green River he designated as the place of rendezvous, or general meeting, for the first of the following July.

With great difficulty Ashley made his way through Flaming Gorge Canyon, over Ashley Fall, and around the various cataracts which imperiled his way in the Green River canyons, and was the first white man to reach the Brown’s Hole country of northwestern Colorado. After threading further canyons and portaging around Disaster Falls and other dangerous rapids he forsook his boats in eastern Utah.

Adventure and hardship he had found aplenty, but beaver were scarce. He now returned by land to the place of appointed rendezvous near the northwest corner of Colorado. This general meeting was one of the earliest of the trapper gatherings, but for more than ten years thereafter such rendezvous were a regular feature of the fur trade system.

The mid-summer rendezvous became one of the most typical and interesting institutions of the fur trade days.

   
Artist Frederic Remington’s rendition of the trapper’s rendezvous.

The owner of the company or some business manager brought in a train of supplies and trade goods from the East to dispense to his men or barter to the independent trappers and the Indians. Trappers who for months had lost themselves in the mountains gathered in to this fair of the wilderness.

The brief holiday invited jollification and dissipation. Races and contests of skill were arranged, and gambling and the drinking of bad whisky were indulged in. Flour, sugar, and coffee were procurable and the continuous meat diet of months was now varied by the introduction of these luxuries from the States.

Beaver skins were money and with these hairy banknotes the trapper could satisfy every primitive need. Indians came in, set up their lodges and participated in the fiesta. White trappers with Indian wives bestowed upon their spouses the trinkets and gay draperies that appealed to the feminine heart. Most of the trappers were of the open-handed sort who in the day or two of prodigal living squandered their year’s earnings.

Around the campfire the adventures of the past year grew ever greater with the telling, and a shake of the head or a word of praise was the last boon of the trapper who no longer cast a lengthened shadow out into the night.

From 1824 to 1827 Ashley prospered greatly in the fur trade, and was able in the latter year to retire a rich man. Some of his former employes took over the business and each year trapping expeditions were conducted by them into northern and western Colorado.

   

In 1831 Captains Gant and Blackwell launched a fur trade venture in Colorado with seventy men, but it met with ill success. Trappers were coming in such great numbers that the fur areas were being depleted. Streams once alive with beaver were stripped of fur animals, and competition between the various companies became keen and ruthless.

And not only were the fur resources being exhausted, but the demand was falling off. A change of style in London and New York was recording its effect in the Rocky Mountains.

The silk hat had been invented and the beaver hat was being supplanted. The bottom fell out of the fur market, beaver skins dropped to $1 apiece, and the industry was ruined.

Although companies failed and many trappers changed occupation, the fur trade days were not ended. From beaver skins the fur men turned to buffalo robes and these latter became the chief article of commerce in Colorado during the late ‘30s and early ‘40s.

The coming of wagons made possible this development. Trappers on horseback had blazed the early western trails, but very quickly wagon wheels followed the horse paths. On the earliest and most famous western pathways—the Santa Fe and the Oregon trails—wagons were employed in 1822 and 1830 respectively. Thereafter the annual caravans of prairie schooners grew longer with each year.

   
Painting of William Becknell on the Santa Fe trail. Wagon trains also found much of Colorado.

At first Colorado territory had been barely touched at its northeast and southeast corners by these historic highways, but soon wagons continued along the Arkansas and the South Platte to the mountains. Now buffalo robes, which had been too bulky and cheap for carriage on pack animals could be handled profitably by wagon transportation.

With the development of the buffalo robe business, notable changes were made in the methods of the fur trade. The rendezvous gave way to the permanent trading post. Whereas beaver skins had been garnered largely by white trappers, buffalo robes were obtained by trade with the Indians, and although some bartering took place at the Indian villages, much came now to be conducted at the white man’s fort, where his trade goods were safely housed.

