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July 2024
1min read

Whenever you think or hear of anything at all that happened m 1846 , DeVoto wrote his friend and mentor Garrett Mattingly in 1933, send me a memorandum on it . He had chosen that year as a kind of test-boring that would encapsulate the history of the frontier, and he was also looking for individuals whose careers would epitomize whole chapters of the frontier experience. He told Mattingly about one such man:

I’ve found a culture hero. [It was James Clyman. Look at his career—and it’s history, not my invention. Born on Washington’s land in Fauqier County. Met the Gen’l in person. Down the Ohio m time to be present at Tippecanoe. Militiaman in 1812-1814. Helped Alex. Hamilton’s son survey national lands in Indiana and Illinois. Got to St. Louis in time to join the 2nd Ashley expedition, which opened up the Interior basin. On the party that found South Pass. One of the four who explored Great Salt Lake in a skin boat. Five years as a fur trapper. Present at practically everything that happened in those years. Then back to Illinois, where he bought land. In Abe Lincoln’s company in the Black Hawk War. Pioneered in lumber & then in farming in Wisconsin. The milksop Wmnebagos shot him twice—& he’d fought Blackfeet. Got asthma & went West to cure it. To Oregon in the great 1844 emigration. In Oregon, was with the Apple gate party that blamed the trail to California. Bear Flag Revolt as an associate of Fremont. Helped Hastings make his cut off, quarreled with Hastings about its safety, & de nounced It’s book. Met Lillburn Boggs & turned him from CaI to Oregon. Met the Donner party & advised them not to take the road they did. Met the Mormons. Came back to Wisconsin & was employed by the Mecomb party to guide them to Calif. Got to Suiter’s in time to see the first gold. Married one of the Mecomb girls, bought a ranch at Napa, and lived halfway through the administration of Rutherford B. Hayes. Think that career over—and I didn’t invent a comma of it.

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