PETER SKENE OGDEN'S JOURNAL OF HIS
EXPEDITION TO UTAH, 1825
EDITED By DAVID E. MILLER(1)
PETER SKENE OGDEN was one of the most widely traveled trapper - explorers to enter the Far West in the first half of the nineteenth century. During the six-year period from 1824-1830, he headed five Snake Country brigades on extensive expeditions into the territory that now comprises the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah Idaho anf Montana. It is probably accurate to say that no other man led larger expeditions farther over more unexplored territory or brought in more furs than he did during these active years. He may well have out- traveled Jedediah Smith.
Although a Canadian by birth, Peter Skene Ogden was a descendant of early
American ancestors. At the time of the American Revolution the Ogden family was divided
in its loyalty, part supporting the American struggle for independence, part remaining loyal
to Great Britain. At the end of the war British loyalists of the family moved to Canada
where Peter was born at Quebec in 1794. Although it was the desire of his family that he
follow the profession of law, as his father and grandfather had done, Peter chose a more
adventurous life. At the age of seventeen he joined the Northwest Company, a British
concern, and remained in its employ until 1821 when that company was merged with
Hudson's Bay's Bay Company. While employed by the Northwest Company Ogden rose
rapidly, being advanced to "partnership" after only nine years service. During that time he
proved his ability as a leader in the rough competition between his firm and the Hudson's
Bay Company. Evidently because of his energetic hostility to the rival company, Ogden
found himself without a job at the time of the merger and would likely not have been
employed by Hudson's Bay Company had not George Simpson, newly appointed governor
of the northern district, interceded in his behalf.(2)
By 1824 Hudson's Bay Company experience in the Snake River Country had proved almost totally unsatisfactory -- expensive and dangerous with heavy loss of life. So unpopular had the region become that no volunteer could be found to take over the difficult assignment of leadership of the expeditions. Yet Governor Simpson thought the country could be made profitable under proper management. He was sure that the "empty headed"(3) Alexander Ross who had led the previous Snake expedition was not the one for the job. But there was one man who had proved his ability and Simpson knew "no one in the country better qualified to do it justice than Mr. Ogden."(4) So Peter Skene Ogden, age 30, "short, dark, and exceedingly tough,"(5)
was given his command, which he accepted with "the utmost readiness."
In order to begin to understand the nature of Ogden's Snake River expedition that brought him into Utah in the spring of 1825, one must realize how large a party it actually was. Ogden lists the names of his men at the beginning of his journal,(6) indicating how many guns, horses, and traps each had. His compilation shows 58 men, 61 guns, 268 horses, and 352 traps. He does not list himself. Kittson, while not listing the men, adds other details of interest. Says he: "The party is now together consisting of 22 lodges which contain besides Mr. Ogden and myself, Charles McKay an interpreter of the Piegan Language 10 Engages 53 fremen and lads, 30 Women and 35 Children, all well furnished in arms ammunition Horses and Traps, able in all appearances to face any War party brought into the plains."(7)
This party of 131 people was supplemented from time to time by the addition of others(8)
and by births-at least three babies were born during the first weeks of the expedition, during the severest cold winter.
To supply food for such a formidable group was a major task, especially since Simpson's policy was for expeditions to live "off the land" rather than rely on European goods. Hence the constant interest in elk, deer, buffalo, and other game as well as beaver. The latter animal was a major item on the menu; if trapping was good the expedition was well fed even though no other game could be found. If both sources of supply failed, horses must be slaughtered for food, a practice resorted to only in the face of starvation. To find forage for the large herd of horses was also a major task. One of Ogden's chief responsibilities, then, was to steer a course that would produce the necessities of life.
It is interesting to note that at least 30 of the men took their wives(9) and families along and although the women and children sometimes caused friction and delay, the women. at least, were an important part of the expedition. They had such duties as preparing the camp, skinning the catch, and preparing the pelts. Journal references to the women are very few; they are mentioned only when some special circumstances warrant it - the birth of a child, sickness that would delay the advance, etc. Whether or not Ogden's Indian wife accompanied him is not known. His journal is entirely silent on the subject.
It is obvious from the above list that freemen and their families made up the bulk of
the personnel. George Simpson describes the freemen as a "worthless and motley crew
. . . the very scum of the country and generally outcasts from the Service for misconduct
are the most unruly and troublesome gang to deal wit in this or perhaps any other part of
the World, are under no control & feel their own independence they therefore require very
superior management to make any thing of them . . . ."(10) Ogden had numerous occasions
to verify Simpson's judgment. It was one of his major tasks to keep the camp in order and
moving harmoniously forward.
