Malachite’s Big Hole
1826 Willow Valley (Cache Valley) Rendezvous:
The exact site of this rendezvous is uncertain, It was probably at the south end of Willow Valley, where goods and supplies had been cached, although another plausible location is near the north end of the valley where John H Weber and his men had their winter camp in the winter of 1824-1825. In either case the rendezvous was located within what was then the territory of Mexico. (Map)
William Ashley led the supply train up to the mountains this year. According to Ashley, he arrived with the pack train on May 25th, 1826 after 78 days of travel from St. Louis. The duration of this rendezvous is uncertain but probably lasted more than one month, and perhaps as long as eight weeks. Whereas the rendezvous of the previous year had a very businesslike atmosphere, this years rendezvous was an extended party/reunion which came to characterize subsequent rendezvous.
According to James Beckwourth (Reference), “Shortly after, General Ashley and Mr. Sublet came in, Accompanied with three hundred pack mules, well laden with goods and all things necessary for the mountaineers and the Indian trade. It may well be supposed that the arrival of such a vast amount of luxuries from the East did not pass off without a general celebration. Mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic, with all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent were freely indulged in. The unpacking of the medicine water contributed not a little to the heightening of our festivities.”
There is no information on prices paid, or supplies because of a lack of documents for this rendezvous.
William Ashley was the first to realize that the real wealth in the Rocky Mountains would be from transport of goods to the mountains, and furs from the mountains, thereby controlling trade and profits on both ends of the supply line. On July 18th, while enroute to St Louis on the Bear River after the rendezvous was over, Ashley sold out his interest in the fur company to Jedediah Smith, David Jackson and William Sublette. In St Louis, the furs from this years harvest were valued at $60,000.