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Explorers, Trappers, Traders & Mountain Men - M

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Father Jacques MarquetteJacques Marquette (1637-1675) -  Sometimes known as Père Marquette or James Marquette, Jacques was a French Jesuit missionary and explorer who founded Michigan's first European settlement, Sault Ste. Marie, and later founded St. Ignace, Michigan. In 1673 Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to explore and map the northern portion of the Mississippi River.

 

Jacques was born in Laon, France, on June 1, 1637. After years of preparatory study and teaching, he arrived in Quebec, Canada in 1666, studied Indian language and culture, and was sent in 1668 to Sault Ste. Marie, a mission among the Ottawa Indians, and to La Pointe de St. Esprit.

While he was at St. Ignace on Mackinac Island in December, 1672, an old friend, the trader Louis Jolliet, arrived with orders for Marquette to accompany him on a journey to explore the Mississippi River. Embarking in May, 1673, they reached the confluence of the
Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Indians told them that the Mississippi River (which Marquette named Riviere de la Conception) emptied into the Gulf of Mexico and warned them of Spanish settlers farther downstream. They turned back to avoid being captured with their information on geography and Indian culture. By May, 1674 Marquette was very ill; however, while recovering his health he prepared notes for publication in Jesuit Relations, since the official record had been lost.

In October, 1674 Marquette fulfilled his wish to establish a mission at Kaskaskia, Illinois where he and Jolliet had spent time. Marquette's poor health forced their return to Sault Ste. Marie. Marquette died en route and was buried on May 18, 1675. His remains were returned to St. Ignace by Indian converts and placed in a chapel, which was destroyed by fire in 1706. In 1877 the grave was discovered, and a marker was erected in 1882.

 

Trapper's last shotKenneth McKenzie (1797-1861) - One of the most able traders that ever worked for the American Fur Company. See full article HERE.

Owen McKenzie - (1826-1863) - The son of famed fur trader, Kenneth McKenzie and an Indian woman, he and Kenneth McKenzie's other children were sent to the Red River settlement in Canada for schooling. Afterwards, Owen returned to the upper Missouri River, and in 1843 was working as a hunter at Fort Union, North Dakota. He was said to have been a skilled horseman and a first rate shot. He then was placed in charge of a fur trade post on the White River. In the winter of 1862-63, he was in charge of a small post for the La Barge, Harkness and Company on the Missouri River above Fort Union. In the summer of 1863, he was sent to take charge of Fort Galpin at the mouth of the Milk River in present-day South Dakota. There, he got into a dispute with Malcolm Clarke and his son, Horace over money matters, which soon turned into a brawl. Malcolm Clark then shot and killed McKenzie, before fleeing the area to escape the revenge of McKenzie’s many friends. Clarke was later killed by Piegan Indians.

 

Joseph Lafayette Meek (1810-1875) - Born in Washington County, Virginia on February 7, 1810, Meek was propelled westward at an early age by a disagreeable stepmother. He first went to Lexington, Missouri where he joined two of his brothers. By 1829 he had signed on with William Sublette as a Rocky Mountain trapper, and for the next eleven years he lived the strenuous life of a mountain man. By 1840, the trapping industry was waning and Meek, along with his third Indian wife, traveled to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. He worked first for various farmers before becoming the sheriff. By 1845 he was a prosperous farmer himself, and won a seat in the Legislature. Following the Whitman Massacre in November of 1847, Meek led a delegation across to Washington, D. C., asking for protection and to urge territorial status for Oregon. The following year, Congress approved his requests and Meek was appointed the territory's federal marshal, a post he held for the next five years. In 1855, he played a leading part in the Yakima War, organizing the Oregon Volunteers and winning the rank of major for his service. In June of 1875, Joe died at his home.

 

 

 

Moses Embree "California Joe" Milner (1829-1876) - Scout and frontiersman, Moses Embree Milner was born near Stanford, Kentucky on May 8, 1829. During the Mexican War, he served as a teamster for Stephen Kearney. He later married a girl from Tennessee and the couple would eventually have four sons. He drifted to St. Louis, Missouri, where he joined a trapping party and headed westward. Somewhere along the line, he was reported captured by Ute Indians but was later rescued.

 

When the California Gold Rush broke out, worked in the gold fields for a time before moving to Corvallis, Oregon where he established a farm and began to run pack trains to mining camps near Walla Walla, Washington. When gold was discovered in Montana, he once again tried his hand at prospecting. While in Bannack, he fought off three claim jumpers, killing one and wounding another. He earned his nickname in Virginia City, Montana where he killed another man in 1862. He was soon run out of town by vigilantes and returned to Oregon.

 

He then wandered throughout the west, spending time in New Mexico, Nevada and Texas, where he reportedly fought with Kit Carson at the Battle of Adobe Walls in 1864. In In 1868, Milner was named Chief of Scouts for George Armstrong Custer and in 1874, served as Custer's scout on the famous Black Hills expedition, in which gold was discovered. Milner soon staked out a home site near present day Rapid City, South Dakota. He would later scout for General George Crook when the officer was pursuing the Sioux after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. On October 29, 1876, he was at Fort Robinson, Nebraska where he got into an argument with a man named Tom Newcomb, who wound up shooting California Joe in the back. Milner was Cemetery east of North Platte, Nebraska. Two years after he was murdered, his killer was also shot in the back, probably by one of California Joe's friends. 

 

David Dawson Mitchell (1806-1861) - Born in Louisa County, Virginia on July 31, 1806, he grew up to become a trapper and trader for the American Fur Company. He had a long and honorable career in the fur trade, first as a clerk and then as a partner in the Upper Missouri Outfit. He was the builder of Fort McKenzie in 1832. He became United States Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis, Missouri in 1841, and held the position at intervals until 1852. He entered the volunteer service during the Mexican-American War and became a Lieutenant-Colonel of a Missouri regiment raised by Sterling Price. He also served with Colonel Alexander Doniphan during the war, and commanded the detachment that captured Chihuahua. Later, he promoted the Fort Laramie Peace Council which led to the Fort Laramie Treaty in September, 1851. He helped to organize the Missouri and California Overland Mail and Transportation Company in 1855, and for a time, served as president of the organization. He died in St. Louis, Missouri on May 31, 1861.

 

 

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