Southwestern Classics On-Line | Lone Star Junction
Previous Chapter | Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest | Next Chapter


Guide to Life and Literature
of the Southwest


16
Mountain Men

AS USED HERE, the term "Mountain Men" applies to those trappers and traders who went into the Rocky Mountains before emigrants had even sought a pass through them to the west or cattle had beat out a trail on the plains east of them. Beaver fur was the lodestar for the Mountain Men. Their span of activity was brief, their number insignificant. Yet hardly any other distinct class of men, irrespective of number or permanence, has called forth so many excellent books as the Mountain Men. The books are not nearly so numerous as those connected with range life, but when one considers the writings of Stanley Vestal, Sabin, Ruxton, Fergusson, Chittenden, Favour, Garrard, Inman, Irving, Reid, and White in this field, one doubts whether any other form of American life at all has been so well covered in ballad, fiction, biography, history.

See James Hobbs, James O. Pattie, and Reuben Gold Thwaites under "Surge of Life in the West," also "Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Trail."

ALTER, J. CECIL

James Bridger, Salt Lake City, 1925. A hogshead of life. Bibliography. OP. Republished by Long's College Book Co., Columbus, Ohio.

BONNER, T. D.

The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, 1856; reprinted in 1931, with an illuminating introduction by Bernard DeVoto. OP. Beckwourth was the champion of all western liars.

BREWERTON, G. D.

Overland with Kit Carson, New York, 1930. Good narrative. OP.

CHITTENDEN, H. M.

The American Fur Trade of the Far West, New York, 1902. OP. Basic work. Bibliography.

CLELAND, ROBERT GLASS

This Reckless Breed of Men: The Trappers and Fur Traders of the Southwest, Knopf, New York, 1950. Fresh emphasis on the California-Arizona-New Mexico region by a knowing scholar. Economical in style without loss of either humanity or history. Bibliography.

CONRAD, HOWARD L.

Uncle Dick Wootton, 1890. Primary source. OP.

COYNER, D. H.

The Lost Trappers, 1847.

DAVIDSON, L. J., and BOSTWICK, P.

The Literature of the Rocky Mountain West 1803-1903, Caxton, Caldwell, Idaho, 1939. Davidson and Forrester Blake, editors. Rocky Mountain Tales, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1947.

DEVOTO, BERNARD

Across the Wide Missouri, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1947. Superbly illustrated by reproductions of Alfred Jacob Miller. DeVoto has amplitude and is a master of his subject as well as of the craft of writing.

FAVOUR, ALPHEUS H.

Old Bill Williams, Mountain Man, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1936. Flavor and facts both. Full bibliography.

FERGUSSON, HARVEY

Rio Grande, 1933, republished by Tudor, New York. The drama and evolution of human life in New Mexico, written out of knowledge and with power. Wolf Song, New York, 1927. OP. Graphic historical novel of Mountain Men. It sings with life.

GARRARD, LEWIS H.

Wah-toyah and the Taos Trail, 1850. One of the basic works.

GRANT, BLANCHE C.

When Old Trails Were New -- The Story of Taos, New York, 1934. OP. Taos was rendezvous town for the free trappers.

GUTHRIE, A. B., JR.

The Big Sky, Sloane, New York, 1947 (now published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston). "An unusually original novel, superb as historical fiction." -- Bernard DeVoto. I still prefer Harvey Fergusson's Wolf Song.

HAMILTON, W. T.

My Sixty Years on the Plains, New York, 1905. Now published by Long's College Book Co., Columbus, Ohio.

INMAN, HENRY

The Old Santa Fe Trail, 1897.

IRVING, WASHINGTON

The Adventures of Captain Bonneville and Astoria. The latter book was founded on Robert Stuart's Narratives. In 1935 these were prepared for the press, with much illuminative material, by Philip Ashton Rollins and issued under the title of The Discovery of the Oregon Trail.

LARPENTEUR, CHARLES

Forty Years a Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri, edited by Elliott Coues, New York, 1898. As Milo Milton Quaife shows in an edition of the narrative issued by the Lakeside Press, Chicago, 1933, the indefatigable Coues just about rewrote the old fur trader's narrative. It is immediate and vigorous.

LAUT, A. C.

The Story of the Trapper, New York, 1902. A popular survey, emphasizing types and characters.

LEONARD, ZENAS

Narrative of the Adventures of Zenas Leonard, Clearfield, Pa., 1839. In 1833 the Leonard trappers reached San Francisco Bay, boarded a Boston ship anchored near shore, and for the first time in two years varied their meat diet by eating bread and drinking "Coneac." One of the trappers had a gun named Knock-him-stiff. Such earthy details abound in this narrative of adventures in a brand new world.

LOCKWOOD, FRANK C.

Arizona Characters, Los Angeles, 1928. Very readable biographic sketches. OP.

MILLER, ALFRED JACOB

The West of Alfred Jacob Miller, with an account of the artist by Marvin C. Ross, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1950. Although Miller painted the West during 1837-38, only now is he being discovered by the public. This is mainly a picture book, in the top rank.

PATTIE, JAMES OHIO

The Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie of Kentucky, Cincinnati, 1831. Pattie and his small party went west in 1824. For grizzlies, thirst, and other features of primitive adventure the narrative is primary.

REID, MAYNE

The Scalp Hunters. An antiquated novel, but it has some deep-dyed pictures of Mountain Men.

ROSS, ALEXANDER

Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River (1849) and The Fur Hunters of the Far West (1855). The trappers of the Southwest can no more be divorced from the trappers of the Hudson's Bay Company than can Texas cowboys from those of Montana.

RUSSELL, OSBORNE

Journal of a Trapper, Boise, Idaho, 1921. In the winter of 1839, at Fort Hall on Snake River, Russell and three other trappers "had some few books to read, such as Byron, Shakespeare and Scott's works, the Bible and Clark's Commentary on it, and some small works on geology, chemistry and philosophy." Russell was wont to speculate on Life and Nature. In perspective he approaches Ruxton.

RUXTON, GEORGE F.

Life in the Far West, 1848; reprinted by the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1951, edited by LeRoy R. Hafen. No other contemporary of the Mountain Men has been so much quoted as Ruxton. He remains supremely readable.

SABIN, EDWIN L.

Kit Carson Days, 1914. A work long standard, rich on rendezvous, bears, and many other associated subjects. Bibliography. Republished in rewritten form, 1935. OP.

VESTAL, STANLEY

(pseudonym for Walter S. Campbell). Kit Carson, 1928. As a clean-running biographic narrative, it is not likely to be superseded. Mountain Men, 1937, OP; The Old Santa Fe Trail, 1939. Vestal's "Fandango," a tale of the Mountain Men in Taos, is among the most spirited ballads America has produced. It and a few other Mountain Men ballads are contained in the slight collection, Fandango, 1927. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, published the aforementioned titles. James Bridger, Mountain Man, Morrow, New York, 1946, is smoother than J. Cecil Alter's biography but not so savory. Joe Meek, the Merry Mountain Man, Caxton, Caldwell, Idaho, 1952.

WHITE, STEWART EDWARD

The Long Rifle, 1932, and Ranchero, 1933, Doubleday, Doran, Garden City, N. Y. Historical fiction.




Previous Chapter | Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest | Next Chapter
Southwest Classics On-Line | Lone Star Junction



Online Edition Copyright © 1997 Lone Star Junction. All rights reserved.