Captain Bonneville

Abstracted from "History of the State of Idaho," by Cornelis J. Brosnan, published by Charles Scribner's Sons, 1918; p. 74-. at

"Captain B. L. E. Bonneville. - In 1832 Captain Bonneville, a soldier in the regular army, procured a leave of absence and led an expedition to Idaho. While he came as a traveller and itinerant fur-trader, it is now known that his mission, a sort of secret one, was also to furnish information relative to the Oregon country and the methods of the Hudson's Bay Company.

"Bonneville Across the Plains, 1832-1835 - With 110 men and 20 wagons drawn by oxen and mules Bonneville started from Independence, Missouri, May 1, 1832. He reached Pierre's Hole, Idaho, in September of that year. To Bonneville belongs the distinction of having been the first Western traveller to take wagons as far as Green River in western Wyoming. He was a pronounced success as an expedition manager, and reached Idaho without a single accident.

"Bonneville in Lemhi County. - Bonneville passed the autumn and early winter of 1832 at his temporary post situated at the mouth of Carmen Creek, a few miles north of the modern Salmon City. Numerous bands of friendly Indians soon visited the camp and destroyed the game and pasturage in the vicinity. Finding a new location necessary, the Bonneville party, in December, followed along the upper course of the Lemhi River, passed through the "narrow gorge" on Timber Creek, and established a second camp in the picturesque Swan Basin—"a perfect hunter's Elysium—locked up among cliffs and precipices." Here on Christmas Day Bonneville and his men were served an elaborate feast of bitter roots, venison, elk-meat, and mountain-mutton by the Nez Perce chief, Kowsoter.

"Bonneville in Bear Lake County. - In the autumn of 1833 we find Bonneville pitching his camp on the outlet of Bear Lake, near the present city of Montpelier. This body of water was then known as Little Lake, to distinguish it from Great Salt Lake lying south.of it. A few days later Bonneville visited Soda Springs in Bannock County. This celebrated curiosity was then known as Beer Spring. Bonneville described the water of having the taste of beer. He could not persuade the Indians to taste it.

"Bonneville on the Portneuf. - The open, grassy plain near the mouth of the Portneuf River was a favorite meethig-place for Bonneville's men and he selected this site for his second winter camp. It was located about ten miles northwest of the site of the town of Bancroft in the present Bannock County. Clear springs of water abounded here and grass grew in abundance in the open plain. It was near the future Oregon Trail, and only a few miles away was the site of Fort Hall, the converging point of numerous trails. In this favored region the Bonneville party passed their second winter in Idaho. While the Bannack Indians were not so civilised or intelligent as were the Nez Perces in the Lemhi country, yet Bonneville managed to secure their good will through his tactful methods of dealing with them.

"Bonneville's Achievements - Bonneville left Idaho in the spring of 1835. While he failed to make money in the fur business, yet his Western enterprise produced some far-reaching results. He managed his men so well that during his three years' stay in the mountaim not a man under his personal control lost his life. He greatly extended the geographical knowledge of his time by drawing two valuable maps of the its Western country. By furnishing Irving with the materials for his charming volume, "The Adventures of Captain Bonneville," he aroused the interest of a whole nation in the geat romantic West.

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