Biographical Notes
Christopher "Kit" Carson

Kit Carson's grandfather, William Carson, immigrated from Dumfriesshire, Scotland, first to North Ireland and then to America where he settled in North Carolina before the American Revolution. William's eldest son, Lindsey, fought with Wade Hampton's Brigade and later followed Daniel Boone to Kentucky where he established a logging business that rafted logs down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. On Christmas Eve, 1809, Lindsey's second wife, Rebecca, gave birth to Lindsey's ninth child - a boy. They named him Christopher Houston after a patriot friend from North Carolina, but, perhaps because of his small stature, he was called "Kit." In 1811 Boone decided to move on to Missouri and Lindsey decided to follow him. Their new settlement on the Missouri River became known as Franklin and it was there that Kit grew up and attended school. His father died in 1819. In 1823 Kit's mother married Joseph Martin and it was decided for financial reasons that Kit would have to leave school and be apprenticed to David Workman, an Englishman running a saddle making business in Franklin.

In the early decades of the nineteenth century the Louisiana Territory was opening up. In 1819 the first steamboat came to Franklin from St. Louis in just seven days. In 1821 William Becknell took three wagons from Franklin to Santa Fe and thus initiated the Santa Fe trade. In succeeding years, Kit's older brothers all became teamsters and in October, 1826, Kit, at the age of seventeen, asked to go along to Santa Fe even though he had another year before his apprenticeship was up. He was considered to be too young and in the end he had to run away to accomplish his objective. Everyone knew what Kit had done, but Workman posted a reward notice (required by law) that indicated that he believed his run-away apprentice had headed north. The reward for information was to be one cent. No one claimed it and Kit was safely off southwest to Santa Fe. That winter he stayed in Taos with an elderly fur trapper named Kincaid.

Kincaid died that winter and in the spring of 1837 Kit decided to return home to Franklin. He got as far as the Arkansas River where he joined another wagon train headed to Santa Fe. That winter he hired on as cook in Ewing Young's boarding house in Taos. In the spring of 1828 Kit once again headed back home and once again got no further than the Arkansas River. This time he hired on with a wagon train headed for Chihuahua, Mexico. In Chihuahua he went to work briefly for Robert McKnight as a muleteer between El Paso and the Gila River copper mines, but he did not like the routine nature of the work and soon returned to Taos. (In 1828 high water destroyed Franklin and the American center for the southwest trade moved to Independence.) As travel on the trail from Independence to Santa Fe increased it attracted the attention of bandits and hostile Indians. Accordingly, President Andrew Jackson ordered the United State Army to escort the 1828 wagon train as far as the Arkansas River. Ewing Young organized the escort on the Mexican side of the border from the Arkansas River to Santa Fe. Kit was part of Ewing's party and thus met Charles Bent, the wagon boss, and his brother William.

In 1828 Ewing Young decided to lead a trapping expedition in Mexican territory without the required license from the authorities. Carson signed on and trapped with Young in New Mexico and then accompanied him across the southwestern desert to Mission San Gabriel in the southern part of California. They trapped their way north to the Klamath Lake region where they met a Hudson Bay Company party led by Peter Skene Ogden. On their return trip south Young stopped briefly at Mission San Rafael on San Francisco Bay where he sold his furs and purchased horses. Indians stole the horses and Carson had to track after them over a hundred miles to recover all save a few which had been killed and eaten by the Indians. Young's party returned to Santa Fe by the same route that they had taken west. The trip was highly profitable and afterwards Carson once again returned to Taos. In the fall of 1830 he was hired by the Bent brothers to run a logging operation in support of their new fort at La Junta on the Arkansas River. During the winter a group of Crow Indians stole the fort's remuda. Carson recovered all of the horses with the help of some Cheyenne warriors that he had befriended. The Cheyenne were impressed by the way in which he handled the situation and one of their chiefs gave him the name Vih-hiu-nis (Little Chief).

In 1831 Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick was with Jedediah Smith when he was killed by Comanches while they were on the way to Santa Fe. Fitzpatrick acquired Smith's stock of goods and continued on to Taos. There he recruited several men including Carson to trap with him. Carson and Fitzpatrick's first stop after Taos was the annual fur trapper rendezvous which was held in Green River that year. After rendezvous Fitzpatrick's brigade of trappers including Carson wintered with the Nez Perce Indians. After the spring trapping season Carson briefly joined Captain John Gantt's brigade, but after several incidents involving hostile Indian attacks decided that he would be better off in a smaller group. In 1832 he joined with two other recent arrivals, Richens "Dick" Wooton and Valentine "Rube" Herring. They successfully trapped up the tributaries of the Yellowstone into Blackfoot country, something no one had ever done and lived to tell about it. On his return to Taos with a rich haul of beaver pelts, the Pueblo Indians gave him another name - Na Chi Game (Successful Hunter).

That winter Carson joined with Captain Stephen Lee and built a small trading post where the Unita River joined the Green River. While at the trading post Carson recovered some horses that had been stolen by Indians from Antoine Robidoux's trading post at White Rocks and gained the French-Canadian's friendship as a result. The following spring Carson and Lee abandoned their fort to join a large brigade led by Fitzpatrick and Jim Bridger. Carson's fort was taken over by the Hudson Bay Company and became known as Fort Kit Carson. Lee returned to Taos but Carson wintered with Bridger. The following spring, Carson led a small group of five trappers including Joe Meek, Bill Mitchell and three Delaware Indians. They were attacked by Comanches but managed to withstand the attack and escape to Bent's Fort.

In 1834 Carson was again at rendezvous, held that year at Ham's Fork on the Green River. At rendezvous he met and was attracted to an Arapaho girl named Wanibe (Singing Grass). She was the daughter of an Arapaho Chief who demanded that he be paid several horses for her hand in marriage. After rendezvous Carson wintered in Blackfoot country with Bridger's Brigade. The Blackfeet stole five horses from them and Carson was part of a small party sent to recover them if possible. A fight ensued in which Carson was wounded while saving the life of a Delaware Indian named Markhead. Carson lived, but this time did not recover the horses. Leaving Blackfoot country Carson went on to the villages of the Nez Perce where he purchased several horses which he intended to give to Wanibe's father. At the 1835 rendezvous he had to fight a French-Canadian trapper named Shunar before Wanibe's father would consent to their marriage. Carson called his new wife Alice and she wintered with him that year on the Snake River.