George Ruxton

George Ruxton

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At a certain time, when the hunt is over, or they have loaded their pack animals, the trappers proceed to the 'rendezvous', the locality of which has been previously agreed upon; and here the traders and agents of the fur companies await them, with such assortment of goods as their hardy customers may require, including generally a fair supply of alcohol. The trappers drop in singly and in small bands, bringing their packs of beaver to this mountain market, not infrequently to the value of a thousand dollars each, the produce of one hunt. The dissipation of the 'rendezvous', however, soon turns the trapper's pocket inside out. The goods brought by the traders, although of the most inferior quality, are sold at enormous prices - coffee, twenty and thirty shillings a pint cup, which is the usual measure; tobacco fetches ten and fifteen shillings a plug; alcohol, from twenty to fifty shillings a pint; gunpowder, sixteen shillings a pint cup; and all other articles at proportionately exorbitant prices.

The rendezvous is one continued scene of drunkenness, gambling, and brawling and fighting, as long as the money and credit of the trappers last. Seated, Indian fashion, round the fires, with a blanket spread before them, groups are seen with their 'decks' of cards, playing at poker, and seven-up, the regular mountain games. The stakes are 'beaver', which here is current coin; and when the fur is gone, their horses, mules, rifles, and shirts, hunting packs, and breeches, are staked. Daring gamblers make the rounds of the camp, challenging each other to play for the trapper's highest stake - his horse, his squaw (if he have one), and, as once happened, his scalp.

A trapper often squanders the produce of his hunt, amounting to hundreds of dollars, in a couple of hours; and, supplied on credit with another equipment, leaves the rendezvous for another expedition, which has the same result time after time, although one tolerably successful hunt would enable him to return to the settlements and civilised life, with an ample sum to purchase and stock a farm, and enjoy himself in ease and comfort the remainder of his days.

Seizing with his left hand the long and braided lock on the centre of the Indian's head, he passed the point edge of his keen butcher-knife round the parting, turning it at the same time under the skin to separate the scalp from the skull; then, with a quick and sudden jerk of his hand, he removed it entirely from the head, and giving the reeking trophy a wring upon the grass to free it from the blood, he coolly hitched it under his belt, and proceeded to the next; but seeing La Bonte operating upon this, he sought the third, who lay some little distance from the others. This one was still alive, a pistol-ball having passed through his body, without touching a vital spot. Thrusting his knife, for mercy's sake, into the bosom of the Indian, he likewise tore the scalp-lock from his head, and placed it with the other.

La Bonte had received two trivial wounds, and Killbuck till now had been walking about with an arrow sticking through the fleshy part of his thigh, the point being perceptible near the surface on the other side. To free his leg from the painful encumbrance, he thrust the weapon completely through, and then, cutting off the arrow-head below the barb, he drew it out, the blood flowing freely from the wound. A tourniquet of buckskin soon stopped this, and, heedless of the pain, the hardy mountaineer sought for his old mule, and quickly brought it to the fire (which La Bonte had rekindled), lavishing many a caress, and most comical terms of endearment, upon the faithful companion of his wanderings. They found all the animals safe and well, and after eating heartily of some venison which the Indians had been cooking at the moment of the attack, made instant preparations to quit the scene of their exploit, not wishing to trust to the chance of the Rapahos being too frightened to again molest them.

Whilst following a small creek at the southwest extremity of the lake, they came upon a band of miserable Indians, who, from the fact of their subsisting chiefly on roots, are called the Diggers. At first sight of the whites, they immediately fled from their wretched huts, and made towards the mountain; but one of the trappers, galloping up on his horse, cut off their

retreat, and drove them like sheep before him back to their village. A few of these wretched creatures came into camp at sundown, and were regaled with such meat as the larder afforded. They appeared to have no other food in their village but bags of dried ants and their larvae, and a few roots of the yampah. Their huts were constructed of a few bushes of greasewood, piled up as a sort of breakwind, in which they huddled in their filthy skins.

