The Fate of the Fraeb Party

Henry Fraeb and his party of about 20 trappers left the rendezvous on the Green River on July 25th. The Fraeb Party headed east, toward Fraeb’s trading post on the Little Snake River, hunting for buffalo. The beaver trade was in decline, but buffalo robes were in high demand.

Buffalo robe coat

Earlier in 1841 Henry Fraeb and Jim Bridger had built at log trading post on the Little Snake River, near what is now the Wyoming-Colorado border. This was south of the route that the Bidwell-Bartleson Party took, in a good region for hunting buffalo.

About three weeks after they met with the Bidwell-Bartleson Party, Fraeb and his group of hunters was attacked by 500 Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors. The battle was fierce, taking place over two days, and leaving from 40 to 50 Native Americans dead and five dead of Fraeb’s party. It’s astounding that any of them survived.

One of the survivors was Jim Baker, who had come with the Bidwell-Bartleson Party in search of Fraeb and his men. When Fraeb was killed early in the battle, he took over and directed the fight. Nearly all the horses were killed, since Fraeb’s men used their horses as a wall to shield behind.

The Bidwell-Bartleson Party went on their way, ignorant of what happened to Fraeb and his men. In “The First Emigrant Train to California,” Bidwell relates what he thought he knew about the incident:

Years afterwards we heard of the fate of that party; they were attacked by Indians the very first night after they left us and several of them killed, including the captain of the trapping party, whose name was Frapp. The whisky was probably the cause.

By the time Bidwell wrote that in 1889 he was a Prohibitionist, so he does not fail to point the moral. But since the battle did not take place until almost a month later, whiskey was probably not the cause. Some other problem caused the Indians to attack the intruders they saw as a threat.

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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