Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Account of Warren Ferris:

Warren Ferris was working as a trapper for the American Fur Company under the  leadership of William Vanderburgh.  The American Fur Company supply train had missed the rendezvous the previous year, and these men were anxious that it should not occur again this year.  Ferris gives us this description (Reference):

On the third of July, one of our men who was sent in quest of the St. Louis companies [the supply train under Fontenelle] returned, and reported that William Sublett, at the head of one hundred men, was now on his way here. This numerous company was composed of fifty hired men; a party of twenty two men, detached from Ghant's company [Gant and Blackwell, see Zenas Leonard for a description of the hardships endured by these men]; a party of thirteen men from the Rio del Norte, and a Mr. Wythe [Nathaniel Wyeth] with ten or twelve followers, who was on some secret expedition to the mouth of the Oregon, or Columbia River.  We learned that Mr. Fitzpatrick left the company at the Red Hills, with two horses, and set out to reach us, in advance of Sublett [William Sublette]; but had not since been heard of.  Two or three nights before our express reached them, their camp was fired upon by a party of unknown Indians, but no one injured. Several horses were stolen, however; from Sublett, our express could learn nothing of Fontenelle; and determined to proceed on until they should meet him, but the day after their departure from Sublett's Camp, they were charged upon by a party of mounted Indians, who compelled them to return.

On the 8th Sublett arrived, and halted in the middle of the hole, with the R. M. F. Co. [Rocky Mountain Fur Company], for whom he brought one hundred mules, laden with merchandise.  The same evening Mr. Thos. Fitzpatrick, to our great joy, came into camp, though in a most pitiable condition.  It appears that this traveller, on his way to Pierre's Hole, came suddenly upon a large Village of Indians, who mounted their horses and immediately gave chase; however, he had fortunately taken the precaution to furnish himself with two horses, previous to his departure from camp, one of which had the reputation of being fleet.  This last he led by the halter, ever saddled, and bridled, as a resource in case he should be compelled to seek safety by flight.  So soon as he found himself discovered and pursued, he sprang upon his favorite horse, and fled, directing his course towards the mountains, which were about three miles distant.  When he reached the mountains, the Indians were so far behind, that he hoped to elude them by concealment, and immediately placed his horse in a thicket, and sought a crevice in the rocks, where he concealed himself.  In a few moments the blood hounds came up, and soon discovered his horse; from his place of concealment he saw them searching every nook and crevice, for him, and the search was not discontinued, until the next step would have placed him before the eyes of a blood thirsty set of wretches, whose clemency in the first instance, is yet to be recorded.  Fortunately for him, the search was abandoned, and the Indians returned to camp, at the same time he chose a point, whence he could discover any passing object, in the plain beneath him; and determined to remain, until the company should pass, and join them at that time.  At the expiration of three days, he discovered six men, passing in the valley, and immediately descended the mountain to join them, but ere he could effect this, a party of Indians appeared from another quarter, and gave chase to the six men, who wheeled and fled; in the meantime, he fled back to his place of refuge.  At length he became confident, that the company had passed him without his knowledge, and set out for Pierre's Hole in the night; his moccasins became worn out, and he was forced to make others of his hat, he likewise lost his powder in swimming a river, and suffered from the combined effects of hunger, cold, and fatigue, until he was reduced to a mere skeleton, and could scarcely be recognized when he finally reached camp. He informs us, that the Indians were doubtless a band of Grosvents of the prairie, who passed from the Missouri to the head of the Arkansas  three years ago, and were now on their return to their own country.  They are the same Indians who encamped with Smith, Sublett and Jackson, on the Arkansas last summer, and there buried their hatchets and animosity together.  But it appears from their proceedings this far, that they have raised both since.”

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Account of Joe Meek