The Bayou Salade, or Salt Valley, is the most southern of three very extensive valleys, forming a series of table-lands in the very centre of the main chain of the Rocky Mountains, known to the trappers by the name of the "Parks." The numerous streams by which they are watered abound in the valuable fur-bearing beaver, whilst every species of game common to the west is found here in great abundance. The Bayou Salade especially, owing to the salitrose nature of the soil and springs, is the favourite resort of all the larger animals common to the mountains; and, in the sheltered prairies of the Bayou, the buffalo, forsaking the barren and inclement regions of the exposed plains, frequent these upland valleys in the winter months; and feeding upon the rich and nutritious buffalo grass which, on the bare prairies, at that season, is either dry and rotten or entirely exhausted, not only are enabled to sustain life, but retain a great portion of the "condition" that the abundant fall and summer pasture of the lowlands has laid upon their bones.

I think it would be as well to correct a misapprehension as to the truth or fiction of the paper. It is no fiction. There is no incident in it which has not actually occurred, nor one character who is not well known in the Rocky Mountains, with the exception of two whose names are changed - the originals of these being, however, equally well known with the others. With regard to the incidents of Indian attacks, starvation, cannibalism, etc., I have invented not one out of my own head.

The readers of Blackwood's Magazine, who for six succeeding months have followed La Bonte and his mountain companions through the hardships, humours, and perils of "Life in the Far West," will surely not learn with indifference, that the gallant young author of those spirited sketches has prematurely departed to his long home, from that Transatlantic land whose prairies and forests he so well loved to tread, and the existence and eccentricities of whose wildest sons he so ably and pleasantly portrayed. Nearly a month has now elapsed since the London newspapers contained the mournful tidings of the death, at St. Louis on the Mississippi, and at the early age of twenty-eight, of Lieutenant George Frederick Ruxton, formerly of her Majesty's 8pth regiment, known to the reading world as the author of a volume of Mexican adventure, and of the above-named contributions to this Magazine. The former work has too completely gained the suffrages of the public to need commendation at our hands: it divides, with Madame Calderon de la Barca's well-known volumes, the merit of being the best narration extant of travel and general observation in modern Mexico.

Adventurer George Ruxton

One of the most interesting things about Colorado history is discovering the bold individuals who explored and settled the land, travelling far from home at great risk when the west was truly wild. One such early adventurer was George F. Ruxton. Definitely a member of the live-hard-die-young crowd, Ruxton wrote about his travels around the world and was one of the first people to write extensively about the mountain men in the American West.

Ruxton was born in Kent, England in 1821, but he did not stay there for long. He wrote of himself, “I was a vagabond in all my propensities. Everything quiet or commonplace I detested and my spirit chafed within me to see the world and participate in scenes of novelty and danger.”

Ruxton left England for Spain in 1836 when he was only 15 years old after being expelled from the Royal Military Academy at Sand Hurst. There was a civil war being fought in Spain at that time, and young Ruxton enlisted in a British regiment fighting for Queen Isabella II. He became a lancer under Diego de León and received the Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand from the queen for his gallantry at Belascoáin .

When he was 17 Ruxton returned to England, but soon left looking for adventure again. He served in Ireland and then in Canada as a British soldier. He was intrigued by the lives of the natives and the mountain men in Canada, and sold his Lieutenant commission in the British Army so he could stay there. He became a hunter and travelled with a Chippewa friend, Peshwego.

When he’d had enough of Canada, Ruxton made another short visit home to England. Then he was off on the first of two trips to explore central Africa. He was working with the Royal Geographical Society trying to correct some mistakes on the maps of the time. He was unable gather the resources to explore as he wished and returned to England. He wrote a paper about African bushmen and presented it before the Ethnological Society of London in 1845.

By 1846 Ruxton was off vagabonding again. This time he sailed to Veracruz , Mexico to observe the Mexican–American War . From there, he traveled north to Santa Fe and on to Bent’s Fort in the future Colorado. He journeyed through the San Luis Valley and up the Arkansas River into South Park. He generally travelled alone, but enjoyed meeting and spending time with the mountain men and trappers he met along the way. He also met the native inhabitants of the area, the Utes and Arapahoes.

