Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Myth of the Solitary Loner:

Contrary to popular notion, the Mountain Man was not a solitary individual, pitting his strength and skills against nature and man for survival in the wilderness.  Most commonly the mountain men traveled in a well armed and organized group called a “brigade” containing 30, 50 or sometimes more than 100 men.  Only after the brigade reach the area in which the hunt was to be conducted, would the brigade split into smaller groups which would again split into smaller groups.  Small groups of two, three and sometimes one man would go out and trap an individual stream or reach for a day or so before returning to join up with one of the larger groups.  Indian wives and families would often accompany the brigade.  

Hudson’s Bay Company brigades led by Peter Skene Ogden would contain more than 120 individuals, with approximately half being family members.  Rufus Sage on leaving for Fort Platte in 1841 writes in his journal; "Before leaving, we were further increased by the accession of two Canadian voyageurs-French of course. Our force now numbered some twenty-four - one sufficiently formidable for all the dangers of the route."

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