Northern Shoshone and Bannock
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Who's Who
All My Relations
Pipe Ceremony and Peacemaking
Great Circle
Intertribal Relations
"How the Indian Averted Famine"
Naming Ceremonies
Agaidika Perspective on Sacajawea
Horses, Trade, & Travel
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Sovereignty & Tribal Government
Arts & Artists
Annual Festival Dances
Recommended Websites

  Relationship with the U.S.
  Early Contact
Fur Trade
Naturalists in Shoshone Country
Missionaries and Emigrants
Making Treaties
Lemhi In Limbo
Lemhi Reservation and  Loss
Shrinking Reservation
References Cited

Alexander Ross
Alexander Ross
Peter Skene Ogden
Peter Skene Ogden
John Work
John Work
Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth
Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth
Captain Benjamin Bonneville
Captain Benjamin Bonneville
The links to text provided on this page are from primary and secondary sources, and offer the reader first hand accounts of the fur trade era in Shoshone country. This resource is available thanks to the Mountain Men and the Fur Trade website which provides a virtual Research Center for Western Fur Trade History.
Read more about the project.


Lemhi Pass > Culture > Fur Trade

Meriwether Lewis' promise to the Shoshones of American guns and ammunition went unfulfilled. Even six years later, in 1811, the Astorian's overland party noted that weaponry amongst the Snakes still consisted of bows and arrows. Guns were few and far between.

Traders and trappers occasionally traversed the territory of the Shoshones and Bannocks during the next decade. Beginning in 1823 trappers with Hudson's Bay Company became a common sight; in fact, way too common. The goal of this effort, known as the Snake River Brigades, was to wipe out the fur-bearing animals in order to discourage American free trappers from moving closer to the Pacific Northwest. The environmental consequences were substantial, and encounters with local people were common and not always positive.

Snake River
October camp on the Snake River, ca. 1842
(Fremont: 1887)

Many of the expedition leaders for the fur companies left accounts of their travels including observations of encounters with various bands of Shoshones and Bannocks. Some of these resources are listed below, chronologically, with links to online transcripts, and other published references.

Wilson Price Hunt led the overland trip of the Astorians to the mouth of the Columbia in 1811-12. This journal covers the trip from the Arikara villages on the Missouri to Astoria.

Hunt, William Price. Overland diary of Wilson Price Hunt. Translated from the French and edited by Hoyt C. Franchere. Ashland Oregon Book Society, 1973.
Read online:
See map showing routes of Hunt and Stuart:
[Map is from Irving's Astoria.]

Robert Stuart, led an overland journey of Astorians eastward from Astoria to St. Louis in 1812-13. With only a handful of men, they went by canoe, horseback and mostly by foot, from the mouth of the Columbia to St. Louis, then eventually to New York.

Stuart, Robert. Philip Ashton Rollins, Ed. The Discovery of the Oregon Trail: Robert Stuart's Narratives of his overland trip Eastward from Astoria in 1812-13. University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

Alexander Ross was the leader of the Hudson's Bay Company's 1824 trapping expedition into Snake Country, covering some of the same country traversed by Lewis and Clark. With Salish guides they traveled from Flathead House up the Bitter Root River to a prairie where they were snowbound for a month, then they crossed Gibbons Pass into the Big Hole, over to Lemhi valley and then spent the summer trapping streams of central Idaho.

Ross, Alexander and Kenneth A. Spaulding, Editor The Fur Hunters of the Far West. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1956.
Read online:

Peter Skene Ogden was a chief trader with the Hudson's Bay Company. In the period 1824-1829, he led five trapping expeditions to the "Snake Country", all along the tributaries of the Snake River.

Binns, Archie. Peter Skene Ogden: Fur Trader. Portland, Binfords & Mort,1967.
Read online:

William H. Ashley's partner, Andrew Henry, spent the winter of 1810 attempting to establish trade in Shoshone Territory. Although this attempt was unsuccessful, Henry and Ashley recognized the rich potential of the area. These men determined to establish trappers in the region of the Snake and Green headwaters. 1825 papers.

