Monday, July 5, 2010

“The Missouri” by T.C. Albert

In 1822, from mid February to the end of March, St. Louis news papers carried a want add to all “To Enterprising Young Men”. From their office on “B Street”, General William H. Ashley and Major Andrew Henry were planning to send a fur brigade up the Missouri that would eventually establish the entire western rendezvous system. Famous “Mountain Men” the likes of Jed Smith, William and Milton Sublette, Tom Fitzpatrick, Jim Bridger, James Clyman, Hugh Glass, and David Jackson were all proud to be called “Ashley Men”. The next pouch set in the Historic Rivers of the Frontier series, “The Missouri”, pays tribute to these men and events.

The pouch is stoutly made from thick, old blacksmith side leather. Its simple design and construction reflect my interpretation of a standard utility type commercial shot pouch that would have been made for the trade and available for sale in centers like St. Louis. An antique iron buckle allows for strap adjustment.

Attached to the front of the bag in its own sheath, hangs an antique, hand made “six pin” butcher knife, where it’s ready and capable to do service as a utility blade for light camp chores, cut rifle patches, skin a beaver or even butcher a buffalo. Such knives, whether made by professional European cutlers and imported for the trade, or hand made home spun local versions like this one, were essential items available all along the western frontier.

The powder horn is fashioned from a vintage buffalo horn. The Sheffield style brass head is adjustable, and was available on commercially made trade horns, and was used by mountain men like Mariano Modena. The horn hangs on hand made swivel rings and is sewn to the bag straps.

Speaking further of the west, the accompanying powder measure is carved from the tip of a prong horn antelope horn. It hangs from a ring and an iron chain and is sewn to the front bag strap.

The included cap box is there to represent the swift changes that would soon follow Ashley’s men up the Missouri. As the fur trade quickly played out, many of these same men would soon find themselves leading settlers into the west, fighting Indian wars, or guiding military expeditions. Soon they would be carrying percussion guns like the heavy Hawken rifle made especially for the western plains, and even the Paterson Colt revolver like Kit Carson was reputed to do. For a time, the plains rifle and the revolver served side by side, but as the era faded, repeating cartridge arms replaced the muzzle loader in the west altogether. Like many of Ashley’s men, I believe a rig like “The Missouri” could easily have seen it all.

Copy and photos supplied by T.C. Albert

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