Western Life

Mountain Men (North American trappers)

Before Les Stroud and Bear Grylls were considered to be the macho mountain men, displaying their expertise in survival and being known for their overbearing masculinity, the mountain men, traders, or the ‘North American trappers’, were all residents of the Rocky Mountains during the 1820s and 1830s. The mountain men were known to be hunters, brawlers, drinkers and all round passionate outdoorsmen. They tamed the frontier and are now famous. Some of them are now seen as American legends. Here are a few of the most prominent North American trappers in history.

John “Grizzly” Adams

The pet name ‘Grizzly’ was earned by John Adams because he was known for netting and domesticating bears to supply to circuses and zoos. The California state flag’s bear was actually modeled on one of the bears Grizzly had tamed! Adams did not rely on a rifle to capture the bears, but rather took them on up close with only his hands and a knife. Even though he was known to be intimidating (understandably), he used to capture most of his bears alive.

John David Albert

You would think that John David’s Albert life story was actually inspired by a movie but, his story is too ludicrous to ever be made up. Albert was an orphan by the age of 7 after which he grew up to work on a keelboat in Mississippi before he headed west and joined the other fur trappers. Albert, along with just 10 other fur trappers were the ones to hold off an attack by 500 Mexicans and Natives in 1847. He escaped by the skin of his teeth. He then went on to become a mail carrier at the frontier and then married three women, having over 21 kids before he died as an old man in Montana.

William Henry Ashley

William Henry Ashley differed from most of his fellow fur trappers because he was not just a mountain man, but used to work as an entrepreneur and a politician as well. Ashley used to supply gunpowder and earned a fortune by doing so, right before he joined the Missouri Militia in 1812 during the war. He was elected as Missouri’s first Lieutenant Governor during the time they joined the Union. ‘Ashley’s Hundred’ was a group of North American trappers that were recruited by Ashley during his time in office. Ashley’s Hundred was credited for discovering the South Pass in Wyoming whilst on an expedition. Ashley helped to open up the American west to expansion in trade due to his contribution to fur trade.

John “Liver-Eating” Johnson

Last, but certainly not least, John ‘liver eating’ Johnson had to be included in this list. His original last name was Garrison and he served as an underage soldier aboard a ship during the Mexican-American war. After hitting an officer, he deserted his post and then travelled to Montana to search for gold. His nickname was the result of a legend which stated that ‘the Crow’ (a tribe) killed his Native American wife due to which he set out to avenge her. He then killed many of the tribesmen, cut out their livers and ate them. The members of the Crow thought that as a huge insult as they had a belief that they would not be allowed to enter the afterlife if they did not have a liver. This legend actually went on to inspire the movie, ‘Jeremiah Johnson.’

These were just a few of the crazy mountain men during the 1800s who are still remembered to this day.

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