The Mountain Men. Illiterate or Educated?

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Philip F. Thompson- unknown

Courtney Meade Walker- attended schools at Nicholasville and probably college in Lexington. His father was a lawyer, state senator of Kentucky and US Senator. Courtney was the clerk for Nathaniel Wyeth’s company until he signed with Hudson’s Bay Company.

Seth E. Ward- educated. Trapped with Jim Bridger, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Joe Meek, and Kit Carson. In life he achieved both wealth and old age becoming one of the frontiers first millionaires at the age of 52. On his first trapping journey (with Captain Lupton) he had only a butcher knife, belt and scabbard, a checkered shirt and hat. His first night out of Independence he slept without any covering. The next day he purchased a pair of blankets from Lupton for $30 credit. He left Captain Lufton and joined Thompson and Craig whose headquarters was Fort Davy Crockett. Ward’s first horse was a present from Kit Carson.

Caleb Wilkins- Unknown. Brother-in-law of Joe Meek. Joined Nathaniel Wyeth’s expedition. When Fort Hall was sold to Hudson’s Bay Caleb joined Jim Bridger.

Dick Wooton- educated.

Charles Autobees- illiterate. At age 16 joined the American Fur Company in 1828.

George Bent- educated

Robert Bent- unknown

Joseph Bissonette- educated

Alexander K. Branch- educated by evidence of his petition to become a Mexican citizen in 1829.

George Drouillard- member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Shot and killed Antoine Bissonette on instructions from Manuel Lisa. Educated by evidence of letters he wrote his sister regarding the killing.

George Wood Ebbert- educated. Came from a wealthy family. Was important in the settling of Oregon. Wrote a narrative covering his trip to Washington DC for the Pioneer Association.

Robert Fisher- unknown

Moses “Black “ Harris- educated. Left a note scrawled with charcoal on the door of an old storehouse at the rendezvous site on Horse Creek. It read: “Come on to Popoasi, plenty of whiskey and white women.”

Alexander Harvey- unknown

John L. Hatcher- educated. Had mastery of good English as well as mountain lingo, and was aquatinted with Biblical literature. He was a fine penman. More feared among the Indians than Kit Carson.

John Hawkins- unknown. He was known as Jacob Hawken in St Louis. He learned his father’s and Uncle’s craft in the gun shop but in 1828 left to become a trapper.

Theodore Hunt- clearly educated, Lieutenant Hunt fought against the Barbary Pirates in 1803. Promoted to Captain he went to India where he bought an old Dutch vessel loaded with saltpeter and with a crew of three plus a boy sailed it back to Charleston. In 1809 he commanded the sloop of war the Hornet. In 1811 Master Commandant Hunt resigned from the Navy. In 1814 he formed a partnership with Manuel Lisa where they traded up the Missouri. He and Lisa terminated their partnership in 1817 but remained life long friends.

Thomas James- had some schooling. Joined the St Louis Missouri Fur Company in 1809. Later that year he quit because of breech of contract, bought an outfit from John Colter, and became a free trapper. In 1810 he rejoined the Company. Went on to serve two terms in the Illinois General Assembly. Was a General in the Illinois Militia. Became Post Master at James Mill.

Charles Kinney- unknown
 
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A little information you may or may not know, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau is buried in North-East Oregon, about 10 - 15 miles or so before you get to the town of Jordan Valley if you are coming from Nevada. A few photos to follow:

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I guess it's a custom to leave something at his gravesite, maybe a Native American or his tribe's tradition.

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Sacajawea holding "Pomp" - a bronze statue in the Boise Museum.

I don't know if this is useful but it was the very first historical place we visited on our way to Idaho.
Thanks for this post James
 
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The more I study the Mountain Men the more misinformation and incomplete information (sometimes being passed off as authoritative) I uncover. Not really surprising considering how fragmented a lot of the information is. Considering there were probably only a couple of thousand mountain men in total we have a good deal of information about them, but again it is very fragmented.

A current interest of mine is how well educated were these men. I'm in the process of chronicling this for about 4-500 of whom there is information.

