Tag Archives: Fort William

Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Tour

By Andy Hahn

A few weeks ago Campbell House docent Tom Gronski and I returned from a 2,500 mile trip West, visiting the important sites of Robert Campbell and Rocky Mountain fur trade.

Red Rocks Canyon on the road up to the South Pass through the Wind River Range of the Rockies.

We followed the route of the Oregon Trail, which had been blazed by Campbell and other mountain men and fur traders during the 1820s and 30s. Our first stop was at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. The Joslyn holds one of the most important collections of art of the American West, including works by Karl BodmerAlfred Jacob Miller and George Catlin.

Following a 500-mile drive along the Platte River through Nebraska we arrived at Fort Laramie, where we met Alan McFarland, Robert Campbell’s g-g-g-grand nephew, fresh off the plane from his home in Northern Ireland. Alan has a special interest in his uncle’s career in the fur trade and has made numerous research trips to America. Fort Laramie was the perfect place for our meeting because Campbell and his partner Bill Sublette founded Fort Laramie (originally called Fort William) in 1834. At this National Historic Site we were able to view an authentic fur trade encampment recreated by members of the American Mountain Men. The group later created tableau vivant from one of Alfred Jacob Miller’s artworks depicting a fur trade camp.

A little further west we followed the Sweetwater River across Wyoming towards the Wind River Mountain Range and the South Pass. Bill Sublette was the first person to take a wagon this far into the Rocky Mountains in 1830, setting a course for thousands that would follow the Oregon and Mormon Trails. The next few days were spent in the vicinity of Jackson, Wyoming where we visited most all of the sites of the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous. The highlights included visits to the Museum of the Mountain Man where we were able to see some original Campbell letters and Pierre’s Hole, site of the 1832 Rendezvous and subsequent battle.  Campbell heroically saved his friend Bill Sublette’s life during the battle as recounted by Washington Irving in the Adventures of Captain Bonneville. Our trip ended with visits to other Rendezvous sites at Bear Lake, Cache Valley and finally Fort Bridger.

Enjoy the pictures and follow us West!

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Monday Update » 6.11.12

Welcome back to Monday, everyone! We hope you’ve been enjoying your summer so far. As usual, we’ve been busy here and we have some fun things to report to you:

Facelift for Campbell House
Actually, more like a coat of paint. 2012 marks the 10-year anniversary of the completion of the exterior renovation of the house, and we’re due for another paint job. Fortunately, we’ve secured a generous grant from the Robert J. Trulaske, Jr. Family Foundation for the funds to have the brick, windows and cornices repainted. Since the house is so big and tall, this is going to be an exciting process because the painters will have to use a series of lifts to reach the highest points of the house. Work will likely begin this summer after we complete spot tuckpointing, and we’ll be sure to share pictures as the work progresses. Three cheers for the Robert J. Trulaske, Jr. Family Foundation for helping us keep the Campbells’ home in tip-top shape!

We ♥ Our Interns
Campbell House has a full complement of six interns this summer. Though most of them are from St. Louis, they represent universities from all over the country, (Vassar, Wartburg College and Washington University) and a variety of disciplines including art history, chemistry (really) and American culture studies. They’ll get the full museum experience this summer by giving tours, conducting research, inventorying the Campbell collection as well as all of the other day-to-day stuff that needs to get done (i.e. watering the garden, booking tours, working on membership renewals, etc). Check back in with us as we post intern profiles to the blog. These dynamic — and wickedly smart — students breathe new life into this house, and we’re fortunate to have their fresh perspective. While they’re learning the museum biz, we get new insight and ideas for making this old house current and relevant to a young demographic. Are you interested in joining us for an internship, too? Email Executive Director Andy Hahn at andy [at] campbellhousemuseum.org.

