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Kit Carson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107570).


Carson, Kit (24 December 1809–23 May 1868), mountain man, army officer, and Indian agent, was born Christopher Houston Carson in Madison County, Kentucky, the son of Lindsey Carson, a farmer and revolutionary war veteran, and Rebecca Robinson. In 1811 Lindsey Carson moved his family to Howard County, Missouri, to find “elbow room.” He died in 1818, hit by a falling limb while clearing timber from his land. Christopher enjoyed no schooling and never learned to read or write, other than signing his name to documents. In 1825 his mother and stepfather apprenticed him to David Workman, a Franklin, Missouri, saddler whom Kit described as a kind and good man. Nevertheless, he ran away because he found saddlemaking tedious and distasteful work and yearned to travel. Following in the footsteps of a brother and a half-brother who were in the Santa Fe trade, Carson joined a caravan as a “cavvy boy” (an assistant to the wrangler in charge of the horse and mule herd). Though not unsympathetic, Workman was obliged by law to advertise for his runaway. But he misleadingly suggested to readers of the ...


Jeffords, Thomas Jonathan (01 January 1832–19 February 1914), frontiersman and Indian agent, was born in Chautauqua County, New York, the son of Eber Jeffords and Almira Wood, occupations unknown. Although a man of some education, Jeffords was reticent about his earlier career. He served as a sailor on the Great Lakes, for which he was later called “Captain,” and went west in 1858, laying out the road from Leavenworth, Kansas, to Denver, Colorado. After prospecting in New Mexico, he carried army dispatches from Mesilla to Tucson, Arizona, in 1862 and is believed to have then accompanied James H. Carleton’s California Column from Tucson to Fort Thorn, New Mexico. Further prospecting followed, but in 1868–1869 Jeffords supervised part of the Southern Overland U.S. Mail and Express Line Company’s run between Socorro, New Mexico, and Tucson. On 20 December 1869 he was appointed a trader to the Mimbres Apaches at Cañada Alamosa (now Monticello, N.M.) but had his license revoked the following April after a disagreement with the reservation Indian agent....