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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 ...


Lorimier, Louis ( March 1748–26 June 1812), trader, Indian agent, and founder of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, was born probably in Lachine, Canada, the son of Claude-Nicolas de la Rivière de Lorimier, a French colonial officer and commander of La Présentation (Ogdensburg, N.Y.), and Marie-Louise Lepailleur de Laferté. Louis came west with his father in 1769 and at the outbreak of the American Revolution was trading with the Miami Indians on the Wabash. Because of his influence with and knowledge of the Indians, he was employed by the British to rally the tribes to the king’s cause and to direct them against American settlements in Kentucky and elsewhere. At Christmas 1776 he moved to the Shawnee country in present-day Ohio and soon established a trading post on Lorimier’s Creek at the headwaters of the Great Miami River. He acquired a facility with the Shawnee language and established an unusual rapport with the tribesmen. In February 1778 Lorimier was one of two Frenchmen who accompanied ...