Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Wages and Benefits-Fort Union 1851:

Rudolph Kurz was employed as a clerk while at Fort Union in 1851 (Reference).  He described wages and benefits paid to different classes of employees in his journal.  According to Kurz:  

"A Craftsmen or workman receives $250 a year;  a workman's assistant is never paid more than $120; a hunter receives $400, together with hides and horns of the animals he kills; an interpreter without other employment, which is seldom, gets $500.  Clerks and traders who have mastered the court language, i.e., the speech of those Indians for whose special advantage the trading posts are established, may demand from $800 to $1,000 without interest.  All employees are furnished board and lodging free of charge; that means, engageés are provided with nothing but meat, a place to sleep, and one raw buffalo hide.  Hunters and workmen eat at the second table, i.e. meat, biscuit, and black coffee with sugar.  Clerks are served with the bourgeois at the first table, which is, on an average, a well furnished table for this part of the country.  We have meat, well selected, bread, frequently soup and pie on Sundays.  Everyone must furnish his bedclothes; however, one may borrow two buffalo robes from the storehouse.

If an employee has a mind to save he can under certain conditions put aside almost his entire income.  In that case he must have on hand a supply of clothing, must be content with the fare at the fort, indulge in no dainties or feasting, and never allow himself to come within 10 feet of the Indian women."  

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