Mountain men have been the stuff of legend and hollywood movies. Their history is fascinating. During the early 1800s, the vast open west of the United States – most notably the Rocky Mountains was a hotbed for frontiersmen activity. A lot of these men just so happened to be beardsman as well. Here’s a brief look at the history of the mountain men and some of their most noteworthy and notorious men.
Before the migrations of the mid 19th century rolled into the American West, the area was populated sparsely with non-natives. Those bold adventurers who called this space home were small groups of fur trappers and explorers. Today what we now call mountain men. These hardened and grizzled men helped set the trails used by many early pioneers and created stories we’re still fascinated by. It goes without saying that they all rocked some killer beards.
James Beckwourth was born into slavery on a Virginia Plantation. He received his freedom in the 1820s and decided he’d adventure west to the Rocky mountains with a fur trading group. Mountain men didn’t keep many written records, but they did tell some tall tales. Buckworth’s time as a fur trapper evolved into a six year stay amongst a band of Crow Indians. He was said to have learned their language, integrated himself into the tribe and even became chief who fought against the rival Blackfeet. Beckworth traveled the country throughout the rest of his life. He was best known as a wilderness guide, discovering a route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This route became a popular track for gold prospectors heading into California. Beckwourth Pass is named after him and he was also responsible for setting up the outpost that one day become Pueblo, Colorado. His death is shrouded in mystery, but some historians believe that he returned to the Crows and lived out the rest of his days with his adopted tribe.
Hugh Glass has become a household name after Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in The Revenant. This guy actually got attacked by a bear and lived to tell the tale. In 1823, Hugh Glass went on a fur-trading expedition following the Missouri River. Somewhere along the way in South Dakota they were attacked by the Arikara tribe. Glass and his group got cut off and went towards the Yellowstone. Glass went out scouting for the party alone in the wilderness. Before he could even fire his gun, he was waylaid by a full grown grizzly bear. According to some historical references and of course – The Revenant, Glass was able to single handedly kill the bear with a knife. The resulting attack left him in pretty bad shape and the whole crew figured he’d be dead by morning. Lacerations all over his back, a ripped scalp and punctured throat left him worse for the wear. He survived from the bear attack and went on to live another day. The wilderness eventually took his life, but Hugh never went down without a fight.
Frontiersman, cold hearted killer, fiddle player and… presidential chair maker? Seth Kinman was a hardened veteran of the west. Kinman killed over 800 grizzly bears. This one’s for you Hugh! Kinman’s life is enough to fill a novel and it did – as he wrote his memoirs that finally popped up and were published in 2010. Aside from being a mountain man, he was a musician, entertainer and hotel owner. One of the most interesting facts about Seth Kinman was that he created chairs out of elk and bear. These were presented to presidents James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson and Rutherford B. Hayes. While talking to James Buchanan he remarked: ““Anybody can make a cheer [chair], but I take credit for the design of this. I kill deer and elk meat up in Humboldt County. My range is from Bear Valley into Oregon…” Kinman’s last presidential chair was completed two years before he died in 1886 and given to President Grover Cleveland. The Mountain Men have a special bearded history. Some bearded men to this day even have reenactments of that far-gone time.