Both Ogden and William Kittson (Ogden's "right hand man" of the 1824-25 expedition) kept detailed daily journals of their movements, and Kittson drafted a remarkably accurate map showing the route and camp sites, principal streams and mountains. Until the publication of these journals practically all that was known of Ogden's activities during that season was obtained from his two letters to company officials, The first of these was written from "East Fork Missouri" (probably in the Horse Prairie - Beaverhead region of western Montana), July 10, 1825.(11) This letter contains considerable detail concerning Ogden's contact with and desertion of many of his men to American trappers during that expedition. The second letter was written July 1, 1826, and contains very little definite information about his 1825 visit to Utah,(12) Ogden's reference to Great Salt Lake being the major item of significance in it. Lack of definite and complete information about Ogden's activities has resulted in the accumulation of much inaccurate information (as well as a great deal of historical fact) to form what may logically be called the "Ogden Tradition." With the publication of the 1824-25 journals, however, most of the mystery is removed ind Ogden's activities during his first expedition are clarified.
One of the most significant facts to remember about these journals is that they compose the earliest contemporary written account of an expedition into northern Utah yet to come to light. Herein are the earliest descriptions of the region - flora, fauna, weather conditions, geography, Indians - as well as the day-by-day record of a large fur brigade. In view of these facts it is difficult to overestimate the value of these documents.
The extent of Ogden's penetration into Utah was the subject of a field trip conducted during November, 1951, by Dr. C. G. Crampton, Jesse H. Jameson, and the writer.(13)
During this field trip, Ogden's route from Alexander, Idaho, where he first struck Bear
River, to Mountain Green, Utah (the southern-most point of his penetration), was carefully
followed, camp sites located, and the area mapped to show the relationship of Ogden's
route to present rivers, mountains, and cities.
Since only that part of the Ogden journal that describes his movements along Bear
River, into Utah, and back out again is to be reproduced here, a brief summary of his four -
month trek before lie reached Bear River will be of interest.
After leaving Flathead Post, located north and west of Missoula, Montana,
December 20, 1824, Ogden trapped up the Bitterroot River, through Gibbon Pass (January
13, 1825) to Big Hole River, continuing in the same general direction to the present
Armstead region (January 30). Early in February the brigade crossed the continental
divide via Lemhi Pass and spent almost two months trapping tributaries of Salmon River,
primarily the Lemhi River. From this region Ogden directed his course toward the south
in an effort to reach Snake River. Passing by the "three buttes" he struck Snake River,
April 6, near the present site of Blackfoot, Idaho. After trapping up Blackfoot River some
distance, Ogden turned south to the upper waters of Portneuf River (April 20-25), probably
in the north-west corner of Caribou County. He was striking as rapidly as possible for Bear
April 26-June 1, 1825
Tuesday 26th.-Raise Camp & proceeded over a fine plain for 15 miles when we
reached Bear River(15) a Fine large Stream of Water about the 1/8 of a mile in width this
River was discovered in 1819 by Michel Bourdon(16) & the upper part has been trapped twice
but the lower part never has been(17) it takes its rise due east & was supposed to be the Rio
Colorado & even now Said to be a Fork of the same as our route is to follow it we shall be
enabled to ascertain this point(18) some traps were set but no appearance of Beaver here
our Course this day South east - vegetation is far advanced here.(19)
Wednesday 27th.-The traps produced but one beaver we crossed the river with our
horses the waters appear very low we had for three miles a road of rocks & Stones when
we came on a fine level plain & proceeded eighteen miles & again Crossed the River &
found the men who I had Sent to the Sources of Black Foot River their Success not great
it appears that quarter had been trapped by the Americans last Year we also found Some
of the Trappers who had Started from our Camp on the 23rd Inst. they report in the most
favourable terms of the River so far as they had been & from what I can See it looks well
& I trust will repay us for our trouble in discovering it many traps in the water & the success
of both parties amount to 134 Beavers & this Completes our first thousand indeed we only
wanted 6 to complete it so we have a Commencement for our Second, our Course this day
Thursday 28th.-There being fine feeding for our Horses about a mile in advance we
raised Camp & here I purpose to remain two days not only on account of our Horses &
trapping but also in expectation of Seven men who remained behind will overtake us here
if not I shall feel anxious for their Safety for it is I verily believe almost impossible to avoid
the War tribes. We have upwards of 100 traps in the water this day with most Sanguine
hopes of Success. 20 Beavers this day.
