1841 - Bidwell-Bartleson party departs from Westport

Guide, mountain man, Indian Commissioner, Thomas Fitzpatrick

         Thomas Fitzpatrick led this group, which is often cited as the largest party to date to set off for the Oregon Territory.   At the time, the road they followed was still simply known as the trail marked by numerous provisioning expeditions for the beaver trade.  It wasn't until later that the overland road would be called the Oregon Trail.

(click here for more on the Bidwell-Bartleson party)

         By now, Fitzpatrick and Bridger both recognized that the end of the fur trade was at hand.  Bridger built a fort and trading post on Black's River on the Oregon Trail, west of the Rocky Mountains, and Fitzpatrick acted as a guide for numerous expeditions.


         De Smet, now on his third overland trip to the Oregon territory, records that the wagon train left Westport, Missouri, on May 10th.  The caravan was made up of trappers and teamsters, missionaries, and dream-struck pioneering families determined to reach the promised land of Oregon. 

          Wrote George Seward, a historian for the Bidwell-Bartleson party: "They had with them as guide one of the half-dozen people in the world best qualified for that work…no less a one than Thomas Broken Hand Fitzpatrick, among the most notable of the mountain men."  They reckoned that without him they never would have reached California,  "because of our inexperience.  Afterwards, when we came in contact with the Indians, our people were so easily excited that if we had not had with us an old mountaineer the result would certainly have been disastrous.