Interior of Fort Laramie by Alfred Jacob Miller
Watercolor, 1858-1860

Retracing Robert’s Route
This week, Intrepid Researcher Tom™  and our illustrious Executive Director Andy are taking a trip out to the wild west to visit Robert’s old stomping grounds. Beginning at Fort Laramie, the pair will meet Robert’s great-nephew Alan (who is coming all the way from Northern Ireland) to see the annual Rendezvous that reenacts the yearly event where trappers would meet with merchants to trade furs for goods. Fort Laramie is significant because Robert founded Fort William, which was Fort Laramie’s precursor. This year’s event will commemorate artist Alfred Jacob Miller’s 1837 trip to the rendezvous. Miller produced some of the most famous images of the Oregon Trail and Fort Laramie, including the one on the right. After the rendezvous, the trio will visit Museum of the Mountain Man, Pierre’s Hole (the site of the famous battle in which Robert and pal Bill Sublette played a major role), and finally — if they have time — a trip to Fort Bridger. We’ll be sure to post pictures after the travelers return.

A picture from the process: the entire keyboard was removed from the body of the piano.

Music to Our Ears
In what proved to be a five-month project, the Campbells’ piano is DONE! JoAnn Kaplan of Kapstan Piano Services worked tirelessly to clean, fix and/or custom-fabricate new parts, and finally tune the old Schomacker. We didn’t do all that work for nothing — we’ll start hosting parlor concerts later this year. Check back for details.

Tours on Tap
Did you miss our wildly successful Lucas Place/Tap Room walking tour last fall? Have no fear — we’ll offer it again and then some. This week we’re meeting with our friends at Landmarks Association of St. Louis to put together some fun and informative tours. As soon as we work out the details we ‘ll get a schedule of events posted. Do you have an idea for a building, neighborhood or special tour of Campbell House? Let us know! Send your bright idea to shelley.satke [at] gmail.com and we’ll see what we can do.

Detail of the reupholstered piano bench. That’s silk velvet and yes, it feels as good as it looks.

Facelift 2.0: Bidet and Piano Stool
The house is getting repainted, and two pieces of furniture have been reupholstered, too. The fabric on Virginia’s bidet cover had deteriorated to nothing more than threads, and the piano stool wasn’t in much better shape. Board member and interior designer Tim Rohan generously donated new fabric and had the tops of both pieces of furniture reupholstered over the existing fabrics so we would not lose the original material (what was left of it, anyway).

New Geocache
Are you into urban treasure hunting? We have a new geocache in our garden….dig up your GPS or download a geocache app to find it, and add your name to the list!

Board President Fritz Clifford with St. Louis Ballet dancers.

We’re the Daaaahncers
Last week we welcomed a crew of St. Louis Ballet dancers who performed at our Magical Spring Thing in April. They got the VIP tour with Andy and Board President Fritz leading the way.  Do you have a special group that would like to have a special behind-the-scenes experience at Campbell House? Contact Andy (andy [at] campbellhousemuseum.org) or Shelley (shelley.satke [at] gmail.com) and we are more than happy to accommodate you!

Bye, Bob
Bob’s going away….for now. The beloved garden gnome that was left on our front steps as a prank will be vacationing back at the DeMenil Mansion until we launch a secret expedition to bring him home.  <super sadface>

….and that’s all the news that’s fit to print for now. Have a spectacular week!

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This week in history: April 18-24

Today you technically get multiple letters, all wrapped into one!  On April 22, 1835, William Sublette started a letter to Robert Campbell, who was at Fort William.  Sublette added to it on May 1.  He made one more addition on May 2, before finally sending it to Robert.  The letter covers everything, from business to family to gossip from home. One interesting and important reference Sublette makes is to “Fontinell”.  “Fontinell” was Lucien Fontenelle, a well-known French-American fur trader who worked for the American Fur Company, run by John Jacob Astor and the Rocky Mountain Fur Co. and Sublette and Campbell’s biggest competition.  Sublette also tells Robert that “Virginia”, meaning 13 year old Virginia Jane Kyle, who Robert would marry in 1841, is doing well and “Mrs Fox also lent Virginia compliments to you”.  Enjoy this fascinating look into Sublette & Campbell’s business and personal lives!

