After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific

By Robert M. Utley | Go to book overview

16

KIT CARSON: FRÉMONT'S
THIRD EXPEDITION

KIT CARSON SPENT the winter of 1844–45 based in Taos with Josefa but doubtless ranging widely as his restless nature dictated. In Taos he fell in with an old comrade with whom he had trapped off and on since 1835, Richard Owens. Josefa's quiet influence may have helped them decide that, "as we had rambled enough, that it would be advisable for us to go and settle on some good stream and make us a farm." In March 1845, they crossed the Sangre de Cristo Mountains eastward to the edge of the plains and, along the Little Cimarron River, began erecting adobe huts and putting in crops.

The undertaking lasted less than six months. Early in August, an express specially dispatched from Bent's Fort arrived with word that Frémont was there. The previous year Carson had promised his chief that, if ever wanted for another exploration, he stood ready to join. Now Frémont wanted him. The partners sold their nascent ranch for half their investment and hurried to Bent's Fort. "This was like Carson," noted Frémont, "prompt, self-sacrificing, and true." Josefa would not see her husband for two years.

At Bent's Fort, Carson and Owens found Frémont camped with an impressive company of sixty men, including a dozen Delaware Indians and many of their friends from earlier expeditions. Among them were Lucien Maxwell, Basil Lajeunesse, and Alexis Godey. Frémont took an immediate liking to Dick Owens and hired him too. "Cool, brave, and of good judgment," thought Frémont; "a good hunter and good shot; experienced in

-223-

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