New Light on Manuel Lisa and the Spanish Fur Trade 61:
NEW LIGHT ON MANUEL LISA AND THE SPANISH FUR..
HERBERT E. BOLTON
Below is printed what is believed to be a hitherto unpublished'
letter by Manuel Lisa, the best known of the early nineteenth cen-
tury fur traders of St. Louis. It was written at Fuerte Manuel'
(Fort Manuel), on the Missouri, on September 8, 1812, evidently
during the expedition begun by Lisa at St. Louis in May of that
year.' It made its way to Chihuahua, where it was filed in the,
archives with a group of papers "concerning the introduction into
the Province of New Mexico of four Frenchmen proceeding from
Upper Louisiana," 1812-1813.2 Just how it reached Chihuahua and
by whose hands, the present writer has not ascertained, though it is
possible that this could be learned from the documents with
which it is preserved. Besides its merely curious interest as an
additional autograph letter of the unique individual who wrote it,
it is of importance on several counts.
In the first place, it throws new light on Lisa's fur trading
operations during the years 1811 and 1812. It shows on the one
hand that at this time his activities extended on a considerable'
scale to the Arapaho tribe, for we are told that he had sent to these-
people twenty-three men. It shows, also, that in 1812 he took-
steps to found a training post at the mouth of the Little Big
Horn, sending Sanguinet with ten men for this purpose. It estab--
lishes, finally, an attempt by Lisa in 1812 to open commerce with.,
the Spaniards of New Mexico, an enterprise he is believed to have
once essayed" at an earlier date.
Of more striking interest and importance is the light which the
document throws upon Spanish activities on the northern frontier
at this time. It is well known that the Spaniards of New Mexico
1Chittenden, H. M. The American Fur Trade of the Far West, I, 126-127.
'The four Frenchmen were clearly not the ones mentioned in the letter,
for the declaration of the four was taken in Santa Fd on July 30, 1812,
before the letter here published was written. The four Frenchmen stated"
that they had left Louisiana because of dislike for American rule. They
were sent to Chihuahua, and thence to Arispe, as prisoners, where they
were still remaining in 1815.
aCoues, Pike, II, 574.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 17, July 1913 - April, 1914. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101061/. Accessed December 21, 2014.