From Wilderness to Statehood: A History of Montana, 1805-1900

By James McClellan Hamilton; Merrill G. Burlingame et al. | Go to book overview

Part Two
THE PERIOD OF THE FUR TRADE

I
Introduction

THE trade in peltries on the upper Missouri and the Columbia Rivers had its beginning immediately after the Lewis and Clark Expedition and continued to flourish until about the time of Stevens' Northern Pacific Railroad exploring expedition. During this period St. Louis was the headquarters for the trading companies east of the Continental Divide, and Vancouver on the lower Columbia, the seat of operations on the west side of the Rockies.

The traffic was mainly in the furs of the beaver, otter, and the mink; the skins of the elk, deer, and bear; and buffalo robes, tongue and tallow. The Indians exchanged their products of the chase for arms, liquor, and such other merchandise as suited their fancy. The fur companies regularly employed trappers and hunters, who were paid wages and who brought their catches to the company posts. There were also free-lances, attached to no company, who traded their peltries at the most convenient markets in the regions where they operated. Little or no money

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