July 15, 1841

“Thursday, 15th. As many of the company had articles of traffic which they wished to dispose of at Green river, a subscription was raised to recompense any who would go and find the trappers. John Gray started in pursuit of them, while the company marched on slowly, waiting for his return. Travelled about 6 miles today.”

John Gray and W.G. Romaine had set out on July 6th to see if there were any fur-trappers camped at Green River, where the trappers usually had their rendezvous at this time of year. They didn’t find anyone, so the two men came back on the 13th. But other members of the party were anxious to find the trappers, since they had items that they wished to trade, so Gray set out once again on the 15th.

Gray (or Grey) and Romaine were part of Father De Smet’s missionary party; Gray was listed as a trapper, and Romaine as a “pleasure seeker,” or tourist. Romaine was an Englishman, and was often referred to as “Lord” Romaine, although whether he was really a lord I don’t know. Both men returned to the States without going all the way to California or Oregon.

Bidwell doesn’t mention it in his journal, but elsewhere he reveals that the “articles of traffic” were bottles or kegs of liquor. In “The First Emigrant Train to California” Bidwell says:

“Approaching Green River in the Rocky Mountains, it was found that some of the wagons, including Captain Bartleson’s, had alcohol on board, and that the owners wanted to find trappers in the Rocky Mountains to whom they might sell it. This was a surprise to many of us, as there had been no drinking on the way.”

No drinking—because Bartleson was saving it up to sell to thirsty trappers, a bit of entrepreneurship that hadn’t occurred to young John Bidwell.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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