A Tough Business
The Madison valley was well known by mountain men and traders
during the first half of the 19th century. Beaver filled the many creeks
that emptied into the river and buffalo were commo in the valley,
making it popular for both indians and trappers. Located just north
of what would become Yellowstone Park, the valley was also a natural
corridor into the fur rich valleys of southwestern Montana. A pageant
of fur trade notables were frequent visitors to this region, including
Jedediah Smith, Bill Sublette, Joe Meek, Kit Carson and Henry Fraeb.
The fur trade was a cutthroat business where the competition for a
limited natural resource was tough and sometimes violent. Near here,
in October, 1832, Jim Bridger and Tom Fitzpatrick led a trapping
brigade commanded by rival Henry Vanderburgh into an ambush
by the Blackfeet Indians. Vanderburgh and one of his men were killed,
while several others were wounded. In 1937, smallpox decimated
the Blackfeet, including bands who lived in this valley. Four years
later, the fur trade was all but gone, ending a colorful and important
era in American history.
Don't miss the rest of our virtual tour of Madison County in 1844 images.