June 7-11th of this year, enthusiasts of the “mountain man” era gathered at historic Fort Henry, located just a few miles North of the city of Rexburg, and participated in a Rendezvous, which is held their annually. The weekend was full of activities and competitions reminiscent of the days of the fur trade, which was at its height in the early 1800s.
Wyatt Williamson, a vendor at the rendezvous, explained the origin of the events such as this one. “Mountain men were trapping beavers, and would have an annual Rendezvous where they would bring all of their beaver pelts in and trade to the traders to get more ammunition, blankets, and ‘fire-water.’ They would bring in blankets that were marked with different points… for a ‘four point blanket’ they would have to trade four beaver pelts.”
Scott Murdock, or “Star Walker” as he is known among the Buckskinners, explained the hype which fueled the fur trade. “The beaver trade was a primary goal, because the Europeans were making top-hats out of them. At the tail end of the fur trade silk hats became the fashion, and they were cheaper.
When it was all said and done, the heyday of the fur trade and the mountain men had come and gone within a span of about twenty years. So what makes such a specific moment in history so attractive to members of the local club, the “Fort Henry Buckskinners?”
“There are tons of wonderful activities at the rendezvous,” said “Grandma Griz,” who, with her family, has been participating in similar rendezvous events for over 20 years. “We throw the tomahawk and knife. Last night, the kids had a competition, and they had to pop balloons with their hatchets and knives. [My husband and I] have been in charge of the ‘candy-cannon’ which we shoot in the meadow about three times a day so the kids can run and get the candy.”
Brad Huntsman, known as “Bead-runner,” spoke highly of the family-friendly event, “It’s a good atmosphere. We do games and activities each night. We have dutch-oven cook-offs, and shooting competitions. It’s a lot of fun.”
The mountain man rendezvous at Fort Henry, and many others like it throughout the country, are an opportunity to celebrate a simpler time, with simpler values.