Walking West with Robert Campbell

Mile 1804 — Cache Valley

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Mod­ern Day Cache Val­ley in Utah

William Hen­ry Ash­ley, the head of Robert’s expe­di­tion, was the first to real­ize that this sys­tem of fixed trad­ing posts was inef­fi­cient. Ash­ley estab­lished the ren­dezvous sys­tem in order to allow his fur com­pa­ny access to remote areas of the moun­tains, where trap­pers could come down to resup­ply with­out hav­ing to trav­el as far, and with­out Ash­ley hav­ing to incur the costs of build­ing a trad­ing post. These ren­dezvous were typ­i­cal­ly held in July or August when the beaver’s fur was in too poor of qual­i­ty to trap. At their height, these ren­dezvous attract­ed up to 1,000 peo­ple. Fur com­pa­nies, Native com­mu­ni­ties, and trap­ping par­ties would set­up small­er camps all around the cen­tral site, as ear­ly as two months in advance. The atmos­phere of the ren­dezvous was that of a rau­cous par­ty. There was danc­ing, sign­ing, wrestling, gam­bling, fight­ing, and plen­ty of drink­ing. After all, for most of these moun­tain men, this would be the most inter­ac­tion they would have with the out­side world for a year.

Sup­plies were out­ra­geous­ly expen­sive at these ren­dezvous, Robert writes that a pint of flour would cost you $1, or over $22 today! All those drunk­en men? Well, you can imag­ine that they were spend­ing a large por­tion of their earn­ings from their pelts just to get their fill! Beaver furs were the only way that the trap­pers were com­ing out on top, one pound of beaver fur cost $3 in 1826, or over $62 in 2019. How­ev­er, these trap­pers were not com­ing to mar­ket with just one or two furs! They would bun­dle furs togeth­er, typ­i­cal­ly more than 60 pounds in one pack!

Robert and his par­ty did not stay at the ren­dezvous long, only a cou­ple of weeks accord­ing to his nar­ra­tive. This would be the first of many trips Robert would take into the Amer­i­can West. He made con­nec­tions dur­ing this trip and oth­ers that would influ­ence the rest of his life, and set him up to become one of the wealth­i­est busi­ness­men in 19th cen­tu­ry Saint Louis.

Thank you all for being a part of this jour­ney, trac­ing the foot­steps of Robert Camp­bell, I hope that you could put your­self in the shoes of this young, mild-man­nered Irish immi­grant who was head­ing out into the rugged Amer­i­can West for the first time. Tak­ing in the nat­ur­al won­ders, and engag­ing with cul­tures that were vast­ly dif­fer­ent than his own. 

20th Cen­tu­ry
Oil Paint­ing
John Cly­mer
Late Arrivals/Green Riv­er Rendezvous