So far I've researched 45 Mountain Men and thought I'd share what I've learned, more will follow. I begin with who has to be the most interesting, no, extraordinary in lifetime accomplishments (so far).

Albert Pike- qualified by examination for the junior class at Harvard but could not afford the tuition. Teacher until 1831. Wrote poetry. Published a newspaper. Became a lawyer and practiced before the Supreme Court. Became a judge. During the Civil War was a Brigadier General for the Confederates and Commissioner to all the Indian Tribes south of the Kansas and west of the Arkansas. Wrote one of the best versions of Dixie. Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction for 32 years. Studied and revised the Rituals. Had a working knowledge of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, French, Italian and Spanish. All his writing, which is enormous, was with a quill pen prepared by himself. And there is so much more.

Manuel Alvarez- cultured gentleman, read historical, philosophical, and religious books. Spoke English, French, Spanish

Abel Baker, Jr- worked as clerk, could read, write and do sums.

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau- raised by William Clark and Prince Paul. Spoke French, German, Spanish, English and various Indian tongues. An intelligent conversationalist. Traveled Europe and North Africa with Prince Paul.

Henry Chatillon- possibly illiterate, but wrote many letters

James Clyman- wrote extensive diaries, he could read, write and cipher. Read Shakespeare, Byron, and the Bible.

Alexander Culbertson- Spoke numerous Indian tongues. Became a wealthy man, then lost everything through poor investments.

Jimmy Daugherty- unknown

Job Francis Dye- could read and write amassing an enormous collection of books, well over a thousand

Thomas Eddie- attended school until he was seventeen. He kept a diary and enjoyed reading in his spare time.

Gabriel Franchere- could read and write, kept a journal, was hired by Astor as an apprentice clerk. His book was the second published account of the Tonquin story. He was considered at the time a literate gentleman.

Mark Head- unknown

Charles Larpenteur- could read and write, kept a journal which was twice published.

Joseph L Meek- was born into a first family of Virginia. Could read and write. He quoted Shakespeare and wrote poetry.

George Nidever- no formal education. Was considered extremely intelligent, had a photographic memory, and was very brave. Captained his own ship. A poem was written about him by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Hiram Scott- worked as a clerk for Ashley, could read, write and do sums.

Issac Slover- unknown

Pinckney W Sublette- struggled in school and was sickly so William took him out of school and to the mountains hoping his health would get better.

Solomon P Sublette- was educated

Charles Town- unknown

John D Albert- carried a German bible, could read and write, and was fluent in at least two languages.

Charles Bent- he attended College, was a surveyor, became a partner in the Missouri Fur Company, then Bent and St. Vrain, and went on to become governor of New Mexico.

Thomas Biggs- unknown

Francis Ziba Branch- could read and write, kept journals during his ranching years, became the wealthiest man in San Luis Obispo County, CA.

Calvin T Briggs- unknown

Lewis T Burton- could read and write, became an accessor and a prominent citizen of Santa Barbara, CA

John Pierre Cabanne Sr- well educated in France, very powerful in St Louis including being on the board of directors of a bank

Moses Bradley Carson- half brother of Kit Carson, minor partner in the Missouri Fur Company. Could read and write.

Jacques Philippe Clamorgan- could read and write, became a well known and respected merchant.

Auguste Clermont- unknown

William Craig- he went to a military school until age 17 or 18. His writing was exceptionally good.

John Day- unknown

Jacques D’ Eglise- illiterate

Warren Angus Ferris- educated, trained as a civil engineer, wrote “Life in the Rocky Mountains”

Johnson Gardner- illiterate

Hugh Glenn- store keeper, government contractor, director of numerous banks, so was clearly well educated

Antoine Godwin- unknown

Miles Morris Goodyear- was educated and enjoyed poetry

Mathew Kinkead- he could sign his name. Probably educated as he went on to become very wealthy owning many ships and haciendas, and property in numerous cities.

James Kipp- educated and mastered the Mandan language

Lancaster P. Lupton- West Point graduate. Robert E Lee and Joseph E Johnston were classmates. Fluent in French.

