Explorers & Frontiersman List

Discoverer by N.C. Wyeth, 1928.

Discoverer by N.C. Wyeth, 1928.

Go to names beginning with:  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

Grizzley Adams, 1860

Grizzly Adams, 1860

John C. “Grizzly” Adams (1812-1860) – Adams was a professional hunter of grizzly bears who became well-known when he became involved in P.T. Barnum’s Circus.

James Aird (1757-1819) – A Scottish fur trader, Aird spent nearly 40 years among the Dakota Sioux in what is now Iowa and Minnesota becoming a prominent fur trader at Mackinac, Michigan, and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

John David Albert (1810-1899) – John David Albert was a mountain man who made his way west from Pennsylvania and was friends with other important frontiersmen of the time including Jim Baker and Charles Autobees.

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

Manuel Alvarez (1794-1856) – A mountain man, trapper, and trader who turned politician. Alvarez was born in Albegas, Spain, but by 1818, he 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. Afterward, 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.

DeAnza Expedition

DeAnza Expedition

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.

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.”

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.

Francis Xavier Aubry

Francis Xavier Aubry

Francois Xavier Aubry (1824-1854) – Aubry was a French Canadian merchant, wagon train captain, and explorer of the American Southwest. His achievements include speed records riding the Santa Fe Trail and early exploration of the 35th parallel north-west of the North American continental divide.

Charles Autobees (1812-1882) – Trader, trapper and mountain man, Autobees 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.

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.

B

Marcelino Baca (1808?-1862) – Born in New Mexico in about 1808, Baca was a 19th-century fur trader. A native of Taos, New Mexico, Baca first learned beaver trapping while accompanying American groups, as the Spanish government required Mexican citizens to accompany any foreign commercial operation. After the fur trade in the American Southwest declined, Baca trapped in the northern Rocky Mountains, and eventually settled near Pueblo, Colorado. Under increasing threat from local Indian tribes, Baca moved his family to the small village of Rio Colorado, in New Mexico in 1854. With the advent of the Civil War, Baca joined the New Mexico Volunteers and was killed in a battle with invading Texans on February 21, 1862.

Jim Baker, mountain man

Jim Baker, mountain man

Jim Baker (1818-1898) – One of the most colorful figures of the Old West, Baker worked as a trapper, scout and guide and was a friend of Jim Bridger and Kit Carson.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1475?-1519) – Spanish conquistador and explorer, Balboa who was the first European to see the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean in 1513 after crossing the Isthmus of Panama.

William Becknell (1788-1856) – A frontiersman and trader who established the Santa Fe Trail.

James Pierson Beckwourth (1798-1860) – Generally known as Jim Beckworth, he was an American mountain man, fur trader, and explorer.

Charles Bent (1799-1847) – One of the famous Bent brothers who helped “open the West,” by building Bent’s Fort in Colorado in 1833.

 

William Bent

William Bent

William Bent (1809-1869) – One of the famous Bent brothers who helped “open the West,” by building Bent’s Fort in Colorado in 1833.

Bartholomew Berthold (1780-1831) – A prominent St. Louis, Missouri fur trader, Berthold went into business with Pierre Chouteau, Jr. and grew wealthy in the fur trade.

Jefferson Blackwell – A fur trader who worked with John Gannt in the upper Rocky Mountains.

Daniel Boone (1734 – 1820) –  An American Pioneer, Daniel Boone was a frontiersman, surveyor, and Indian Fighter who blazed the trail known as the Wilderness Road in 1775. Born in Pennsylvania on November 2, 1734, In May 1750, Boone’s father moved the family to North Carolina. Boone fought in the French and Indian War in 1755 and in 1765 began to explore as far south as Pensacola, Florida. When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Boone fought on both sides.

Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville (1796-1878) – A French-born army officer, frontiersman, and explorer of the American West, Bonneville is best known for blazing portions of the Oregon Trail.

Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont (1679-1734) – Bourgmont was a French explorer who documented his travels on the Missouri and Platte Rivers in North America and made the first European maps of these areas in the early 18th century.

James "Jim" Bowie

James “Jim” Bowie

James “Jim” Bowie (1796-1836) – Frontiersman, explorer, and pioneer, Bowie played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution, culminating in his death at the Battle of the Alamo.

Alexander K. Branch (1798-1841) – Frontiersman and trapper, Branch was born in Virginia. However, when he grew up, he went west and was in Taos, New Mexico by 1825. He then spent several years trapping beaver in the south-west and the Rocky Mountains. In 1829 he was baptized a Catholic and took the name, Jose de Jesus. Somewhere along the line, he married a native woman, with whom he had seven children. He later became a merchant in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He died in January 1841.