In the winter of 1846-47, Ruxton visited what would one day become Manitou Springs where Ruxton Creek and Ruxton Ave now bear his name. He camped there for several weeks, hunting antelope, buffalo, and other local game. He wanted to climb Pikes Peak, but was unable to do it because of poor weather. From January through May 1847 he hunted along the Front Range, visited with mountain men, and endured an extremely cold winter with only his horse and mules for company. Other places he visited included Ute Pass , Woodland Park , Florissant , and Lake George .

At the time of Ruxton’s visit to Manitou, the area was still part of Mexico. It would be ceded to the United States the next year at the end of the Mexican-American War in February 1848. Ute Pass was still an Indian trail and the mineral springs in Manitou were often visited by the Ute people. Ruxton wrote, “The spring was filled with beads and wampum, and pieces of red cloth and knives, whilst the surrounding trees were hung with strips of deerskin, cloth and moccasins.” The people left these offerings in hopes of good health and good hunting, and for good luck in winning battles with the plains tribes.

Ruxton returned to England for the last time in the spring of 1847. By 1848 his health was declining. He had suffered a fall during his time in Colorado, resulting in a spinal injury that had never fully healed and caused him considerable pain. Even so, he still had the desire to “see the world and participate in scenes of novelty and danger.” He returned to America intending to visit the Great Salt Lake, but only made it as far as St. Louis. Ruxton fell ill during a dysentery epidemic there and died on August 29, 1848. He was 27 years old.

During his short life Ruxton wrote extensively about his many travels and published a number of magazine articles and books. His titles include Life in the Old West, Ruxton of the Rockies, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains, and many other works of autobiography and fiction.

He had a lot to write about. Not counting his adventures in Canada, and Africa, Ruxton had journeyed a total of 3,000 miles by horse or foot from Vera Cruz, Mexico to Manitou Springs, Colorado. Along the way he met many historical figures such as General Antonio López de Santa Anna, Charles Bent, and others. His detailed first person accounts of the early American West and its people are invaluable to historians today. He commented on Mexican, Indian and American culture during the period of American expansion into the west. He observed the Mexican-American War, and shared his thoughts on the issue of slavery. Ruxton’s tales are also exciting to read. He was caught in a wildfire started by the Indians, nearly died in a snowstorm, had many other near-death experiences.

Of his time in Colorado, Ruxton wrote, “I must confess that the very happiest moments of my life have been spent in the wilderness of the Far West and I never recall, but with pleasure, the remembrance of my solitary camp in the Bayou Salade ( South Park) , with no friend near me more faithful than my rifle, and no companions more sociable than my good horse and mules, or the attendant cayute (coyote) which nightly serenaded us.”

George Melville Ruxton

Capt. George Melville Ruxton, Master Mariner, was born in 1868 at Lyttelton, went to sea at an early age, in the "Spray", his father's ship, a topsail schooner, & the brigantine "Endeavour" in the Lyttelton - Hokitika trade.

In 1878 the family left Lyttelton for Christchurch :- and George attended Heathcote School, and later Greymouth when living with his uncle who was engineer of the dredge "Hapuka".

At the age of 15, his father indentured him to C.W.Turner & Company of Christchurch in which company he served an apprenticeship for four years, in the barques "Lurline" & "Norman MacLeod".

In 1890 he passed for first mate at Dunedin, and went away in an American barque to America & London, his sister having married the captain of that ship. He gained his master's Certificate at Wellington, & entered the service of the Union Steamship Company in 1895. Four years later he was appointed chief officer of the first "Kini". Returning to N.Z. in 1895, Captain Ruxton served his first appointment to command in 1910, when he became master of the "Kaitangata", in which he had been Chief Officer for some months.

During the next twenty years, he commanded twenty six of the Company's steamers, including the "Maori". In World War 1 he was master of two different ships which acted during the whole period of the Great War, chartered out to the Commonwealth Naval Board & sailed under their instructions & came to N.Z. on each trip to obtain necessary coal.

