© Dean Rudy 1997
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Outfit of a Trapper

Osborne Russell's Purchases at Fort Hall


In the spring of 1834, a young man named Osborne Russell hired on with the Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company to hunt in the Rocky Mountains. He kept a detailed diary of his experiences in the mountains, and later these notes were published as Journal of a Trapper. This book is one of the best first-hand narratives available of the everyday life of an ordinary trapper during the heyday of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade. Russell's Journal is well known to most students of Fur Trade history, and is frequently used as a primary source by those researching the typical activities and lifestyle of the Mountain Men.

As enlightening as Russell's Journal is, the details he provides about his equipment are limited. Fortunately, other reliable sources are available that provide additional insight into Russell's outfit. One particularly good source for Russell's first few years in the mountains are the accounting records of Fort Hall, which cover the period from its establishment on August 4, 1834 until its sale to the Hudson's Bay company in August 1837. Two ledgers and one journal have survived, and are in the manuscript collection of the Oregon Historical Society. These documents show us what was purchased by Russell and his peers, for what price, and on what day.

In this article, we will examine Russell's transactions from these accounting records, relate them to what he wrote in Journal of a Trapper, and speculate on how he used the items he purchased and what items were in his outfit.


Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth contracted with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company on Aug. 14, 1833 at the Big Horn River, to supply them with goods for the 1834 rendezvous.(1) His plan was to use this as a starting point for a business whereby goods would be shipped to the Columbia River and from there packed to the mountains. Wyeth calculated that this could be done for less than half the cost of shipping goods overland from St. Louis. Further, once the goods were unloaded at the Columbia, the ships would be free to carry a cargo of salmon back to Boston(2). The deal with the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. was to be Wyeth's entry into the business.

To this end, Wyeth formed the "Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company", and began assembling his expedition at Independence, Missouri in the spring of 1834. Men for the trip were hired locally in Missouri, and among them was one Osborne Russell.

Little is known of Russell before that time, except that he was born in Maine in 1814.(3) He joined the Wyeth expedition on April 4, 1834 at Independence, Missouri,(4) and was engaged for 18 months, beginning April 19, for $250.(5) He was hired as an inexperienced hand, even though he had for the previous three years been employed by the Northwest Fur Trapping and Trading Company in what is now Wisconsin and Minnesota.(6)


Before leaving the settlements, the men outfitted themselves for the journey. The company provided the equipment required for their employment, but the men were expected to have their own personal gear. James Kirk Townsend, a naturalist accompanying the expedition, described the outfit he put together:

"On landing [in St. Louis], we had the satisfaction to learn that Captain Wyeth was already there, and on the afternoon of the next day, we called upon him, and consulted him in reference to the outfit which would be necessary to purchase for the journey. He accompanied us to a store in town, and selected a number of articles for us, among which were several pairs of leathern pantaloons, enormous overcoats, made of green blankets, and white wool hats, with round crowns, fitting tightly to the head, brims five inches wide, and almost hard enough to resist a rifle ball." (7)

Some of the men bought part of their personal outfit from the company before they left. Russell bought $54.37½ worth of goods from the company, but a "small ledger" detailing these items is not available(8). But several of his peers bought goods that were itemized in the surviving ledger 1, and represent the type of goods available to, and popular with the men as they prepared for the journey.
Date Name Description Amount Pg. in Jrnl.
4-Apr Samuel Nott 1 blkt $3.50 7
15-Apr Samuel Nott 1 capot $11.00 7
15-Apr Samuel Nott 1 pr pantaloons $5.00 7
15-Apr Samuel Nott 2 pr drawers $3.00 7
15-Apr Samuel Nott 1 pr socks $0.50 7
15-Apr Samuel Nott 1 wool hat $1.25 7
15-Apr Samuel Nott 1 blkt $3.50 7
15-Apr John Ward 1 blanket coat $11.00 11
15-Apr John Ward 2 flannel shirts $4.00 11
15-Apr John Ward 1 pr drawers $1.50 11
15-Apr John Ward 1 pr pantaloons $5.00 11
15-Apr John Ward 1 pr blanket $7.00 11
16-Apr John Maxwell 1 pr blankets $8.00 5
26-Apr John Maxwell 1 capot $10.00 5

Townsend made another observation describing how the men camped while preparing for the journey that suggests that the men apparently all used tents, and that each one was equipped with some sort of lantern or candle:

"The men of the party, to the number of about fifty, are encamped on the bank of the river, and their tents whiten the plain for the distance of half a mile... The beautiful white tents, with a light gleaming from each, the smouldering fires around them, the incessant hum of the men, and occasionally the lively notes of a bacchanalian song, softened and rendered sweeter by distance." (9)

