Fur trappers and traders made their mark

Proving Her Claim is set in Rendezvous, Dakota Territory. According to the story, the town was founded during those halcyon days when French Canadian and Scots fur trappers were the only white men in this new wilderness. The town was named for the rendezvous — the annual gatherings where fur trappers and traders would meet to celebrate another year’s work.

From the 1820s to 1840s, fur trappers and traders were the explorers of the lands west of the Mississippi River. Their quest was for the valuable beaver pelts used to make top hats so prized by fashionable men in the East and in Europe.

By the 1840s and 1850s, beavers were more scarce, signaling the end of fur trade era. The fur trade and the relationships built by trappers, however, lead to settlement of the Louisiana Purchase. The next wave of Americans were poised to move west in search of new opportunities. Americans had been bitten by the wanderlust bug.

The trappers and traders weren’t “unemployed,” however. The US military as well as settlers hired those very trappers to guide them West. In order to create the new maps, they relied on the trappers’ geographic knowledge, much of which was learned from the native tribes they used to trade with. 

Thanks to the fur trade, these new pioneers were not venturing into the “unknown.” The land was already charted and a lot was known about the territories of the Louisiana Purchase.