Francis Ziba Branch (1802-1874) – Sailor, trapper, and trader, Branch was born on July 24, 1802, in Cayuga County, New York. When he grew up, he became a sailor working on the Great Lakes. In 1830, he joined a caravan headed for Santa Fe, New Mexico. Later that same year, he joined William Wolfskill on a trapping expedition to California. Along the way, the group was instrumental in opening what became known as the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico to California. On his arrival, Branch spent years hunting sea otter. Later he became a businessman at Santa Barbara, California, before moving to a ranch in San Luis Obispo County. He died on May 8, 1874, of bronchitis.

Elias Brevoort (1822-??) – Frontiersman, trader, and author, Brevoort was well acquainted with the Santa Fe Trail and southwest.

James Bridger (1804-1881) – An accomplished trapper, scout, and mountain man, Bridger was one of the first non-Indians to see the natural wonders of what would become Yellowstone Park.

C

Jean Pierre Cabanne – A merchant and fur trader, Jean Cabanne was actively involved in trading with the Kanza Indians.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (?-1543) – A Spanish or Portuguese explorer, Cabrillo was the first European to explore the Californian coast

Robert Campbell

Robert Campbell

Robert Campbell (1804-1879) – Fur trader, frontiersman, merchant, and Indian Commissioner, Campbell was born in Ireland on February 4, 1804.

Christopher “Kit” Carson (1809-1868) – Carson was a daring and brave explorer, mountain man, trapper, scout, soldier, and buffalo hunter.

Sebastiao Melendez Rodriguez Cermeno (1560?-1602) – A Spanish navigator and explorer, Cermeno was Portuguese by birth.

Touissant Charbonneau (1767-1843) – A French-Canadian explorer and trader, and a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, best known as the husband of Sacagawea.

Francois Auguste Chardon (1795-1848) – A fur trader, Chardon fought in the Battle of New Orleans, the final major battle of the War of 1812.

Pierre Chouteau, Jr. (1789-1865) – A merchant and trader who grew up to run a powerful trading company that monopolized the trade along the upper Missouri River.

The Chouteaus – Early French traders and trappers who operated west of St. Louis, Missouri in the latter part of the 1700s and early 1800s.

William Clark

William Clark

William Clark (1770-1838) – Explorer and geographical expert who co-lead the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

John Colter (1774?-1813) – Frontiersman, explorer, fur trapper, mountain man, and army scout credited with the being the discoverer of the Yellowstone area.

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) – Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer who discovered* the “New World” of the Americas on an expedition sponsored by King Ferdinand of Spain in 1492.

Columbia Fur Company (1821-1827) – Started by former members of the North West Company, the firm did well and was bought out by the American Fur Company in 1827.

Comancheros (1780s-1874) – An ethnically mixed group of New Mexican traders who made their living by trading with the Comanche, Kiowa, and other Plains tribes in the late 18th and 19th centuries mostly in northeastern New Mexico and West Texas.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado (1510-1554) – Spanish ruler, explorer, and conquistador. He was the first European to explore North America’s Southwest.

Hernando Cortes (1485-1547) – He was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century.

William Craig (1807-1869) – A frontiersman and trapper, Craig grew up in West Virginia but headed west at the age of 18 and spent time in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest.

David Crockett

David Crockett

David “Davy” Crockett (1786-1836) – A frontiersman, explorer, pioneer, folk hero, soldier and politician, Davy is commonly referred to in popular culture by the epithet “King of the Wild Frontier”.

Alexander Culbertson (1809-1879) – Fur trader and diplomat, Alexander Culbertson was born at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on May 20, 1809.

D

John Day (1770?-1820) –  A fur trapper and frontiersman, he worked for both the American Fur Company and the North West Company. Born in Culpeper County, Virginia about 1770, he made his way to Missouri in 1798, settling in Franklin County.  He soon began hunting and trapping and in 1810 was hired by John Jacob Astor to join an American Fur Company expedition. He traveled with the trapping party to Fort Astoria, Oregon, arriving in May 1812. When Astor sold out, he then went to work for the North West Company. He then spent his time trapping around the Snake River, where he died on February 16, 1820. Though he is a little-known trapper, two rivers, a county, city, dam, and reservoir were named for him in Oregon.

Andres Dorantes de Carranza (1500?-1550s) – An early Spanish explorer, de Carranza was a native of the southwestern Castilian town of Gibraleon, Spain.

Edward De Morin (1818-1902) – Trapper and Trader who worked for the American Fur Company.  Born in Montreal Canada in 1818, De Morin grew up to be a trapper, particularly on the Illinois River. In 1836, he went to work for the American Fur Company and later traded for other firms in the Upper Missouri River country. By 1844, he had made his way to California but later returned to the Midwest, where he lived near Fort McPherson, Nebraska around 1863. He often worked as an interpreter in the vicinity of Fort Robinson, Nebraska. He died at North Platte, Nebraska on June 16, 1902.

Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto

Hernando De Soto (1496?-1542) – Hernando de Soto was about 36-years-old when he was appointed adelantado of Florida. He was “a gentleman by all four descents,” and had recently been created by the Emperor, a knight of the order of Santiago.

Joseph Dickson (1775-1844) – One of the first known mountain men, he, along with Forrest Hancock, followed Lewis and Clark up the Missouri River in 1804.

Joseph Bainbridge Doyle (1817-1864) – Doyle was a trapper, Indian trader, businessman, and Colorado pioneer and politician.

E

Estevanico (1500?-1539) – He was the first known person born in Africa to have arrived in the present-day continental United States.

F

Russel Farnham

Russel Farnham

Russel Farnham (1784-1832) – Explorer and fur trader, Farnham was an agent of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company.

Mike Fink (1770-1823) – A keel boatman and fur trader, he was also a renowned marksman, roisterer, and champion rough-and-tumble fighter. He joined William Henry Ashley’s first fur-trapping and trading expedition to the upper Missouri River country and was killed in a quarrel the next year.

Thomas Fitzpatrick, aka: Broken Hand (1799-1854) – A mountain man and Indian agent, Fitzpatrick was involved in many of the most important events in the opening of the West.

Lucien Fontenelle (1800-1839) – A fur trader, Fontenelle, was associated with several fur companies before becoming part of the American Fur Company.

John C. Fremont by Ehrgott, Forbriger and Co

John C. Fremont by Ehrgott, Forbriger and Co

John Charles Fremont (1813-1890) – Was an explorer, military officer, and politician who led multiple surveying expeditions through the western territory of the United States.

Juan de Fuca (15??-1601?) – A Greek navigator who sailed for Spain under a Spanish name.

G

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 Gannt 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 Pottawatomie 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.

Father Francisco Tomas Garces (1738-1781) – A Spanish Franciscan priest who was a missionary and explorer.

Hugh Glass (1780?-1833) – A trapper and trader in the American West, he was killed by Arikara Indians.

Antoine Godin (1805?-1836) – A Canadian fur trapper and explorer, who is most noted for the public murder of a Gros Ventre chief which led to the Battle of Pierre’s Hole in Idaho.

Josiah Gregg (1806-1850) – Trader, explorer, and writer, he is best known for his book, Commerce on the Prairies, which described his adventures along the Santa Fe Trail.

John W. Gunnison (1812-1853) – After serving in the Florida War of 1837-1839, Gunnison spent the next ten years surveying the lakes and harbors of the great northwestern United States.

H

Gathering of the Trappers, 1904, Frederic Remington

Gathering of the Trappers, 1904, Frederic Remington

Alexander Harvey (1808-1854) – Harvey was one of the boldest men and most reckless desperadoes known to the fur trade. Despite his fierce temper and known cruelty, he worked in the fur industry for years.

John L. Hatcher (1812?-1897?) – Frontiersman and Army Scout, Hatcher was born in Botetourt County, Virginia in about 1812. When he grew up, he headed west and was in St. Louis, Missouri about 1835. He then headed out with the Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain party to present-day Colorado, where he worked at Bent’s Fort for several years. He lived for a time with the Kiowa Indians and when Lieutenant J.W. Abert, explored the Texas Panhandle, he acted as a guide. During the Mexican-American War, he became an Army scout, which he continued until after the hostilities were over. Later, he was driving sheep from Missouri to California in 1858. He settled in the Sonoma Valley the following year. In 1867, he moved to Oregon, where he spent the rest of his life. He died on his farm in Linn County, Oregon in 1897.

Andrew Henry (1775-1832) – A fur trader, he joined with Manuel Lisa, Jean Pierre Choteau and William Clark to found the Missouri Fur Company in 1809. Born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania in 1775, Andrew Henry became a fur trader and in 1809 joined with Manuel Lisa, Jean Pierre Choteau and William Clark to found the Missouri Fur Company. He led an expedition to the Three Forks in Montana where he built a trading post in 1810. The following year he explored the MontanaIdaho wilderness and discovered Lake Henry and built another trading post near present-day Saint Anthony, Idaho. After difficulties with the Blackfoot Indians, Henry returned to St. Louis in January 1812 and soon joined the War of 1812, rising to the rank of Major. In 1822, he started the Rocky Mountain Fur Company with William H. Ashley and led an expedition of 150 men to the mouth of the Yellowstone River and built a post that came to be known as Fort Henry in Montana. In 1824, Henry retired to Missouri and died on January 10, 1832.