Friday 29th-We did not raise Camp so as to secure all we can & recruit our Horses
we had heavy thunder & rain part of the day our Success in beaver has not been great
many of the Traps having snapped & again 2 Traps lost. 16 Beavers Tracks of Black Feet
seen also two Strange Dogs.
Saturday 30th.-We took our route down the Stream, we had an indifferent road &
were obliged to leave the River owing to the high rocks but by Crossing a Small mountain
we shall again fall on it tomorrow we encamped on the banks of a Small River a most
dangerous Spot for Should we happen'd to be attacked here we would Stand a poor
chance of escaping but there was no alternative our Horses were too much fatigued to
proceed. The non-arrival of the seven men causes many dreary in the Camp & nearly all
agree that they are no more I really apprehend Some Serious accident has happened them
they were to have been with us three days past-we must Still hope all is well. 76 Beaver
which closes the month of April. Course S. Dis. 10 miles
Sunday 1st May-We raised Camp early all safe so far well we had not proceeded
more than three miles when we were obliged to encamp the rain falling in torrents until the
evening we have however a far Superior encampment than last night, Elk & Buffalo are
most numerous in this quarter & the farther we proceed we Find the leaves already large.
Flowers in blossom & every appearance of Summer, 40 Beavers this day.
Monday 2nd-Early this day we Started our route was over a hilly Country & our
progress very Slow for it was late ere we reached the river it certainly makes a great bend
here for had the rocks permitted our following it we should have been two days in Coming
round we Crossed over the River & encamped. Dis. 10 miles. Course South & South west.
Our hunt this day amounts to 74 Beavers & a Pelican also taken in the traps it was rather
a Strange Sight to us all to see one of the latter in these remote quarters for in fact with the
exception of a few Bustards, we have so far not seen Birds or Fowls of any kind Save &
except Ravens & crows in abundance & as for insects we have no Cause to Complain,
Fleas Wood lice Spiders & crickets by millions.
Tuesday 3rd-As we were on the eve of Starting two of the Freemen who had been
absent last night arrived & informed us they had Seen a war Party of Black Feet who called
to them to Stop & Smoke a pipe a polite way of taking their Scalps but the former in lieu
of advancing retreated & hid themselves for the night, they were on a Small River about
ten Miles from this, as they left their traps obliged us to proceed there which we reached
early our course this day East over a fine level plain covered with Buffalo & many were
killed I now almost begin to despair of seeing the seven men who have been so long
absent indeed from the number of villians who are on all Sides of us their chance of
escaping is not great 13 Beavers only we may thank the Black Feet if our Traps were not
in the Water & our not having taken more Beaver.
Wednesday 4th-Last evening about Sun Set 7 Indians came in Sight on the
opposite Side of the River they were hailed in the Snake Language but made no answer
they appeared very doubtful of us & we so equally in regard to them, two of our party
however Crossed over & joined them they then all Came to the Camp being plain Snakes
their Camp at a Short distance from this only 4 Leagues they inform us that Pe-i-em with
all the Snakes are now absent on a trading excursion for Shells with another nation Some
distance from this & are expected back this month they also inform us that a party of 25
Americans wintered near this & are gone in the same direction we had intended going if
this be true which I have no reason to doubt it will be a fatal blow to our expectations & the
non arrival of our Seven men will Complete it these Indians had 4 Guns (Barnets) & altho'
one had 1802 marked on the lock & another 1817 Still they were in good order & appeared
as if they were taken out of the Store only a few days Since nor were they wanting in
ammunition having procured it from the Americans. What a Sudden change in the
Weather for the Violence of the Snow Storm has prevented us from raising Camp
yesterday the heat was great & today the Cold is Severe we had only 7 Beaver this day.
Thursday 5th.-Weather cloudy & altho it appears we shall have rain Still we raised
Camp as this Small river have been Well trapped by the Americans this Spring we shall
now return to Bear River our Course this day was west over a fine Plain Covered with
Buffaloes & thousands of Small Gulls the latter was a Strange Sight to us I presume some
large body of Water near at hand at present unknown to us all, we had not been long
encamped when to the joy & surprise of many our party of Seven men who had been
absent 11 days made their appearance all Safe their long detentions was owing to their
having been 6 days in Search of us & almost dispaired of ever seeing Us again they set
their traps but four nights & took 170 Beavers in Portneufs River on our way here we
trapp'd a Small Fork of that River & on our return we shall finish what they have
Commenced they report well of it so far well all safe we have Still two men absent but we
receive daily tidings of them our Success this day including the above 189 Beaver we are
Coming on slowly in collecting Beaver.* The remaining two absent men arrived but have
left their furs en cache 41 Beavers this day.