[Front Cover]
Mr. R. Campbell
Fort William

St. Louis MO April 22nd 1835

Dear Robert,
I received your letter from Columbia and also one from Lexington dated april 18th. I wrote you by the first mail after you left at Lexington and also to Independence.  Enclosing those notes you wished [spelled wisht] Fontinell to Settle, as he refused doing so here but stated [spelled staited] he thought he would Settle them when you delivered over the fort to him.  I have written all that passed between us to you in my letter to Independence which I presume you will get before you leave the United States although you did not state in your letter from Lexington whether you had received mine or not.  Galio [?] sent a letter to you from your brother to Independence and I now also send one letter to Fontinell.  Fontinell has only visited my room but twice since you left he appears too [spelled two] busily engaged in courting or something else that I can scarcely get to see him.  On yesterday Mr Fontinell & Beret both came to my room.  I showed them both the part of the letter you sent me or so much as related to their [spelled there] matters and they made [spelled maid] no objections.  Fontinell told me he expected to leave tomorrow but you know him, the people is all well here generally, and not much change in affairs.  Since you left Capt. Fleiseheman is dead and buried, marriages Marpy & Shanice is both married, Miss Billow also & Miss Calena is expected to be in the same situatiation in a few days etc. etc.

[Pg. Break] There appears to be but little alteration in Milton since you left Sister Sophronice Cook is now in St. Louis and expects to leave shortly.

I have received a letter from Mr J.J. Carpenter of N.Y. stating our furst is still unsold and that several persons has been lookng at them but will think them too [spelled two] dear.  The Saulaperans are all here as yes but expect to leave in a few days.  Bean Garden & Lane all let out shortly up the Mississippi surveying.  I had word from Edmond Christy a few days since he is well and they say is doing well keeps himself steady and attentive to business.

May the first I have this morning received your letters with Andrew from Independence April 21 1835.

I have you will percieve by this commenced [spelled comenced] this letter several days since.  I have just called on Fontinell and he informs me he will start this evening or tomorrow morning for a certainty, Cabanne, came down last night Fontinell has been so busily engaged courting galavanting etc. that he has hardly been to see Milton but one time since you left (it appears to be fine times with him) Milton has much mended since I commence this letter I have had him riding out and he is now bout on his crutches lest his leg is about the same the ligatures still remain.  Mrs. Ashley has been quite unwell but is now better I have paid but one or two visits since you left and I can assure you I feel quite lonesome.  I expect to take Milton to the farm in a few days where I shall stay principly.

[Pg. Break] I have received but one letter from your Brother but what I have sent you and I enclose it with this I expect another in a few days, Randolph has visited Miltons room several times I expect there is something on foot as he has been trying to get employment and Milton appears dissatisfied [spelled disatisfied] with Fontinells detention here and have I believe expressed [spelled expresst] him self.  So I will finish this letter by piece meals [?] whilst Fontinell remains.  Robt. this evening I received a letter from Hugh statting he will determine in a day or two whether he will visit St Louis or no if so he will leave about the first of June his stay will be short and he will return through Tennesee, Alabama, and Kentucky.  He states he received a letter from Brother Andrew dated 26th Jany last all friends was well at that date and nothing new.

I would send you the letter which is dated the 17th of april only it contained a list of my fruit trees and a description of them etc prinicipaly on that subject.

I was at Miss Kyle’s this evening all was well and wished I would remember them in my letter to you.  Mrs Fox also lent Virginia compliments to you there has nothing transpired since you left worth notice I am getting on with my building and farm as well as could be expected Mr Jackson is now in St Louis I have had a settlement with him Smith & Ashley.

[Pg. Break, top of front cover] May 2 1835 Robert I have just been to see Fontinell he says he will leave positively today.  W & Mrs Stephanson leaves to day for Galena.  Mgr Bean also Gordon is gone.  Miss Calena is married and off to Illinois.  Miss Tharp is also married and so forth,  Beut and Sarena is still here but will leave shortly         Your friend W Sublette

[Section Break, upside down] I intend forwarding our bill on for the goods spoken of immediately I have been waiting to hear from you at Independence or I would have done so before now Milton wishes to be remembered & Sister Cook has left and I feel entirely at a loss what to do or how to employ myself as you know I have been a bird of passage the last twelve years yours farewell, W.L.S.

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