A Child's Interpretation of the Fur Trade - "The Rendezvous Era"
Did you ever wonder what mountain men did for fun? Well let me tell you about what they did at the rendezvous.
How did the rendezvous start? It all started because William H. Ashley brought 120 men to two camps to trade supplies and pelts. Andrew Henry led the first group of Ashley-Henry trappers to the mouth of Yellowstone. Each year from 1825 through 1840 caravans of pack animals brought supplies for the new year from St. Louis to a rendezvous site conveniently located for both trappers and indians. At that time all of the 120 mountain men traded beaver skins and purchased supplies for the new year too.
What happened at the Rendezvous? The large fur companies put together teamster driven mule trains. These trains packed in whiskey and supplies and set up a trading fair. This trading fair was called the Rendezvous. These events were wild, party like affairs which were attended by trappers, indians, and families. The famous mountain man, Jim Beckwourth, described them as “mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target shooting, yarns, and frolic, with all sorts of extravagances that white men and indians could invent.” The rendezvous was a place where the trappers could sell and trade their furs for all sorts of items, such as clothing, tack, tobacco, and whiskey. It was also a place to meet other traders who might want to offer or trade their services for the upcoming year. The rendezvous would draw in up to 500 mountain men as well as many indians.
The Green River Rendezvous specifically was a historic event of Sublette County. Of the 15 annual meetings held, eight of the rendezvous took place at the Green River site and five convened near the junction of Horse Creek and the Green River. And the actual rendezvous site is located four miles west of Pinedale W.Y on U.S highway 187. This is a tradition still celebrated today in Sublette County. The second weekend of July marks the rendezvous celebration each year held in Pinedale. The celebration includes rodeos, a parade, booths set up in town, and the reenactment of the Green River Rendezvous. The reenactment, also called the pageant, is put on by local residents and families who act, decorate, and provide the horses, many of the costumes, and food needed for the pageant. 2016 was the 81st annual Green River pageant.
Why did the rendezvous era end? The canadian company was able to offer manufactured goods at prices much less than American companies. American fur trade couldn’t compete. The competition, as well a decline in demand for beaver pelts, officially destroyed the American fur trade system. The final rendezvous took place in the year 1840.
Now you know what mountain men did at the rendezvous. I hope that you now know what mountain men did for fun too.
Museum Of The Mountain Men. The Fur Trade & Rendezvous of the Green River Valley. The Sublette County Historical Society and the Museum of the mountain Man. 2005.
“Old West Legends.” Legends Of America. Web. 1 March 2017.