The party spent 23rd to the 27th of April near Independence making preparations, and on the 28th, the men were equipped and mounted "hunter-like", and began the march.(10)

Goods at Kansas River

The expedition proceeded uneventfully across the prairie and arrived at the Kansas River crossing on May 3. There, they encountered the Caw or Kanzas Indians. Wyeth unpacked some of his goods to trade with the Indians at that point:

"On the 5th of May having crossed the Kanzas at the agency without accident and in one Half of a day and traded as many cuds and apishemas as I wanted and some deer skins for which I paid Bacon." (11)

This note indicates that the party had bacon as part of their provisions for the journey. The "apishemas" are robes or furs used for saddle padding. While he was trading at the Kanzas, Wyeth also sold goods to some of his men, mainly tobacco.(12)

Rendezvous on Ham's Fork

On May 5, they resumed their march, and continued, still uneventfully, to the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous. There, Wyeth found that his business plan had fallen apart. He tersely described the situation:

"19th. About S. by W. 8 miles and camped 1 mile above the mouth of Sandy on Green river or Seckkedee on the night of the 17th I left camp to hunt Fitzpatric and slept on the prairie in morning struck Green river and went down to the forks and finding nothing went up again and found rendesvous about 12 miles up and much to my astonishment the goods which I had contracted to bring up to the Rocky Mountain fur Co. were refused by those honorable gentlemen. Latt. 41 deg 30'." (13)

The Rocky Mountain Fur Company partnership was in financial trouble, and was forced to break the contract with Wyeth. Consequently, William Sublette got most of the business. Years later, Joe Meek told his version of what happened:

"Thus was Wyeth left, with his goods on his hands, in a country where it was impossible to sell them, and useless to undertake an opposition to the already established fur traders and trappers. His indignation was great, and certainly was just. In his interview with the Rocky Mountain Company, in reply to their excuses for, and vindication of their conduct, his answer was:
'Gentlemen, I will roll a stone into your garden that you will never be able to get out.' " (14)

This "stone" was to be a permanent fort and trading post that Wyeth decided to establish in the vicinity, to hold his unsold goods and to compete with the rival companies.

Continuing Westward

After leaving rendezvous, Wyeth led his party towards the Snake River, in search of a site for building the fort. Before long, they passed by what is now called Soda Springs, Idaho, where the men had the opportunity to see the natural features there. Russell described what was used for laundry soap in the Rocky Mountains:

"The ground about these springs is very strongly impregnated with Sal Soda There is also large beds of clay in the vicinity of a snowy whiteness which is much used by the Indians for cleansing their clothes and skins, it not being any inferior to soap for cleansing woollens or skins dressed after the Indian fashion." (15)

Establishment of Fort Hall

The party continued west to the Snake River, and began work on Fort Hall.

"we emerged from the mountain into the great valley of Snake River on the 16th - We crossed the valley and reached the river in about 25 miles travel West. Here Mr. Wyeth concluded to stop build a Fort & deposit the remainder of his merchandise: leaving a few men to protect them and trade with the Snake and Bonnack Indians. On the 18th we commenced the Fort which was a stockade 80 ft square built of Cotton wood trees set on end sunk 2 ½ feet in the ground and standing about 15 feet above with two bastions 8 ft square at the opposite angles. On the 4th of August the Fort was completed; And on the 5th the "Stars and Stripes" were unfurled to the breeze at Sunrise in the center of a savage and uncivilized country over an American trading Post." (16)

Wyeth had specific instructions for Robert Evans, the man he put in charge of the fort. One of these instructions was:

"When goods are sold you will make memorandum of the sale in a Book kept for the purpose entering at the same time the articles for which they are sold and to whom." (17)

Evans therefore began keeping the accounting books, which survive today and are at the Oregon Historical Society. In accordance with usual accounting procedures, daily transactions were recorded in chronological order in a journal (not to be confused with Russell's Journal of a Trapper, which is a personal journal, not an accounting "Journal"). Periodically, these transactions were posted to a Ledger, which held the individual accounts for each of the men.

The tables that follow in the paper, interspersed with text, are Russell's account, compiled from these Fort Hall records. The number in the far right column are references to the pages in the accounting journal where specific transactions were originally recorded.

