Bring Back The Mountain Man – Jim Beckwourth – Part One

Bring Back The Mountain Man

Jim Beckwourth ( 1798-1866 ) A documented Mountain Man – Part One

We have chosen Jim Beckwourth’s history as our first Mountain Man to share with our readers. By far he is one of the most venturesome and daring of the many that recorded history has left us. We have acquired most of  our information from the James Pierson Beckwourth biography site.

Snow covered cabin in Canada.

 

James Pierson Beckwourth was born in 1798 in Frederick County Virginia. His mother was an African American slave and his father an Englishman, Sir Jennings Beckwith.  His father raised him as his own son, but he was still legally considered a slave, although attempts were made to emancipate him. There is no explanation why the difference in the spelling of the last name, which often happened over time.

Early on, the family moved to Missouri and Jim was apprenticed to a blacksmith in St. Louis as a young man. When Beckwourth was about twenty-four and unhappy as an apprentice there was a dispute with his boss and Jim left home. It was 1822 and he went on an expedition to the lead mines in the Fever River area. His travels took him to New Orleans, but this brief adventure soon ended and he returned home to his fathers. It wasn’t long before he was struck with wanderlust again and in 1824 he signed up with General William Ashley for a trapping expedition to the Rocky Mountains. adobestock_47197649_wm

Thus, began Jim Beckwourth’s explorations and a major role in American history, although he was dismissed by many historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many were very blatant about their prejudices of this “mongrel of mixed blood”. Even though there were numerous people of many races and nationalities on the frontier, Beckwourth was the only African American who recorded his life story. His adventurous nature took him from the everglades of Florida to the Pacific Ocean and then from southern Canada to northern Mexico. All of this he dictated in his autobiography to Thomas D. Bonner, an itinerant Justice of the Peace in the gold fields of California. It was 1854-55 when Beckwourth dictated his story. Once Bonner had “polished up” a rough narrative the book, The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians was published by Harper and Brothers in 1856.

It would appear that the book achieved some amount of popular success as it was followed by an English edition in the same year, a second printing two years later, and then in 1860 a French translation was introduced.  The following quotes give us an idea of how historians look back on this Mountain Man:

Stich, Abbildung, engraving, gravure : 1863.

 

“ But Beckwourth was a man of his times, and for the early fur trappers of the Rockies, the ability to ‘spin a good yarn’ was a skill valued almost as highly as marksmanship or woodsmanship. And while Beckwourth certainly had a tendency to exaggerate numbers or to occasionally make himself the hero of events that happened to other people, later historians have discovered that much of what Beckwourth related in his autobiography actually occurred. Truth is often something much bigger than merely the accuracy of details. And to discover the truth of what life was like for the fur trappers of the 1820’s, the Crow Indians of the 1830’s, the pioneers of the Southwest in the 1840’s, or the gold miners of California in the 1850’s, you can find no better source than the life of Jim Beckwourth”.

 Found in the Notes of the site was this rather funny story we think you will enjoy:

The Gaudy Liar:

An often-told story has it that when the book appeared, a group of miners who were well-acquainted with Beckwourth commissioned one of its members to pick up a copy while on a trip to San Francisco. But the man, being careless, got a copy of the Bible instead. In the evening, he was requested to read aloud from the long-awaited book, and opening it at random, he hit upon and read the story of Samson and the foxes. “That’ll do!” one of the men cried. “I’d know that story for one of Jim’s lies anywhere!”

We will continue the story of Jim Beckwourth in Part Two telling of his adventures once he went on the trapping expedition in the Rocky Mountains with General William Ashley and his company of trappers.

 

 

 

 

Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

Copyright® Universal Survival Innovations 2016

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Bring Back The Mountain Man – What was the typical Mountain Man like?

Bring Back The Mountain Man

What was a typical Mountain Man like? Today’s men or women probably wouldn’t be able to live a “true” mountain man’s existence, although there are some modern men who have chosen a similar type of life as the historical Mountain Man. They are known to roam in the mountains of the west or in the swamps of the southern United States. This is hard to fathom with the lifestyle of most of us!

But what exactly would an 1800’s Mountain Man look and be like. We can only go on what few records and pictures were preserved over the years, but there is enough information remaining that we know the life of a mountain man was rugged. It is said that they didn’t usually last more than several years in the wilderness. Either they gave up and returned to a more settled life or some tragedy occurred to stop their angel of death.adventurous ways. They faced many hazards, as can be imagined. They were exploring unmapped areas. It is hard to imagine that kind of life with today’s conveniences!

There were the biting insects, many and varied wildlife and often not so friendly Indian tribes. There was bad weather, diseases of all kinds, injuries, and above all was the threat of the mentioned hostile tribes. This presented constant physical dangers. The grizzly bear was one danger to be confronted with and one of the greatest enemies. But the winters could be brutal also, posing a danger. There would be heavy snows and very low temperatures. Our comforts now make it hard to imagine what it could be like. Even though they were hardy and knew how to handle most situations it remained a very difficult life as they scouted for hides and searched for their own food.

Snow covered cabin in Canada.

Snow covered cabin in Canada.

