1838 - Fur Trade begins to wane

Fur trader and entrepreneur, Pierre Choteau

         In the summer of 1838, only 2000 pounds of beaver pelts were sent back to St. Louis, the lowest take since the rendezvous began in 1825.  The demise of the mountain man and the fur trade was at hand.  The question that now faced them was whether there would even be a rendezvous the following year.

         Pierre Chouteau, a name synonymous with St. Louis and the fur trade, sent a supply caravan to the Green river rendezvous, accompanied by Dr. Frederick A Wislizenus, a German physician who was travelling with missionaries bound for the Whitman's mission in Walla Walla. 

         "One of our fellow travelers, who had gone to the mountains for the first time nine years ago with about one hundred men, estimated that by this time half the number had fallen victims to the tomahawks of the Indians," wrote Wislizenus, "but this daily danger seems to exercise a magic attraction over most of them.  Only with reluctance does a trapper abandon his dangerous craft; and a serious home-sickness seizes him when he returns from his mountain life to civilization."  

    Wislizenus wisely observed: "The days of their glory seems to be past, for constant hunting has very much reduced the number of beavers."  The 'days of glory' - a time when a few hundred adventurous young Americans would see the North American contient as it would never been seen again - had passed in a short fifteen years as the ever quickening encroachment of land hungry settlers turned the wilderness into frontier.