Evans set up Russell's account with these initial entries:
4-Aug-34 To amount from the small ledger $54.375 (not in jrnl)
4-Aug-34 To his part of a loss $5.000 (not in jrnl)
4-Aug-34 by 3 ½ months wages to date ($48.610) (not in jrnl)

As has been previously mentioned, we don't know what the "amount from the small ledger" is for, but is probably Russell's initial outfit. The men were also credited with their accrued pay to date. Also, Russell and Antoine Goda had their account charged $5 for some unspecified loss to Samuel Nott. Note that even at this early date, Russell was already in debt to the company. This didn't stop him from spending more, though. Russell's first purchases were:

05-Aug-34 1 bunches seed beeds $1.000 1
06-Aug-34 1 pints sugar $1.500 3
06-Aug-34 1 horse paid to Patterson $30.000 1
06-Aug-34 2 pints rum $3.000 3
06-Aug-34 sugar $1.500 4

It is interesting to consider what Russell planned to do with the seed beads. No Indians were as yet trading at the fort, and word had not yet been received that there were even any in the vicinity. This suggests that he bought them for his personal use. This and many similar references to seed beads being sold at Fort Hall contradicts the currently popular notion that seed beads were not present, or at best uncommon during this period.

There is no indication why Russell owed a horse to Patterson - but it cost him plenty. Some possibilities are that he may have been responsible for Patterson's personal horse being lost through negligent guard duty, or perhaps a lost bet. Russell's Journal makes no mention of it.

The men had a grand party on the 6th, and many of them were buying large quantities of rum. Note that the 2 pints Russell bought was more than what one of today's standard "fifths" contain, and would be enough for a several good drunks, if it wasn't watered down too much. For some reason, Russell was only charged half the regular price of $3 a pint. He also bought a considerable quantity of sugar. The accounts indicate that often the men would buy sugar and liquor together - perhaps they were making a toddy of water, sugar, and rum.

Wyeth provides additional detail about the events of that day:

".....6th. [Aug.] Having done as much as was requisite for safety to the Fort and drank a bale of liquor and named it Fort Hall in honor of the oldest partner of our concern we left it and with it Mr. Evans in charge of 11 men and 14 horses and mules and three cows ... Fort Hall is in Latt. 43 deg 14' Long. 113 deg 35' " (18)

The men to remain at the fort were: Robert Evans, John Maxwell, Samuel Nott, John Hynds, John Ward, John Russell, William Ritchmond, John Zimmer, Peter Ross, Charles Schriver, Thomas Callahan, and Robert Cairnes. "John Russell", as he is inconsistently named in the accounts, is none other than Osborne Russell, the author of Journal of a Trapper.(19) There's no explanation why he was called "John" in the account book; in fact; in several entries, he is called "William". This suggests that the clerk didn't really know what his real first name was; maybe the men usually called him by a nickname, or just "Russell".

Settling in at the Fort

After the celebrations and the immediate tasks at the fort were complete, hunting parties were sent out. Russell writes:

"On the 12th of August myself and 9 others (the Mullattoe included) started from the Fort to hunt Buffaloe.... I now prepared myself for the first time in my life to kill meat for my supper with a Rifle. ... The next day we succeeded in killing another cow and two Bulls, we butchered them took the meat and returned to the Fort... On the 20th of August we started again to hunt meat..." (20)

In these entries, and other places in his journal where he mentions his personal firearm, Russell indicates that it was a rifle. Note that there has been no record of him having to purchase his own ammunition - this was issued to the men as needed in the course of their employment. The records indicate disbursements on Aug 6 of 40 bars of lead and 20 cups of gunpowder.

Upon return from the second hunting trip, Russell and his companions purchased some refreshments:
23-Aug-34 1/2 pints rum $1.500 5
29-Aug-34 1 pints rum mixed $1.500 6

Note that by the 29th, the rum was "mixed"; with water, presumably. The bartender was at least honest enough to cut the price proportionally. Things continued uneventfully through September - and Russell made no further purchases for a while.

Arrival of Indian Visitors

"On the 1st day of Octr. our hunters arrived with news which caused some little excitement among us. they had discovered a village of Indians on Blackfoot Creek about 25 miles from the Fort in a north East direction, consisting of about 60 Lodges. They had rode Green horn like into the village without any ceremony or knowledge of the friendly or hostile disposition of the Indians, neither could they inform us to what Nation they belonged. It happened however that they were Snake friendly to the Whites and treated our men in a hospitable manner - After remaining all night with them three of the Indians accompanied our hunters to the Fort: From these we gathered (thro. the Mullatto who could speak a little of their language) much desired information. The next day myself and the Mullatto started to the Village where we arrived about sun half an hour high" (21)

Russell visited the trader shortly after returning from the village.
02-Oct-34 1 liquor $0.375 12
03-Oct-34 1 rings $0.750 12
03-Oct-34 1 beads $0.750 12
03-Oct-34 1 liquor $1.500 15
03-Oct-34 1 liquor $1.000 15
03-Oct-34 2 skins $6.000 16
03-Oct-34 1 knife $1.125 16
03-Oct-34 1 liquor $0.750 18

As there were now friendly Indians in the vicinity, it is likely that at least some of the goods Russell purchased (for example, rings, beads) were in anticipation of doing some trading with the Indians. The company traded beaver and other valuable skins from the Indians, and the men were explicitly prohibited from trading on their own account for these items. If they needed leather for clothes, etc. they had to buy it through the company.(22) But judging from the trade goods being sold, the men were apparently allowed to do their own trading for other items or personal services.

