A MOUNTAIN MAN EXPERIENCE
By Laura Huffman
*Updated 17 September 2019
In 1822, while serving as Missouri’s Lieutenant Governor, William Henry Ashley and Andrew Henry formed Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Ashley devised a plan to connect trappers and traders by meeting each year at a predetermined location to exchange furs, goods, and money. This system came to be known as the rendezvous system and the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous was held for fifteen years, beginning in 1825.
Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloader Bob Stormer describes the importance of the rendezvous to the trappers and traders:
“Since the mountain men primarily survived by trapping, they needed a way to sell their furs without having to travel back east. The rendezvous provided them with a fairly convenient way to sell them. It also provided a source for them to resupply their necessities such as powder and lead balls, and food staples.”
Mountain women will be at the rendezvous too! Pictured: Lorie Cerda. Image courtesy of Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders.
The rendezvous most likely would have been a much anticipated event for those attending- a chance to socialize and prove themselves in games of might, chance, and precision. Occasionally tourists from as far as Europe would make the trek to attend the rendezvous festivities. James Beckwourth, a fur trader and author, described a Rocky Mountain Rendezvous as “Mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic”.
Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders member Dave Cartner at the forge. Image courtesy of Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders.
The rendezvous went the way of America’s fur trade and the beaver hat, but Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders are committed to keeping the rendezvous traditions and memory alive. Each April, on the last Saturday, for the last several years the club has invited the public to celebrate the Rendezvous spirit during their Rendezvous/Trade Fair & Fun Day. This year’s event will be held April 25th from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at the Kickapoo Trace Club near Dixon. Admittance is free.
The event will include shooting, tomahawk throwing, fire starting and blacksmithing. The grounds will be filled with the sounds of laughter, logs being hewn, and the blacksmith’s hammer and anvil. Members of the club will be dressed in fringed buckskin and other period clothing and furs will hang on lodge poles. The aroma of “vittles” being prepared in a traditional dutch oven will hang in the air—and make your stomach growl.
Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders will display primitive cooking skills- including the use of dutch ovens. Photo courtesy of Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders.
Club members will be on hand to demonstrate the basics of black powder rifle firing (visitors will be able to fire a rifle) and the art of throwing a tomahawk for bragging rights. Hint- step forward when throwing and end with your hand pointing at the target.
Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders Rendezvous is a family-friendly event and Stormer states that it would “make an excellent field trip” for homeschool families. The event is chock full of history, biology/mammalogy, science, and fun.
To learn more about Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders contact President Earl Ellegood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about things to see and do in Pulaski County, Missouri, including restaurant and lodging guides, please visit www.PulaskiCountyUSA.com.