|Died||October 28, 1848 63) (aged|
|Occupation||Fur trader, explorer|
|Spouse(s)||Emma Elizabeth Sullivan|
Robert Stuart (February 19, 1785 – October 28, 1848) was a Scottish-born, Canadian and American fur trader, best known as a member of the first European-American party to cross South Pass during an overland expedition from Fort Astoria to Saint Louis in 1811. He was a member of the North West Company (NWC) until recruited by John Jacob Astor to develop the new Pacific Fur Company, which was based at Fort Astoria, on the coast of present-day Oregon. Astor intended the venture to develop a continent-wide commercial empire in fur trading.
Family history states that Robert Stuart was born in Strathyre, in the historic parish of Balquhidder, but grew up in Callander, 15 and 20 miles (24 and 32 km) northwest of Stirling, Scotland. Around 1807, he joined an uncle, David Stuart, in Montréal to work as a clerk in the fur trade for the Canadian North West Company. In 1810, three years later, he and his uncle had been recruited into Astor's Pacific Fur Company.both towns in Perthshire, about
Stuart was age 25 when he sailed aboard a Pacific Fur Company ship, the Tonquin , on its voyage to the Falkland Islands. He held a pistol to the head of the ship's captain, Jonathan Thorn, when Thorn attempted to leave the Falkland Islands without Stuart's uncle David, another of Astor's partners. They sailed around Cape Horn and up the West coast of North America to the Columbia River. The Tonquin crossed the Columbia Bar and established Fort Astoria (located in modern Astoria, Oregon) in May 1811. After leaving supplies and traders at the newly created outpost, the ship and crew traveled north to Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island. The Tonquin crew engaged in commercial negotiations with members of the Tla-o-qui-aht nation in June. An altercation arose, with the entire crew killed except a single hired translator and the ship destroyed. After the incident, the traders had to make arrangements to communicate with Astor, since they had no idea when a ship might call at Fort Astoria.
Thus, Stuart accompanied an overland expedition of seven men carrying word of the Tonquin's fate to St. Louis. A larger party ascended the Columbia River as far as it could, procuring horses from Indians as they got further inland.
The group split near the future Wallula, Washington and Stuart’s mounted party rode south into the general vicinity of future Pendleton, Oregon. The expedition then headed east and southeast, and entered the future Idaho on August 12, 1812. They remained on the west and south side of the Snake River, observing the mouth of the Boise River on the opposite side on the 15th. Continuing along the south side of the Snake, they reached the American Falls on September 5, Soda Springs on the 9th and arrived near the Idaho border on the 13th. During this trek from the Pendleton area, Stuart’s party followed what would later become perhaps the most important leg of the Oregon Trail route across Oregon and Idaho.
However, after crossing into Wyoming they made a major detour away from the future trail. The description in Stuart’s journal shows that they looped 100 miles (160 km) (“as the crow flies”) north into the Teton Valley in Idaho and crossed Teton Pass into Jackson Hole. They then made their way south, reaching the general vicinity of the future Oregon Trail in Wyoming on October 19. Without the detour, they could have arrived at the same location within a matter of days after leaving Idaho for the first time. They then turned northeast and crossed South Pass on the Continental Divide two days later. Stuart wrote, “The summit of this mountain, whose form appears to be owing to some volcanic eruption, is flat, and exhibits a plain of more than 3 miles square (7.8 km²)”
Stuart’s party spent the winter on the upper North Platte River and reached St. Louis at the end of April 1813. Stuart himself did not reach New York to consult with Astor until June 23. Despite the bad news about the Tonquin, Astor still had high hopes for his venture.Regardless of the efforts of Stuart and others, the Pacific Fur Company soon collapsed due to the War of 1812, with Fort Astoria being sold to the North West Company in 1813. Later on, the Hudson's Bay Company tried to discourage American trappers from operating in the Pacific Northwest, establishing an overland route between Fort Astoria and the York Factory on Hudson Bay called the York Factory Express. The route was partially based on the paths explored by Stuart.