Friday 6th.-We remained in Camp to give our Traps a Chance* -look above - we had
rain the greatest part of this day.
Saturday 7th.-Rain all night the weather Still unsettled Still we raised Camp but did
not proceed more than 5 miles when the rain again obliged us to encamp Course N. E. 4'
South I - three traps lost last night by the Chains. 31 Beavers.
Sunday 8th.-Rain all night, the weather fine this day we raised Camp early our
Course South over a level plain for 9 miles when we reached a Small creek & encamped
shortly after the Snake Camp Consisting of 4 lodges joined & for their own Safety intend
following us we found one of our horses that was Stolen from our party last year which they
returned, one of the freemen purchased a horse from them which Cost him nearly 60 Skins
in goods these poor Snakes understand trade the Freemen have been too long with them
not to have profited by their instruction, but few traps in the Water the Americans have
taken nearly all the Beaver they are a Selfish Set they leave nothing for their Friends we
act differently. 22 Beavers this day.
Monday 9th,-We raised Camp early the Snakes in Company our Course this day
South, the main river here takes a great bend to the West we reached the large Fork
Commonly Called Bear River tho' large in Size is not to be compared to the other the
Americans must have taken a number of Beaver here as there are Still many left but no
doubt very wild nearly all the Traps in the Camp were set. 9 Beaver this day & the two
men who left their furs en Cache brought them in amounting to 10 so this day forms a total
of 119 Beavers. Dis. 11 miles.
Tuesday 10th,-Rain greater part of the night but fair this morning from all the traps
being Set induced me not to raise Camp but our Success has not been great only 25
Wednesday 11th,-Heavy rain during the night but again fair this morning we raised
Camp our Course S. E. we left the main branch of Bears River & ascended the largest of
three forks which from the appearances take their rise from nearly the same quarter, the
trappers inform me that they have Some hopes of finding a few Beaver if not I shall Soon
change my Course. Dis. 6 miles. Buffalo scarce but grizzily Bears in abundance one of
the men had a narrow escape three of them were killed. 70 Beavers this is a Convincing
proof that there are Some remaining, it would appear the Americans trapped only the lower
part of these Forks from the quantity of Snow at the time it was impossible for them to
proceed to their sources & if we are so fortunate as to find Beaver it will be So much in our
Thursday 12th.-It froze hard last night, fine & warm during the day all the Trappers
off I sent two men to the Sources of the middle Fork to See if the Country is worthy of our
attention, we did not move this day so as to give the Traps every chance & at the same
time not waste Beaver indeed they are by far too Scarce, altho' from the different
[accounts] we have received of the Snake Country I was as well as many others almost led
to believe they were very numerous; but I am now of a Contrary opinion, indeed there is
nothing like Seeing then a man Can believe, 52 Beavers I had expected more from the
accounts the Freemen gave me but they Complain that the Beaver are very shy.
Friday 13th,-Raised Camp & took the middle Fork in ascending as nearly all the
Traps are a head of us we had fine plains Covered with Buffalo we proceeded near a lofty
range of Mountains & encamped if we Can judge from appearances it Cannot be far distant
from the three Forks that discharge into Bear River take their rise our Course this day
South west. Dis. 11 miles some of the Trappers have Crossed the Mountains & many
others intend following their example tomorrow as not one of the Trappers have ever been
beyond these mountains I shall be anxious to hear of their Success for if they find nothing
shall be at a loss what Course to Steer. 79 Beaver today which Completes our Second
thousand & leaves us two Beaver to Commence our third with our party of last year did not
Complete their first thousand before the 16th from thus so far we ought not nor should we
Saturday 14th.-We did not raise Camp as three of the Trappers are in the rear. 15
men Started this morning with their Traps in quest of Beaver we are to meet again in four
days as they are gone a head a head of us we Cannot expect great many beaver untill we
overtake them I only hope they may meet with Success, the Country is not sufficiently rich
in Beaver for So large a party together, but for Safety we require all however we Shall soon
be obliged to divide if we don't find more beaver than we have So far. 31 Beavers this day.
