Malachite’s Big Hole
1832 Pierre’s Hole Rendezvous:
Due to the confusion surrounding the procurement of supplies, and delivery to the mountains and thence to the trappers, Thomas Fitzpatrick had neither furs, nor money when he arrived in St. Louis in the fall of 1831 to make arrangements for the pack train of 1832. Because of this he was at an extreme disadvantage in dealing with William Sublette for the needed supplies.
By late April of 1832 Sublette left St. Louis along with Thomas Fitzpatrick and Robert Campbell. At Independence they were joined by Nathaniel Wyeth and his party of New Englanders. Leaving Independence, the supply train included 35 men, and 300 head of livestock. At Laramie Creek, the supply train met with some of trappers employed by John Gantt and Jefferson Blackwell, including Zenas Leonard. Fitzpatrick falsely informed these trappers that Gantt & Blackwell had gone insolvent inducing the men to sell their furs to Fitzpatrick, and joined with the supply train for the rendezvous.
Fitzpatrick set off alone to precede the pack train and make arrangements with his trappers and some Indian tribes. He was to meet back with Sublette on July 2, at a specified location. Sublette continued with the supplies over South Pass and on to the Green River. Fitzpatrick never rejoined the train at the arranged location.
Before reaching the Green River, Sublette’s party was attacked by Blackfoot Indians in a night-time raid. No-one was apparently killed or injured in the attack, but the Blackfeet managed to steal about ten or so horses. When Sublette finally arrived at Pierre’s Hole (Map) on July 8, 1832 , no-one knew where Fitzpatrick was. Fitzpatrick arrived later that same day, being brought in, nearly dead by Antoine Godin. Fitzpatrick had multiple encounters or near encounters with a group of Blackfoot Indians, had lost his horse, abandoned his guns, and then had nearly died from starvation, fatigue and exposure. (Original accounts of Fitzpatrick's Adventure.)
The trappers had begun gathering at Pierre’s Hole for this rendezvous in June. There would be other fur companies at this rendezvous in addition to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. These include the American Fur Company, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and some small independent fur companies.
Because of the intense rivalry between the American Fur Company, and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, trappers for the two companies would remain apart in separate camps during this rendezvous. Supplies for the American Fur Company were being brought up the Missouri River to Fort Union, a company post at the mouth of the Yellowstone River by Lucien Fontennelle and Etienne Provost. This year the supplies for the American Fur Company trappers would not arrive before the break-up of rendezvous.
The 1832 Rendezvous was one of the best attended. It is estimated that there were between 300-400 trappers present, and more than one thousand Indians, primarily Flat Heads and Nez Perce.
Around July 17th the Rendezvous began to break up. One of the parties under Milton Sublette consisting of about 60 men were proceeding to the southwest and made about 8 miles from the site of the rendezvous before setting up camp. The following morning as the men were raising camp, a caravan was seen proceeding over the pass and down in to the valley. No immediate alarm was given, because this was expected to be the supply train under Lucien Fontennelle and Etienne Provost for the American Fur Company men.
As the caravan approached, it became clear that it was a large party of Blackfoot Indians. A disorganized day long battle ensued (see Battle of Pierre's Hole), joined by additional mountain men from the rendezvous site. The battle was initiated by Antoine Godin because of his vindictive hatred of the Blackfoot Indians. There are conflicting accounts of this battle, though the results would be a small number of trappers killed or injured, including Alexander Sinclair, and an unknown number of Blackfoot Indians killed. The Blackfoot Indians withdrew from the scene during the night.
William Sublette would leave rendezvous on July 30th with 60 men including Robert Campbell. The furs he was packing to St. Louis would be valued at $58,305. Although a large sum, it would still leave the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in debt.
The fall hunt this year would become a deadly game of hide and seek between trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, who knew the mountains well, and those of the American Fur Company, who were seeking to spoil the hunt of their competitors. (See also The Death of Vanderburgh)