John Colter, His Years in the Rockies

By Burton Harris; David Lavender | Go to book overview
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Foreword

When I was a boy in Basin, Wyoming, the two Civil War cannon in front of the County library fascinated me. The cannon were reputed to have been abandoned by the army near the town site of Basin, during a futile pursuit of an Indian tribe on the warpath. These relics were a constant reminder of one of my earliest dis‐ appointments—the realization that, apparently, nothing else very exciting had ever happened in my part of Wyoming, the Big Horn Basin.

The long series of battles with the Sioux and their allies that ended with the Battle of Little Big Horn, all took place on the other side of the Big Horn Mountains. The Lewis and Clark expedition had come no closer than the Yellowstone River, and the countless wagons that rolled over the Oregon Trail had followed the North Platte with no concern for the Basin, a few miles to the north. Chief Joseph and his people in their pathetic flight might have had a glimpse of the Big Horn Basin as they outwitted several regiments of cavalry and escaped to the northeast. And yet the Big Horn Basin was the first part of Wyoming that was known definitely to have been explored by a white man and the last section to be settled. Years later, after I had been working in New York for some time and had found it necessary to develop an outside interest that could offset the worries of an export credit man, I began a concentrated study of just what did happen in the Big Horn Basin. Mr. Edward Eberstadt, well known as a dealer in Western Americana and as a Western historian, encouraged my interest in Wyoming history, and nearly nine years ago suggested that as a native of the Colter country I should try to identify the trail John Colter had followed when he made his epic journey and discovered Yellowstone Park.

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