John Colter, His Years in the Rockies

By Burton Harris; David Lavender | Go to book overview
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Chapter Four

Fort Raymond

The slender canoe swept downstream in the grip of the current still bloated and arrogant with spring run-off water. John Colter, the only occupant, dipped his paddle from time to time, as often for something to do as to steer the craft across the converging waters of the River Platte. His solitary routine ended when he saw the bare masts of keel boats tied to the bank and the smoke of cooking fires.

Colter instinctively began digging his paddle deep into the swirling tan waters, and impelled his canoe with rapid strokes toward the keel boats. He was as anxious to learn about this expedition, as the members were to know his identity. Long before his canoe had been hauled a safe distance out of the river, he had discovered that he had several friends in the personnel of the expedition, and had started to catch up with the latest news from the States.

Three men who had been with Lewis and Clark—George Drouillard, John Potts and Peter Wiser—were members of the party ascending the river, which is often referred to as the Lisa and Drouillard expedition. Drouillard held a semi-official position, by reason of acting as proxy for two of the regular partners of the Missouri Fur Trading Company of St. Louis. The organizer of the company and leader of the fur trading venture was Manuel Lisa.

The party had stopped at the mouth of the Platte to overhaul their boats in accordance with the custom of the early day boatmen. Heavy timber did not grow in continuous stretches along the river bottom above the Platte, and ash trees were rarely found beyond that point. Thus, experienced river men always cut at least one extra mast of ash for each keel boat. The mouth of the Platte was also regarded as the boundary line between the Upper and Lower Missouri. The neo


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