Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

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Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

The Death of Drouillard: 

George Drouillard was one of the most dependable of hunters accompanying the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Ocean and back.  By the spring of 1807 Drouillard was associated with Manuel Lisa's St. Louis Pacific Fur Company, and was heading back up to the headwaters of the Missouri River. Here he and the other members of the company struggled to wrest a fortune in furs from the beaver-rich streams, as the equally determined Blackfoot Indians strove to drive the Americans from their territory.  During this struggle, the company sustained very heavy losses in life and equipment.  This story was recorded by Thomas James in the spring of 1810 (Reference)  

"The Indians, we thought, kept the game away from the vicinity of the Fort  [The Three Forks Post]. Thus we passed the time till the month of May, when a party of twenty-one, of whom I was one, determined to go up the  Jefferson river to trap. By keeping together we hoped to repel any attack of the savages. We soon found the trapping in such numbers not very profitable, and changed our plan by separating in companies of four, of whom, two men would trap while two watched the camp. In this manner we were engaged, until the fear of Indians began to wear off, and we all became more venturous.  One of our company, a Shawnee  half-breed named Druyer, the principal hunter of Lewis & Clark's party, went up the river one day and set his traps about a mile from the camp. In the morning he returned alone and brought back six beavers.  I warned him of his danger. "I am too much of an Indian to be caught by Indians," said he.  On the next day he repeated the adventure and returned with the product of his traps, saying, "this is the way to catch beavers."  On the third morning he started again up the river to examine his traps, when we advised him to wait for the whole party, which was about moving further up the stream, and at the same time two other Shawnees left us against our advice, to kill deer.  We started forward in company, and soon found the dead bodies of the last mentioned hunters, pierced with lances, arrows and bullets and lying near each other.  Further on, about one hundred and fifty yards, Druyer and his horse lay dead, the former mangled in a horrible manner; his head was cut off, his entrails torn out and his body hacked to pieces.  We saw from the marks on the ground that he must have fought in a circle on horseback, and probably killed some of his enemies, being a brave man, and well armed with a rifle, pistol, knife and tomahawk.  We pursued the trail of the Indians till night, without overtaking them, and then returned, having buried our dead, with saddened hearts to Fort. "     

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