Trained in Paris and Rome, Baltimore artist fur-trade-wyoming-paintings-alfred-jacob-miller" class="alinks-link" title="Alfred Jacob Miller">Alfred Jacob Miller attended the 1837 fur-trade rendezvous in what’s now western Wyoming. Miller sketched and painted all aspects of the fur trade for his patron, the Scottish adventurer William Drummond Stewart, and later reworked much of this material into oil paintings for a wider audience.
As soon as Europeans came to the coasts of North America, they began trading for furs with the people who already lived here. On the first of June 1834, about 60 men and a caravan of horses and pack mules splashed across the Laramie River. They were headed for rendezvous in the mountains — the big summer fur-trading fair — and they were late.
Fort Laramie began as a fur-trade post in 1834 near the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers. Soon it changed into a post for the trade in buffalo robes, and for supplying emigrants bound west on the Oregon/California/Mormon Trail. In 1849 the post was purchased by the U.S. Army, and became an important supply, logistics and communications center for the Indian Wars campaigns of the next four decades. In recent decades the post has been carefully restored, and today is a National Historic Site.
In the 1820s and 1830s, what’s now western Wyoming was at the center of the fur trade of the northern Rocky Mountains. Indians, trappers and their suppliers met each summer at a big trade fair called rendezvous, where trappers exchanged their season’s beaver pelts for hardware, whiskey and supplies. By 1840, demand for beaver had disappeared and the species had been nearly rubbed out. But the rendezvous supply routes were already becoming the trails that would bind the nation together.
Euro-Americans first described what’s now Sublette County in western Wyoming early in the 1800s, when it was a hub for the Rocky Mountain fur trade. Cattle ranchers followed the fur trappers. Soon, tie hacks arrived to cut timber for railroad ties. The county’s first successful oil well was drilled in 1907, and oil and gas have been important to the county ever since. In the early 1990s one of the world’s largest gas fields was discovered south of Pinedale, the county seat. County residents continue to work to balance energy booms with the conservation measures needed to keep life good and to keep tourists coming back.