This Reckless Breed of Men: The Trappers and Fur Traders of the Southwest

By Robert Glass Cleland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
To Santa Fe and Beyond

THOUGH a distinct enterprise in itself, the historic overland trade between St. Louis and Santa Fe, which Josiah Gregg appropriately styled the "Commerce of the Prairies," was inseparably interwoven with the fur trade of the Southwest. Soon after the Louisiana Purchase, American settlers in Missouri made tentative efforts to establish commercial relations with the Spanish settlements of New Mexico. As early as 1804 William Morrison, a well-known merchant of the Missouri Fur Company, entrusted Baptiste Le Land, a French creole, with a consignment of merchandise to he sold in Santa Fe. Le Land disposed of the goods, pocketed the money, and remained in New Mexico.1

In 1805, after hunting three years in the country of the Osage Indians, a Kentuckian named James Purcell (or Pursley) reached Santa Fe. The next year Manuel Lisa, the distinguished merchant trapper of St. Louis, also outfitted a trading venture to the Mexican settlements. Zebulon R. Pike, government agent and explorer, however, was by far the most important of these early American adven-

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1
On May 6, 1812 James and Jessee Morrison gave Robert McKnight a letter of introduction to Baptiste Le Land. The letter spoke of Le Land as "a good young man" and urged him to return to the United States with McKnight Missouri Historical Society MSS. (Santa Fe Envelope).

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