On the 3rd, Russell bought two skins. It is possible that they were traded from the Indians, but according to Russell's Journal, up to this point they had only one visit with the Snakes, and all they obtained from them was meat. These could have been skins that hunting parties had obtained and that were tanned at the fort. The fort's inventory included a quantity of alum, so this could possibly have been the method used for tanning these skins.

"On the 10th the Village arrived and pitched their Lodges within about 200 yards of the Fort. I now commenced learning the Snake Language and progressed so far in a short time that I was able to understand most of their words employed in matters of trade." (23)
15-Oct-34 1 skins $3.000 19
15-Oct-34 1 liquor $1.500 22
15-Oct-34 1 liquor $1.500 22
15-Oct-34 1 liquor $0.750 25
15-Oct-34 1 liquor $1.500 26
15-Oct-34 1 vermillion $0.750 27

Between the 3rd and the 15th, Russell has bought three skins from the fort. This would be enough for a pair of pants, or perhaps a jacket. We can speculate that the vermillion, along with the rings and beads he bought the 3rd, were used for hiring a squaw to sew clothing out of the skins he bought.

The men evidently had quite a celebration on the 15th - the quantity of liquor Russell purchased would have been a lot to drink by himself. Maybe it was for his messmates - "It's your turn to buy today, Russell!".

"Octr 20th a Village of Bonnaks consisting of 250 Lodges arrived at the Fort from these we traded a considerable quantity of furs, a large supply of dried meat, Deer, Elk and Sheep skins etc. - In the meantime we were employed building small log houses and making other nessary preparations for the approaching winter" (24)

First Winter at Fort Hall

The next few purchases give an idea of how they spent the uneventful fall:
09-Nov-34 1 sugar $3.000 28
09-Nov-34 1 liquor $0.750 28
09-Nov-34 1 liquor $0.750 28
09-Nov-34 1 tea $1.500 28
09-Nov-34 1 tobacco $2.250 29
15-Nov-34 2 awls $0.500 29
16-Nov-34 1 beads $3.000 31
16-Nov-34 1 knife $1.250 31
16-Nov-34 1 moccasins $0.625 32

Note the purchased moccasins. It was apparently preferable for Russell (and many of the other men) to just buy them rather than making them themselves. As moccasins are about the easiest item of clothing to make, and they appear to have had plenty of free time that fall and winter, this suggests that the men were disinclined to do their own sewing. The awls and beads could have been for Indian trading, or for decorating the moccasins.
05-Dec-34 1 pack playing cards $2.500 35
05-Dec-34 1 coffee $1.500 35
11-Dec-34 tobacco $1.500 35
11-Dec-34 part pack playing cards $0.500 35
16-Dec-34 vermillion $3.000 37

Early December appears to have been a slow time, although the liquor seems to have run out.

"(Dec) 24th Capt. Thing arrived from the Mouth of the Columbia with 10 men fetching supplies for the Fort. Times now began to have a different appearance. the Whites and Indians were very numerous in the valley all came to pass the winter on Snake River." (25)

With a new batch of supplies having arrived, the men were paid, and they were able purchase some treats for the holidays.
25-Dec-34 1 pt sugar $1.500 42
01-Jan-35 tobacco $0.750 50
01-Jan-35 1 pt sugar $1.500 50
01-Jan-35 1 pt rice $0.750 50
01-Jan-35 by your services from Aug 4th 1834 being 4 mos 20 ds at $250 for 18 mos or $13.888 pr mo. ($67.590)
03-Jan-35 1 pt rum $3.000 53
03-Jan-35 2 pt rice $1.500 53
03-Jan-35 1/2 pt rum $1.500 53
04-Jan-35 1 vest for Captn Thing $4.000 57
07-Jan-35 1 sheep skin $1.000 60
19-Jan-35 1 lbs soap $1.000 72
25-Jan-35 1 pr woolen drawers $4.000 80
25-Jan-35 1 red flannel shirt $4.000 80
27-Jan-35 remnant calico $2.125 84
27-Jan-35 1 pt alcohol $3.000 84
27-Jan-35 1 pt sugar $1.500 85
27-Jan-35 1 pt alcohol $3.000 85
30-Jan-35 1 pt sugar $1.500 92
30-Jan-35 1 pt coffee $1.500 92
31-Jan-35 1 pr moccasins $1.000 94
14-Feb-35 1 pt rum $3.000 127
14-Feb-35 3 pt sugar $4.500 129
14-Feb-35 3 pt coffee $4.500 129