Trappers and Hunters

Trappers and Hunters

Valentine Johnson “Rube” Herring (1812-1883) – Born in Illinois in 1812, he received a fair education as a child and when he grew up, he went to St. Louis, Missouri. In 1831, he was hired by John Gantt for a trapping expedition in the Rocky Mountains. Two years later, he was working with William Sublette on the upper Missouri River. He then returned to St. Louis, where he was hired by Nathaniel Wyeth to guide him to Fort Hall, Idaho. He eventually became a free trapper. In 1841-42, he was in charge of Fort Lancaster, in eastern Colorado. Spending considerable time at Taos, New Mexico, he got into a gunfight with a man named Henry Beer over a Mexican woman. In 1849 he went to California, where he settled in San Bernardino County. He became superintendent of schools in 1853, served as justice of the peace, county assessor, and other offices, including sheriff in 1859. He died in 1883.

Captain James Hobbs (1819-1880) – Also known as Comanche Jim, Hobbs was the Great-grandson of renowned Shawnee Indian Chief, Tecumseh. He was on a fur-trading expedition under Charles Bent, destined for Bent’s Fort, Colorado in 1835. Just 16 years old, he and a friend ventured away from the caravan chasing buffalo and were captured by Comanche Indians, with whom they would spend the next several years and became a strong warrior. He and his friend were later Charles Bent, who paid the chief a ransom for his release. He then spent a number of years roaming the Southwest with the likes of Kit Carson. He would also become a Texas Ranger, and fought in the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. He died in November 1880 and is buried at the Dayton National Cemetery in Ohio.

Henry Hudson – An English explorer, Hudson is best known for his explorations of present-day Canada and parts of the northeastern United States.

Hudson’s Bay Company (1670-present) – Chartered on May 2, 1670, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and is one of the oldest in the world. Its trappers and traders were some of the first explorers of the North American continent.

J

Rocky Mountain Fur Company

Rocky Mountain Fur Company

David Edward Jackson (1790-1837) – Pioneer, explorer, trader, and fur trapper Jackson was born in Randolph County, West Virginia in 1790 and spent his early life west of the Shenandoah Mountains. He participated in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 In the spring of 1822, he responded to an ad in the St. Louis Enquirer for a job with William Ashley’s fur company. While in present-day  South Dakota, Arikara warriors attacked the expedition on June 2, 1823. The U.S. Army retaliated in what is now known as the Arikara War, the first military conflict between the United States and the western Native Americans. In 1826, he and two other fur trappers, Jedediah Smith and William Sublette bought out Ashley’s operations and Jackson then managed part of the business. In 1828-29, Jackson wintered among the Flathead Indians and explored the area around Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is named for him. By 1830, Jackson, Smith, and Sublette had made a good profit and sold the company to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. with the same partners, Jackson then entered the Santa Fe Trail trade, reaching New Mexico in July 1831, after Jedidiah Smith had been killed by Comanche Indians. He then traveled to California before returning to Missouri. Ailing, he lived in Paris, Tennessee, where he died on December 24, 1837.

Louis Jolliet (1645-1700) – A French Canadian explorer known for his discoveries in North America. Jolliet and Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette, a Catholic priest and missionary, were the first non-Natives to explore and map much of the Mississippi River in 1673.

K

Charles Keemle (1800-1865) – Born at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in October 1800, Keemle grew up to become a journalist. He moved briefly to Vincennes, Indiana, before heading to St. Louis, Missouri in 1817. He joined the Missouri Fur Company in 1820 and was soon trapping on the Yellowstone River. On May 31, 1823, he barely survived a Blackfoot Indian attack that killed seven and wounded four other trappers. Later, that year, he took part in Colonel Henry Leavenworth’s indecisive attack on the Arikara Indians. That winter, he wintered with Crow Indians before returning to civilization for good. He died at St. Louis, Missouri on September 28, 1865.

Mathew Kinkead (1795-18??) – Merchant, trader, and rancher in New Mexico and Colorado, Kinkead finally found wealth in the California goldfields.

Father Eusebio Francisco Kino (1645-1711) – A Jesuit priest, missionary, explorer, map-maker, mathematician, and astronomer, Kino founded many missions and explored areas in southwestern North America, including areas in what are now northern Sonora, Mexico, southern California, and southern Arizona.

James Kipp (1788-1880) – A fur trader who worked for the North West Company and Columbia Fur Company. He built Fort Piegan, Montana, the first post in the Blackfoot territory.

L

William Laidlaw (1798?-1851) – A fur trader, who next to Kenneth McKenzie was said to have been one of the best.