Sunday 15th.-We raised Camp for about 4 miles merely on account of grass for our
Horses as I must wait for the men in the rear. Our route this day was hilly & I should
Suppose we are not far distant from the height of land as we are Surrounded on all sides
by lofty mountains well Covered with Snow. Course North 2' & S. E. 2 Miles. 16 Beavers.
The Snakes lost four fine fat Horses Since yesterday it is Supposed they have eat Some
poisonous weed one of the Company's also died this day I think we shall be fortunate if the
remainder escape. We have none to spare.
Monday 16th.-We raised Camp to Come up with our trappers & commenced
ascending a high mountain & reached the sources of Bear River Forks when we began to
descend which was far greater than the ascent, the road rocky & Soil gravel which
Surprised me, as we found on descending the mountain Covered with white Oak & maple
trees rather a Strange Sight as we have Seen no Wood of any kind except Willows for
these two months past, after travelling eight miles we reached a fine valley Covered with
Small Streams which appear to discharge themselves in to a river flowing from the
N.W.-this Country looks well & by all accounts promises equally So, it does not appear the
Americans have Come this Way, so much in our favour, the three Trappers who were in
the rear overtook us as we encamped & brought 27 Beaver, we advanced two miles in the
plains & encamped but without grass, Course South our Success this day including the
above, 52 Beavers many of the Trappers who are near us did not come in.
Tuesday 17th.-For want of grass I was obliged to raise Camp this day & proceeded
in a South east direction 6 miles and finding grass we encamped in our route this day we
Crossed over three Forks that looked rich in Beaver all the Trappers Came in & our
Success this day amounts to 244 Beavers and as they have only Set their traps three
nights their Success has been great, but we have to regret the loss of 7 Traps owing to the
Chains the Iron I grant is bad but the workmanship is equally So one Horse belonging to
the Freemen died this day he was not more than three hours ill his body was opened but
we were not sufficiently knowing to discover the cause of his illness, I only trust the
remainder may escape.
Wednesday 18th,-As all the Traps in Camp were Set last night we did not raise
Camp & our expectations as usual most Sanguine, but the Water Constantly rising at night
& falling in the day is not in our favour we had however nearly 100 Traps snapp'd to take
109 Beaver one nights Setting, three of the Trappers did not Come in it is to be regretted
that this Spot is not ten times as large I presume the Americans intended returning this way
but they will be as we were on Bear River taken in they ought to keep at home not infringe
on their neighbours territories - one trap again lost by chain.
Thursday 19th.-Rain last night. Warm this day our Success of yesterday induced me
to remain another night here in hopes of success but the Beaver are already very shy the
weather is now becoming very warm Still the Beaver are in their Prime, 68 taken this day.
Friday 20th.-We raised Camp merely on account of night guard for our Horses we
came two miles S. E. and encamped many of the trappers off on discovery but we shall
give this place two nights more trapping ere we leave it & certainly we have no cause to
regret the time we have Spent here. 67 this day. Three Traps again lost.
Saturday 21st.-Remd. in Camp, & our Success this day amounts to 23 from this it
must appear this River & Forks which I have named New River as no whites have ever
been here before is now nearly exhausted of its riches & for So Small a Space it not being
more than 6 miles in length & 3 in breadth has certainly well repaid us for the time we have
spent. I only wish we could find a dozen Spots equal to it.
Sunday 22nd.-As we were on the eve of Starting this Morning one of our Trappers
arrived in Company with two of our Freemen who deserted from the Flat Head Post 1822
they belong to a party of 30 men who were fitted out by the Spainards & Traders on the
Missouri & have Spent the winter in this quarter & have met with little Success of the 14
who deserted 6 are dead & the remainder with the Spaniards, at St. Louis & Missouri from
the information obtained from them we are now 15 days march from the Spainish Village,
the whole Country overrun with Americans & Canadians all in the pursuit of the Same
object of this we had Convincing proofs this Spring on Bears River & now here for this
party know nothing of the others, it appears we are now on the Utas Lands who they
represent as being most friendly to the Whites, they have about 20 with them, the
Americans had a battle last fall with the Snakes & of the former & one of our deserters
Patrick O'Connor were killed & only one Snake fell - there is no water Communication
between this & the Spainish River which is now about three days march from this very
mountain, this I can credit for as far as the eye can reach we appear to be Surrounded on
all Sides by very high ones Still well Covered with Snow, From two of our trappers who
Came in inform me they had Seen a large lake equal in Size Winipeg & that Bear River &
New River discharge their Waters in the Lake so the point is now ascertained that Bear
River has nothing to do with the Spanish River from what they Could observe the Lake
runs due west, if so & as the Natives inform there is a large river at the west end this must
be the Umqua Seen by Mr. Thomas McKay agrees so far with the natives of that quarter
of their being a very large Lake in the Vicinity of their Lands & that there was no beaver this
So far as it has been examined I am inclined to believe is the Case. Our Course this day
South over a hilly Country for ten miles when we again reached New River but here
nothing but Stones & gravel without any appearances of beaver but from the non arrival
of 20 men I am in hopes they have met with success two of the 20 men Came but found
nothing, 27 Beavers.
