Manuel Alvarez – Mountain Man

The End of the Santa Fe Trail by Gerald Cassidy, about 1910

The End of the Santa Fe Trail by Gerald Cassidy, about 1910

Manuel Alvarez was a mountain man, trapper, and trader who eventually became a politician.

Alvarez was born in Albegas, Spain, in about 1794. However, by 1818, he had crossed the ocean and was in Mexico. Mexico gained independence from Spain during the Mexican War of Independence in 1821. In 1829 the Mexican government expelled all Spanish nationals, and Alvarez was forced to leave. He then made his way to New York and then to Missouri, where he met several trappers and traders and learned about the recently opened Santa Fe Trail.

In September 1824, he and 11 companions began the journey across the plains for New Mexico. Upon his arrival in Santa Fe, he soon opened a store and was active in the trade between Missouri and New Mexico.

After operating his store for several years, he entered the Rocky Mountain fur trade as a free trapper before joining the American Fur Company as a brigade leader. He left the mountains in about 1834 and returned to Santa Fe, where he continued as a trader, and his store became one of the largest in New Mexico. He also showed an interest in politics, and in March 1839, he was appointed United States consul at Santa Fe, a position he served until 1846.

In 1847 he was elected as a representative to the legislative general assembly of New Mexico during the American occupation. His abilities and experiences as a traveler, trapper, merchant, stock-raiser, and government official brought him wealth and prominence in New Mexico before and after the American occupation. In the early 1850s, Alvarez began herding sheep and mules to the California goldfields.

Though he retired from public life in 1854, he kept up with current affairs and continued to operate his store.

He died in July 1856.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated October 2022.

Also See:

Explorers and Frontiersmen

Fur Trading on the Frontier

Historic People of Missouri

Trappers, Traders & Pathfinders


American National Biography
Thrapp, Dan L.; Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, Volumes I-III; University of Nebraska Press, 1988.
University of Nebraska