Daniel Lamont – One of three partners of the Upper Missouri Outfit of the American Fur Company and one of the original company men of the Columbia Fur Company. Very little is known of his life, but it is thought that he originated from Scotland. In 1834 when John Jacob Astor sold the Western Department of the American Fur Company to Pratte, Chouteau & Co. and reorganized the Upper Missouri Outfit, several men quit including Lamont and Laidlaw. Lamont became a partner in Powell Lamont & Co., which bought and sold to the Arkansas Valley and Santa Fe market. Lamont had a long career in the fur trade, but, what became of him, we were unable to determine.

Charles Larpenteur (1807-1872) – A fur trader, Larpenteur was born in Fontainebleau, France, and while just a boy came to the United States where his family settled in Maryland. At the age of 21 he traveled west to St. Louis, Missouri where, in 1833, he went to work for William Sublette and Robert Campbell and accompanied them on an expedition of the Rocky Mountains. They arrived at the Green River Rendezvous in Wyoming in July. The men then built Fort William (later Fort Laramie) at the mouth of the Yellowstone River to compete with the American Fur Company. Sublette sold out to the American Fur Company that winter and Larpenteur then went to work for them. He left the company in the spring of 1848 and became a free trader to the Flathead tribe near Fort Benton, Montana. In about 1850, he settled down on a farm near Little Sioux, Iowa. However, he would continue to venture back out in the fur trading business for several years until 1871, when he returned to his farm for good. He died on November 15, 1872, in Little Sioux. Over the years he kept numerous journals and memoirs that documented his years in the fur trade business.

Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle

Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle

Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687) – A French explorer, LaSalle explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. La Salle claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.

Joaquin Antoine Leroux (1810-1881) – Also known as Watkins Leroux, Antoine was a celebrated 19th-century mountain man, scout, and trail guide based in New Mexico.

Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) – Explorer, soldier, and public administrator, Lewis was best known for his role as the leader of the Corps of Discovery, whose mission was to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase.

Benjamin “Ben” Vernon Lilly (1856-1936) – Often called the “last of the mountain men,” Ben Lilly was known as the greatest lion and bear hunter in the southwest.

Manuel Lisa (1772-1820) – Frontiersman, explorer, and fur trader, Lisa founded the Missouri Fur Company.

Stephen Harriman Long (1784-1864) – An engineer, explorer, and military officer, Long led what’s known as the Long’s Expedition through the Great Plains.

Tristan de Luna y Arellano (1519-1571) – A Spanish conquistador of the 16th century, Arellano served with Vasquez de Coronado on his expedition to the Seven Cities of Cíbola and established Pensacola, one of the earliest European settlements within the present-day United States.

M

Father Jacques Marquette

Father Jacques Marquette

Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) –  Sometimes known as Père Marquette or James Marquette, Jacques was a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan’s first European settlement, Sault Ste. Marie, and later founded St. Ignace, Michigan.

Lucien B. Maxwell – (1818-1875) – The owner of the largest land grant in American History, a friend of Kit Carson, and a frontier scout and guide, Maxwell, who has been called the “Emporer of the Old West,” died in poverty in New Mexico.

Kenneth McKenzie (1797-1861) – One of the ablest traders that ever worked for the American Fur Company.

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. Afterward, 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) – Joseph Lafayette “Joe” Meek was a trapper, trader, pioneer, lawman, and politician who was important during the establishment of Oregon Territory.

Captain Pedro Menendez de Aviles (1519-1574) – A brutal Spanish sailor, soldier, explorer, and,  conquistador, Pedro Menendez was sent by Phillip II of Spain to remove the French from Florida.

Moses Embree “California Joe” Milner (1829-1876) – Scout, frontiersman, and miner, California Joe was George Armstrong Custer’s Chief Scout in 1868.

Missouri Fur Company (1808-12, 1819-24) – First established as the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company by several famous explorers and traders, including Manuel Lisa, Pierre Choteau, Sr., Auguste Choeau, Jr., Andrew Henry, William Clark, and others, the company prospered until the War of 1812, at which time it folded. It was resurrected; however, in 1819, then becoming simply the Missouri Fur Company Company, which went bankrupt in 1824.

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.

Luis de Moscoso Alvarado (1505-1551) – A Spanish explorer and conquistador, he participated in the conquest of present Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, and assumed command of Hernando De Soto’s expedition after he died.

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Panfilo de Narvaez(1478?-1528) – Spanish explorer and soldier, Narvaez helped conquer Cuba in 1511 and led a Spanish royal expedition to North America in 1527.

Fray Marcos de Niza(1495?-1558) – A Franciscan priest who is said to have traveled to the fabled “Seven Golden Cities of Cibola” in what is now the western part of New Mexico.

North West Company (1779-1821) – A Canadian based fur company, the competition with Hudson’s Bay Company was so fierce it caused armed conflicts and they were forced by the British authorities, to merge with Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821.

Robert “Doc” Newell (1807-1869) – A trapper, trader and frontier doctor, he became a politician in Oregon.

