Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Ashley’s Ammunition - 1824:

The following incident was described by Samuel Hawken in his “Memoirs”, given to J.P.H. Gemmer in 1933 by Otis A Hawken.

“In 1824 Ashley started out on another trip to trade for furs.  Bill Sublette and his brother were among the number.  They started a keel boat up the Missouri to bring down a load of pelts.  There were no steamboats on the Missouri in those days and they had to pull the keelboats up by hand with ropes.  The boat had started off up the river, and Ashley intended to have his ammunition wagon meet the boat at St. Charles.  La Barge, I don’t know his first name but he was a brother of Joe La Barge, a jolly German they called ‘Happy-Go-Lucky,’ and another man whose name I have forgotten, were put in charge of this wagon.   They drove out Washington Avenue, about where the University now stands.  There was a little schoolhouse at the corner in those early days.  La Barge was smoking a pipe and just as the wagon was going by it, he knocked the fire out of his pipe.  It fell on the kegs.  Every keg in the wagon exploded and blew the men sky high.  La Barge went up a hundred feet and came down dead; so did the other man, but Happy-Go-Lucky came down, rolled over a few times and then died.  The wagon was torn to splinters, but the horses ran away unhurt.  One of the strange things about the explosion was the fact that an old dog was trotting along side the wagon and didn’t get hurt except a little of his hair was singed off.”  

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