In the early decades of the nineteenth century, French, English, and American fur trappers came to Colorado, living a rugged existence in the mountains. They traded with — and often married into — Indian tribes, and sent pelts back to “the States,” where beaver hats were fashionable. James Baker and Leroy Hafen, in their 1927 History of Colorado, reported that the first recorded trapper-trader in Colorado was James Purcell in 1802, a year before the Louisiana Purchase. In the book the authors provide a detailed history of the fur trade and of the men who trapped and traded in what was to become Colorado. The full 5-volume history has been digitized by our library.
The Colorado Magazine, published by the Colorado Historical Society from 1923 to 1980, also detailed the lives of several mountain men. Articles include:
- “Antoine Robidoux, Kingpin in the Colorado River Fur Trade, 1824-1844,” by Joseph J. Hill, v.7, n.4 (July 1930)
- “The Bean-Sinclair Party of Rocky Mountain Trappers, 1830-32,” by Leroy Hafen, v.31, n.3 (July 1954)
- “Charles Autobees,” by Janet Lecompte, part 1, v.34, n.3 (July 1957); part 2, v.34, n.4 (October 1957)
- “Colorado Mountain Men,” by Leroy Hafen, v.30, n.1 (January 1953)
- “Elbridge Gerry, Colorado Pioneer,” by Leroy Hafen, v.29, n.2 (April 1952). This Elbridge Gerry was the grandson of the famous politician for whom “gerrymandering” was named.
- “Fort Davy Crockett, Its Fur Men and Visitors,” by Leroy Hafen, v.29, n.1 (January 1952)
- “Fort Jackson and the Early Fur Trade on the South Platte,” by Leroy Hafen, v.5, n.1 (February 1928)
- “Fort Vasquez,” by Leroy Hafen, v.41, n.3 (Summer 1964)
- “Furs and Forts of the Rocky Mountain West,” by A.J. Fynn, v.8, n.6 (December 1931)
- “The Last Years of James P. Beckwourth,” by Leroy Hafen, v.5, n.4 (August 1928). Also see a biography of Beckwourth from the Colorado Virtual Library.
- “Mountain Men: Andrew W. Sublette,” by Leroy Hafen, v.10, n.5 (September 1933)
- “Mountain Men: ‘Big Phil,’ the Cannibal,” by Leroy Hafen, v.13, n.2 (March 1936)
- “Mountain Men: George Nidever,” by Leroy Hafen, v.10, n.3 (May 1933)
- “Mountain Men: Louis Vasquez,” by Leroy Hafen, v.10, n.1 (January 1933)
- “Mountain Men: John D. Albert,” by Leroy Hafen, v.10, n.2 (March 1933)
- “Mountain Men: William Craig,” by Leroy Hafen, v.11, n.5 (September 1934)
- “Pioneer Days on the Big Thompson,” by Lucas Brandt, v.7, n.5 (September 1930). Includes Brandt’s recollections of fur trader Mariano Modena.
- “Some Characteristics of Jim Baker,” by Chauncey Thomas, v.4, n.4 (August 1927). Not the same Baker that wrote History of Colorado.
- “Thomas Fitzpatrick and the First Indian Agency in Colorado,” by Leroy Hafen, v.6, n.2 (March 1929)
- “William S. Williams, M.T.,” by Matthew C. Field, v.15, n.2 (March 1938)
- “With Fur Traders in Colorado, 1839-40: The Journal of E. Willard Smith,” v.27, n.3 (July 1950)
|Born into slavery in 1805, James P. Beckwourth became one of Colorado’s most famous mountain men.|