In Colorado were located several of the leading trading posts of the West. Ranking first in importance and among the earliest to be established was Fort Bent, on the Arkansas. This famous establishment was built in 1828-32 and was located on the north bank of the Arkansas about midway between the sites of the present cities of La Junta and Las Animas.

It was built by the Bent brothers and Ceran St. Vrain, who organized the first big and successful business organization in Colorado. Their fort was so situated that it could command the robe trade of the plains, the fur trade of the mountains, and participate in the overland caravan traffic to Santa Fe.

Since it became the model for subsequent posts, we shall describe some of its chief features.

The fort was built of large gray adobes and was in rectangular form, about 180 by 135 feet. The walls were from two to four feet thick and fifteen feet high. Round bastions projecting from the southeast and northwest corners of the enclosure rose above the wall and were provided with loopholes for musketry and cannon.

Midway in the eastern wall was a large gateway fitted with two great, heavy plank doors plated with sheet iron. Over the gateway rose a square watchtower, capped with a belfry and flagstaff.

Within the fort were rows of low rooms backed against the outer wall and having doors opening into the central court. These were like the common Mexican houses with dirt floors and with clay and gravel roofs which were supported by pole beams. The rooms comprised the warehouses, living rooms, kitchen, and the quarters for the post attaches.

Sheds provided shelter for the yokes, harness, and other caravan equipment. At the back of the fort was the corral, enclosed with an adobe wall. On the river bank, 200 yards south of the fort, was an adobe ice house. This was filled with ice in winter, and in summer a supply of fresh meat was here preserved.

   
REPLICA OF BENT’S FORT IN STATE MUSEUM, DENVER.

Life about the fort was picturesque. Bronze-faced hunters and bearded trappers in their fringed buckskin suits made this their headquarters. Their Indian women in beaded and quill-decorated deerskin dresses glided about with moccasined feet, through the rooms, across the gray-died courtyard, and perhaps mounted the flat roofs to peer over the protecting outside wail.

Naked children playing in the shadow of the great wall revealed but slight traces of white blood through the darker hue of their mothers’ race.

Clerks and traders had feverish days of merchandising followed by languid weeks of lounging and smoking and the telling of tales.

Mexican mestizos and French Canadians furnished additional features for the scene, and when the trading parties of Arapahoes and Cheyennes came in, the drab fortress was transformed into a colorful, semi-oriental mart.

For two decades this fort stood as the commercial center of a vast area.

But it was not alone, nor did it monopolize the field. Farther up the Arkansas, six miles below present Pueblo, Gant’s Post was built by traders Gant and Blackwell in 1832; but it was short lived. Maurice LeDoux is said to have had a trading post farther up the stream in the vicinity of present Florence in the ‘30s.

Fort Pueblo was built by independent traders as early as 1842 and became a famous post which was occupied most of the time until 1854, when its inhabitants were massacred by the Indians on Christmas day. Other temporary posts no doubt were maintained for brief periods at different places on the Arkansas.

On the South Platte River between present Denver and Greeley a little string of four adobe forts, or trading posts, was established in the late thirties. Fort Lupton, one mile north of the present town of this name, was built by Lancaster P. Lupton in 1836. Lupton, as a lieutenant of the First Dragoons accompanying Colonel Dodge to the Rocky Mountains in 1835, saw the possibilities of the fur trade, resigned from the army, established his fort, and spent the next decade in Colorado as a trader.

About six miles north of this fort, Henry Fraeb and Peter A. Sarpy built Fort Jackson the following year. It was maintained but a short time, being sold to the Bent and St. Vrain Company in the fall of 1838. One mile south of Platteville are the ruins of Fort Vasquez, built by Louis Vasquez and Andrew Sublette in 1837.

Perhaps at no other place are the evidences of the old and the new in Colorado history more strikingly contrasted. What once stood as a proud outpost of civilization—the walled fort with commanding bastion—has become in less than a century a crumbling relic of an almost forgotten day.