Stuart's path blazed almost the entire segment of the Oregon Trail between the Columbia and the Missouri River. His journal is a detailed account of the wintertime trip, and Washington Irving's Astoria is said to be based on it. Presented to Astor and President James Madison, and published in France, the journal did not make the location of the South Pass widely known. In 1824, U.S. trappers Jedediah Smith and Thomas Fitzpatrick rediscovered the South Pass route across the Rockies.
Later, that would lead to some dispute about who deserved priority in the discovery. Thus, in 1856, Ramsay Crooks, one of Stuart's party, wrote a letter describing their journey:
"In 1811, the overland party of Mr. Astor's expedition [from St. Louis to Fort Astoria], under the command of Mr. Wilson P. Hunt, of Trenton, New Jersey, although numbering sixty well armed men, found the Indians so very troublesome in the country of the Yellowstone River, that the party of seven persons who left Astoria toward the end of June, 1812, considering it dangerous to pass again by the route of 1811, turned toward the southeast as soon as they had crossed the main chain of the Rocky Mountains, and, after several days' journey, came through the celebrated 'South Pass' in the month of November, 1812. ...Pursuing from thence an easterly course, they fell upon the River Platte of the Missouri, where they passed the winter and reached St. Louis in April, 1813."
On July 21, 1813, about a month after he met with Astor, Stuart married Emma Elizabeth Sullivan, a native of New York City. They would have nine children together.He continued in Astor's employ, perhaps consulting on various plans to recoup the loss of Astoria. In 1817 or 1819 (accounts vary), Stuart became manager of the American Fur Company's "Northern Department" based on Mackinac Island, Michigan. It was here that Stuart met William Montague Ferry. Stuart saw the enterprising young Ferry as a perfect prospect for someone to run his affairs in the budding lumber industry in Michigan. Ferry proposed to Stuart that the Grand River Valley held great possibility. By June 1834, Stuart placed funds in the hands of Ferry to settle in what would become Grand Haven and set up a land and lumber enterprise, sharing the profits.
In 1833 he is mentioned as working for the American Fur Company, in a treaty at Chicago ceding land from the Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes, as apparently a friend to the tribes.
It is not entirely clear when Stuart began to invest in Detroit real estate, but around 1835–1836 he built a home and soon moved his family there. He was also Treasurer of the State of Michigan from 1840–1841.He died on October 28, 1848, and is buried at the historic Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.
The Robert Stuart House is one of fourteen historic buildings in Fort Mackinac. The building has been made into a museum of the fur trading industry, covering the time period begun by French merchants, British businessmen, and Native Americans.
Robert Stuart Middle School in Twin Falls, Idaho, is named after the explorer.
The Oregon Trail was a 2,170-mile (3,490 km) east-west, large-wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail in the United States that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of what is now the state of Kansas and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the current states of Idaho and Oregon.
South Pass is the collective term for two mountain passes on the Continental Divide, in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Wyoming. The passes are located in a broad low region, 35 miles (56 km) wide, between the Wind River Range to the north and the Oregon Buttes and Great Divide Basin to the south, in southwestern Fremont County, approximately 35 miles (56 km) SSW of Lander. South Pass is the lowest point on the Continental Divide between the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains. The passes furnish a natural crossing point of the Rockies. The historic pass became the route for emigrants on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails to the West during the 19th century. It was designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark on January 20, 1961.
The Pacific Fur Company (PFC) was an American fur trade venture wholly owned and funded by John Jacob Astor that functioned from 1810 to 1813. It was based in the Pacific Northwest, an area contested over the decades between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Spanish Empire, the United States of America and the Russian Empire.
Fort Astoria was the primary fur trading post of John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company (PFC). A maritime contingent of PFC staff was sent on board the Tonquin, while another party traveled overland from St. Louis. This land based group later became known as the Astor Expedition. Built at the entrance of the Columbia River in 1811, Fort Astoria was the first American-owned settlement on the Pacific coast of North America.
