Explorers & Frontiersman List

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Grizzley Adams, 1860

Grizzley Adams, 1860

John C. “Grizzly” Adams (1812-1860) – Born in Massachusetts on October 12, 1812, Adams first worked as a shoemaker before becoming a hunter in New England’s forests. When gold was discovered in California in 1858, Adams, along with thousands of others, made his way west. However, when he failed to find his fortune, he earned his living by trapping in the Sierra Nevada mountains. He became a professional hunter of grizzly bears to supply early California restaurants, and also caught and trained them to sell to zoos and circuses. The buckskin clad trapper became a well-known figure when he took his bears to New York City and later became involved in P.T. Barnum’s Circus. Adams died on October 25, 1860 from meningitis from an open head wound that resulted from an accident while training a monkey on tour with P.T. Barnum. Barnum paid for his tombstone.

James Aird (??-1819) – Born in Ayrshire, Scotland, he immigrated to the United States, first settling in Wisconsin. He married the daughter of a Dakota Chief and was trading on the Upper Mississippi River as early as 1783. As a fur trader, he worked with traders of the time including Jean Perrault, Charles Paterson, Joseph Ainse, Robert Dickson, and many others. In August, 1805, he met up with Zebulon Pike on the Mississippi River, and the following year, met Lewis and Clark on the lower Missouri River. During the War of 1812, he sided with the British. Afterwards, he was working on the River St. Peters (now called the Minnesota River) where he was said to have nearly starved in 1815. The next year, he went to work for the American Fur Company, and continued to work for them until his health failed. He died in February, 1819.

John Davis Albert (1806-1899) – Born at Hagerstown, Maryland and raised in Pennsylvania, Albert made his way west when he grew up. In 1833, he traveled by keelboat from New Orleans to St. Louis, Missouri and from there headed to the Rocky Mountains, where he lived for three years. By 1838, he was farming near Taos, New Mexico and barely escaped the Turley’s Mill Massacre in 1847 at Arroyo Hondo, which was an extension of the Taos Revolt during the Mexican-American War. He later settled at Walsenburg, Colorado about 1872. He died there on April 24, 1899.

Cyrus Alexander (1805-1872) – A frontiersman, Alexander was a trapper with William Sublette before becoming a miner and agricultural pioneer in California. See Article HERE.

Manuel Alvarez (1794-1856) – A mountain man, trapper and trader who turned politician. Alvarez was born in Albegas, Spain, but by 1818, had crossed the ocean and was in Mexico. He then made his way to New York, then to Missouri, and was in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1824, where he engaged in trading for several years. He then entered the Rocky Mountain fur trade as a free trapper, before later joining with the American Fur Company. He left the mountains in about 1834 and returned to Santa Fe, where he continued as a trader and showed an interest in politics. After the acquisition of New Mexico by the U.S., Alverez became a leader in the territory becoming a state. Afterwards he held several political offices before he died in July, 1856.

Louis Ambroise (1801-1842) – A trapper and trader in the Colorado Mountains. Ambroise was born at St. Louis, Missouri in 1801 and when he grew up he headed southwest, reaching Taos, New Mexico about 1822. He married a Spanish woman in 1824 and was working as a trapper. In 1827, he was part of Sylvestre Pratte’s party trapping in the Colorado mountains. He was badly wounded by Southern Ute Indians and while trying to recover with Cheyenne Indian friends, they put an end to his misery on August 15, 1842.

American Fur Company (1808-1842) – Founded by John Jacob Astor in 1808, the American Fur Company would become one of the largest businesses in the country at the start of the 19th century. See Article HERE..

Captain Juan Bautista de Anza II (1736-1788) – A Mexican-born trailblazer and explorer, de Anza was the first person of European descent to establish an overland trail from Mexico to the northern Pacific coast of California. See Article HERE.

William Henry Ashley (1778-1838) – Co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, Ashley led a hundred men along the Missouri River on trapping expeditions. The men became known as “Ashley’s Hundred.” See Article HERE.

John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) – Astor, who formed the American Fur Company, was the head of the Astor family dynasty and the first millionaire in the United States. See Article HERE.

Charles Autobees (1812-1882) – Trader, trapper and mountain man, Autobee worked with such notable men as William Bent, Ceran St. Vrain, Kit Carson, James Bridger, and James Beckwourth, as well as a number of Indian tribes. See Article HERE.

Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon (1475-1526) – A Spanish conquistador and explorer who tried to start a colony in North America in 1526. He was the first European colonizer of what is now South Carolina. See Article HERE.

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