Here we see Russell purchasing some items to make the winter more comfortable. After Cap't Thing's arrival, sales of ready-made clothing became common; the goods he brought from the mouth of the Columbia apparently included a good supply. The moccasins could have been traded from the neighboring Indians. During this period, the men could apparently purchase all the sugar, coffee, tobacco, and liquor they could afford. Goods were plentiful at Fort Hall that winter, and substantial sales were made to men from other fur companies that visited the fort.
14-Feb-35 2 9 in butcher knives $2.500 129
14-Feb-35 1/2 doz awls $0.500 129
14-Feb-35 1/2 pt red pepper $0.750 129
14-Feb-35 1 dz fusee flints $0.500 129
14-Feb-35 1 paper vermillion $0.750 129
14-Feb-35 1 hank thread $0.400 129
14-Feb-35 needles $0.600 129
14-Feb-35 1 wrapper blanket for leggings $6.000 129
16-Feb-35 20 loads ammunition for trade $2.000 133
16-Feb-35 1 paper vermillion $0.750 133
16-Feb-35 1 bunch white seed beads $0.750 133
16-Feb-35 1/2 doz awls $0.500 133
16-Feb-35 1 3 square [file] - 2 gun worms $0.500 133
16-Feb-35 1/2 doz flints $0.250 133
19-Feb-35 your proportion same as Collins

(Entry for Collins says "Your proportion of goods dbtd your mess to trade meat while encamped at Cedars")

$2.700 150
23-Feb-35 2 lbs chocolate $3.000 157
26-Feb-35 pd R. Evans on a/c $5.000 161

Here we see a note that the "wrapper blanket" Russell bought was intended for leggings. Considering the needle, thread, and the trade items he purchased along with them, it's plausible that he hired the sewing out to an Indian squaw. Many of the other items above were also probably intended for Indian trade. Russell's Journal doesn't mention any hunting trips, but apparently he was away from the fort during the gap between his transactions on Jan 31 and Feb 14, because on the 19th, the men of Russell's mess were charged for trading goods for meat for their own use while encamped at the "Cedars". The charge on the 26th is for a debt to Robert Evans; perhaps gambling related.

Spring Hunt

By early March, the men were anticipating the Spring Hunt:

"On the 15 of March the party was fitted out consisting of 10 trappers and 7 Camp keepers (myself being one of the latter) under the direction of Mr. Joseph Gale a native of the City of Washington. Mch. 25th we left the Fort..." (26)
12-Mar-35 3 pts flour $2.250 185
12-Mar-35 2 pts coffee $3.000 185
12-Mar-35 1/3 pts black pepper $0.500 185
13-Mar-35 1 wrapper blanket $6.000 187
13-Mar-35 1/2 lbs gunpowder for trade $1.250 187
13-Mar-35 1 lbs musket balls do $1.250 187

By now, Russell was purchasing food to take along on the Spring Hunt to supplement the wild game. The items he bought on the 12th appear to be the standard issue for the expedition, as 10 other men bought the exact same bill of goods. The 2 pints of coffee beans Russell purchased is enough to make close to 100 cups of coffee. Since they were gone for about 2 ½ months, he would have been able to have a cup of coffee most every morning. As for the flour, he bought 3 pints, or 6 cups. A common way of using flour at Fort Hall in those days was noted by Narcissa Whitman, on her visit a few years later, on Aug. 3, 1836.

"...Our dinner consisted of dry buffalo meat, turnips, & fried bread, which was a luxury. Mountain bread, is simply course flour & water mixed, & roasted or fried in buffalo grease. To one who has nothing but meat for a long time this relishes very well! For tea we had the same with the addition of some stewed service berries." (27)

Thus, if Russell sparingly used a half a cup per meal, he had enough flour to supplement most of his Sunday dinners with some "Mountain bread".

Russell also bought some black pepper to spice up his meals. He didn't need to buy salt, as it could be gathered for free at several localities in the region. One such place was in Salt River Valley.

