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History : Profiles in Mojave Desert History

American Explorers

Peter Skene Ogden

Peter Skene Ogden (alternately Skeene, Skein or Skeen), (baptised 12 February 1790 September 27, 1854) was a fur trapper and a Canadian explorer of what is now British Columbia and the American West. During his many expeditions he explored parts of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

His birthdate is variously given as 1774, 1794, or 1790. He was the son of Chief Justice Isaac Ogden of Quebec. After a brief stint with the American Fur Company, he joined the North-West Company in 1809. His first post was at Ile-a-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan in 1810 and by 1814 was in charge of a post at Green Lake, Saskatchewan, 100 miles south.

Ogden had frequent run-ins with the rival Hudson Bay Company (HBC) employees and engaged in physical violence on several occasions. In 1816, HBC clerks report that Ogden killed an Indian who had traded with the Hudson Bay Company. Not only killed, he was "butchered in a most cruel manner," according to HBC officer James Bird. Although many in the North-West Company viewed this as a necessary part of living in the North-West, the HBC viewed him as a dangerous man, whose actions were deplorable especially considering his background as the son of a judge. Ogden was charged with murder, and the North-West Company moved him further into the west to attempt to avoid any further confrontations with the HBC. He served at various posts in modern-day Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia for the next several years.

Historical Marker at Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic ViewpointWhen the HBC and the North-West Company merged in 1821, the HBC was in a quandary. They severely disliked and distrusted Ogden, but finally agreed that he had done no more than many other people during the 'fur-trade wars' and appointed him Chief Trader for the Snake River Country of the HBC's Columbia Department in 1823. Between 1824 and 1830 Ogden set out on a series of expeditions to explore the Snake River country and to bring as many furs from this area to the HBC so as to create a "fur desert" to discourage inroads by American trappers and traders. These included:

1824-25: Ogden led a fur brigade which expanded HBC's influence along the Snake River east to Montana's Bitterroot River and south to the Bear River in modern Utah.

1825-26: Traveling south from the Columbia River to the Deschutes River in Oregon, Ogden then turned east and traveled through the Blue Mountains to the Snake River.

1826-27: From Walla Walla, in present-day Washington, this expedition also explored the Deschutes River, following it to Klamath Lake and an area near Mount Shasta in northern California.

1828-29: Ogden explored the Great Salt Lake and lived for a time near the Weber River, where the current city of Ogden, Utah is named after him. He explored areas of the Great Basin, following the Humboldt River to its dry sink in modern-day Nevada. The party traveled through the Great Basin along the eastern Sierra Nevada, reaching the north shore of the Gulf of California.

The expeditions were a successful venture for the HBC, but not without troubles, including an attack by the Mohave near the Gulf of California.

In 1830, Ogden was sent north to establish a new HBC post named Fort Simpson near the mouth of the Nass River in British Columbia. He also managed an outpost on the south coast of Alaska. He administered a fur post at Fort Vancouver throughout the 1840s. There Ogden fought successfully against American fur competition and successfully negotiated with local native tribes, including the Cayuse.

Ogden retired to Oregon City, Oregon with one of his several Native American wives. His contact with native tribes led him to write a memoir entitled "Traits of American Indian Life and Character. By a Fur Trader." The book was published posthumously in 1855.



source - Peter Skene Ogden

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