Those ships were the property of the Union Steamship Coy. of N.Z. - the "Kanna" cruised in Australian & Pacific waters, & also in China. The Captain of the Royal Navy wrote thanking him for his cheerful ready sailing in company with his ship, was highly appreciated by him, & the ship's company in the careful & efficient manner, not only in coaling the ship, but also in the quite unusual occasion (for a collier) of towing targets etc. etc. for heavy gun practices, torpedo firings and so forth.

In 1912 he was married in Sydney to Capt. Ledrum's daughter of that city. Capt. Ruxton beached the "Kauri" on June 21st. 1914 on a dark night with an increasing sea, & a rising gale, to save life. She was sinking on her beam ends in deep water and leaking so fast that water rose up and put the boiler fires out. There was just sufficient steam to beach her. He was exonerated from all blame by the Marine Court of Enquiry.

He retired in 1931, having reached the age limit.

Capt. Ruxton was a seaman of the old school & and was trusted as a most reliable ship's master, having Pilot exemption to every port. He never lost his love of the sea and his ships.

Why Not Ruxton?

George Ruxton sought out answers….and had a strong desire to learn, share and experience people, places and things.

Ruxton was interested in the “Why is this so”…and “How is this done” type of questions. In his journal of his travels he asks those questions of himself and those who he meets. He also learned from others, even if this meant changing his own preconceived notions.

In his novel he shares what he learned and experienced. Ruxton helped put the Hawken rifle, the Green River knife and the term mountain man into mainstream American culture.

Ruxton was a avid hunter and shooter. From reading his writings one can tell he enjoyed telling of a excellent feat of marksmanship or the odd bit of hunting lore.

One of the goals of this blog and the “museum” is to do just as Ruxton did. To ask why or how. To share and experience with others. Perhaps even open up ourselves or a stranger to a new thought or idea.

I think the best way to learn is through a “hands on” experience. It is not enough to say to someone “This is a old gun, here is how it was shot, this is what it could do”. A better approach is to hand someone a gun from the 1840’s…walk them through how to load and shoot the gun. Then if possible have them shoot the gun.

All while asking questions and experiencing the gun and the lesson.

I think Ruxton would approve.

George Ruxton

Lord George Ruxton survived the fall of Stormwind with his family. However, his parents soon perished under the strain. The family title was all that came to him. Since the land and gold were lost in the exodus. He was a decent swordsman, but became a skilled Warrior to protect his sister Marcena. When he returned to Elwynn he fought with his head over his brute strength to win his lands and fortune back.

Soon after Marcena married Lord Geoffrey Tate of Raven Hill Duskwood. It was not long he fell in love with a powerful Priestess Ciara, and made her his wife. They had two children Charles Ruxton and Isabel Ruxton. A few years past and Ciara went missing on a trip to Lakeshire, Redridge. Despite everyone around him losing faith, George still believes his wife was abducted and is still alive. He has vowed to never give up the search.

George Ruxton holds himself as any true Noble would. He looks younger than he is, one would never gather he lived through the fall of Stormwind. He has no visible scars from his trials. Those are carried in the heart and carved in his soul.

The thick red hair hints at his temper, but there is no fiery undertone, only a void of darkness. To encounter his eyes would be like sinking in to the seas unfathomable depths, dark and chilling. Every facet of this man’s face is controlled. You see what he wants you to see.

George is not the tallest human man by a long shot, but he isn’t short. The muscular frame, gives way to wide shoulders. It imparts an illusion of being larger then he really is. His clothing would be without fault. Perfectly tailored or forged to his frame. He keeps himself clean and being close to him would have a pleasing scent of exotic spice and light soap. He looks friendly enough, but holds an aura of intimidation. Would it be from his Noble blood, financial success, or the skill with the blades he carries?

George is a calculated man. He is ever on the watch for a good investment. Gold -is- power. No matter how strong you think you are, there is someone stronger.

He is haunted by his past. Azeroth is a world at war, and George has not been unaffected. Pain causes him to reserve his friendship from others. He will be cordial and kind in most situations. But until he clasps your hand in his, don’t expect him to have your back. He is not going to take someone on their word only. George needs deeds or contracts to assure himself. It will be the rare event that sees him drinking and laughing with others in a tavern. If such were to happen, he probably is in some deep negotiations for acquire the establishment.

