By Lynn Blamires Content Writer for My Local Utah
If I answered that question too early in this article, it would be very short. Before I get to that, I would like to review one of the most colorful periods in American history – the day of the mountain man.
The Day of the Mountain Man
This entire era was created by a European and eastern American demand for a beaver to make elegant fur hats. Beaver were plentiful in the Wild West and their pelts or plews were needed to make them.
In 1822 the fur trading business was born when the Henry-Ashley Trading Company was organized. The company placed an ad in the Missouri Republic for 100 young men to go deep into the mountains of the Wild West to hunt beaver.
In the summer, these Mountain Men brought their pelts to St. Louis to be paid for their winter’s work. That trek was over 1,000 miles so it was decided that it would be more efficient for the fur companies to come to the trappers.
The Birth of the Mountain Man Rendezvous
That gave birth to the mountain man rendezvous. Trappers came out of the mountains to meet the supply wagons at a place and a time that was set at the end of the previous meeting. The first mountain men were French so it was no surprise that the French term for meeting at an agreed time and place would be used.
What began as a practical gathering to exchange pelts for supplies and reorganize trapping units evolved into a month-long carnival in the middle of the wilderness. Mountain man James Beckworth described the festivities as a scene of “mirth, songs, dancing, shouting, trading, running, jumping, singing, racing, target-shooting, yarns, frolic, with all sorts of extravagances that white men or Indians could invent.” The first Mountain Man Rendezvous was held in Southern Wyoming in 1825 and continued until 1840 when the last supply train was sent from St. Louis.
This era produced two mountain men who had a direct impact on the Weber County Seat – Miles Goodyear and Peter Skene Ogden. Ogden was from Quebec, Canada, and was baptized as a babe in 1790. Goodyear was born as an American in Hamden, Connecticut in 1817.
Peter Skene Ogden
Ogden was born into a well-to-do family steeped in matters of the law. At the age of four, his family moved to Montreal where his father had been appointed a judge. His two brothers were lawyers.
Montreal as a city was the organizing hub of the Canadian fur trade. While young Peter was exposed to the intricacies of the law, it held little interest for him. After a short time with the American Fur Company in Montreal, he joined the North West Company as an apprentice clerk in April 1809. Thus began his introduction to the life of a mountain man.
Charged with Murder
By 1814, he was in charge of a post in Saskatchewan at the north end of Green Lake. Because of an incident there in 1816, an indictment was brought against him for murder four years later in Lower Canada. To be put out of reach, he was posted to Fort George in Astoria, Oregon.
Six Trapping Expeditions
Later, he was posted to Spokane House where he was assigned to lead a trapping expedition to the Snake River Country. He led six separate expeditions into an area covering present-day Oregon, Idaho, and parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.
An incident on his first expedition put him in present-day Mountain Green in 1825. His Hudson Bay Company trappers ran into the American traders led by Johnson Gardner. A disagreement over territorial rights led to a parting of the ways, with Ogden’s party losing a number of his trappers to a more lucrative offer by the Americans.
Ogden Was Never an Ogden Resident
By the end of his last expedition in 1830, he had a better knowledge of the area than any other explorer. While Ogden explored Northern Utah and had a river and a valley named after him, he didn’t establish a residency and never visited the spot that Ogden now occupies.
Miles Goodyear was orphaned at the age of four. He served much of his youth as an indentured servant. His conditions in servitude made him determined to travel west to seek his fortune. In 1836, at the age of 19, he joined the Whitman-Spaulding missionary party traveling west on the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri.
He got as far as Fort Hall when he decided to leave the company and strike out on his own. Describing young Goodyear’s leaving, William H. Gray said, “His idea of liberty was unlimited. Restraint and obedience to others were what he did not like at home; he would try his fortune in the mountains; he did not care for missionaries, Hudson’s Bay men, nor Indians; he was determined to be his own man . . . .”
Goodyear Becomes a Mountain Man
Goodyear was a successful mountain man for the next ten years. He trapped and traded across the Rocky Mountains and attended the various gatherings of mountain men and Indians.
Miles could see that the fur trade was not going to last. As forts like Fort Bridger began to spring up along the overland trails in 1842, he decided to build his own enclosed fort in present-day Ogden on the banks of the Weber River, about two miles south of where the Weber River joined the Ogden River
In building the fort, he stood cottonwood logs upright to enclose about a half-acre. When finished in 1846, it included four cabins at each of the four corners, sheds, a corral, and a garden.
The Fort was home to his family, other trappers, and Indian helpers. His hope was that it would be of service to immigrants on the trail. It is now known as Fort Buenaventura.
Mormons Buy the Fort
In 1847, he met the first Mormon Pioneers and tried to convince them to settle on the Weber River. He was not successful, but later that year, James Brown was sent by the same people to purchase the fort. It was then a settlement with the name of Brownsville. After the sale of the fort, Miles Goodyear left for California where he mined for gold and traded horses until he died in 1849.
The Mystery Is Solved
So with Goodyear having a well-established residency, even building the first home in the Ogden, why was it not named Goodyear? The answer is simple – President Brigham Young of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visited the area in 1849 and said it should be Ogden and it was so named in 1851 when it was incorporated. It took the United States Post Office three years to change the name from Brownsville.
A similar event took place in the town of Chicken Creek, south of Nephi. Brigham Young visited the place and changed the name to Levan, although it is important to point out that the Ogden name was familiar because Goodyear continually referred to the river as the Ogden River and Ogden’s Hole nearby to visitors.