Kenneth McKenzie- born in Scotland to a distinguished family. President of the Columbia Fur Company which later merged with the American Fur Company. Ran the resulting Upper Missouri Outfit sub-depart consolidating the fur trade on the Missouri and known as “King of the Missouri” and “Emperor of the West”. After the fur trade he invested heavily in lands in three states, railroads and other industries amassing a fortune. Obviously well educated.

Stephen Hall Meek- older brother of Joseph Meek. Could read and write (wrote an autobiography) but lacked a formal education.

David Dawson Mitchell- became a partner of the Upper Missouri Outfit. Appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs a couple of times. Also served the US Government in numerous other ways including being a commissioner, along with Thomas Fitzpatrick, of the Fort Laramie Treaty. Clearly an educated man.

Antonio Montero- he could read and write as evidenced by letters between himself and Zenas Leonard. Also wrote a letter to David Adams.
Very great post and thank you. Do you know who the small group of mountain men were that got ambushed and killed. Osbourne Russel talked about them in his book. I just cant remember. Thank you
 
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The more I study the Mountain Men the more misinformation and incomplete information (sometimes being passed off as authoritative) I uncover. Not really surprising considering how fragmented a lot of the information is. Considering there were probably only a couple of thousand mountain men in total we have a good deal of information about them, but again it is very fragmented.

A current interest of mine is how well educated were these men. I'm in the process of chronicling this for about 4-500 of whom there is information.

So far I've researched 45 Mountain Men and thought I'd share what I've learned, more will follow. I begin with who has to be the most interesting, no, extraordinary in lifetime accomplishments (so far).

Albert Pike- qualified by examination for the junior class at Harvard but could not afford the tuition. Teacher until 1831. Wrote poetry. Published a newspaper. Became a lawyer and practiced before the Supreme Court. Became a judge. During the Civil War was a Brigadier General for the Confederates and Commissioner to all the Indian Tribes south of the Kansas and west of the Arkansas. Wrote one of the best versions of Dixie. Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction for 32 years. Studied and revised the Rituals. Had a working knowledge of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, French, Italian and Spanish. All his writing, which is enormous, was with a quill pen prepared by himself. And there is so much more.

Manuel Alvarez- cultured gentleman, read historical, philosophical, and religious books. Spoke English, French, Spanish

Abel Baker, Jr- worked as clerk, could read, write and do sums.

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau- raised by William Clark and Prince Paul. Spoke French, German, Spanish, English and various Indian tongues. An intelligent conversationalist. Traveled Europe and North Africa with Prince Paul.

Henry Chatillon- possibly illiterate, but wrote many letters

James Clyman- wrote extensive diaries, he could read, write and cipher. Read Shakespeare, Byron, and the Bible.

Alexander Culbertson- Spoke numerous Indian tongues. Became a wealthy man, then lost everything through poor investments.

Jimmy Daugherty- unknown

Job Francis Dye- could read and write amassing an enormous collection of books, well over a thousand

Thomas Eddie- attended school until he was seventeen. He kept a diary and enjoyed reading in his spare time.

Gabriel Franchere- could read and write, kept a journal, was hired by Astor as an apprentice clerk. His book was the second published account of the Tonquin story. He was considered at the time a literate gentleman.

Mark Head- unknown

Charles Larpenteur- could read and write, kept a journal which was twice published.

Joseph L Meek- was born into a first family of Virginia. Could read and write. He quoted Shakespeare and wrote poetry.

George Nidever- no formal education. Was considered extremely intelligent, had a photographic memory, and was very brave. Captained his own ship. A poem was written about him by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Hiram Scott- worked as a clerk for Ashley, could read, write and do sums.

Issac Slover- unknown

Pinckney W Sublette- struggled in school and was sickly so William took him out of school and to the mountains hoping his health would get better.

Solomon P Sublette- was educated

Charles Town- unknown

John D Albert- carried a German bible, could read and write, and was fluent in at least two languages.

Charles Bent- he attended College, was a surveyor, became a partner in the Missouri Fur Company, then Bent and St. Vrain, and went on to become governor of New Mexico.

