Malachite’s Big Hole
1837 Green River (Siskeedee-Agie) Rendezvous:
Once again Thomas Fitzpatrick would lead the supply train up to rendezvous, although this time the supplies were bound for trappers working for Pratte, Choteau and Company (which was still commonly referred to as the American Fur Company). The supply train, which left either Newport or Independence, would include 30 wagons and two carts. Accompanying the train were Etienne Provost, Sir William Drummond Stewart and Alfred Jacob Miller.
Sir Drummond William Stewart was a wealthy Scotsman, and this was his fifth year attending rendezvous. His interest in this event was as a tourist and sports hunter. He was responsible for bringing Alfred Jacob Miller, an artist, to this years rendezvous, for the purpose of recording the sights, people and spectacle of this annual event on canvas. Stewart would afterwards take Miller to Scotland, where he commissioned him to paint large murals based on his field sketches. No other individual who attend the annual rendezvous ever left a more detailed written or visual description then did Miller.
No journal or log is available for the supply train to the mountains this year, other than that recorded by Miller. The train arrived at Fort William in June. Milton Sublette, who had been majordomo at the fort had died there on April 5th, 1837 , from the infection in his leg that had troubled him for the last couple of years of his life. Lucien Fontenelle was now in charge of Fort William.
After having been deposed for excessive drinking from the Fontenelle and Fitzpatrick Company the previous year, he had somehow managed to convince Pratte, Chouteau and Company to take him back. As in previous years, the supplies would be off-loaded from the wagons at Fort William, and then taken to rendezvous using either carts, or on pack animals. The pack train left Fort William for rendezvous on June 27th, with about 45 men and twenty carts, arriving at the confluence of the Green River and Horse Creek on July 18th. (Map)
Fontenelle would accompany the pack train from Fort William to rendezvous. Alfred Miller records the following about Fontenelle “he distinguished himself for speed of foot in running from a grizzly bear; he having no gun with him at the time.” (For a more detailed description and image by Miller see Caught with his Pants Down.)
Osborne Russell, Robert Newell and others arrived at the rendezvous site as early as June 10th. William Gray, one of the missionaries traveling with Dr. Marcus Whitman the previous year, arrived July 2nd. He was returning east to find a wife, and would then return to the Indian missions. A small party of Hudson’s Bay Company men out of Fort Hall would also be present at this years rendezvous.
It is not certain when this rendezvous broke up. Osborne Russell records that he and a party left rendezvous on July 20th , and he indicates that they joined up with a party under Fontenelle on the 25th of July. Robert Newell indicates that he left with a small party on July 22nd. The exact date when the train packing furs left for St. Louis is not certain. In his journal William Gray states that he was told it would not leave until August 5th or 10th. This may have been misinformation given to Gray to encourage him to leave in advance of the pack train, being as Gray was in a great hurry to return east, and Gray was strongly disliked by most mountain men. Thomas Fitzpatrick and Andrew Drips would return with the furs to St. Louis. When they arrived they would find that the country was gripped in a financial panic, and the price of furs had plummeted.