John Colter, His Years in the Rockies

By Burton Harris; David Lavender | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Chapter Two

With Lewis and Clark

Until a lie detector is devised that will analyse the printed page, the extent to which the legend of John Colter has permeated western literature cannot be assayed. Many books, written with more concern for entertainment than the accurate reporting of historical events, include at least one fanciful version of a Colter exploit. Their authors, once in full creative flight, rarely retard it by earthbound references to dusty source material. In many instances, it is a waste of time to seek the unmentioned authorities for the lurid anecdotes, and upon occasion the question arises whether the author may not have stimulated his invention by something more potent than black coffee.

Grave historians are popularly supposed to have winnowed every fact they have written down with the same majestic impartiality that a giant combine separates a field of ripened grain into sacks of wheat, straw and windblown chaff. The truth is, however, that just as the threshing machine occasionally sorts into the grain sack a few weeds and pebbles, the serious writer also incorporates into his text fragments of a legend or popular conception of an event, without a trace of authority. During extended research into, and assembly of, indisputable Colter sources, it appeared that historians as highly regarded as Coutant and Hubert Bancroft were not above making positive statements without the slightest qualification, although study of their cited authorities revealed clearly that what they said could only have been conjecture. New material, subsequently discovered, proves this beyond a doubt.

The strong appeal of Colter's extraordinary exploits and the scarcity of first-hand information are the obvious reasons for this situation. When one considers that the first written record about

-11-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
John Colter, His Years in the Rockies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 180

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?