George is a charitable soul. He wants to see others succeed. If he sees worth in something or someone, he will aid the cause in whatever way is needed.

Stormwind fell, but George Ruxton did not. He lost his parents, not in battle, but the aftermath. They were not able to recover the loss of their home and wealth. Sickness and depression ravaged those around him, but George was a survivor. He was already a skilled swordsman. With his younger sister depending on him, George became a fierce warrior. George never lost his family title. He knew who and what he was meant to be. Hell bent on regaining his lands, George fought not only with his blades, but with his mind. He learned to turn copper to silver, and silver soon became gold. Common men ignored the majority of the lesser Lords, but George had the coin to buy their respect, and soon he had his land!

It was at this time he met a powerful priestess. Ciara was so Light gifted she could revive the dead. She became his world, and after much wooing on George’s part, his wife. Ciara and George had two children, Charles and Isabel. They lived a charmed life for a short time. Ciara went missing during a trip to Lakeshire, Redridge. The carriage was overturned and the bodies of her guards burned. There was no sign of her. George believes she was abducted for her powers of Light. Since then, he has hunted for his wife without rest. He employees only the best to continue the search.

The backlash of this, is Charles was sent away to study and learn to become a proper Lord of Stormwind. While Isabel, was cut off from her training in the ways of Light. George has kept his daughter close, and will do anything to defend his family and people. In recent developments, George has gained guardianship over his niece, Lady Oliviana Tate, through the tragic murder of his sister. Shortly after, Isabel ran off and eventually married the Light Weaver, Adimus Thaymond. George is not completely thrilled. Seeing his daughter growing in the Light’s power like her mother at the man’s side, leaves him anxious. For now, he will bide his time and wait 

Beaver Ecology

When Europeans came to North America, beaver lived in almost every region that had streams and creeks. The newcomers trapped the beaver for its pelt. Its soft under-fur was highly valued for making men's hats. As Europeans and then Americans moved westward, they trapped so much that beaver nearly disappeared.

A Felt Top Hat

Beaver pelts were used to make top hats like the one to the right. Men wore top hats for business and dress-up occasions. Beaver hats were in fashion from the late 1700s to the 1830s.

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The merchants who purchased beaver pelts were not interested in the fur itself. Rather, they used the under-fur or fiber underlying it. Hat makers "pounded, mashed, stiffened, and rolled" this fiber to make felt. They then used the felt to make hats. By the late 1830s, tastes in fashion changed and hat makers used materials such as silk to make fashionable hats.

"Beaver has so depreciated in value within the last few years [Ruxton was writing in the 1840s], that trapping has been almost abandoned the price paid for the skin of this valuable animal having fallen from six and eight dollars per pound to one dollar. Which hardly pays the expenses of traps, animals, and equipment for the hunt. . . . The cause of the great decrease in value of beaver-fur is the substitute which has been found for it in the skins of the fur-seal and nutria—the improved preparation of other skins of little value, such as the hare and rabbit—and, more than all, in the use of silk in the manufacture of hats, which has in a great measure superceded that of beaver. The curse of the trapper is leveled against all the new-fashioned materials of Paris hats. . . . [p. 146]"

Source: George Frederick Ruxton, Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains: A True Tail of Rough Adventure in the Days of the Mexican War, ed. Horace Kephart. New York: Macmillan, 1924.

Mother Beaver With Kits

The beaver has only one mate and the pair produces two to four kits in late May or early June. This pattern is true for almost every year. A mature beaver, usually two or three years old, will weigh from 30 to 60 pounds. Males usually are larger than females.

Photo: Minnesota Zoo Website

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Beaver colonies are organized by family units--the mother, father, and their offspring. When the kits are fully grown, they are forced to leave the parent's colony. They may wander for a while, but they often establish their own colonies close to their parent's home pond.

