Dragon

Photo: The Old Dragon Mine

In the Summer of 1828, Kentuckian William Reed teamed up with veteran fur trader Denis Julien to travel north to Taos into the Uinta Basin and establish the Reed Trading Post at the confluence of the Whiterocks and Uinta rivers. Reed and Julien were accompanied by William's twelve-year-old nephew, James Scott Reed. It is unknown whether they planned to trap, trade for the season, or set up permanent headquarters, but upon their entry into the area, they found enough success to warrant staying and building a trading post. The post remained in operation until 1832 when Antoine Robidoux bought the location and business from Reed.

A year of two after setting up the post, the Reeds and Julien were joined by another youth, Auguste Pierre Archambeau, who had run away from his St. Louis home at the age of twelve or thirteen and gone "west to live with the Indians in the mountains." Archambeau gained fame in the 1840's by serving as a guide to the exploration parties of both John C. Fremont and Howard Stansbury.

Limited details of the Reed Trading Post have been recorded in regional and local histories of the Uinta Basin, and knowledge of the post is common in oral traditions of Utes living in the area who claim knowledge of it's existence and of the traders who lived among their ancestors. Brief shreds of information hint of the post without firmly establishing it's existence. A brief account given by James Reed states "I came out West with my uncle, William Reed, when he set up the trading post, I was about 12 years old, I guess, and we come all the way from Kentucky."

Business at the Trading Post was likely a combination of trapping by the Reeds, Archambeau and Julien, and trading with the Utes who lived in the region. They likely traded their furs at both St. Louis and Santa Fe. The Reed Trading Post, long unknown to Western historians, is significant as the first year-round habitation of non-Indians in Utah, a claim formerly applied to Fort Uinta. Having been built in 1828, the Reed Trading Post, along with Robidoux's Fort Uncompahgre, were the first permanent residences and businesses in the central portion of the intermountain corridor.

The Reed Trading Post was a single cabin located at the confluence of the Uinta and Whiterocks rivers. After Robidoux purchased Reed's post, he built his fort about one-hundred yards to the north and west, to avoid the spring floods which had threatened the old location of the post every year. Fort Robidoux, also called Fort Uinta, Fort Winty, or Twinty, was located about 12 miles north-east of the present-day town of Roosevelt. The fort consisted of a small group of log cabins with dirt roofs and floors, surrounded by a log palisade. The enclosed area of the fort was about sixty by sixty feet, with gate openings at both the north and south ends.

With the fur trade in decline, Robidoux tried to maintain his usual business. As Sol Sublette mentioned, 1842 was a good year forRobidoux, but his overall debts were about to combine with other factors to bring about an end to his trading in the mountains. Perhaps with debts from his mining failures, the catastrophic freezing of his horses, money owed to Turley for whiskey, and possibly other unknown debts, Robidoux turned to the higher profit items, such as guns and whiskey to try and salvage his finances. Robidoux's often ruthless business practices eventually aroused the wrath of the Utes and led to the destruction of both Fort Uinta and Fort Uncompahgre. Historians have differed over which of Robidoux's forts were attacked and burned by the Ute Indians sometime in late summer or fall of 1844. Some claim it was Fort Uinta, while others believe it was the fort on the Gunnison River of western Colorado. As with the founding date of Fort Uinta, there are only a few documents to substantiate the destruction of Robidoux's fort or forts. Hiram Chittenden gives Robidoux the dubious honor of of having the only fur trade fort successfully attacked and burned by Indians in North America. In reality, Robidoux is doubly honored by having the only two forts burned by Indians in fur trade history.

-excerpted from "Buckskin Entrepreneur, Antoine Robidoux and the Fur Trade of the Uinta Basin 1824-1844" by John D. Barton, reprinted with permission.Painting of Fort Uintah by Karen Moss, Used with permission - Utah Field House of Natural History, Vernal, Utah

Last Updated: 06.16.2015