Monday, March 12, 2012

Trail of Destruction

On this day in 1854, Irish nobleman Sir George Gore arrived in St. Louis to prepare for a hunting trip of astonishing destruction. An Oxford educated scholar and avid hunter, Sir George had thrilled to tales of the American west and organized a three-year hunting trip. His party soon set out from Westport, Missouri, under sanction of the American Fur Trading Company; famed mountain man Jim Bridger was guide. The caravan included 110 horses, 20 yoke of oxen, 50 hunting hounds, and 28 vehicles, 16 of them carrying Sir George’s luggage. When the party camped, a large green and white striped canvas wall tent provided Sir George’s shelter. French carpet, heating stoves, a brass bedstead, a steel bathtub, an oak dining set, and a commode with a fur-lined seat and removable pot promised Sir George all the comforts. For two years he passed the evenings enjoying sumptuous banquets, fine wine, and literary discussions with Bridger. By day Sir George pursued game on his gray thoroughbred named Steel Trap. Aside from trophy heads, he rarely retrieved the meat, instead leaving it to spoil. After he devastated the Yellowstone valley in 1856, Crow estimates of his terrible waste there included 105 bears, more than 2,000 bison, and 1,600 elk and deer. Sir George's reputation preceded him, however. In the Black Hills, en route to St. Louis, his party fell prey to a band of Sioux. Stripped naked and forced to abandon their goods, the arrogant hunter and his party experienced survival for real. During his stay in Montana, Sir George left one lasting legacy. He named the Yellowstone’s local tributary “Glendive” from which the town, some twenty-five years later, took its name.

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