The Daniel Potts Papers
Dr. Fred Gowans talk, Thursday, July 6, 7 pm, Museum of the Mountain Man
July 5, 2006
The Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale is pleased to have Dr. Fred Gowans, noted authority on the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade, return for the Green River Rendezvous to give fur trade history presentations. Dr. Gowans will give a program on Thursday, July 6th on, "The Daniel Potts Papers, 1820-1829", at 7 pm at the Museum.
There isnít a lot of first-hand documentation that survives today to give us information about what life was like for the people who lived here 180 years ago during the fur trapping and trading era. Thatís why contemporary journals, newspaper articles and letters are so important to help add to the knowledge base.
In the late 1820s, a series of letters were printed in the Philadelphia Gazette & Daily Advertiser, describing one manís adventures while working to trap beaver in the unexplored western frontier, which is todayís Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Those letters were not credited to a specific author. Years later, letters were discovered which tied those earlier newspaper letters printed in Philadelphia Gazette & Daily Advertiser to a man nammed Daniel T. Potts.
Daniel Potts wrote letters back home to his family and friends while he attended the various summer Rendezvous between 1824-1828, taking advantage of the Rendezvous supply wagon as courier to deliver his correspondence back east. He described what had happened to him during the previous year, giving great insight today into the daily life of a trapper involved in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade.
Potts was one of many young men, most in their early 20s-30s, who were employed to come out to the unexplored frontier of the West and trap beaver. Most of these men, and their exploits, are forever lost to history because either they didnít keep diaries, couldnít write, or their letters home do not survive today.
Potts wrote about what he did, where he went and who he was with. His expeditions ran out of food, clothes and their supplies. They were regularly harassed and attacked by Blackfeet Indians, during which he narrowly escaped death on several occasions. He was shot through his knees in an accident, severely wounding him. They had their horses stolen and had to walk long distances on foot. Somehow in all this he found time to trap beaver. With all these trials and tribulations, Potts still ends one of his letters with the words, "inform them I am in good health and spirits" in giving his news to his family and friends!
The originals of Daniel T. Pottsí letters now reside in the Yellowstone Park Reference Library in the Yellowstone National Park Museum in Wyoming. (For more on Potts, a good book is The First Known Man in Yellowstone by Jerry Bagley - available from the Museum of the Mountain Man's website at their Trading Post.)
Dr. Gowanís presentation will kick off the living history programs that will take place at the Museum of the Mountain Man throughout Rendezvous Days.
Other talks and demonstrations about the 1800s fur trade era will be given by members of the American Mountain Men, Gage Skinner with his "Field Museum of the Fur Trade", Michael Terry with his Plains Indian Encampment, and Steve Banks.
There will be an all-day field trip to South Pass on Friday with Dr. Gowans and Steve Banks talking about Robert Stuart. The bus has limited seating for 45. Call the Museum at 367-4101 to reserve your seat. Bring a sack lunch and your own drinks.
Daniel T. Potts letters
Museum of the Mountain Man www.museumofthemountainman.com