Malachite’s Big Hole
1836 Green River (Siskeedee-Agie) Rendezvous:
Lucien Fontenelle would not make the trip to the mountains in the spring of 1836. Apparently his alcohol abuse had made him too much of a liability to maintain in a management position.
Thomas Fitzpatrick would lead the supply train bound for rendezvous, leaving Bellevue, Missouri on May 14, 1836. Fitzpatrick was accompanied by Milton Sublette. This supply train included about 70 men, with 400 head of livestock, mostly mules, and seven wagons and one cart.
Dr. Marcus Whitman, back from the east, and his party of missionaries would accompany the train to rendezvous, but due to some miscommunication they were left behind when the supply train moved out. The Whitman party wouldn’t catch up to the train until May 24th, in the vicinity of Loup Fork. The Whitman party consisted of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, Henry H. and Eliza Spaulding and William H Grey.
The supply train arrived at Fort William on June 18th. On June 20th, Joshua Pilcher, representing the company of Pratte, Choteau and Company (the old American Fur Company) would arrive. Pilcher was seeking to buy out the owners of the Fort William. The fort was apparently successful at drawing considerable Indian trade away from established American Fur Company posts. Pilcher would follow the supply train to rendezvous where he would further pursue this objective. Most of the wagons would be left behind at Fort William, the supplies being loaded onto pack animals for the remaining distance to rendezvous.
Milton Sublette would not travel any further than Fort William due to a reoccurrence of the “fungus” in his leg. On July 6, 1836, the supply train arrived at rendezvous, located again this year at the confluence of Horse Creek and the Green River. (Map)
Trappers had been arriving at the site by at least June 28th. Nathaniel Wyeth and a small party of Americans arrived on July 1st. Wyeth had recently been successful in selling Fort Hall to the Hudson’s Bay Company, and he would return east with pack train at the end of rendezvous. A small party of Hudson ’s Bay Company men under the leadership of John McLeod and Thomas McKay would arrive at rendezvous on July 12th.
Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spaulding were the first white woman to attend rendezvous, and their presence in the encampment would cause a considerable sensation among both Indian and trappers.
By July 18th the rendezvous was beginning to break up. Dr. Whitman and his party of missionaries traveled to Walla Walla accompanied by the Hudson’s Bay Company men. The missionaries freight wagon was abandoned at rendezvous, and their light wagon was taken as far as Fort Boise before it became impractical.
Thomas Fitzpatrick and Milton Sublette left rendezvous, taking the furs back to Fort William. There were apparently bad feelings between Sublette and Fitzpatrick at this time and Sublette would remain at Fort William, now under the ownership of Pratte, Choteau and Company, until his death on April 1, 1837. Fitzpatrick would lead the pack train loaded with furs on to Bellevue.
Joshua Pilcher had accomplished his goals while at rendezvous. Fontenelle, Fitzpatrick and Company would sell out all of its holdings, including Fort William to Pratte, Choteau and Company. Thus the successor company to the American Fur Company would gain complete dominance of the American side of the fur trade in the Rocky Mountains. The Hudson’s Bay Company would, however, remain a fierce competitor for furs in the Rocky Mountain region and western North America. Hudson’s Bay Company, which had been positioning itself to control the jointly occupied Oregon country, would now contest with the Americans for this region through creation of a fur “desert”.
For Pratte, Choteau and Company buying out Fontenelle, Fitzpatrick and Comapany would be a hollow victory. This year would be the beginning of the end of the Golden Era of the fur trade. Beaver populations throughout the Rocky Mountain west had been trapped locally to near extinction and annual harvests were dwindling. The popularity of the silk hat and changing fashions caused a huge reduction in demand for beaver pelts, resulting in similar large reductions in prices paid, while at the same time annual harvests were becoming greatly diminished.
And from this time forward, ever increasing numbers of missionaries and settlers would forever change the character of life in the mountains.