"Here are some fine Salt Springs the Salt forms on the pebbles by evaporation to the depth of 5 or 6 inch in a short time after the snow has dissappeared 11th May After gathering a Supply of Salt we travelled down the river about 15 miles and encamped near the mouth of a stream on the west side called Gardners Fork." (28)

Thus supplied, the men enjoyed gourmet dining:

"Our Camp Kettles had not been greased for some time: as we were continually boiling thistle roots in them during the day: but now four of them containing about 9 gallons each were soon filled with fat bear meat cut in very small pieces and hung over a fire which all hands were employed in keeping up with the utmost impatience: An old experienced hand who stood six feet six and was never in a hurry about anything was selected by a unanimous vote to say when the stew (as we called it) was done but I thought with my comrades that it took a longer time to cook than any meal I ever saw prepared, and after repeated appeals to his long and hungry Stewardship by all hands he at length consented that it might be seasoned with salt and pepper and dished out to cool. But it had not much time for cooling before we commenced operations: and all pronounced it the best meal they had ever eaten as a matter of course where men had been starving." (29)

After many adventures during the "Spring Hunt", Russell returned to Fort Hall on May 31.
04-Jun-35 1 pts sugar $1.500 230
05-Jun-35 your proportion of sundries dlvd your mess $3.125 234
05-Jun-35 1/2 doz awls $0.750 234
05-Jun-35 3 gun worms $0.750 234
05-Jun-35 1 paper vermillion $0.750 234
05-Jun-35 1/4 bunch claret seed beads $0.250 234
05-Jun-35 1/2 doz hawk bells $0.750 234
the above dlvd you by Gale
06-Jun-35 1/2 lbs Indian tobacco $0.500 240
06-Jun-35 1 Scotch cap $1.500 241
08-Jun-35 your guard pay from trappers during spring hunt ($33.333) 245
08-Jun-35 charged Herring on a/c ($5.000) 247
09-Jun-35 your share of horse charged to Greenburg ($20.000) 252

Russell had several credits to his account after he returned. One is that he got extra pay from the trappers for standing watches (Russell a camp-keeper). And on June 8, apparently Russell and others found a horse lost by Greenburg (another camp-keeper), and were given credit. He was also paid 5 dollars by Herring (a gambling debt?).

He also had several charges. While on the hunt, he was given some trade goods from the stock the party carried with them. These were probably used for his own personal trading with Indians. Also, some unnamed "sundries" were used by Russell's mess as a group, and the cost divided between them.

Fall Hunt

Here, they rested only a week or so before they began preparing for the "Fall Hunt". The leader of the Fall Hunt, Joseph Gale, was issued 24# gun powder, 29# musket balls, and 19# bar lead for trade and use during the hunt, in addition to a substantial quantity of other trade goods.
10-Jun-35 1 jackknife $1.500 252
10-Jun-35 1 pts rum $3.000 253
10-Jun-35 1 pts rum $3.000 256
10-Jun-35 1 doz finger rings $1.500 256
11-Jun-35 pd. Conner on a/c for fiddle $1.000 259
12-Jun-35 2 lbs tobacco $2.000 264
12-Jun-35 1 pts red pepper $1.500 264
12-Jun-35 1 doz awls $1.500 264
12-Jun-35 1 scalping knife $1.125 264
12-Jun-35 1 gurnsey frock $4.500 264
12-Jun-35 1 paper vermillion dlv'd Nott $0.750 264
12-Jun-35 1 butcher knife dlv'd Nott $1.125 264
12-Jun-35 2 awls dlv'd Nott $0.160 264
12-Jun-35 1 3 square file $0.750 264
12-Jun-35 1 small tin pan $0.750 264
12-Jun-35 1 small bear skin for saddle $1.500 268

Russell now had more experience under his belt, and his purchases presumably reflect that. Many of Russell's purchases are for trade goods. He bought fewer edible luxuries than he did in the spring - although coffee was still available at the fort, and other men bought considerable quantities to take in the hunt.

Here we see an interesting reference to musical instruments being used at Fort Hall. On June 11, fifteen of the men chipped in to buy a fiddle from James Conner. This was left at the fort in the care of A. Baker during the Fall Hunt. Later that July, it was stolen by one McCary, who left with Capt. Thing for the Columbia. Once the theft was discovered, two men rode express to recover the fiddle.(30)

Russell's party, under the leadership of Joseph Gale, left on June 15 for the Fall Hunt. Russell devotes many pages in his Journal describing his experiences on this expedition. Here, we'll just look at several brief passages he wrote during that hunt that give some insight into the type of gear he and his companions used.