The winding, dusty, trappers’ trail to the fort and beyond is now a thin, long line of glaring concrete, while the walls which sheltered the initial commerce of Colorado, now in crumbling ruin, vibrate to the throbbing of modern transportation.

The fourth of the South Platte trading posts was Fort St. Vrain, first known as Fort Lookout. It was built by the Bent & St. Vrain Company on the east bank of the Platte, about one mile north of the mouth of St. Vrain Creek.

   
A PORTION OF THE WALL OF FORT LUPTON (1913).

At least two fur trade posts were established in western Colorado. One of these was built on the Gunnison near the site of Delta. The founder, Antoine Robidoux was in the region as early as 1824, but just when he built his log fort is unknown. It was already in ruins when Captain Gunnison passed the site in 1853.

The other post, Fort Davy Crockett, named for the Texan hero of the Alamo, was located in Brown’s Hole on the Green River in the extreme northwestern corner of Colorado. We do not know the founder, or date of founding, but in 1839 it was in possession of three Americans—Thompson, Craig and St. Clair.

The two forts in western Colorado were used largely as headquarters for beaver trappers, whereas those on the South Platte and the Arkansas catered primarily to the Indian trade in buffalo robes.

Fortunately, we have preserved by the State Historical Society of Colorado an inventory of the goods at Fort Jackson in 1838. This gives a good idea of the articles used in the Indian trade. Among the items listed are: looking glasses, finger rings, wrist bands, ear bobs, glass beads of all colors, bells, powder horns, battle axes, scalping knives, brass kettles, blankets, vermillion, bright-colored cloth, powder, lead and alcohol.

With competition keen among the white men for the Indian patronage, they all resorted to trade in whisky. This would draw robes from the Indians when nothing else was effective. The Fort Jackson accounts show whisky selling at $4 per pint and buffalo robes being received at $3 and $4 apiece. Much trade was on the basis of one pint of whisky for one buffalo robe.

The better element among the traders tried to abolish the liquor traffic, but the Indians were so eager for the “firewater” that it was almost impossible to enforce in this far region the prohibition laws of the government, which forbade the sale of liquor to the Indians.

The Arapahoes, in an interview with Colonel Dodge in 1835, thus listed the desirable things of this world: first, whisky; second, tobacco; third, horses; fourth, guns; fifth, women.

During the fur trade days (roughly from 1810 to 1850) Colorado was not only overrun by the trappers and traders but was visited by official explorers and travelers who left us interesting accounts of what was seen and done in this virgin land before plows turned the sod or miners burrowed holes in the mountains.

We have already told of the expeditions of Captain Pike and Major Long. The next government expedition to this region was led by Col. Henry Dodge, who with his 120 men of the First Dragoons, in 1835 followed the general route of Major Long to and from the mountains.

Then in 1842 John C. Fremont came to Colorado on the first of his five famous expeditions into the West. On all of these notable journeys he crossed Colorado territory.

In 1845 the First Dragoons, now led by Col. Stephen W. Kearny, made another tour through Colorado, holding councils with the Indians and endeavoring to impress them with the power of the United States Government.

Captain John W. Gunnison in 1853 conducted the first official survey through Colorado, seeking a railroad route to the Pacific Coast. He came up the Arkansas and Huerfano, crossed the Sangre de Cristo and Cochetopa passes, and descended the western slope river that was thereafter to bear his name. Continuing westward, he reached central Utah where he was massacred by hostile Indians.

Colonels Dodge, Fremont and Kearny and Captain Gunnison on their various western expeditions, all had with them as guides and scouts such early trappers as John Gant, Kit Carson, Thomas Fitzpatrick and Bill Williams to lead the way and safeguard the march of the less experienced soldiers, explorers, and engineers.

   
COLORADO FUR TRADERS OF THE 1830s: Kit Carson and William Bent.

