William Sublette

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William Sublette
The Enlistment, from Eleven Years in the Rocky Mountains.png
Drawing depicts Sublette interviewing the young Joseph Meek. Image from Eleven Years in the Rocky Mountains... by Frances Fuller Victor.
Born William Lewis Sublette
September 21, 1798
Stanford, Lincoln County, Kentucky
Died July 23, 1845 (aged 47)
St. Louis, Missouri
Resting place Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri
Nationality American
Other names William Sublett, Bill Sublette, Cutface
Occupation frontiersman, trapper, fur trader, explorer
Employer Rocky Mountain Fur Company
Known for Being a co-owner of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, with Andrew Henry, after buying out the company shares, of William Henry Ashley
Relatives Milton Sublette (brother), Andrew Sublette (brother), Pinkney Sublette (brother), Solomon Sublette (brother) Laurel Seberg (grandchild)

William Lewis Sublette also spelled Sublett (September 21 1798 - July 23 1845), was a pioneer, frontiersman, trapper, fur trader, explorer, and mountain man, who, with his four brothers, after 1823, became an agent of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and later, one of its co-owners, exploiting the riches of the Oregon Country, which helped settle and improve the best routes, along the Oregon Trail.

Early life[edit]

William Sublette was born near Stanford, Lincoln County, Kentucky. He was one of five Sublette brothers, prominent in the western fur trade: William, Milton, Andrew, Pinkney, and Solomon.[1]

Into the fur trade[edit]

Sublette was one of the key leaders among the American mountain men, pushing hard into disputed territory, held by the dominant, joint British-Canadian fur companies; the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company, and against their chief rival, the American Fur Company trappers, who were also in the high Rockies and the Unorganized Territory of the western United States.

He retired from high-risk, trapping activities, venturing near hostile Amerindians, after being wounded at the Rendezvous of 1832 in the Battle of Pierre's Hole, which some accounts claim he hotheadedly triggered in his actions prior to the gun battle. After recuperating over a year back in St. Louis, he returned to the uplands and founded Fort William, later Fort Laramie, in the foothills east of the South Pass; the fort commanded the last eastern stream crossing at the foot of the last ascent to the floor of South Pass. That was the only route readily navigable by wagons over the continental divide.

In 1823, William was recruited in St. Louis by William Henry Ashley, as part of a fur trapping contingent, later referred to as Ashley's Hundred. That was the beginning of a new strategy for conducting the fur trade in response to a change in law in 1822. Liquor had been one of the principal currencies traded to Amerindians; such trafficking had been made illegal. The new scheme set up a trapper's rendezvous, a teamster-drover team operating the freight bringing in supplies and returning with furs, and a corp of trappers making their circuit to traps they themselves had set as team members.

By 1826, Sublette acquired Ashley's fur business, along with Jedediah Smith and David Edward Jackson. His brother Milton, some years later, in the mid-1830s, was one of five men who bought the Rocky Mountain Fur Company from his brother William and his partners.[2]

In 1832, Sublette was wounded in the Battle of Pierre's Hole in Idaho. After some uneventful fur business ventures, he sold Fort William to the American Fur Company, who renamed it Fort John, after a partner, in the Amfurco and later, was renamed again, Fort Laramie. Sublette finally retired in St. Louis, Missouri. He died in 1845 and was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.

Sublette County in Wyoming,[3] the city of Sublette, Kansas,[4] the Sublett Range in Idaho[5] and Sublette Park and Avenue in St. Louis [6] are named for him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sabin, Edwin Legrand; Howard Simon; Marc Simmons (1995). Kit Carson Days, 1809-1868. University of Nebraska Press. p. 922. ISBN 978-0-8032-9238-3. 
  2. ^ Carter, Harvey L. "Robert Campbell" and Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. "Milton G. Sublette", featured in Trappers of the Far West, Leroy R. Hafen, editor. 1972, Arthur H. Clark Company, reprint University of Nebraska Press, October 1983. ISBN 0-8032-7218-9
  3. ^ sublettewyo.com. "About Sublette County". Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  4. ^ Kansas Place-Names, John Rydjord, University of Oklahoma Press, 1972, p. 121 ISBN 0-8061-0994-7
  5. ^ "Southeast Idaho Ranges". Summitpost. Retrieved 2012-05-10. 
  6. ^ https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/parks/parks/browse-parks/view-park.cfm?parkID=83&parkName=Sublette