Their Own Words

"The female seldom produces more than three kittens at a birth, but I know an instance where one . . . [had] no less than eleven in her. They live to a considerable age, and I once ate the tail of an old 'man' beaver whose head was perfectly grey with age, and his beard was o fthe same . . . hue. . . . The kittens are as playful as their namesakes of the feline race, and it is highly amusing to see an old one . . . inciting her young to gambol [play] about her, whilst she herself is engaged about some household work [p. 149]."

Source: George Frederick Ruxton, Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains: A True Tail of Rough Adventure in the Days of the Mexican War, ed. Horace Kephart. New York: Macmillan, 1924.

A Beaver Dam

The ideal habitats for the beaver are sluggish streams and small lakes like the one in this photo. Beavers avoid streams that run in rock beds or that are so shallow they dry up in the summer. They build dams that slow the current and create ponds that hold water year-round. The ponds also help protect the beaver, since the entrance to their lodge is under water. Dams also promote aquatic plants such as cattail roots and water lilies, which are the beavers' favorite food in summer.

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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According to naturalist Ernest Seton, "the beaver dam is perhaps the most famous of animal undertakings. Everyone knows that it is the beavers' custom to dam up small streams and to build their thatched and mud-plastered log cabins on the margins of the ponds thus made. The dams ensure the makers sufficient depth [of the pond] to protect them from enemies over summer and . . . to make certain that the water will not freeze to the bottom in winter. The dam itself is a vast complicated structure of sticks, stones, roots, mud, and sod. . . . No dam is ever finished, no dam is ever without need of repair. . . [p. 98]."

Source: Ernest T. Seton, Animals: Selected from Life Histories of Northern Animals, (New York: Doubleday, 1926).

Their Own Words

"The habits of the beaver present quite a study to the naturalist, and the are certainly the most [wisely] instinctive of all quadrupeds. Their dams afford a lesson to the engineer . . . . For the purpose of forming dams . . . the beaver often fells a tree eight or ten inches in diameter, throwing it, with the skill of an expert woodsman, in any direction he pleases, always selecting a tree above the stream, in order that the logs may be carried down with it to its destination. The log is then chopped into small lengths, and, pushing them into the water, the beaver steers them to the lodge or dam [p. 148]"

Source: George Frederick Ruxton, Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains: A True Tail of Rough Adventure in the Days of the Mexican War, ed. Horace Kephart. New York: Macmillan, 1924.

A Beaver Lodge

Beavers construct one of two kinds of lodges. One kind is made of branches cemented together with mud. You can see an example in the middle of the beaver pond in the photo. Another kind is a den hollowed out of the stream bank. In either kind of lodge, the entrance is under water.

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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With all the effort beavers put into building dams and lodges, they usually do not move their homes or travel very far. With water for protection and wood and food nearby, they have little need to go very far from their home pond. In fact, once a beaver family establishes its colony, it rarely goes farther than one mile from its home pond. This made it easy for hunters to find and trap beaver.

Their Own Words

"The lodge of the beaver is generally excavated in the bank of the stream, the entrance being invariably under water but not [i]nfrequently, where the banks are flat, the animals construct lodges in the stream itself, of a conical form, of limbs and branches of trees woven together and cemented with mud. . . . With his broad tail, which is twelve to fourteen inches long, and about four in breadth, and covered with a thick scaly skin, the beaver plasters his lodge, thus making it [the tail] perform all the [uses] of a hand [p. 148, 149]"

Source: George Frederick Ruxton, Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains: A True Tail of Rough Adventure in the Days of the Mexican War, ed. Horace Kephart. New York: Macmillan, 1924.

Beaver In A Plains Stream

The waterways chosen by beaver for their homes are usually surrounded by aspen, willow, birch, elder, or cottonwood trees. These trees provide food and wood for building dams and lodges. Beaver also made lodges and dams on plains' rivers and streams, like those in the photo. On the plains, beaver used cottonwood and willow trees for their food and building.

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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Rocky Mountain meadows were ideal places for beaver to build their homes. The beavers' favorite food, aspen trees, grow in these meadows. In the mountains and on the plains, their food sources are found close to streams. Aspen trees, for example, usually grow within 100 feet of a lake or stream.