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Juan de Onate (1550?-1626) – A Spanish conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain and became New Mexico’s first governor.

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Pacific Fur Company (1810-1813) – Founded in June 1810 by John Jacob Astor, who also owned the American Fur Company, it was short-lived when it lost two ships, were attacked by Indians, and were forced out by the War of 1812.

Trappers' Campfire by Currier & Ives

Trappers’ Campfire by Currier & Ives

Archibald Palmer, aka: James A. Hamilton (??-1840) – Thought to have been from England, he was well-educated and many thought him to have been of noble descent. However, when he arrived in the United States, he was going by the name of James A. Hamilton, which led many to suspect, he had something to hide. He went to work for the American Fur Company, though he was said to have hated Indians, a strange attitude given his occupation. Other employees of the company were said to hold him in awe because he took a bath and put on a clean shirt every day. He was in charge of Fort Union, North Dakota during much of the 1830s, where he was said to have elegantly hosted a number of intellectual and titled guests. By 1840; however, he was living prosperously in St. Louis, Missouri, where he died in February 1840.

Pierre Didier Papin (1798-1853) – Born at St. Louis, Missouri on March 7, 1798, he grew up to work for the American Furn Company. In 1829, he formed his own company to compete with his former employer but soon sold out to his rival. He then went back to work for the American Fur Company, working near the White River, South Dakota until about 1842. He then made his way to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, before working near Fort John, Nebraska. Somewhere along the line, he married a French woman, and the pair had four children. He died at Fort John, Nebraska in May 1853.

Honore Picotte – A French-Canadian, Picotte came to the Missouri River in about 1820 and joined with the Columbia Fur Company, but after its union with the American Fur Company, he joined with others in forming the French Fur Company in 1827. When it sold to the American Fur Company in 1830, he went to work for their Upper Missouri Outfit where he remained for some twenty years. He became a partner and finally rose to an influential standing in the company’s affairs. During this time he married a Sioux woman and gained a great deal of influence among the tribe. He was stationed for many years at Fort Pierre.

Zebulon M. Pike, early 1800s

Zebulon M. Pike, early 1800s

Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1779-1813) – A soldier and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado is named, Pike mapped much of the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase.

Joshua Pilcher (1790-1843) – Trapper, trader, and Indian agent, Pilcher was born in Culpeper County, Virginia on May 15, 1790.

Captain Alonso Alvarez de Pineda (1494-1520) – A Spanish explorer and map-maker, Pineda and his crew were probably the first Europeans in Texas, claiming it for Spain.

Simon Plamondon (1800-1900) – A frontiersman and adventurer, Plamondon was born on the St. Lawrence River in Canada in 1900. When still a mere boy, at the age of 15, he began to range along the Mississippi River and soon spent time on the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. by 1818, he had made his way to the Pacific Northwest and joined the North West Company as a voyageur, trapper, and trader. He explored the Columbia River and worked out of Fort Vancouver after the North West Company had been absorbed by Hudson’s Bay Company. Somewhere along the line, he married an Indian wife, who died in childbirth about 1827. He then wandered north as far as Eskimo country and the Arctic plains. Afterward, he turned to farming in Washington Territory. He died at Cowlitz, Washington in 1900 at the age of 100.

Juan Ponce de Leon (1460?-1521) – A Spanish explorer and soldier, he was the first European to set foot in Florida. He also established the oldest European settlement in Puerto Rico and discovered the Gulf Stream.

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Mountain Man

Mountain Man

Pierre-Esprit Radisson (1636-1710) – A French-born explorer, fur trader, Radisson immigrated to Canada as a teenager and was captured in an Iroquois raid about 1652 and was eventually adopted by the tribe. After two years, he escaped and journeyed to the fur-trading regions of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Trapping with his brother-in-law, Médard des Groseilliers, their furs were confiscated when it was found they didn’t have a license. The two then tried to support a new trade company, but didn’t receive any support from the Canadians and then tried to enlist the aid of the English. Traveling to England, they found the support and the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1670. He later became an English citizen in 1687 and wrote the accounts of his voyages. He retired on a small pension and dividends from the Hudson’s Bay Company and died in poverty in 1710. During his lifetime, he married three times and had several children.

John Reed (17??-1814) – Mountain man and explorer, Reed hailed from Ireland but made his way to America somewhere along the line. He joined with the John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company and went west with the Hunt overland Party. After having reached Astoria, he and several other men were sent on March 30, 1812, with dispatches for Astor to cross the continent again to New York. However, the group arrived back at the post on May 11th, after having been attacked by Indians, whole stole their provisions as well as the dispatches. In early 1813, Reed explored the Willamette Valley, Oregon and spent that winter In southern Idaho. On January 10, 1814, he and several other trappers along the Boise River, were killed by Snake Indians.

