Tag Archives: Mandans

This Week in History: September 27

Below is a long, ram­bling let­ter to Robert from one of his best friends, busi­ness part­ner Bill Sub­lette.  Sub­lette was born in Ken­tucky and received lit­tle if any for­mal edu­ca­tion, but he was an accom­plished trap­per and trad­er.  Though he read­i­ly admits, “…you will excuse this let­ter and try and make out its con­tents if you can. It is now late at night, my health is not of the best…” this note to Robert gives the read­er a good impres­sion of the pol­i­tics, logis­tics and rela­tion­ships that were nec­es­sary to build a suc­cess­ful fur trad­ing com­pa­ny.  (Note: This has been edit­ed some­what for clar­i­ty.  Sub­lette used no com­mas and prac­ti­cal­ly no peri­ods.  Good luck.)


Grovent Vil­liage Sept 25th 1833

Mr. Robt Campbell

Dear Sir,

I arrive here this Evening and found all well. The Man­dans and Grovon­lers have just made peace with the Yanck­lon­ain, and two hun­dred Lodges left here today .I shall take Sav­ille down with me to trade with the Yanck­to­ni­ans Mjr. Doughtery has trad­ed upwards of one hun­dred Robes and nine Beaver. They are in want of cop­per ket­tles here and wish you to send all down you think you can spare. Some Chiefs coats say half dozen or fif­teen pounds of stone white and blue beads small and 6 doz bright Red han­dle knives.  Some 1 doz 6 inch flat and 3 square files 2 quire of paper, 10 lbs Ver­mil­lion some small brass wire and some iron or large brass wire for Wrist bands, some oval blue beads and while if you have them to spare 1 goose, the largest fire steels, a few pair of Striped Blan­kets. The old man Chaibrno thinks he will want some pow­der and ball in the Spring.  Mr. Dougher­ty has got all his pick­ets for the fort and the Indi­ans are deter­mined to have a fort here or they will be much dis­sat­is­fied.  I think you had bet­ter send two more good work­ing hands who under­stand Raft­ing down here that they may be get­ting out tim­ber this win­ter and have all ready for the Spring. They want a cross-cut saw whip, saw and Plow, if you can have one made they are in great need of a Cart here and I think you had bet­ter send down a pair of wheels and two set of har­ness and they will have haul­ing to do if you could get a Bull Boat for those things to come down in it will be best. John Ruhan talks of stay­ing here in pon­toes place if he does he will fetch you this let­ter. The Indi­ans appear in fine Spir­its and have fur­nished the men with meat for noth­ing whilst they were get­ting out the pick­ets and say as soon as the tim­bers are ready they will help down with them. Some of those arti­cles I have writ­ten for Sav­ille thinks he will want there were six of the Aspi­neoumes here a few days since, and after some dif­fi­cul­ty they smoke and made a treaty with the Grovon­ties Mr. McKen­zie made a lengthy speech at the Man­dans I have been informed and gave out the Big talk as the say­ing is, they have one trad­er here he has trad­ed about thir­ty Robes while Dougher­ty has near­ly tripled him. They gave their goods at the same price we do accept­ing the ammu­nion and they give 70 Loads whilst we give 60 I stat­ed above that a skin boat would be best but on reflec­tion those arti­cles I expect will have to come down in a canoe and I can’t see how the cart wheels will be man­aged which is want­i­ng here worst of any arti­cle.  Like­ly they can be arranged on the canoe in some way and you will excuse this let­ter and try and make out its con­tents if you can. It is now late at night, my health is not of the best but I am bet­ter than when I left you. I have instruct­ed Mr. Dougher­ty to buy 50 or 60 bushels of corn as you may send down for it soon. I think if you was to send down two more kegs of Pow­der and Ball it would not be a miss as Sav­ille thinks he will want it as there is some of the Sowones with the Yanck­ton­aies and intend win­ter­ing with them and he thinks his sup­plies will fall short.

Draw­ing of a Mack­i­naw Boat, which is also called a bateau.

I have been think­ing if you could send down a Mack­i­naw Boat here Ear­ly in the Spring that is as soon as the ice is out of the riv­er it would be well to take the Robes from this place and those that Sav­ille may have trad­ed down as I think there will be a Mack­i­naw Boat Load down from those two places if you think best so to do you had bet­ter send down word by the Express. Mr. Dougher­ty thinks if he does not get those arti­cles down this fall his trade will fall much short­er as the Cop­per ket­tles are all out. He is scarce of knives also as it takes a great many knives to trade corn you will have to send two or three men down as Pon­to have been try­ing to kill him self and I am forced to take him down and have got Van­Vulk­in­burg to stay in his place which is a bad choice. They want a machine for Guler­ing out posts. Mr. Dougher­ty is placed here in rather an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion the old man Charbino has become quite child­ish and has to be humored much which makes it very dis­agree­able and to turn him off it will offend the Indi­ans as he has much influ­ence and will have much his way in trade and he informed the Indi­ans he was going which made con­sid­er­able dis­tur­bance but I have set­tled the mat­ter today and we must try and rub out the year with the Old man in some way and like­ly there can be some changes made next year plac­ing him in one vil­lage to him­self with some goods.  I think Dougher­ty will do all in his pow­er and I feel in hopes they will make a good trade this year if the Buf­fa­lo comes in it would be well for you to come down here when the Yel­low Stone returns come down or take a sin­gle horse and come down some time in the Spring if pos­si­ble let them know here if the Mack­i­naw Boat will be down in the Spring ear­ly or so, that Sav­ille may know how to make his arrange­ments as he will have to pur­chase some skins of the Indi­ans for a bull Boat three men will fetch the Boat down emp­ty or if you have a few packs to send down in the boat you might do so if they could not take all some might be left here Dougher­ty will know what Sav­ille has done through the win­ter. I will write by Mr. McKen­zie from the Teton or Lit­tle Mis­souri River.

Sept 27th
Old McKen­zie has told them here that you brought down the Yel­low­stone a boat­load of whisky and that our men was drunk all that time and that we had been sell­ing it and the news cer­tain­ly would go below. I am now at the Man­dans and the Indains appear much pleased here and talk fair they talk of Brass Ket­tles and chief coats all the time Dougher­ty will be in search of knives and a few doz of com­mon ones would do well for to trade corn. I shall pro­pose to McKen­zie what was talked of but I think he will not take yet if you should suc­ceed with him try to get a divi­sion of the coun­try. Keep your eyes about trad­ing whisky only Wine.

Robe acts Dougher­ty trad­ed at the Grovon­ty Vil­lages — 84
Beaver — 11
Down at Man­dan Robes — 30

One of Dougher­ty’s men said Hol­com have made appli­ca­tion to trap next year. He will hire or take equip or hire for that pur­pose if you should send the Mack­i­naw Boat like­ly you had bet­ter send two men with it as I think some of those will wish to stay with Sav­ille and Daugh­er­ty will want all with him until the last boat will come down.

Yours with Respect
Wm L. Sublette
Capt. Robt. Campbell

Nota­tion on letter
Wm L Sublette
Sept 25, 26 and 27
Received Octo­ber 12 1833