Their Own Words

"The beaver was once found in every part of North America from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, but has now gradually retired from the . . . [threats] of civilized man, and is met with only in the far, far west, on the tributaries of the great rivers, and the streams which water the mountain valleys in the great chain of the Rocky Mountains. On the waters of the Platte [River] and Arkansa [River] they are still numerous, and within the last two years have increased considerably in numbers [p. 147]."

Source: George Frederick Ruxton, Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains: A True Tail of Rough Adventure in the Days of the Mexican War, ed. Horace Kephart. New York: Macmillan, 1924.

The Beaver As Wood Worker

The photo shows evidence that beaver have been at work cutting down trees. Cutting down trees is, according to naturalist Ernest Seton, "still on the whole one of the most remarkable of animal undertakings. Two beavers will cut down a three-inch sapling in as many minutes and a small tree in an hour or so. . . . In cutting they gnaw deep parallel grooves round the trunk and then rip out the wood between these grooves in large chips, their broad teeth splitting them out as does a carpenter's chisel."

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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According to naturalist Ernest Seton, some experts claimed that beavers gnawed equally all around the trunk of a tree. However, other experts claimed that they gnawed deepest on the side of the tree facing the water. That way, the tree would fall toward the water and make it easier for the beavers to move the log where they wanted it.

Their Own Words

"When but two [beavers] are engaged they work by turns, and alternately stand on the watch, as is the well-known practice of many animals while feeding or at work. When the tree begins to crackle, they desist from cutting, which they afterward continue with caution until it begins to fall, when they plunge into the pond, usually, and wait concealed for a time, as if afraid that the crashing noise of the tree0fall might attract some enemy to the place [p. 99]."

Source: Morgan, quoted in Ernest T. Seton, Animals: Selected from Life Histories of Northern Animals, (New York: Doubleday, 1926).

Beaver Pond And Lodge

Beaver ponds like the one in this photo helped protect beaver from predators. They built lodges with entrances under the water. They also stored food for winter under water.

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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The beaver had few natural enemies. The animals that preyed on beaver were the wolverine, the bear, the wolf, the lynx, and the otter. Beaver dams and lodges protected them from most of these predators. "But the greatest of beaver enemies," according to naturalist Ernest Seton, "has undoubtedly been man . . . [who] has desired him both for food and for clothing."

Source: Ernest T. Seton, Animals: Selected from Life Histories of Northern Animals, (New York: Doubleday, 1926), p. 101.

Their Own Words

"Beaver fur was at one time extensively used in the manufacture of hats but has become so rare and valuable that it is now chiefly used for muffs, collars, and trimming. The early prosperity of New York and Canada was based on the beaver . . . which lured on the early explorers and brought here original colonists. and it was the beaver pelt that, bartered for the manufactured products of the old world, first made life tolerable for . . . [people] in the new [world]."

Source: Ernest T. Seton, Animals: Selected from Life Histories of Northern Animals, (New York: Doubleday, 1926), p. 101-02.

Life in the Far West

In this classic of western Americana, George Frederick Ruxton, who died in St. Louis in 1848 at the youthful age of twenty-seven, brilliantly brings to life the whole heroic age of the Mountain Men. The author, from his intimate acquaintance with the trappers and traders of the American Far West, vividly recounts the story of two of the most adventurous of these hardy pioneers - Killbuck and La Bonté, whose daring, bravery, and hair-breadth escapes from their numerous Indian and "Spaniard" enemies were legend among their fellow-frontiersmen.

With Ruxton, we follow Killbuck and La Bonté and their mountain companions - Old Bill Williams, "Black" Harris, William Sublette, Joseph Walker, and others - across the prairies and forests, west from picturesque old Bent’s Fort, into the dangerous Arapaho country near the headwaters of the Platte. We share with them the culinary delights of their campfires - buffalo "boudins" and beaver tails - and hear from their own lips, in the incomparable mountaineer dialect, hair-raising stories of frontier life and humorous tales of trading camp and frontier post.

Life in the Far West, then, is adventure extraordinary - the true chronicle of the rugged Mountain Men whose unflinching courage and total disregard for personal safety or comfort opened the Far West to the flood of settlers who were to follow. The breath-taking water colors and sketches, which depict with great detail many of the familiar scenes of the early West, were done by one of Ruxton’s contemporaries and fellow-explorers, Alfred Jacob Miller.

