The Museum of the Mountain Man
The Legacy Continues
By: Laurie Hartwig
Enriching the history of America's westward expansion throughout the nineteenth century and Manifest Destiny were many memorable figures- Native American, cowboy, outlaw, miner, and cavalryman, to name a few. Over time, these colorful characters of the West have captured permanent places in American folklore as representatives of a specific time and place in our nation's past. Unique among them all was the man of the fur trade, better known as the mountain man.
Intrigued by reports from Lewis and Clark's historic trek, young men from all walks of life headed west, experiencing incredible adventures and harrowing dangers, but in doing so, were instrumental in the exploration, mapping and eventual settlement of the country west of the Mississippi River.
Mountain men flocked to the headwaters, streams, rivers and ponds of the Rocky Mountains. More specifically, the heart of the operations for beaver trapping was the basin of the Green River Valley near the Wind River Mountain Range, in present-day Sublette County, Wyoming. Six of the sixteen original rendezvous occurred in this region of western Wyoming.
Fast forward 200 years and the culture of the Rocky Mountains Fur Trade era, its mountain men, and the rendezvous system form the epicenter and focus of the Museum of the Mountain Man.
The Sublette County Historical Society, parent organization for the Museum of the Mountain Man, was established in 1935 and is the oldest historical society in the State of Wyoming. A ten-person board oversees the museum facility which occupies a promontory overlooking the historically vital Green River Valley.
The Museum has garnered state and national awards for providing educational opportunities to all ages through displays of artifacts, school programming, Historian-in-Residence programs, award-winning publications and symposia.
Within the 15,000 square-foot museum, a comprehensive panorama unfolds to demonstrate the fur trade's significance in the nation's narrative. Interpretive exhibits of traps, weapons, tools, and accouterments of the mountain man's trade accompany primary sources and other materials to tell the fur trade story in colorful detail.
The Museum's Trading Post features numerous fur trade and local history publications, from well-known titles to volumes from its own press. Gift items include small trinkets, rabbit pelts, handmade mountaineer blanket coats (capotes), and much more.
The Museum of the Mountain Man offers four major programs every year. The Annual Meeting and Spring Thaw Party is held the second Thursday of March and gives the membership an opportunity to gather for a fun and informative evening, while receiving updates on the current finances of the institution.
Living History Days is held every May for area fourth graders. Collaborating with the American Mountain Men Association and Sublette County School District No. 1, students are treated to three days of hands-on activities, demonstrations, and lectures about early mountain men. Always fun and popular, Living History Days has grown to include almost one third of western Wyoming school districts.
The Historical Society and Museum's biggest event, Green River Rendezvous Days, occurs the second weekend of July. Offering over thirty-five educational programs for thousands of local patrons and visiting tourists over the four day period, Green River Rendezvous Days is the highlight of Sublette County's historical and cultural heritage, with unparalleled opportunities to increase knowledge about, and engagement with, American fur trade history.
The end-of-year holiday season brings the festive and popular Annual Wreath and Chocolate Auction, the historical society's annual fundraiser. The Museum also hosts many other special events for groups and individuals, community-based programs and receptions, and civic and regional meetings throughout the year.
Museum staff, board of trustees, and historical society members are proud of our beautiful facility and incredible history.
Much more about the Sublette County Historical Society and
The Museum of the Mountain Man can be found online at: MuseumoftheMountainMan.com