Vol. 15


The Original Mountain Man

early 1800s; land that is now Wyoming, USA

It was 1803, and a mountain man(1) named John Colter saw an advertisement by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in the town of Maysville, Kentucky. Lewis and Clark were looking for a healthy unmarried man who was a good hunter and a handy worker in the woods. They needed someone to explore land west of the Mississippi River. John signed up for the job immediately for five dollars a month. For several years John traveled with Lewis and Clark, mapping out rivers and meeting members of many Native American tribes.

In 1806 the men met two fur trappers from Illinois who wanted to explore what is now known as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The fur trappers agreed to join the men. As they were exploring Yellowstone, they were attacked by a Native American tribe called the Blackfeet. One of the fur trappers was hit by an arrow, so in revenge he shot and killed that Native American with his rifle.

The fur trappers sprinted away, and John was then surrounded by a tribe of furious warriors. These warriors told John that they were going to hunt him. John was stripped naked and was led a few hundred feet away for a head start. The Blackfeet told John to run as fast as he could — and he did. John swept across the prairie and began to outrun the Blackfeet. John hurried towards the river, swam underneath the river, came up under a pile of loose logs, and hid there.

The Blackfeet spent the night looking for John and then finally gave up. John was miles away from his original fort, but he went back still naked, surviving the journey by eating edible weeds.

John spent the next few years exploring mountains in the Tetons and Yellowstone. He decided to return to the East in 1810, swearing to never cross a Native American tribe again.

Brock Mitchell Roberts, distant cousin of John Colter; Missouri, USA


1. A mountain man was an explorer who lived in the wilderness, usually in the Rocky Mountains between 1810 and 1840, helping to open the American West to settlers.



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