Thomas Biggs- unknown

Francis Ziba Branch- could read and write, kept journals during his ranching years, became the wealthiest man in San Luis Obispo County, CA.

Calvin T Briggs- unknown

Lewis T Burton- could read and write, became an accessor and a prominent citizen of Santa Barbara, CA

John Pierre Cabanne Sr- well educated in France, very powerful in St Louis including being on the board of directors of a bank

Moses Bradley Carson- half brother of Kit Carson, minor partner in the Missouri Fur Company. Could read and write.

Jacques Philippe Clamorgan- could read and write, became a well known and respected merchant.

Auguste Clermont- unknown

William Craig- he went to a military school until age 17 or 18. His writing was exceptionally good.

John Day- unknown

Jacques D’ Eglise- illiterate

Warren Angus Ferris- educated, trained as a civil engineer, wrote “Life in the Rocky Mountains”

Johnson Gardner- illiterate

Hugh Glenn- store keeper, government contractor, director of numerous banks, so was clearly well educated

Antoine Godwin- unknown

Miles Morris Goodyear- was educated and enjoyed poetry

Mathew Kinkead- he could sign his name. Probably educated as he went on to become very wealthy owning many ships and haciendas, and property in numerous cities.

James Kipp- educated and mastered the Mandan language

Lancaster P. Lupton- West Point graduate. Robert E Lee and Joseph E Johnston were classmates. Fluent in French.

Kenneth McKenzie- born in Scotland to a distinguished family. President of the Columbia Fur Company which later merged with the American Fur Company. Ran the resulting Upper Missouri Outfit sub-depart consolidating the fur trade on the Missouri and known as “King of the Missouri” and “Emperor of the West”. After the fur trade he invested heavily in lands in three states, railroads and other industries amassing a fortune. Obviously well educated.

Stephen Hall Meek- older brother of Joseph Meek. Could read and write (wrote an autobiography) but lacked a formal education.

David Dawson Mitchell- became a partner of the Upper Missouri Outfit. Appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs a couple of times. Also served the US Government in numerous other ways including being a commissioner, along with Thomas Fitzpatrick, of the Fort Laramie Treaty. Clearly an educated man.

Antonio Montero- he could read and write as evidenced by letters between himself and Zenas Leonard. Also wrote a letter to David Adams.
Have you also found, as I have, that many of the educated mountain men taught others to read, write, and do simple sums. Many books circulated amongst mountain men by those who owned them, so that anyone who wanted to read them had the opportunity. The books were generally extremely well cared for, and often after circulating through several men, were returned to their original owners in as good or nearly as good of shape as when they began circulating.
 

Mtman725

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They took care of each other, the educated pass on what they knew, as well as the craft on a mountain men between them and to the new.
 

smoothshooter

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The more I study the Mountain Men the more misinformation and incomplete information (sometimes being passed off as authoritative) I uncover. Not really surprising considering how fragmented a lot of the information is. Considering there were probably only a couple of thousand mountain men in total we have a good deal of information about them, but again it is very fragmented.

A current interest of mine is how well educated were these men. I'm in the process of chronicling this for about 4-500 of whom there is information.

So far I've researched 45 Mountain Men and thought I'd share what I've learned, more will follow. I begin with who has to be the most interesting, no, extraordinary in lifetime accomplishments (so far).


Albert Pike- qualified by examination for the junior class at Harvard but could not afford the tuition. Teacher until 1831. Wrote poetry. Published a newspaper. Became a lawyer and practiced before the Supreme Court. Became a judge. During the Civil War was a Brigadier General for the Confederates and Commissioner to all the Indian Tribes south of the Kansas and west of the Arkansas. Wrote one of the best versions of Dixie. Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction for 32 years. Studied and revised the Rituals. Had a working knowledge of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, French, Italian and Spanish. All his writing, which is enormous, was with a quill pen prepared by himself. And there is so much more.

Manuel Alvarez- cultured gentleman, read historical, philosophical, and religious books. Spoke English, French, Spanish

Abel Baker, Jr- worked as clerk, could read, write and do sums.