Moses B. Reed – A frontiersman who was a private in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, he soon found that he hated life along the trail and was reprimanded several times for small infractions. On August 4, 1804, he deserted the Corp, trying to make his way back to civilization. However, George Drouillard was sent to track him down and bring him back “dead or alive.”  He was soon dishonorably discharged and sent back to St. Louis, Missouri in disgrace in 1805. He was never heard from again.

Tom Reese (18?? 1843) – An African-American fur trader who worked out of Fort McKenzie for the American Fur Company.

Jean “John” Baptiste Richard, Sr. (1810-1875) – A French trapper, trader, and entrepreneur, Richard managed several trading posts in Wyoming, ranched, built bridges, and worked briefly in the Colorado goldfields.

Joseph Robidoux III – A fur trader, Robidoux established the Blacksnake Hills Trading Post that eventually became St. Joseph, Missouri.

Rocky Mountain Fur Company (1822-1833) – Sometimes referred to as Ashley’s Hundred, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company was organized in St. Louis, Missouri in 1822 by General William Henry Ashley and Major Andrew Henry.

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Sacagawea

Sacagawea

Sacagawea (1790?-1812?) ­ A Shoshone Indian woman, she was captured by an enemy tribe who eventually sold her to a French Canadian trapper she later married. In 1804, Lewis and Clark, her husband, Touissant Charbonneau, was hired by the expedition as an interpreter. Sacagawea became an integral part of the expedition.

Rufus B. Sage (1817-1893) – A frontiersman, mountain man, and author, Sage was born at Cromwell, Connecticut, where he became a newspaperman when he grew up. Somewhere along the line, he made his way to Independence, Missouri. In September 1841, he left with Lancaster P. Lupton, headed to Fort Platte, Wyoming where they stayed for the winter before returning to Missouri the next summer. Before long, he was off to the mountains again, where he lived as a mountain man and traveled from Fort Hall, Idaho to Texas, studiously taking notes all the while. In 1844, he went to Ohio, where he wrote the book Scenes in the Rocky Mountains. He died on December 23, 1893.

John Sayer (1750-1818) – An experienced trader with many years of experience, John Sayer became a wintering partner of the North West Company in the 1790s. In 1804 he established the North West Company Fur Trading Post near Pine City, Minnesota.

Hiram Scott (1805-1828) – Mountain Man, trapper, and trader, he grew ill and died at Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. The historic monument is named for him.

George Sibley

George Sibley

George C. Sibley (1782-1863) –  Explorer, soldier, Indian agent, politician, and educator who led the 1825 Sibley Survey team of the  Santa Fe Trail.

George S. Simpson (1818-1885) – A trapper, trader, and adventurer, Simpson helped to form El Pueblo and Hardscrabble in Colorado, and Barclay’s Fort in New Mexico.

Alexander Sinclair (1790-1832) – Probably born in Tennessee, he grew up to become a trapper. In 1830, he joined with George Nidever and others, forming the Bean-Sinclair trapping party at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Leading the party, Sinclair and his men joined the rendezvous at Pierre’s Hole in 1832. In the Battle of Pierre’s Hole, he was killed on July 18, 1832.

Prewett Fuller Sinclair (1803-1882) – The younger brother of Alexander Sinclair, he was probably born in Tennessee. Along with his brother, he joined the Bean-Sinclair trapping party at Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1830. His older brother was killed two years later at the Battle of Pierre’s Hole in present-day Idaho. Prewett remained in the mountains until 1837 when he became a partner in Fort Davy Crockett at Brown’s Hole, Colorado. He then went to California in 1843. In 1846 he briefly joined one of  John Charles Fremont’s expeditions, before settling at Corralitos, California. There, he became a prominent pioneer and businessman. He died in 1882.

Jedediah Strong Smith (1799-1831) – A hunter, trapper, fur trader and explorer of the Rocky Mountains, the west coast, and the southwest during the nineteenth century.

Captain John Smith (1580-1631) – An English soldier, explorer, admiral, and author, Smith established the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.

John Simpson Smith, aka: Uncle John Blackfoot Smith (1812-1871) – Trader and frontiersman, Smith ranged from the Yellowstone River to the Gila River, and from the upper Missouri River to the Rio Grande.

Ceran St. Vrain (1802-1870) – Trader, frontiersman, businessman, and soldier, St. Vrain established Bent’s Fort, Colorado along with William and Charles Bent.

William L. Sublette (1799-1845) – An explorer, fur trapper, trader, and mountain man, Sublette was part of William Henry Ashley’s trapping group referred to as Ashley’s Hundred. he went on to acquire part of the business.

