Discussion in 'Rocky Mountain Fur Trade' started by crockett, Sep 21, 2018.
Journal of a Trapper - Osborne Russell
A hunter in the mountains may have arrived with a smoothbore,
but I wager a rifle would be his first acquisition.
Does depend on who he was, as quoted above French descendent and Indians often reached first for the fusil.
Then the fact most people who needed glasses didn’t have them. A rifle starts to loose its effectiveness at any thing less then about 20/30 vision.
This discussion has been made before. One valid counterpoint is that vast parts of North America were heavily forested and having shots over 40 or 50 yards in some of these forests was rare. In that case a smoothbore was superior in many ways to a rifle.
In the Rockys....I want a rifle.
Other than distance, often invalidated by heavy timber, a rifle wasn't a significant advantage. In the period, rifles were far more expensive and difficult to obtain.
In the last 30 years of hunting with muzzleloaders and centerfire rifles in the Rockies, only 2 shots come to mind that would have been out of range for a smoothbore - both at over 200 yards and would have been out of range for (nearly) everyone with a muzzleloading rifle too.
Interesting discussion and I am by no means a historical expert on any of the topics covered here as many of you appear to be, but I do know something about photography. I wonder if the photos that were shot in studios were staged. It looks odd to me that these men would wear some of the ridiculous looking trappings. I can imagine that the photographer, wanting to make for a more dramatic and interesting photo, had props for the subject to pose with. Having said that, why not the rifle too?
As photography did not appear to be in common use in the USA until the 1860's, what is seen in photographs is unlikely to be indicative of what was carried in the early 1800's.
And several things of note. Long before the fist brigades went trapping the buckskin clad frontiersman was already a stereotype. ‘Davy Crockett’ existed on stage and in dime novels while David Crockett was still alive.
Photographers did have a wagon full of props for the subjects. The myth of the old west is as old as the reality.
Miller does paint a little more ‘wild’ then Bodmer, Kurtz,or Brigham. I THINK Miller was painting for a perspective audience.
Some apparently were staged using props owned by the photographer, but not all. In the photo posted of Tom Tobin, he is holding his Hawken rifle and wearing his clothes. There are written period descriptions of Tom Tobin wearing these clothes at special events. The clothes are still in the possession of a direct decedent. The Hawken rifle has a known provenance and is currently in the collection of James Gordon.
Here is another photo of Tobin with his plainsman coat, which also survives, and holding his Hawken.
Off topic, but still interesting, Tom Tobin was a friend of Kit Carson. In fact, Kit Carson's oldest son, William, married one of Tom Tobin's daughters, Maria Pascuala Tobin. William Carson and Maria had three daughters and two sons. The oldest son they named after his grandfather Kit Carson. Below is a picture of Kit Carson III wearing his maternal grandfather, Tom Tobin's, coat, vest, pants, moccasins, and knife and holstered pistol.
But it gets even better. The Tom Tobin coat may not be hand made by Indians as it appears. The History Colorado's collection includes two similar coats, one of which has connections back to Kit Carson. Here is a picture of Kit Carson II, brother of William Carson and uncle to Kit Carson III in Kit Carson's coat. The Carson coat was definitely made by machine as determined by the History Colorado curators.
As mentioned, the History Colorado has a second coat of similar design in their collection. Here is a photo of a John S. Hough wearing it.
Thanks for sharing those neat photos.
Why would you have your bullet mold afixed to the back strap of your shooting bag as Tobin does in that photo? Makes no sense to me at all...
Why wouldn't he? That way it's not taking up room in the shooting bag. Makes perfect sense to me.
Until it gets snagged on a tree, or you get thrown from your horse, or it just slips off, and it’s gone and you don’t even know it’s gone.
That’s a pretty important piece of equipment, and expensive, to be treating so carelessly.
These photos are fantastic and the detailed work on the coats are unreal. They give some great ideas...
I believe this book is about as accurate as any when it comes to the life in the mountains. Any thing that would shoot was carried. My grandmother has told me stories of coming up the Chisolm trail to Missouri and Kansas. They carried smooth bores and had mostly rabbit stew. I don't believe the kind of weapon I would want to be fancy, as long as it was reliable and I could use it. The movies seem to lead us astray as to history and true life. Granted a nice fancy Hawkin would have been great, but it would have taken a lot of money back in the day. No tomahawk,no knife, no grub, no tin ware, no lead or powder, nor horse, or mule, just a fancy Hawkin. I think I would have wanted to skedaddle with more creature comforts. The bow and arrow was used extensively by mountain travelers and so called mountain men.
Ah, I like the Hawkin rifle, got a couple of replicas and they preform well. Must be from ancestral genes. I like the versatile scatter gun for a do it ll. Probably what I would have had carried in the 19 century.
Cool photos. Thanks for posting.
Those photos are from the buffalo hunter era or later.
Yes, Rich, the photos of Tom Tobin are from the 1880s and 1890s. In one of my first posts, I mentioned that Tobin wasn't even a Mountain Man as he came west too late to be a trapper. He became what is popularly known as a Plainsman. We've also discussed in this thread that photography came along too late to capture pictures during the Mountain Man period.
Tobin's, half brother, Charles Autobees, was 11 years older than Tobin and was a Mountain Man. He came to the Rocky Mountains in 1828. He trapped for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and later the American Fur Company. He worked for Nathaniel Wyeth for a short period, then the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Hall. As beaver were becoming scarce and prices were falling for their pelts in the late 1830s, Autobees left the mountains and traveled to the Taos area. Autobees ended up working for Simeon Turley who owned a flour mill and distillery. Autobees often transport Turley's whiskey, aka Taos Lightning, to the fur trading posts on the South Platte River. He also transported furs and robes back to St. Louis for Turley and brought back trade goods for Turley. In 1837, Autobees brought his fourteen year old half brother back to Taos with him after one of these trips for Turley. Tobin and Autobees continued to work for Turley until the 1847 Taos Uprising when Turley's establishment was attacked. Tobin was present, but he and another person were able to escape. The rest were killed, including Turley.
Charles Autobees in 1864
Here is another photo of Tobin in his buckskin coat with his Hawken circa 1894.
Here is another photo circa 1860 of a former Mountain Man, Jim Beckwourth. Beckwourth is shown holding a percussion rifle. I don't know if the rifle is his or one of the photographer's props. Notice the rifle appears to be left handed. This was probably taken from a glass plate daguerreotype, and like the famous Billy the Kid photo, is shown in reverse. I can't tell much about the rifle. At first, I thought it was a full stock rifle, but the section above his hand seems to show a barrel and a distinct ramrod. It's hard to make out any details between his hand and the rear sight. I don't see a nose cap, though there might be an entry pipe. Could be the rifle is damaged and missing the forestock where his hand is. In any event, the barrel appears large enough for the rifle to be more than just a squirrel rifle. Being a percussion, it is consistent with the time photo is thought to have been taken and not something from the MM Period.
After the decline of the beaver trade, Beckwourth worked for some of the South Platte River trading posts as hunter and trader. He also spent some time in Santa Fe where he lived at the time of the Taos Uprising. Beckwourth knew and had dealings with both Charles Autobees and Tom Tobin. Charles Autobees and Jim Beckwourth were present but did not take part in the Sand Creek Massacre. Autobees actually saved the lives of an Indian woman and child during the fighting.
This is a great thread. There is a lot of information being shared here and I want to thank you all for it.
I like the conversations that are actually a history lesson of sorts.
Keep em' coming!
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