The type of knife he used:

"... whilst not an article for defense excepting our butcher Knives..." (31)
"...We then let ourselves down by cutting steps with our butcher knives and the breeches of our guns..." (32)

The types of guns they used - and evidence they used rifles rather than fusees:

"... this stream was very high and rapid in fording it we lost 2 Rifles ..." (33)
"...On the west the bluffs were covered with thick groves of quaking asps: from these hights they [Blackfeet] poured fusee balls without mercy or even damage except killing our animals who were exposed to their fire. In the meantime we concealed ourselves in the thicket around the camp to await a nearer approach, but they were too much afraid of our rifles to come near enough for us [to] use Ammunition.." (34)
"...I kept a large German horse pistol loaded by me in case they should make a charge when my gun was empty..." (35)

Evidence that they carried and used tents on the Fall Hunt:

"...without a single article of bedding except an old cloth tent..." (36)

Articles used in trade with the Indians:

"...We obtained a large number of Elk Deer and Sheep skins from them of the finest quality and three large neatly dressed Panther Skins in return for awls axes kettles tobacco ammunition etc..." (37)

Horse foot care while away from the fort:

"...The route was very rocky and my horses feet (he not being shod) were worn nearly to the quick which caused him to limp very much..." (38)

According to his book, on Oct 20th, Russell returned to the fort alone, having been sent ahead to get horses for other members of his hunting party, who had lost them to the Blackfeet. The accounts indicate that the rest of his party from the Fall Hunt actually made it back a a few days before that, and the party leader wasted no time in accounting for supplies given to Russell (and the others) during the hunt.
16-Oct-35 1 paper vermillion $0.750 334
16-Oct-35 1 looking-glass $0.750 334
16-Oct-35 1 doz fancy vest buttons $1.000 334
16-Oct-35 2 dressed elk-skins $6.000 334
16-Oct-35 sundries of Patterson's dunnage $4.000 334
16-Oct-35 1 powder horn $3.000 334

Given the ordeal Russell went through on his way back to the fort, my guess is that he was sorely disappointed there was no liquor available to buy at that time.

The "sundries of Patterson's dunnage" refer to goods owned by Patterson, who drowned crossing the Snake River during the hunt. The company sold off Patterson's goods to the other men, and credited the proceeds to his account balance.
20-Oct-35 your services from Jany 1st to date being 9 mo 19 ds at $13.88 8/9 pr month term of service having this day expired ($133.800)
23-Oct-35 1 scalping knife $1.125 341
23-Oct-35 [error??? - amt in ledger, but no entry in Journal] $5.000 341
26-Oct-35 1 scalping knife $1.125 344
02-Nov-35 1 fancy edged white blanket $9.000 355
02-Nov-35 1 red flannel shirt $4.000 355
04-Nov-35 ? [page missing in journal] $1.500 371
04-Nov-35 1 dressed deer skin $1.500 373
07-Nov-35 1 scalping knife $1.125 381
07-Nov-35 1 looking glass $0.750 381
08-Nov-35 1 elk skin traded for you for 20 loads ammunition $2.000 383
11-Nov-35 1 bunch blue cut beads $3.000 387
15-Nov-35 1/2 lbs plug tobacco $0.750 390
15-Nov-35 1/2 lbs gunpowder $1.250 390

Russell's Employment at Fort Ends

Russell's term of service expired on Oct. 20. He was rather disgusted with the inept leadership during the Fall Hunt, and he decided to leave the service of the Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company at the first opportunity. He stayed on for several weeks until Capt. Wyeth returned and he received his official discharge. While waiting, he purchased goods to outfit himself as a free trapper. On Nov. 16th, Capt. Thing arrived from the Columbia with additional supplies for the fort. The number of scalping knives purchased suggests that these were popular items for trade.
17-Nov-35 2 scalping knives $2.250 392
17-Nov-35 2 lbs musket balls $2.500 392
17-Nov-35 gun flints $0.250 392
18-Nov-35 1 small antelope skin $0.750 395
18-Nov-35 1/4 of a lodge $10.875 398
19-Nov-35 1 pts sugar $1.500 400
20-Nov-35 1 7 inch butcher knife $1.125 401
26-Nov-35 1 pr boots $8.000 407
26-Nov-35 1 fine ivory comb $1.000 407
26-Nov-35 charged to Gale ($15.000) 407
27-Nov-35 1 6 inch butcher knife $1.125 407
27-Nov-35 1 pocket looking glass $0.750 407
01-Dec-35 1/2 lbs leaf tobacco $0.750 413
06-Dec-35 1/2 lbs gunpowder $1.250 420
06-Dec-35 1 lbs musket balls $1.250 420
06-Dec-35 1 butcher knife red handled $1.125 420
15-Dec-35 your bill of work done since your term of service expired as per bill rendered ($5.000)
16-Dec-35 lodge skin ($4.000)
18-Dec-35 1/2 lbs plug tobacco $0.750 453

