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Explorers, Trappers, Traders & Mountain Men - G

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Joseph Goff Gale (1807-1881) - A trapper, pioneer and politician, Gale was born at Washington, D.C. on April 29, 1807. He was well educated as a child and when he grew up he made his way west. In 1831, he accompanied Ewing Young from Taos, New Mexico to California and the next two years he was trapping on the Snake River. In 1834, he worked in the Rocky Mountains and California, making his way to Oregon by late in the year. For the next four years, he worked out of Fort Hall, Idaho and married a Umatilla Indian woman. In 1838, he settled in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There, he and several others built a ship in which they intended to hunt sea otter; however, this was short lived as, after sailing it to San Francisco, they sold the ship and drove cattle back to Oregon in 1853. He was elected one of three different governors of Oregon that summer. In 1848, he returned to California, where he lived for a time, before returning to Oregon in about 1862. He died in Eagle Valley, Oregon on December 13, 1881.

 

John Gannt (1790-1849) - A soldier, trapper, trader and guide, Gannt was born at Queen Anne, Maryland in 1790 and later moved with his family to Kentucky. In 1817, he joined the army, spending 12 years in service, eventually rising to the rank of captain. He served at several frontier posts and was with Colonel Henry Leavenworth during the Arikara War in 1823. Several years later, on May 12, 1829, he was found guilty of falsification of pay accounts and was dismissed from the army. The next year, he joined Jefferson Blackwell in a fur trading partnership and they soon began operations in the upper Rocky Mountains. Later, they moved to the upper Arkansas River, where they established a trading post near present-day Pueblo, Colorado. They were the first to trade with the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes in any volume. The firm went out of business in 1834, and Gant then helped William Bent in establishing Bent’s Fort. In 1835, he guided Henry Dodge’s expedition to the Colorado Rockies. In later became an Indian agent for the Potawatomie tribe at Council Bluffs in 1838, but by 1843, was once again acting as a guide. He then went to California where he lived the rest of his life. He died in Napa Valley, California on February 14, 1849 of ear trouble.

 

Josiah GreggJosiah Gregg (1806-1850) - Trader, explorer, naturalist and writer, Gregg was born to Savannah and Harmon Gregg in Tennessee on July 19, 1806. When he was just a child, he moved with his family to Howard County, Missouri. Josiah was a sickly boy who tended towards intellectual endeavors, tutoring mathematics while still a child and studying surveying at 16. Around 1825 the family moved to Jackson County, where Josiah opened a school and taught for a year. He wanted to study medicine, but was denied an apprenticeship so turned to studying law. In 1830; however, he became seriously ill with tuberculosis.   

 

The following summer, unable to sit on a horse, he joined a caravan headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico on the advice of his doctor. Starting the trip lying in the back of a wagon, his health improved along the way and by the time the wagon train reached New Mexico, he had learned to speak Spanish and was bookkeeping for a merchant named Jesse Sutton.

For the next nine years, Gregg crossed the plains four times, becoming a trader himself, and documenting everything he saw. On his last trip he blazed a new trail from Van Buren, Arkansas to Santa Fe, a route that would later be heavily utilized by those rushing to the California Goldfields. By 1842, he was living in Van Buren, Arkansas and began to write a book of his travels, Commerce of the Prairies, published in 1844.

Still determined to study medicine, he entered a medical college in Louisville, Kentucky in 1845 and though ill during much of his studies, was granted a degree the following year. However, instead of practicing medicine, he served as an interpreter and correspondent in the Mexican-American War. Afterwards, he practiced medicine in Saltillo, Mexico until he heard the rumors of the California Gold Rush. In July, 1849, he was headed for San Francisco. However, the following year, he died after falling from his horse on February 25, 1850.

 

Legends Coloring BookJohn Williams Gunnison (1812-1853) - Born in New Hampshire in 1812, Gunnison became a Second Lieutenant of topographical engineers after graduating from the United States Military Academy. After serving in the Florida War of 1837-1839, he spent the next ten years surveying the lakes and harbors of the great northwestern United States. While working in the Salt Lake City region he befriended the Mormons and acted as a negotiator in several>uprisings between them and the local Native Americans. Winning him the admiration of his peers and giving Gunnison confidence in his abilities to deal with the Indians, it would later prove to be the death of him. In 1853 he was charged with finding and surveying a railway route from the Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean. After moving along the Kansas-Nebraska border, his journey took him over the Rocky Mountains, and into the Gunnison River Valley. Working with a guide from Taos, New Mexico, the pair, along with the rest of Gunnison's party, came into conflict with Ute warriors on several occasions, but Gunnison was able to appease them and move on, further boosting his confidence in dealing with the natives. However, as he and his party moved into Utah, locals warned them of recent trouble with the Paiute. Overconfident in his abilities to negotiate with the Indians, he divided his crew into two groups before going around Lake Sevier. It was a fatal mistake. The next morning, October 26, 1853, a band of Paiute, seeking revenge for the killing of their chief, ambushed and killed Gunnison and all but four of the eleven members in his group. Gunnison's route through the fabled Black Canyon of Gunnison was never used for a transcontinental railroad; however, the information he gathered throughout his career would later provide extremely useful in the development of the west. 

 

 

 

 

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