Malachite’s Big Hole
1831 Willow Valley Rendezvous:
Thomas Fitzpatrick would not leave the mountains for St Louis until March of 1831 and wouldn’t arrive in St. Louis until early May, nearly two months after the deadline for completing arrangements with Smith, Jackson and Sublette for the needed supplies.
Since Smith, Jackson and Sublette had received no word from the mountains, they had made alternate plans and already left for Santa Fe with a train of trade goods bound for Santa Fe and Taos. Fitzpatrick followed Smith, Jackson and Sublette, and arranged to have supplies shipped out of Santa Fe. Jedediah Smith would lose his life in a skirmish with Comanche Indians along the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail.
Having obtained $6,000 worth of supplies Fitzpatrick headed north out of Santa Fe with about forty men, including Kit Carson. The pack train headed north along the front range of the Rockies to the North Platte River, and thence up to the Sweetwater, where he met with Henry Fraeb. Fraeb accompanied the pack train to resupply the trappers and Fitzpatrick headed east to ensure the supplies for 1832 arrived on time. The mountain men had rendezvoused in early summer awaiting the needed supplies. The location of this rendezvous is uncertain, possibly either Willow Valley, and or Green River. Evidence seems to favor the Willow Valley location. (Map)
Joe Meek again describes this years rendezvous in River of the West “The large number of men now employed, had exhausted the stock of goods on hand. The camp was without blankets and without ammunition, knives were not to be had; traps were scarce; but worse than that all the tobacco had given out, and alcohol was not! In such a case as this, what was a mountain man to do?”
After waiting several weeks without a sign from Fitzpatrick, the trappers left for the fall hunt without the desperately needed supplies. Fraeb spent the remainder of the fall getting the supplies delivered to the trappers. Warren Ferris reports (reference) “Fraeb arrived…and the camp presented a confused scene of rioting and debauchery for several days, after which however the kegs of alcohol were again bunged, and all became tranquil.”
During the fall and winter of 1831 the American Fur Company was mobilizing additional trappers to the Northern Rocky Mountains in order to ratchet up the competition for beaver during the following year.