#Lookback: Captain Benjamin Bonneville – The mapmaker

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Many famous explorers visited Wind River Country – mountain men like Jim Bridger and Kit Carson paved the way for John Fremont, Frederick Lander, and one of the most interesting – Benjamin Bonneville.

Benjamin Bonneville was born in France the son of a printer.A subversive pamphlet was traced to his father’s printing press, and because of the French Revolution, it became necessary for the family to flee France. With the help of Thomas Payne and General Lafayette, his mother and her two children resettled in New York; his father joined them later.

In April of 1813, with the help of Thomas Payne, Bonneville received an appointment to West Point.He reached the rank of Captain in 1825 and was appointed by the War Department to escort Lafayette on his tour around the United States.He served at various forts until he was given a leave of absence to explore the Rocky Mountains and the territory beyond.

On the first of May 1832, Captain Bonneville departed Fort Osage with a train of 20 wagons and 110 men to explore the West.Certainly, there were mountain men and fur trappers in the Rocky Mountain West, but they were not making reports to the US government on their findings, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition had been 25 years earlier.

The Bonneville party followed the Platte River and found the Sweetwater River and followed it to its source on South Pass and then journeyed on to the Green River or the Seeds-ke-dee. He became the first to cross South Pass in wagons.At the Green River, he met Lucien Fontennelle, a fur trader with the American Fur Company, who helped him construct Fort Bonneville, which became the first permanent structure built by Whites in Wyoming. Here, he established the first fur trading fort in Wyoming. The Natives called it Fort Nonsense, and it had to be abandoned a month later because of cold and snow at that elevation.Fort Bonneville was in the area of Daniel, Wyoming. Bonneville established a supply cache and left his wagons behind.

It should be noted that Bonneville sold his original journals to Washington Irving who wrote a book called,The Adventures of Captain Bonneville,which was a combination of history and fiction, and unfortunately, the original journals were lost. His travels took him to Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and California in addition to Wyoming.

In 1835 Captain Bonneville built two cabins just west of what is now Hudson, Wyoming close to the Little Popo Angie River to store his trade goods.Two years later, three more cabins were built and the area was known as Five Cabins.Thirty years later, Noyse Baldwin used these cabins to open his first trading post in the Wind River Country.

Bonneville explored the area that would become Fremont County.He called it Wind River, Crow country.While investigating what he thought was smoke from a fire he came across the hot springs that are at Fort Washakie.He also visited the tar springs where Mike Murphy later drilled the first oil well in Wyoming.

While looking for a shortcut across the mountains to his cache on the other side of the Wind Rivers, he decided to summit what he thought was the highest peak in the Wind River Range.It is unclear if he climbed Gannet Peak.Most people believe he summited Bonneville Peak, which bears his name.

He probably did not visit the sinks and the rise of the Popo Agie— at least he made no note of it.

In 1835, Bonneville made his way home by way of the Platte River, but his leave had expired in October of 1833, and he was presumed dead and had been removed from the army’s rolls. He had to appeal to President Andrew Jackson and show him his reports and maps before he was reinstated into the army and his rank was restored.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

March 3rd,6 pm at the Riverton Museum “Women in Wyoming” by Linsey Linton (via Zoom)

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 7th,6 pm at the Riverton Museum “Seed Starting with the Riverton Garden Club”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

April 17th,2-4 pm at the Riverton Museum “Seed Starting for Children”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Joe Scheuerle Art Exhibit: “Native Americans of Wind River Country”, 9-5 Monday-Saturday Pioneer Museum Lander Handle with Care: Art Moving

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum are seeing significantly decreased visitation this summer as a result of Covid-19.As a result, the self-generated revenue we rely so heavily on to make ends meet is not keeping pace.We are counting on private donations to continue to maintain successful and engaging museums during this time.We urge you to make a tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2ndRm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.

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