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau- raised by William Clark and Prince Paul. Spoke French, German, Spanish, English and various Indian tongues. An intelligent conversationalist. Traveled Europe and North Africa with Prince Paul.

Henry Chatillon- possibly illiterate, but wrote many letters

James Clyman- wrote extensive diaries, he could read, write and cipher. Read Shakespeare, Byron, and the Bible.

Alexander Culbertson- Spoke numerous Indian tongues. Became a wealthy man, then lost everything through poor investments.

Jimmy Daugherty- unknown

Job Francis Dye- could read and write amassing an enormous collection of books, well over a thousand

Thomas Eddie- attended school until he was seventeen. He kept a diary and enjoyed reading in his spare time.

Gabriel Franchere- could read and write, kept a journal, was hired by Astor as an apprentice clerk. His book was the second published account of the Tonquin story. He was considered at the time a literate gentleman.

Mark Head- unknown

Charles Larpenteur- could read and write, kept a journal which was twice published.

Joseph L Meek- was born into a first family of Virginia. Could read and write. He quoted Shakespeare and wrote poetry.

George Nidever- no formal education. Was considered extremely intelligent, had a photographic memory, and was very brave. Captained his own ship. A poem was written about him by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Hiram Scott- worked as a clerk for Ashley, could read, write and do sums.

Issac Slover- unknown

Pinckney W Sublette- struggled in school and was sickly so William took him out of school and to the mountains hoping his health would get better.

Solomon P Sublette- was educated

Charles Town- unknown

John D Albert- carried a German bible, could read and write, and was fluent in at least two languages.

Charles Bent- he attended College, was a surveyor, became a partner in the Missouri Fur Company, then Bent and St. Vrain, and went on to become governor of New Mexico.

Thomas Biggs- unknown

Francis Ziba Branch- could read and write, kept journals during his ranching years, became the wealthiest man in San Luis Obispo County, CA.

Calvin T Briggs- unknown

Lewis T Burton- could read and write, became an accessor and a prominent citizen of Santa Barbara, CA

John Pierre Cabanne Sr- well educated in France, very powerful in St Louis including being on the board of directors of a bank

Moses Bradley Carson- half brother of Kit Carson, minor partner in the Missouri Fur Company. Could read and write.

Jacques Philippe Clamorgan- could read and write, became a well known and respected merchant.

Auguste Clermont- unknown

William Craig- he went to a military school until age 17 or 18. His writing was exceptionally good.

John Day- unknown

Jacques D’ Eglise- illiterate

Warren Angus Ferris- educated, trained as a civil engineer, wrote “Life in the Rocky Mountains”

Johnson Gardner- illiterate

Hugh Glenn- store keeper, government contractor, director of numerous banks, so was clearly well educated

Antoine Godwin- unknown

Miles Morris Goodyear- was educated and enjoyed poetry

Mathew Kinkead- he could sign his name. Probably educated as he went on to become very wealthy owning many ships and haciendas, and property in numerous cities.

James Kipp- educated and mastered the Mandan language

Lancaster P. Lupton- West Point graduate. Robert E Lee and Joseph E Johnston were classmates. Fluent in French.

Kenneth McKenzie- born in Scotland to a distinguished family. President of the Columbia Fur Company which later merged with the American Fur Company. Ran the resulting Upper Missouri Outfit sub-depart consolidating the fur trade on the Missouri and known as “King of the Missouri” and “Emperor of the West”. After the fur trade he invested heavily in lands in three states, railroads and other industries amassing a fortune. Obviously well educated.

Stephen Hall Meek- older brother of Joseph Meek. Could read and write (wrote an autobiography) but lacked a formal education.

David Dawson Mitchell- became a partner of the Upper Missouri Outfit. Appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs a couple of times. Also served the US Government in numerous other ways including being a commissioner, along with Thomas Fitzpatrick, of the Fort Laramie Treaty. Clearly an educated man.

Antonio Montero- he could read and write as evidenced by letters between himself and Zenas Leonard. Also wrote a letter to David Adams.
 

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