Monday 23rd.-Remd. in Camp in expectation of the arrival of our absent party, early
in the day a party of 15 men Canadians & Spainards headed by one Provost & Francois
one of our deserters, arrived, and also in the afternoon arrived in Company with 14 of our
absent men a party of 25 Americans with Colours flying the later party headed by one
Gardner they encamped within 100 yards of our encampment & lost no time in informing
all hands in Camp that they were in the United States Territories & were all free indebted
or engaged & to add to this they would pay Cash for their Beaver 3 1/2 dollars p. lb., & their
goods cheap in proportion our Freemen in lieu of Seeking Beaver have been with the
Americans no doubt plotting.
Tuesday 24th.-This morning Gardner came to my Tent after a few words of no
import, he questioned me as follows Do you know in whose Country you are? to which I
made answer that I did not as it was not determined between Great Britain America to
whom it belonged, to which he made answer that it was that it had been ceded to the latter
& as I had no license to trap or trade to return from whence I came to this I made answer
when we receive orders from the British Government we Shall obey, then he replied remain
at your peril, he then departed & seeing him go into John Grey an American & half Iroquois
Tent one of my Freemen I followed him, on entering this Villain Grey said I must now tell
you that all the Iroquois as well as myself have long wished for an opportunity to join the
Americans & if we did not Sooner it was owing to our bad luck in not meeting with them,
but now we go & all you Can Say Cannot prevent us, Gardner was Silent having only made
one remark as follows, you have had these men already too long in your Service & have
most Shamefully imposed on them selling them goods at high prices & giving them nothing
for their Skins on which he retired, Grey then said that is true and alluding to the gentlemen
he had been with in the Columbia they are Says he the greatest Villains in the World & if
they were here this day I would Shoot them but as for you Sir you have dealt fair with me
& with us all, but go we will we are now in a free Country & have Friends here to Support
us & if every man in the Camp does not leave you they do not Seek their own interest, he
then gave orders to his Partners to raise Camp & immediately all the Iroquois were in
motion, & made ready to Start this example was Soon followed by others at this time the
Americans headed by Gardner & accompanied by two of our Iroquois who had been with
them the last two years advanced to Support & assist all who were inclined to desert,
Lazard an Iroquois now Called out we are Superior in numbers to them let us fire & pillage
them on Saying this he advanced with his Gun Cocked & pointed at me but finding I was
determined not to allow him or others to pillage us of our Horses as they had already taken
two say Old Pierres which had been lent him, they desisted & we Secured the ten Horses
but not without enduring the most opprobious terms they could think of from both
Americans & Iroquois all this time with the exception of Messrs. Kittson & McKay & two of
the engaged men & the latter not before they were Called Came to our assistance thus we
were overpowered by numbers these Villains 11 in number with Duford, Perrault and
Kanota escaped with their Furs in fact some of them had conveyed theirs in the night to
the American Camp. A Carson & Annance paid their debts & followed the example of the
others, I cannot but Consider it a fortunate Circumstance I did not fire for had I I have not
the least doubt all was gone, property & furs indeed this was their plan that I should fire
assuredly they did all they Could to make me but I was fully aware of their plan & by that
means Saved what remains - they Started & encamped about half a mile from us. From
the above affair I am now Convinced the 6 absent men they have Secured & it would be
folly in me to delay my departure for their arrival, indeed I fear many of the Freemen will
yet leave us.
