St. Vrain's Expedition to the Gila in 1826
ST. VRAIN'S EXPEDITION TO THE GILA IN 18261
THOMAS MAITLAND MARSHALL
The American fur trade in the Southwest which followed the
attainment of Mexican independence has received but scant atten-
tion from historians, having been subordinated by them to the
merchandise trade over the Santa F6 trail. This viewpoint is
mainly due to Gregg and Chittenden. For over half a century
Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies has been considered the classic
for Southwestern trade. It is a vivid account of an eyewitness
who made eight trips over the trails. But there are two serious
faults in Gregg's book. In the first place he did not engage in
the trade until 1831,2 and his knowledge of the preceding decades
was based upon hearsay or upon a few books of travel.3 As Gregg
was a trader in merchandise, a business which had practically
superseded the fur trade by 1831, ,it was but natural that he
should convey the impression that the early trade was of the same
nature as the later. Our other great authority is Chittenden,4
whose admirable history of the fur trade of the far West has fre-
quently been considered the last word on the subject. But Chit-
tenden was strongly influenced by Gregg and the full significance
of the Southwestern fur trade did not dawn upon him. lHe added
considerable data, however, by using Fowler's Journal, Pattie's
Personal Narrative, the file of the Missouri Intelligencer, and
some other materials. But the footnotes in Bancroft's History
1A paper read before the New Mexican session of the American His-
torical Association meeting, Berkeley, Cal., 1915.
'Gregg, Commerce of the Prairies (New York, 1845), I, pp. V-VI.
The most accessible edition is in Thwaites, Early Western Travels,
'The books used by Gregg were Irving, Tour of the Prairies (Philadel-
phia, 1835), Murray, Travels in the United Slates (London, 1839), and
Hoffman, A Winter in the West (New York and London, 1835). See
Early Western Travels, XIX, 161.
4Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West (New York,
1902), 3 vols.
5The Journal of Jacob Fowler, Elliott Coues, ed. (New York, 1898).
6The Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie of Kentucky (Cincinnati,
1831.) Reprinted in Early Western Travels, XVIII.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 19, July 1915 - April, 1916. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101067/. Accessed May 29, 2015.