George F. Ruxton (1821&ndash1848)

George Ruxton was born in Tonbridge, Kent, on 24th July, 1821. He was sent to military academy but was expelled. Ruxton was eventually accepted into the British Army and served in Ireland and Canada.

Ruxton left the army to become a hunter in Canada. He also spent time in Africa and Mexico before moving to the United States where he worked as a mountain men in the Rocky Mountains.

Ruxton wrote articles called Life in the Far West for Blackwood's Magazine. After moving to St. Louis he published Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (1847).

George Ruxton died of dysentery on 29th August, 1848.


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Ruxton of the Rockies: Autobiographical Writings by the author of Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains and Life in the Far West

More than a travel book, more than an autobiography, Ruxon of the Rockies is a rare and vivid account of a man who lived during a heroic age: George Frederick Ruxton lived among and wrote about the traders and trappers of the American West.

Ruxton crammed a dozen lifetimes of adventure into his brief twenty-seven years. Leaving his native England in 1838, at the age of se
More than a travel book, more than an autobiography, Ruxon of the Rockies is a rare and vivid account of a man who lived during a heroic age: George Frederick Ruxton lived among and wrote about the traders and trappers of the American West.

Ruxton crammed a dozen lifetimes of adventure into his brief twenty-seven years. Leaving his native England in 1838, at the age of seventeen, he set out on endless journeys—fighting in the Carlist Wars in Spain, stationed with the British army in Ireland, hunting with Indians in Upper Canada, attempting to penetrate to the interior of Africa, and carrying out a mission for his government in Mexico and the American West.

In all his travels, nothing won his heart so completely as the Rocky Mountains. With the awareness of a poet and down-to-earth nature of an explorer, Ruxton wrote of their awesome grandeur, bountiful wildlife, hardy mountain men, and their inexorable annihilation of the weakling. While on his way for a second, more extended visit to his beloved Rockies, Ruxton died in St. Louis.

A rewarding literary experience, this volume is essentially Ruxton’s autobiography. Sections on Africa and the one on Mexico and the Rocky Mountains appeared during Ruxton’s lifetime, but earlier portions have never been published before.

Ruxton of the Rockies is illustrated with sketches from his notebooks and reproductions of the incomparable watercolors of Alfred Jacob Miller, a great Western artist of Ruxton’s time. . more

In The Old West

When we bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon, in 1803, it was
not from any pressing need of land, for we still had millions of fertile acres
east of the Mississippi. The purchase was made to forestall complications
with foreign powers, either with the arch-conqueror himself, whose
ambition was supposed to be the mastery of the whole world, or with
Great Britain, to which the western country was sure to fall in case France

should be defeated. Possession of Louisiana was essential to our free
navigation of the Mississippi.
The vast domain thus added to our boundaries was terra incognita. Aside
from, its strategic importance no one knew what it was good for. So Lewis
and Clark were sent out from the frontier post of St. Louis to find a route to
the Pacific and to report on what the new country was like.
The only commercial asset that these explorers found which was
immediately available was an abundance of fur-bearing animals. Fur may
be called the gold of that period, and the news that there was plenty of it in
the Rocky Mountains lured many an intrepid spirit of the border.
Companies of traders proceeded at once up the Missouri to barter for
peltries with the Indians.
They established posts and arranged rendezvous in remote fastnesses of
the mountains where they carried on a perilous but very profitable traffic.
At the same time there went into the Far West many independent
adventurers to hunt and trap on their own account.
In the motley ranks of these soldiers of fortune the boldest and most
romantic characters were the free trappers—those who went, as they
expressed it "on their own hook." The employees of the fur companies
were under strict discipline that checked personal initiative. They were of
the class who work for hire and see no compensation for an arduous life
save the wages earned from their taskmasters. But the free trappers were
accountable to nobody. Each of them fought his own fight and won the full
fruit of his endeavors. Going alone, or in small bands who acknowledged

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