In order to maintain such a lifestyle these mountain men had to have keen senses and a knowledge of herbal remedies and the need to know first aid. These were just a few of the skills they had learned over the years that kept them alive. In the summer, it was not quite as difficult since they could catch fish, build shelters and hunt for food and skins. The Mountain Man usually dressed in deer skins which gave them some protection against the weapons of certain enemies. Just imagine, there were no doctors or nurses anywhere near; therefore, they had to set their own broken bones, tend their own wounds and handle any rashes or other medical needs.

Their diet was that of the native tribes in the areas where they were trapping. Coffee was the only exception to this rule. Usually fresh red meat, bison, fowl and fish were available. There were some plant foods, such as fruit and berries which were easy to find and eat. Often times the Mountain Man would trade with the friendly tribes for prepared foods. These foods could be processed roots, dried meat and pemmican.

A buffalo eats grass on the range.

A buffalo eats grass on the range.

Pemmican was a concentrated food used by the North American Indians and consisted of lean meat dried, pounded fine, and mixed with melted fat. Unfortunately, there were times when the weather and crisis forced the Mountain Man to slaughter and eat his horse or mule. Such things are beyond comprehension for many who have not had to “fend for themselves”.

Today, it is hard to really appreciate what a true Mountain Man was like. We find it difficult to imagine the hardship and trials they faced. But also, we know there were those who really liked that type of life and thrived on the adventure. Next, we will discuss some of the known Mountain Men who have left a historical record for us to understand personalities.

 

 

 

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Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

Copyright® Universal Survival Innovations 2016

Disclaimer, Content Usage, Limitation of Liability, and Privacy Policy

 

Bring Back The Mountain Man – History Of The Mountain Man

Bring Back The Mountain Man

History Of The Mountain Man – As the early settlers came to America so evolved the term “Mountain Man”, known as the explorers and trappers of the new settlement. They were most common in the North American Rocky Mountains from the early 1800’s through the 1880’s. Their hunting and travels helped to open various emigrant trails that later widened into wagon roads.  The wagon roads allowed these new Americans in the east to begin settling the west with planned wagon trains. adobestock_60296780_wm

The North American fur trade gave rise to lucrative earnings once the 1806-07 published accounts of the Lewis and Clark expeditions became known. Thus, arose the natural geographic and economic scene of fur trapping and also the Mountain Man became an invaluable asset to the market. It is believed that about 3,000 mountain men ranged the mountains between 1820 and 1840 which was the peak of the beaver-harvesting and other fur bearing animal period. There were two types of mountain men, free trappers and those employed by the major fur companies. Those with the fur companies found themselves to be much like being in the military. These men had mess groups, hunted and trapped in brigades and always reported to the head of the trapping party, the leader of the brigade and the head trader.

Over all, mountain men were ethnically, socially and religiously diverse, independent and obviously adventurous! They fit no stereotype. Even though they adhered to being independent they were really economically an arm of the big fur companies. The companies held annual fairs for the mountain men to sell their wares. These events were called trappers’ rendezvous and were held in the spring for the companies to adobestock_70996356_wmreturn with pelts to communities on Missouri and Mississippi rivers, like St. Louis. This system of rendezvous with trappers was used by various fur companies.

By the mid-1830’s such sites as the Upper Green River Rendezvous Site, near what is now present-day Pinedale, Wyoming could attract as many as 500 trappers who had been working the area for fur to later sell. They were usually all the American trappers and traders working the Rockies, but there were many Native Americans. Like any good businessman, the mountain man was motivated by profit, trapping for beaver and other skins to sell. But there was the adventurer who was interested in exploring the West and traded solely to support his passion. One might say a mountain man was often part trader, part explorer, part trapper and some settlers. There were some who were farmers or hired army scouts and survived by having good relations with one or more native tribes. Often the mountain man was multilingual out of necessity to remain in the area. It was not unusual for the mountain man to take a Native American wife.

Silhouette of a witch-hunter of arrows. Fantasy concept

There is a romanticized stereotypical mountain man that has come down over the years. He is depicted as being dressed in buckskin and coonskin hat. He has bushy facial hair and carries a Bowie knife, often called a “scalpin’ knife”. They were known as honorable men with their own code of living-loners who would help those in need, but who had found their home in the wild and there, was content.

More about the Mountain Man’s life to come!

 

 

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Overall preparation for what nature can throw at us is not that overwhelming but it does take a little effort. USI has a wealth of information, equipment and training for everyone about all forms of mitigation so visit our web site at www.usiusa.com and if you have a need feel free to call!

USI Understands that Survival isn’t learned from books but real world experience. This is just one area which makes Universal Survival Innovations unique in the world of training and equipment.

Check us out at: Website   Facebook   Twitter   Amazon   LinkedIn   YouTube   Shop

Author Ben Barr is a 30+ year SERE Specialist who has been a curriculum developer for the USAF Survival School, USAF Water Survival School, USAF Air Mobility Command, USMC and USN

Copyright® Universal Survival Innovations 2016

Disclaimer, Content Usage, Limitation of Liability, and Privacy Policy