Wednesday 25th.-Late last evening I was informed the Iroquois & Americans
intended to attack & pillage the Camp on hearing this I conversed with Some of the
Freemen & engaged men to know if they would assist in defending the Company's property
in Case of attack and they said they would we made all necessary preparations in Case
of attack & kept Strict guard during the Night, at day light I gave the Call to raise Camp,
scarcely had we begun loading our Horses, when the Americans & three of our Iroquois
Came to our Camp but finding us prepared kept quiet Soon after Mr. Montour, Clement &
Prudhomme came forward & told me they intended joining the Americans that they were
free & not indebted I endeavored to reason with Mr. Montour but all in vain, the reasons
he gave for his villany were the Company turned me out of doors they have £260 of my
money in their hands which they intend to defraud me of as they have refused to give me
interest for but they may keep it now for my debt & Prudhoms. which we have Contracted
in the Columbia as for Clement he has a Balce. in the Compys. Book; go we will where we
shall be paid for our Furs & not be imposed & cheated as we are in the Columbia - they
were immediately Surrounded by the Americans who assisted them in loading & like all
Villains appeared to exult in their Villany we then Started but on my mounting my Horse
Gardner Came forward & Said you will See us shortly not only in the Columbia but at the
Flat Heads & Cootanies we are determined you Shall no longer remain in our Territory.
to this I made answer when we Should receive orders from our Government to leave the
Columbia we would but Not before to this he replied our Troops will make you this Fall we
then parted & proceeded to our encampment of the 19th Inst. and encamped. Here I am
now with only 20 Trappers Surrounded on all Sides by enemies & our expectations and
hopes blasted for returns this year, to remain in this quarter any longer it would merely be
to trap Beaver for the Americans for I Seriously apprehend there are Still more of the
Trappers who would Willingly join them indeed the tempting offers made them independent
the low price they Sell their goods are too great for them to resist & altho' I represented to
them all these offers were held out to them as so many baits Still it is without effect I have
now no other alternative left but direct my Course towards Salmon River without loss of
time, to follow up my Second intentions in proceeding by the Walla Walla route is now in
a manner rendered impracticable as our numbers are by far too few, as nearly one half of
the Trappers are determined to return to Fort des Prairies so if we divide again neither
party would Stand a chance of ever reaching the Columbia, there is now No alternative I
must bend & Submit to the will of the party.
Thursday 26th.-Late last evening two of the six absent men joined us they had
Seen nothing of the remaining four By their accounts as they were on their return to the
Camp yesterday they fell in with an American party from 30 to 40 men as they Say Troops,
who on Seeing them Called to them to advance which they did, their traps 15 in number
16 Beaver & their two Horses were taken from them they were then told if they would
remain with them & not return & Join me their property would be restored to them
otherwise not, they were Strictly guarded during the day & while in the act of changing
Watches about midnight last night they effected their escape leaving all behind them how
far this is Correct I cannot Say it may be probably made to Suit intentions as they have
both Women & Horses perhaps they will now Watch an opportunity to return if they do
which they Can easily effect without their Furs both day & night we shall however watch
them, we raised Camp & encamped at our encampment of the 14th. 5 Beavers were taken.
May-Friday 27th.-Raised Camp & came to our encampment of the 9th Cloudy
weather rain during the day only Beaver altho' many Traps in the water, it does not appear
from our success now that we left many behind as we went along. Our Camp is now dull
Saturday 28th.-We strongly suspect this morning that a party is forming to desert
this they Can easily effect at any time but with their Furs not conveniently we raised Camp
& came to our Encampment of the 3rd on Bear River here we found the Water had risen
three feet since we were last here we lost no time in making rafts of rushes & had the
greater part of the Freemens furs & Traps Crossed over Strongly guarded.
Sunday 29th.-Three men deserted leaving all behind them Women, Children,
Horses, Traps & Furs so greatly are they prepossessed in favor of the Americans that they
sacrificed all to join them. I cannot make too great progress otherwise I apprehend many
more will leave us, our Numbers are now So few that if any war party Comes across us we
shall Stand a poor chance of escaping, we Crossed over the remainder of our property &
Horses & proceeded in a north west Course direct to the Snake River. Weather fair. 2
Beavers - we Came 18 miles encamped on a Small creek destitute of Beaver.
Monday 30th.-Raised Camp our route over a fine Plain we Came about 20 miles &
encamped on the head of River Portneuf. Buffalo in abundance all this day. Weather
Tuesday 31st.-We raised Camp & proceeded down the west Fork of Portneuf's
River Country fine & level Dis. 18 miles & encamped, a few Traps were Set last night which
gave us 7 Beaver. The heat encreases.
June 1st-Wednesday.-Raised Camp, Crossed over the West Fork also the main Branch and encamped distance 5 miles Cloudy Weather. 25 Beaver this day.
