American History 1785 - 1849

United States History Mountain Men/Folklore

Mountain men had an even harder life than the frontiersmen. They lived alone with only the animals and Indians for company. Some traveled on horses while others used small rafts along the rivers. Mountain men lived off the land, eating what they could find. They were in constant danger. Wild animals and Indians were their enemies. They had to fight the cold and snow. Some mountain men became explorers and guides.

Jim Bridger

Jim Bridger

Jim Bridger was a mountain man who became an explorer and guide. He traveled many of the same routes as Lewis and Clark. He also helped Jedidiah Smith find the South Pass through the Rocky Mountains. This pass was used by settlers moving to California.

Bridger was hired in 1822 by the Ashley-Henry Fur Trading Company to trade with the Indians. As part of his job, Bridger helped construct the first fur trading post on the Yellowstone River. He was the first white man to see Utah’s Great Salt Lake. After tasting its salty contents, Bridger thought he had found the Pacific Ocean.

From 1830 to 1840, Bridger spent his time trapping. When he became tired of traveling, Bridger built Fort Bridger by the Green River along the Oregon Trail. This became a regular stopping place for pioneers traveling west.

Bridger lost his first wife, lost a daughter, remarried, and then lost his second wife. After each tragedy, Bridger isolated himself in the mountains to trap and hunt.

In 1850, Bridger married the daughter of a Shoshone chief. The two divided their time between Fort Bridger and the Shoshone.

After Mormons burned Fort Bridger in 1853, he moved his family into the mountains. Bridger spent ten years as a guide and army scout during this time.

In 1868, Bridger retired to his Westport farm. He died at the age of 76 on July 17, 1881.

Bridger was a great story teller. He told many tall tales. He told of a lake near the Grand Canyon that was freezing cold at the bottom and boiling hot at the top. Bridger said you could catch a fish at the bottom and by the time you pulled it out of the lake it would be cooked and ready to eat.

Davy Crockett


Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett was born in 1786 in East Tennessee. At the age of 12, Crockett’s father hired him out to Jacob Siler to herd cattle. After the job, Crockett returned home and started school. He ran away soon afterwards to escape his father’s punishment for playing hooky. Crockett worked odd jobs including a wagoner to support himself for 2 ½ years. Crockett returned home in 1802 and spent a year working to pay off his father’s debts.

Crockett married Mary Finley on August 14, 1806 when he was 20 years old. They had two sons.

 In 1813, Crockett began his military career. He served under Andrew Jackson fighting the Creek Indians.

In 1815, Crockett’s wife died, and he married Elizabeth Patton. Elizabeth was a widow with two young children.

Crockett was elected to the Tennessee State Legislature in 1821 and to Congress in 1825. Crockett spoke against many of President Andrew Jackson’s policies, especially the Indian Removal Act. His opposition led to his defeat in the 1831 elections. He was reelected in 1833 and 1835.

Crockett wrote his autobiography called "A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee."

In 1836, after losing the election for Congress, Crockett moved his family to Texas. Crockett died on March 6, 1836 trying to defend the Alamo. Crockett fought for 13 days against thousands of Mexican soldiers led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Santa Anna was later defeated on April 21, 1836. After this defeat, Texas won her independence. Texas became a state on December 29, 1845.


Kit Carson

Kit Carson

Carson was born on December 24, 1809 in Kentucky. He grew up in Boone’s Lick on lands bought from Daniel Boone. His father died when he was just 9, so Carson left school to help his mother.

At the age of 14, Carson moved to Franklin, Missouri to serve as an apprentice to a saddle maker. In 1826, Carson broke his contract with the saddle maker, so he could lead a wagon train to Santa Fe, New Mexico. After this, he worked as a trapper.

In 1842, John C. Frémont, an officer for the U.S. Topographical Corps, hired Carson to guide him on his expedition to Oregon and California. Frémont’s writing made Carson a national hero. He became a popular hero in many Western novels.

Carson spent several years working for the United States government. In 1846, Carson fought in the Mexican-American War. Later he became a federal Indian agent. He carried important messages for President James Polk.

Carson fought in the Civil War for the Union Army. In 1863, Carson led a campaign against several Native American tribes. He helped relocate the Navajo to Bosque Redondo, a reservation located at Fort Sumner in New Mexico.

After the Civil War, Carson moved to Colorado where he became commander of Fort Garland. He negotiated a peace treaty with the Utes in the area. In 1867, he resigned because of his health. Carson died on May 23, 1868, at Colorado's Fort Lyon.


Stories about a giant north woodsman who was helped by a giant blue ox named Babe were told. This mountain man was named Paul Bunyan.

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