James Beckwourth

From Academic Kids

James Pierson Beckwourth (1798-1866?) (a.k.a. Jim Beckwourth, James P. Beckwith) was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1798 to Sir Jennings Beckwith, a decendent of minor Irish nobility, and an African-American mulatto woman about whom little is known.

His father saw to it that his son would not suffer the vicissitudes of slavery, and thrice had him manumitted at court.

Like his father, Jim enjoyed nature, native Americans and adventure, and it was not long before he set out to explore the vast expanses of what would become that which kept the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans apart.

Places still bear his name.

In 1824 he was living in Missouri when he joined Gen. William Ashley's expedition to explore the Rocky Mountains. Although his activities remain largly unknown during this time Beckwourth became known as a prominent indian fighter and guide often hired by settlers to guide wagon trains through the Sierras. He later became a horse trader suppying migrants and others, later operating as a horse thief operation against the Spanish with fellow Mountain Men "Old" Bill Williams and Thomas "Pegleg" Smith.

The company's largest raid took place in 1840 when Beckwourth, including a large group of native americans, over Cajon Pass successfully raiding nearly all the ranches from San Gabriel to San Bernadino of over 1,200 horses. Despite several battles with Spanish posses, including a gunfight against a posse of 75 men led by Governor Jose Antonio Carillo, at Resting Springs the gang managed to escape.

Beckwourth eventually began ranching, mostly with stolen horses, until he was chased out by vigilantes in 1855. Travelling to the Colorado Territory he became a scout for the Union Army and later lived in Denver as a storekeeper. In 1864 Beckwourth returned to the mountains acting as a guide for John M. Chivington during the Sand Creek Massacre.

Later in his life, Jim recounted his astonishing life to Thomas D. Bonner, who set the book The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians to type. As notable as are the adventures, Jim's linguistic and stylistic prowess also impresses as being beyond the normal scope of reportage. The lessons of the book have currency, and much can be learned that might help us understand the role of alcohol in the US Government, how occupations effect the occupied, our historical relationship to diseases, wildlife, and the environment...among other things, including massacres and war.

Beckwourth's death is unclear however it seems he continued as a guide and trading with native americans until, as one account claims, his murder as he was poisoned by the Crow Tribe in 1866 although he also reportedly died in 1867 near Denver.

See also

Further reading

  • Carl Sifakis, The Encyclopedia of American Crime, Facts of File Inc., 1982

External Links


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