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

By Robert M. Utley | Go to book overview

11

WARREN FERRIS:
TRAPPER AS CARTOGRAPHER

Westward! Ho! It is the sixteenth of the second month, A.D. 1830, and
I have joined a trapping, trading, hunting expedition to the Rocky
Mountains. Why, I scarcely know, for the motives that induced me to
this step were of a mixed complexion.… Curiosity, a love of wild ad-
venture, and perhaps also a hope of profit.1

THUS WARREN ANGUS FERRIS began the story of his five-year odyssey in the West. And thus he displayed learning and literacy uncharacteristic of the mountain men with whom he cast his lot. Most of his education, including wide reading in history and literature and the rudiments of civil engineering gained from his stepfather, he acquired before he turned eighteen. At that age, in 1828, he left his home in Buffalo, New York, and headed west. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis afforded little or no employment. Finally, early in 1830, he found a position with B. Pratte & Company, the old "French Fur Company" that now functioned as the Western Department of the American Fur Company.

Aside from uncommon learning, this adventure-loving youth of twenty possessed the vigor, temperament, adaptability, and talent to assimilate knowledge and skills quickly that earned him status as a mountain man. The hot temper, tenderness, and affection that he betrayed in his letters home, if openly displayed in the mountain man fraternity, seem not to have caused him either grief or ridicule.

-149-

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