Ashley, William H. The Ashley-Smith explorations and the discovery of a central route to the Pacific, 1822-1829, with the original journals, by Harrison Clifford Dale, Cleveland, The Arthur H. Clark company, 1918.
Read online:
Ashley's Diary is from the William H. Ashley Papers, Missouri Historical Society, St Louis, MO. Read online:

John Work, a trader of the Hudson's Bay Company, describes his trapping expedition to the Snake Country in the year 1830-31.

Lewis, William S. & Phillips, Paul C. The Journal of John Work. The Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland, 1923.

Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. XIII. (1912) pp. 363-371
Read online:
Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. XIV. (1913) pp. 280- 314
Read online:

Warren Angus Ferris was an ordinary trapper, employed by the American Fur Company, who left a record of his day to day experiences as a mountain man. He provides one of the most detailed accounts of the fur trade in the Central Rocky Mountains during the years 1830 to 1835.

Ferris, Warren Angus Life in the Rocky Mountains: A Diary of Wanderings on the sources of the Rivers Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado 1830-1835. Old West Publishing Company, Denver, 1983.
Read online:

Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth organized and led two expeditions to the fur country, in 1832 and 1834, with the purpose of establishing a fur trapping business to compete with the entrenched companies.

Read online:
(See August and September entries in 1832 journal.)
1834 Expedition

John Ball (1794-1884) was member of Nathaniel Wyeth's 1832 expedition to the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. Ball provides an account of: Sublette's expedition across the plains to the 1832 Pierre's Hole rendezvous, the battle with the Blackfeet that occurred there, and the continuation of Wyeth's remaining men to Oregon.

Ball, John, Autobiography of John Ball, Grand Rapids, Mich., The Dean-Hicks company, 1925.
Read online:

Captain Bonneville
Benjamin de Bonneville explored beyond the Rockies (1832 - '36)
in hopes of breaking the British grip on the Columbia River fur trade.
The account by Washington Irving, although based in fact, is replete with literary license.
Irving, Washington. Adventures of Captain Bonneville. Binfords & Mort, Publishers, Oregon, 1954.

Read online:
[See chapters 28 - 30.]
View Bonneville's map:

Osborne Russell - The Journal begins when Russell hired on with Nathaniel Wyeth's 1834 expedition. He participated in the establishment of Fort Hall, and later became a free trapper. He trapped for nine years in the greater Yellowstone region before leaving the mountains to settle in Oregon.

Russell, Osborne. Journal of a Trapper. Oregon Historical Society, Oregon. 1955.
Read online:

John Kirk Townsend. a young ornithologist, and his companion Thomas Nuttall, a botanist, accompanied Nathaniel Wyeth on his second expedition to the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia in 1834. Specimens taken by Townsend were an important contribution to the work of Audubon.

Townsend, John Kirk. Narrative of a journey across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River. University of Nebraska Press, 1978.
Read online:
[See chapters 6 - 8]

Thomas Jefferson Farnham a young lawyer from Vermont, was inspired by missionary Jason Lee's descriptions of the Oregon Territory, and set out in 1839 from Illinois with a party of nineteen. The group had diminished to four by the time they left Brown's Hole in Colorado and obtained a Shoshone guide to Fort Hall.

Farnham, Thomas J. Travels in the Great Western Prairie, the Anahuac, and Rocky Mountains, and in the Oregon Territory; May 21-October 16, 1839. Reprint of the London edition, 1843.
Reprinted in the series:
Early Western Travels, 1748-1846 (32 vols.), ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites, Cleveland, OH: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1904.

Farnham, Thomas J. An 1839 Wagon Train Journal, Travels in the Great Western Prairies, The Anahuac and Rocky Mountains and in the Oregon Territory. Greely & McElrath, New York, 1983.

Background: Detail of map sketch of area of "Beer Springs",
later known as Soda Springs. (Fremont:1845).
Courtesy of The University of Montana Mike and
Maureen Mansfield Library, K. Ross Toole Archive