Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Wages & Benefits-Fort Lancaster 1842:

Working conditions and wages for Mexican laborers in 1842 at Fort Lancaster are described by Rufus Sage in Rocky Mountain Life.  The northern border of Mexico in those times encompassed the southern part of what is now Colorado, and Santa Fe and Taos were among the northern most population centers of Mexico.  Here is what Rufus Sage records:

"A large number of Mexicans are employed at the different trading posts [Fort Lancaster, Fort George, Fort Jackson and Fort Vasquez] in this vicinity.  They prove quite useful as horse-guards, and also in taking care of cattle and doing the drudgery connected with these establishments.

Their wages vary from four to ten dollars per month, which they receive in articles of traffic [trade goods] at an exorbitant price; -viz: calicoes, (indifferent quality,) from fifty cents to one dollar per yard; blue cloth, from five to ten dollars per do.; powder, two dollars per lb.; lead, one do. do.; coffee, one dollar do.' tobacco, from two to three do. do.; second hand robes, two dollars apiece, -and everything else in proportion.

Their wages for a whole year, in actual value, bring them but a trifling and almost nameless consideration.  Notwithstanding, these miserable creatures prefer traveling four hundred miles to hire for such diminutive wages, rather than to remain in their own country and work for less."   

Back to Everyday Life