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Levi Talbot (??-1823) – A trapper for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, nothing is known of Talbot’s early life However when William Henry Ashley called for “one hundred young men” to ascend the Missouri River to trap beaver in 1922, Talbot responded. Talbot, along with friends Mike Fink and Bill Carpenter wintered with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company before traveling to Fort Henry, Montana in the spring of 1823. There, Fink killed Bill Carpenter in a “game,” the two were fond of playing shooting cups of whiskey off each others heads. When Talbot found out a few weeks later that Fink had deliberately killed Carpenter, Levi shot Mike Fink through the heart. Later that year, Talbot took part in Colonel Henry Leavenworth’s operation against the Arikara tribe in early August. Ten days later; however, on August 25, 1823, Talbot died while attempting to swim across the Bad River, a Missouri River tributary in South Dakota.

Edward S. Terrell (1812-1905) – Pioneer, trader, and lawman, Terrell is thought to have hailed from Kentucky or Tennessee before making his way to Texas, where he is said to have been the first white man to have camped on the site of what would later become Fort Worth, Texas. After a treaty with the area Indians in 1843, Terrell became an Indian trader and trapper working at the mouth of the Clear Fork on the Trinity River. He was later captured by the Indians and held for more than a year. He would eventually become city marshal of Fort Worth, Texas in 1873 and late that year, its first chief of police. Afterward, he worked as a railroad contractor. He settled finally at Graham, Texas where he died on November 1, 1905.

Tom Tobin, frontiersman

Tom Tobin, frontiersman

Tom Tate Tobin (1823-1904) – A frontiersman, trapper, mountain man, and scout, he explored and scouted in the New Mexico and Colorado areas.

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Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Verendrye(1685-1749) – A French Canadian military officer, fur trader and explorer, in the 1730’s he and his four sons opened up the area west of Lake Superior and thus began the process that added Western Canada to the original New France in the Saint Lawrence basin. He was also the first European to reach North Dakota and the upper Missouri River.

William Henry Vanderburgh (1800-1832)  – Born at Vincennes, Indiana, he grew up to attend West Point but did not graduate. He then went to work for the Missouri Fur Company near Council Bluffs, Iowa under Manual Lisa and Joshua Pilcher.

Pierre (Luis) Louis Vasquez (1798-1868) – Born in St. Louis, Missouri on October 3, 1798, Luis Vasquez (later called Louis) grew up to become a fur trapper and trader, receiving his first license to trade with the Pawnee Indians. By the early 1830’s he had moved westward into the Rocky Mountains where he established one of the first trading posts at the mouth of Clear Creek in Colorado in 1835. Working with Andrew Sublette, the post did a brisk business for fur pelts with the Indians. Soon, however, three more trading posts were established in the region and the competition became fierce. In 1841, he sold out his interest in Fort Vasquez and soon met up with Jim Bridger. Two years later, the pair built Fort Bridger on the Black Fork of the Green River in Wyoming. The operation was not only an active trading post but soon became a popular stopping point on the Oregon Trail. In 1846, Vasquez returned to St. Louis, where he married a widow by the name Narcissa Land Ashcraft. The pair returned to Fort Bridger for a time before moving on to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1855, where Vasquez opened a store. He and Bridger sold the fort in 1858. Vasquez retired back in his home state of Missouri and died in Westport on September 5, 1868.

Voyageurs

Voyageurs

Voyageurs – Voyageurs were French Canadians who engaged in the transporting of furs by canoe during the fur trade years. Voyageur is a French word, meaning “traveler”. See Article HERE

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Ezekiel Williams (1775-1844) – Fur trapper, frontiersman, and soldier, Williams worked with such men as Manuel Lisa and the Missouri Fur Company.

William Sherley “Old Bill” Williams (1787-1849) -Better known as “Old Bill”, was a Mountain Man, explorer, army scout, and frontiersman.

Richens Lacy “Uncle Dick” Wootton (1816-1893) – American frontiersman, mountain man, trapper, and guide, Wootton was born in Mecklenberg County, Virginia on May 6, 1816.

Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth (1802-1856) – Explorer, and inventor in the American West.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated August 2020.

Go to names beginning with:  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

Also See:

Exploration of America

Famous Men on the Santa Fe Trail

Fur Trading on the Frontier

Trading Posts of the Mountain Men

Trappers, Traders & Pathfinders

4 thoughts on “Explorers & Frontiersman List”

  1. Excuse me?
    No John Wesley Powell?
    I think ya might want to look into that.
    First man to traverse/explore, and map the San Juan, Escalante, and Colorado rivers especially through the rugged and unforgiving terrain of Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon.
    He was a decorated Civil War Major who did this AFTER LOSING AN ARM IN THE WAR.
    Yeah… You missed one. A really great one.

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