1. Dr. Miller is associate professor of history at the University of Utah, and is recognized as an authority on the Great Salt Lake and other phases of Utah history. He wishes to express appreciation to the University of Utah Research committee for a grant of funds for research incident to the preparation of this article.
2. Ample biographical material concerning Ogden is found in T. C. Elliott, "Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader," Oregon Historical Quarterly, XI (1910),229-78, and in his notes and introductions to the Ogden journals in the same volume. Dr. Burt Brown Barker, in his Introduction to Peter Skene Ogden's Snake Country Journals. 1824-25 and 1825-26. E. E. Rich, ed. (The Publications of the Hudson's Bay Record Society, XIII [London, 1950)), xi-lxxix also gives interesting biographical material.
3. Frederick Merk, ed., Fur Trade and Empire, George Simpson's Journal (Cambridge, 1931), 46.
5. Robert Glass Cleland, This Reckless Breed of Men (New York, 1950), 315;
6. Ogden's Snake Country Journals, op. cit., 2, 3.
7. Ibid., 209, 210. This list of personnel differs somewhat from that given by Alexander Ross, the source of information about it before the publication of these journals. See Oregon Historical Quarterly, XI, 248.
8. Jedediah Smith and six companions joined the party on December 29, 1824, according to Kittson. One man returned to Flathead Post and came back with his wife and family. Indians later joined the expedition.
9. All Indians.
10. Merk, op cit., 45.
11. Oregon Historical Quarterly, XXXV. 107-15. This letter will be cited as Ogden's letter of July 10, 1825, in notes on the following pages.
12. Merk, op. cit., 274-77.
13. For use on this expedition copies of Ogden's and Kittson's journals and Kittson's map were used plus more recent maps, including the following: Maps made in connection with the United States Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian, under the direction of Lt. George M. Wheeler, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, expeditions of 1877 (these are among the earliest complete maps of the area); appropriate quadrangles of the United States Department of Interior, Geological Survey; and United States Forest Service maps.
Our objective was to trace Ogden's daily movements into Utah and back out again. In this we succeeded very well and were able to locate the route and camp sites with a relatively high degree of accuracy. Of course, no trace of Ogden's camps are still remaining and no attempt was made to pick the exact spot where he pitched his tent.
The accompanying map (page 164) is the result of this field work. I wish to exprcss appreciation to Professor Elbert D. Miller. of the University of Utah, Department of Geography, and to Jesse H. Jameson for advice and aid in the drafting of it.
14. The journal is reproduced by special permission of the Hudson's Bay Record Society and is presented here exactly as it appears in Ogden's Snake Country Journals, op. cit., 40-56. No attempt has been made to correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc.
15. From his camp site of April 25, Ogden continued in a southeast direction through Portneuf Valley (as shown on the Wheeler map), following approximately the route of the Old Oregon Trail between the big bend of Bear River and the upper waters of the Portneuf. Ogden and his party got their first glimpse of the Bear just below the present town of Alexander, Idaho, and after traversing two miles of rough lava beds, which form the precipitous banks of the stream through this region, they found an approach down to the river and a fairly level area on it's west bank where camp was probably made. This is the flrst point below Alexander where the stream could be reached owing to the lava banks about 150 to 200 feet in height. Gently sloping lands on the east side, immediately across from the camp, would make a ford easily possible. On the east side today is a small cultivated area; the river may be approached by roads from either side.
16. Ogden's letter of July 10, 1825, states that Bourdon was at Bear River in 1818. See Oregon Historical Quarterly, XXXV, 112. Bourdon had evidently been quite active in the employ of the company. See Ogden's Snake Country Journal, op. cit., 40, note 2. Kittson's entry for this day states that Bourdon gave Bear River its name "from the great number of those animals on its borders". The Ogden expedition would see plenty of bears farther down stream.
17. Ogden was mistaken in this. He would soon find that although no British expedition had trapped on lower Bear River, a large group of Americans had beaten him to it by one season.
18. See Ogden's entry for May 22.
19. Kittson adds the important information that the Americans (Jedediah Smith and six companions), who had been with the Ogden party much of the time since December 29, 1824, now headed upstream. Compare with Ogden's letter of July 10, 1825, op. cit., 108. Kittson devotes considerable journal space to the Americans. On April 19 he described Jedediah Smith as a "sly, cunning Yankey" which was probably not far from the truth. Kittson's record shows that the Americans were in and out of the Ogden camp several times before they reached Bear River.