During the fur trade period several travelers visited Colorado territory, seeking adventure and a knowledge of the country. A number of these wrote interesting books which give much first-hand information on this region. Thomas Farnham, bound for Oregon, and Dr. Wislizenus, seeking western experience, both crossed Colorado in 1839 and recorded their experiences in books.

It is intersting to note that Dr. Wislizenus’ book, the first to report a crossing of Colorado territory, was published in German and entitled “Ein Ausflug nach den Felsen-gebirgen im jahre 1839” (A Journey to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1839).

Rufus Sage in his volume entitled “Rocky Mountain Life,” gives valuable information gathered in his two years of wandering about Colorado territory (1842-44). Lewis Garrard penned an excellent picture of life about Fort Bent, on the Santa Fe trail, and in New Mexico, in the years 1846-47 in his “Wah-To-Tah and the Taos Trail.”

George F. Ruxton was an adventurous Englishman who in his “Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains” interestingly recounts his journey from Mexico into Colorado and his experiences in hunting and traveling in our territory in 1847.

The historian, Francis Parkman, got much of the color for his valuable historical writings on a journey to the West in 1846. His “Oregon Trail,” which tells of the journey, is not only an English classic, but an original source for Colorado history.

These men mingled with the trappers and traders, sat by their campfires, thrilled to their stories of adventure. They learned from the mountain men the arts of hunting, trapping and reading Indian signs on the trail. Most of these writers were fascinated by the life and characters of the region and felt the pull which the Wild West exerted upon its visitors.

   

The trappers and traders of the fur trade days were an interesting lot. French Canadians, Mexicans and Americans mingled together. Their tanned faces and long hair made it difficult to distinguish one from another, or all from a band of Indians.

In a beaver cap and a fringed buckskin suit gayly decorated with Indian designs, or in a slouch hat, calico shirt and cotton overalls the trapper was equally at ease with his powder horn, shot pouch and muzzle loading rifle; he was self supporting and independent.

For money he had little need, by primitive barter his simple wants could be supplied. A lodge made of buffalo skins furnished him winter shelter while for summer nights a bed of buffalo robes was spread beneath the stars. A horse to ride, one to carry his trappings, others for his squaw and children (had he married a native woman) and he could journey wherever the trails led.

Most of these Mountain Men were illiterate, but books gave no instructions for trapping beaver or shooting grizzlies. The men were educated for the life they led. They could read the tracks of moccasins, the sign of beaver and the trace of travois; they could mould their bullets from bars of lead and strike a fire with flint and steel.

Some were bad characters, fugitives from the law and civilization, while others were specimens of the best in rugged manhood. With them a man was rated by his strength and skill, his courage, and his integrity. The open country, the freedom from restraint, the thrill of adventure tied them to the wilds.

A number of these pioneer fur men have become famous, others perhaps equally deserving of honor are little known. Kit Carson is the best known of these early frontiersmen, brave, modest, truehearted; his name has come to be synonomous with the valor of the West. Equally skilled in frontier arts were Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jim Bridger, and William Bent.

There were many others who were prominent as trappers, fur traders, and scouts. Among the most active and well known in the Colorado region should be mentioned the following: Jim Baker, Louis Vasquez, John Hatcher, Tom Tobin, Jim Beckwourth, John Albert, Henry Fraeb, Lancaster P. Lupton—and the list could be extended to great length.

   

Some writers have characterized the fur trade period in Colorado as of no consequence in our history. From one view-point this seems justified. Practically all the trappers and fur men had left this territory before the discovery of gold inaugurated the permanent and rapid settlement of the region.

The trading posts were in ruins and grass was growing in the enclosures when the ‘59ers crossed the Plains.

But are not first explorers making history though they do not open mines, take up homesteads or found cities? Are not the men who make the paths that become our highways, who trace out the passable canyons and reveal the habitable valleys performing a service for those that follow? Shall not those whose hardihood laughed at exposure, whose courage cowed not at danger, be remembered with honor?

The trappers and fur men were the trail blazers of Colorado and as such we may give them a favored place among our pioneers.

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