Fellow mountain man and friend of Hugh Glass, George Yount provided most of the information on Glass’s life once his dealings at Fort Atkinson concerning the fate of John Fitzgerald were concluded. According to Yount, Glass was paid $300 at the fort to appease his need for vengeance and to compensate him, at least partially, for the hardships that he had endured. He used these funds to travel to the western settlements of Missouri and, in 1824, became a partner in one of the trading ventures to New Mexico. Once in Santa Fe, Glass formed a partnership with a Frenchman named DuBreuil, and the two men went on a trading and trapping venture along the Gila River.
After a year of trapping and trading southwest of Santa Fe with only marginal success, Glass relocated to Taos. He was then hired by Etienne Provost to lead a trapping party into the southern Colorado territory of the Eutaw Indians. While trapping and canoeing down a river, Glass’s group spotted a lone Indian woman along the bank.
The woman was a Shoshone, a tribe at war with the Eutaws at the time, and hostile toward the whites who traded with their enemy. As Glass and his men approached the woman with an offering of beaver meat, their sudden presence startled her and she let out a horrendous yell. The scream alerted Shoshone braves resting nearby and they fired numerous arrows at the mountaineers. The attack resulted in one trapper killed and Glass with an arrowhead embedded in his back. Glass endured the pain of an inflamed wound while the party traveled 700 miles back to Taos. Once there, a fellow trapper using only a straight razor removed the metal arrowhead. After spending several months in Taos allowing the wound to heal and recuperating his health, Hugh Glass joined a group of trappers heading for the beaver grounds of the Yellowstone River country.
While no information has yet been discovered to reveal the regions of the Yellowstone country visited by Glass during the years 1827-28, the story of Phillip Covington’s employment with William Sublette’s rendezvous caravan during that same timeframe proves that Glass attended the 1828 Bear Lake Rendezvous. Due to the monopoly and high prices being charged by Smith, Jackson, and Sublette at this rendezvous, Glass was asked by the free trappers to represent them to Kenneth McKenzie and invite the American Fur Company (AMFC) to send a trade caravan to the 1829 rendezvous. Thus, when Glass left the 1828 rendezvous he was bound for Fort Floyd, an American Fur Company post located near the mouth of the Yellowstone River, to palaver with McKenzie.
Glass’s movements during 1829 are not certain, but it can be assumed that he made it to the 1829 Pierre’s Hole rendezvous to report to the free trappers the outcome of his visit with McKenzie. The free trappers’ special envoy may have actually influenced AMFC management because a trading caravan under the leadership of Fontenelle and Dripps was scheduled to attend the 1830 rendezvous. Whatever the specific outcome of Glass’s representation of the free trappers, it appears that he and McKenzie developed a mutually respectful relationship.
By the spring of 1830, Glass was trapping and hunting on the upper Missouri region, and based at the recently constructed Fort Union. According to historian H. M. Chittenden, Glass worked as a hunter for Fort Union and harvested so many bighorn sheep on the hillsides opposite the fort these hills became known as the Glass Bluffs. An 1874 map of the Territory of Montana showed the bluffs near the mouth of the Yellowstone still being identified as “Glass Bluffs.”
The American Fur Company ledger book contained accounts for “Hugh Glass –Freeman,” indicating that he routinely traded at Fort Union during 1831-1833. These same ledgers also showed that Johnson Gardner, another famous free trapper, had migrated to Fort Union during the same time period. Gardner had been with the 1822 Henry/Ashley party and had been an independent Rocky Mountain trapper and trader since that time. Since both men came to the upper Missouri country as Ashley men they were probably friends, and it appears that both of these older trappers had opted for the easier lifestyle afforded by a trading post.
In order to cultivate trade with the Crow Indians, Samuel Tullock was sent in the summer of 1832 to the Yellowstone River to build a new trading post near the mouth of the Big Horn River. Named Fort Cass, the new post was completed by the fall of 1832 and its location was three miles downriver from the junction of the Bighorn and Yellowstone rivers. Not long after its completion, Hugh Glass relocated to Fort Cass as a hunter supplying meat to the new AMFC post.
In the early spring of 1833, Glass accompanied by Edward Rose and Hilain Menard, departed Fort Cass to trap beaver a short way downriver from the fort. As the trappers were crossing the ice of the frozen river, they were ambushed by a large party of Arikara Indians who had been concealed on the opposite bank. All three men were shot, scalped, and plundered. It was these men’s misfortune that an Arikara war party, bent on stealing horses, had been scouting the area around the fort when they spotted the trappers.
Another Ashley man, James P. Beckwourth, provided an account of Hugh Glass’s demise in which he stated that he was at Fort Cass in the spring of 1833 and found the bodies of the three trappers lying on the ice. With the exception of learning that Glass and two men were killed on the Yellowstone River in the spring of 1833, none of the rest of Beckwourth’s story matched any verifiable accounts from the period.
Beckwourth ended his version of the Glass story by describing the burial of the three trappers and the Crow Indians’ deep emotional reaction to the death of these veteran trappers,
We returned together and buried the three men, amid the most terrible scenes that I had ever witnessed. The crying was truly appalling. The three men were well known, and highly esteemed by the Crows. When their bodies were lowered to their last resting-place, numberless fingers were voluntarily chopped off and thrown into the graves; hair and trinkets of every description were also contributed, and the graves were finally filled up.
Some of the Arikara war party who had killed the three trappers had moved on to the headwaters of the Powder River where they encountered a camp of trappers lead by Johnson Gardner. Pretending to be a tribe other than Arikara, the trappers allowed the Indians to warm themselves by their fires. Consequently, the trappers noticed an Indian with old Glass’s rifle and other Indians with possessions known to belong to the other murdered trappers. A fight ensued and two Arikara were captured. Seeing the Arikara with guns and knives known to belong to three of their fellow trappers had put Gardner and his men in a mood for vengeance. Johnson Gardner had the Indians scalped, then burned alive when they could not provide a good explanation for being in possession of accouterments known to belong to Gardner’s fellow trappers.
In 1839, Edmund Flagg provided the record of Johnson Gardner’s demise when he stated that: “Not long afterwards Gardiner himself fell into the hands of the Erickeraws, who inflicted upon him the same dreadful death.”
Article by: Clay Landry
See Sources page for the original accounts of the Hugh Glass story…