By Don. A Berry
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Extra info for A Majority of Scoundrels: An Informal History of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company
Eleven trappers of the Musselshell winter camp left on the 6th, and continued the ascent of the river in two canoes, headed for Three Forks. The rest returned to Fort Henry at the Yellowstone, including Fink and friends. The canoe party worked up past Judith River and Marias River, trapping as they went. By the middle of May they had reached the mouth of the Smith River (about twelve miles upstream from present Great Falls, Montana). A party of only eleven men, penetrating the very heart of Blackfoot territory; this was tempting the Fates a bit too much, and it is surprising that Henry permitted it, in light of his own earlier experience.
There they turned west, and went overland to the mouth of the Yellowstone and Henry’s new fort, where they arrived on October 1. The boat got in two weeks later, and they had made it; the Ashley-Henry expedition was in business. The topography around was still as plainlike as ever, but they were officially in the mountains now. It had cost them fifty horses to the Assiniboines, presents to the Sioux, Rees and Mandans, and $10,000 worth of boat and goods to the gluttonous river. But they were here.
Many men died, a continent was explored, an indigenous race degraded and its culture crushed; all because beaver fur, with its tiny barbs, felted up better than any other. Felt is made without either weaving or adhesives, and depends for its substance on the matting qualities of the fibers. " While the fur hats were in vogue, this inoffensive little mammal was assured of a high death rate. He was, so said the Indians, the wisest of all animals. Trappers on occasion agreed, because when the beaver of an area were "up to trap," you might as well go elsewhere.
A Majority of Scoundrels: An Informal History of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company by Don. A Berry