Jonathan Thorn was a career officer of the United States Navy in the early 19th century.
Tonquin was a 290-ton American merchant ship initially operated by Fanning & Coles and later by the Pacific Fur Company (PFC), a subsidiary of the American Fur Company (AFC). Its first commander was Edmund Fanning, who sailed to the Qing Empire for valuable Chinese trade goods in 1807. The vessel was outfitted for another journey to China and then was sold to German-American entrepreneur John Jacob Astor. Included within his intricate plans to assume control over portions of the lucrative North American fur trade, the ship was intended to establish and supply trading outposts on the Pacific Northwest coast. Valuable animal furs purchased and trapped in the region would then be shipped to China, where consumer demand was high for particular pelts.
The Columbia District was a fur trading district in the Pacific Northwest region of British North America in the 19th century. Much of its territory overlapped with the disputed Oregon Country. It was explored by the North West Company between 1793 and 1811, and established as an operating fur district around 1810. The North West Company was absorbed into the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821 under which the Columbia District became known as the Columbia Department. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 marked the effective end of the Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia Department.
John Day was an American hunter and fur trapper in the Pacific Northwest, including present-day Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Western Montana and Southern British Columbia.
Oregon pioneer history (1806–1890) is the period in the history of Oregon Country and Oregon Territory, in the present day state of Oregon and Northwestern United States.
Alexander MacKay was a Canadian fur trader and explorer who worked for the North West Company and the Pacific Fur Company. He co-founded Fort Astoria near the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific coast.
Wilson Price Hunt was an early pioneer and explorer of the Oregon Country in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Employed as an agent in the fur trade under John Jacob Astor, Hunt organized and led the greater part of a group of about 60 men on an overland expedition to establish a fur trading outpost at the mouth of the Columbia river. The Astorians, as they have become known, were the first major party to cross to the Pacific after the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Gabriel Franchère was a French Canadian author and explorer of the Pacific Northwest.
Thomas McKay (1796–1849) was an Anglo-Métis Canadian Fur trader who worked mainly in the Pacific Northwest for the Pacific Fur Company (PFC), the North West Company (NWC), and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). He was a fur brigade leader and explorer of the Columbia District and later became a U.S. citizen and an early settler of Oregon.
The Battle of Woody Point was an incident in western Canada in June 1811 involving the Tla-o-qui-aht natives of the Pacific Northwest and the Tonquin, an American merchant ship of the Astor Expedition. The vessel had traveled to Clayoquot Sound off Vancouver Island to trade for furs. Following an argument begun during the bartering, the Tla-o-qui-aht captured the vessel and massacred most of the crew; one remaining sailor then scuttled her by detonating the powder magazine.
The Wallace House, Wallace Post or Calapooya Fort, was a fur trading station located in the French Prairie in what is now Keizer, Oregon. Founded by personnel of the Pacific Fur Company (PFC) in 1812, it was an important source of beaver pelts and venison for the short lived American enterprise in the Pacific Northwest. Isolated in the War of 1812, the real possibility of the Royal Navy or their North West Company (NWC) competitors attacking Fort Astoria motivated the PFC management to sell its holdings and assets to the NWC in late 1813. Wallace House was utilized by the NWC until 1814, when they abandoned it in favor of the nearby Willamette Trading Post.
Ovide de Montigny was a French-Canadian fur trapper active in the Pacific Northwest from 1811 to 1822.
John Reed (??-1814) was an American clerk employed by several fur trade companies until his death in 1814.
David Stuart (1765-1853) was a fur trader who worked primarily for the North West and Pacific Fur companies throughout his varied career.
François Benjamin Pillet was a French-Canadian fur trapper active in the Pacific Northwest in the early 19th century, primarily employed by the Pacific Fur Company.
Coalpo was a Clatsop Chinookan leader alive in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He married a daughter of Comcomly, the most prominent Chinookan headman on the lower Columbia River.