On Dec 20. Capt. Wyeth returned to the fort, and the men were discharged. Russell and 15 other men who also took their discharge established winter quarters on "Mutton Hill", about 40 miles up the Portneuf from Fort Hall. This would be in the vicinity of present-day Lava Hot Springs. There they remained, presumably in the lodges they purchased, until excessive snow in February forced them to return to the Snake River valley to obtain feed for their animals. Russell then joined up with Jim Bridger's party, who were wintering on Blackfoot Creek, about 15 miles from Fort Hall.(39)

While wintering with Bridger, Russell made at least one visit to the fort. On Feb 23, 1836 Captain Wyeth presented 1 pair of spurs to Russell.(40) Apparently, there were no hard feelings between Russell and his former employer, and Wyeth's present appears to have been a reward for good service. Russell remained with Bridger's camp until the end of March, when they left the region to conduct the Spring Hunt.


Russell went on to a long career as a trapper. For several years, he was associated with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and it's successors, and obtained his supplies at the annual rendezvous. Later, he became a free trapper and returned to Fort Hall, using it as his base. But by this time, the fort had been sold to the Hudson's Bay Company. Perhaps further research in the Hudson's Bay archives will yield additional information about Russell's purchases at Fort Hall.

To complete Russell's account with the Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company, the following are the corrections made when the books were reviewed in May, 1836. It is not known when or if Russell paid his final balance.
18-May-36 error in adding small ledger ($1.000) ledger, p 323
18-May-36 error in daybook page 29 to awls ($0.250)
18-May-36 error in posting from daybook page 341 ($5.000)
18-May-36 error in daybook page 3 on rum $3.000
18-May-36 error in daybook page 133 s beads $0.250
18-May-36 error in daybook page 133 awls $0.250
18-May-36 error in daybook page 264 awls $0.090
Balance owed: $18.492


The following lists summarize the items Russell purchased at Ft Hall, as indicated in the transactions described in this paper. The items are grouped into functional categories.


Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company. Fort Hall Accounts 1834-1837. Oregon Historical Society.

Haines, Aubrey L., "Osborne Russell", The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, Leroy Hafen, ed. (Glendale, CA. : Authur H. Clark Company, 1965)

Russell, Orborne. Journal of a Trapper. (Boise, ID.:Syms-York Company, 1914).

Townsend, John Kirk. Across the Rockies to the Columbia. (Lincoln, NE.: University of Nebraska Press, 1978)

Victor, Francis Fuller. The River of the West. (Hartford, Conn.:, R. W. Bliss, 1870).

Whitman, Narcissa Prentiss. My Journal. Fairfield, WA, Ye Galleon Press 1982.

Wyeth, Nathaniel, J. The Correspondence and Journals of Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth, 1831-1836. (Eugene, OR.: University Press, 1899) (Sources of the history of Oregon: v.1 pts. 23-6).


1. Wyeth, Nathaniel, J. The Correspondence and Journals of Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth, 1831-1836. p 117. Letter from N.J. Wyeth to M. G. Sublette, Nov 19, 1833.

2. Wyeth, p 111. Letter to Hall, Tucker, & Williams, Nov. 8, 1833.

3. Haines, Aubrey L., "Osborne Russell", The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, Leroy Hafen, ed. p 305

4. Russell, Orborne, Journal of a Trapper. p 1

5. Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company, Fort Hall Accounts 1834-1837. Ledger 1. p 14

6. Haines, p 305

7. Townsend, John Kirk, Across the Rockies to the Columbia, p 11

8. Fort Hall Accounts Ledger 1, p 13

9. Townsend, p 26

10. Russell, p 1

11. Wyeth, p. 71

12. Fort Hall Accounts, Journal

13. Wyeth, p. 75

14. Victor, Francis Fuller. The River of the West. p.164

15. Russell, p.4

16. Russell, p 5

17. Fort Hall Accounts, Introductory pages. "Instructions to Robert Evans" no. 9

18. Wyeth, p. 77

19. See the Aubrey Haines edition of Journal of a Trapper. p. 157 note 19.

20. Russell, p. 5

21. Russell. p. 7

22. Fort Hall Accounts, Introductory pages. "Instructions to Robert Evans" no. 20

23. Russell, p. 7

24. Russell. p. 8

25. Russell, p 8

26. Russell, p. 9

27. Whitman, Narcissa Prentiss. My Journal. p.20

28. Russell, p. 12

29. Russell, p. 9

30. Fort Hall Accounts, Journal p 301.

31. Russell, p 19

32. Russell, p 21

33. Russell p. 20

34. Russell, p.30

35. Russell, p. 17

36. Russell, p.19

37. Russell, p. 27

38. Russell, p. 34

39. Russell, p 39

40. Fort Hall Accounts, Ledger 1 p 33.