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Signed and titled

The fur trade was an important part of the exploration east of the Mississippi, but by 1810 it became the domain of the mountain man as the country moved West. Mountain men numbered approximately 3000 between the early 1800’s through their peak in the 1840’s, and while many were free trappers, the majority worked for the preeminent fur companies of the day. They were company men, living a life that was almost military in nature. They trapped and hunted in brigades, ate in mess groups, and reported to a “boosway”, or leader of their respective trapping party.

Trails were cut and opened up by these mountain men for mule train- based inland fur trade, and many of these routes were later widened into wagon roads which enabled Americans to travel from the east to settle the new territories of the west by wagon trains.

International treaties in 1846 and 1848 spurred a large upsurge in migration with the official settlement of new western coastal territories in the United States, while at the same time overlapping in the fur industry made it less possible for mountain men to make a good living. The lure of cheap land in the west spurned a wave of emigrants westward which persisted into the late 1880s. As the beaver-based fur trade and silk trade shrank, many mountain men became wagon train guides, Army Scouts and settlers, canvasing the same lands they had been instrumental in opening up.

Gloria Gray, Riverside, CA
Private Collection, AZ

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