Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

1833 Green River (Horse Creek) Rendezvous:

In the year prior to this rendezvous, William Sublette and Robert Campbell formed their own fur company, the St. Louis Fur Company with the goal of challenging the American Fur Company along the Upper Missouri River. During the spring, summer and fall of 1833 they erected a dozen or so trading posts located in close proximity to American Fur Company Posts.  In early May Robert Campbell left Lexington, for the rendezvous with supplies valued at $15,000, even though no arrangements had been made with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.  Sir William Drummond Stewart was one of the notables who accompanied the pack train to the mountains this year.  

In the meantime, Thomas Fitzpatrick had sent Henry Fraeb east to meet the pack train and make arrangements for purchase of the supplies, with authorization to proceed to St. Louis and arrange for supplies if the train hadn’t already left.  Fraeb met up with Campbell at Laramie Creek where the transaction was completed.  Fraeb and Campbell then proceeded up the North Platte and Sweetwater Rivers, and thence over South Pass.  From there they traveled northwesterly to the confluence of the Green River and Horse Creek, arriving on July 5, 1833.  

Fontenelle and Drips, bringing supplies for the American Fur Company brigades would arrive on July 8, 1833.  Although the general rendezvous would take place at Fort Bonneville, the American Fur Company would have an encampment about five miles below Fort Bonneville, and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company would encamp about five miles further down from the American Fur Company.  Thus, overall, this years rendezvous would be spread out along ten miles of the Green River.  (Map)

There were 250-300 trappers and a large contingent of Indians, mostly Shoshones at this years rendezvous.  After a year of fierce and sometimes violent competition for furs, the behavior of the men of the American Fur Company and Rocky Mountain Fur Company would be amicable in camp.  

Attacks by a rabid wolf, or wolves, would be a notable event at this rendezvous. Over two or three successive nights, about a dozen men total were bitten savagely on the face in both of the lower camps as well as some livestock.  At least one of these men would subsequently die of hydrophobia over the next several weeks.  Charles Larpenteur provides a description of the wolf attack.

The 1833 harvest of beaver was good, with more than 165 packs of beaver taken down from the mountains with a value of about $60,000.  However, because this was split between four companies, the American Fur Company, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, the St. Louis Fur Company, and Benjamin Bonneville, profits were marginal at best.

On July 20, 1833, the partners of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company would accept a new partner, Edmund Christy, for the financial backing he brought. The new company would be known as the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and Christy.  At this time the Rocky Mountain Fur Company was deeply in debt for supplies to William Sublette and Robert Campbell, who had a financial strangle hold on the Rocky Mountain Fur Company as a result.

The rendezvous would break up on July 24, 1833, with the fur companies’ pack trains returning to St. Louis by various routes.   

On August 14th, 1833, Thomas Fitzpatrick and Milton Sublette would enter a secret contract with Nathaniel Wyeth to provide supplies.  The deal was intended to allow the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and Christy to break free of William Sublette and Robert Campbell.  One of the key provisions of the deal was that the Rocky Mountain Fur Company would have to remain in business till the following year’s rendezvous.   

During the fall and winter of 1833, Kenneth McKenzie, who was in charge of the American Fur Companies forts on the Upper Missouri River would attempt financially destroy the St. Louis Fur Company by offering as much as $12 for beaver.  In early 1800’s the American Fur Company had the financial deep pockets to utterly destroy any competitor.  Sublette and Campbell decided to sell out.  Because of political considerations, they were able to sell to the American Fur Company for a good price, instead of being ruined.     

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1834 Rendezvous