Monday, March 22, 2021

2022 Santa Fe Trail Rendezvous- Winter Survivor' Encampment

 Be sure to put this in your book of events for next year! Tons of prizes, Raffles, etc!

Contact me at for Raffle Tickets.

 For more updates, please visit us HERE

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Desperate times - Desperate meals - Meals of our forefathers

By Buck Conner

As we move into the Holiday Season it’s always fun to see what would one eat in times when there was shortages of game to be found by our forefathers.

Here are a few comments by some famous mountaineers.



Interesting thoughts from some hard times.
Who said; "meat’s meat", many people in the "know" claim that Bridger made the statement on a return trip from the shining mountains. You may be surprised to know that was a very common term made by many, famous and not-so-famous starving men....

John R. Bell, on the Arkansas River in 1820, complained that "Our hunters came in having killed a skunk, which we must keep for our dinner tomorrow." The next day "boiled the skunk, which tasted skunkish enough..." Joe Meek had similar remarks for eating polecats..."

George F. Ruxton wrote "meat’s meat, is a common saying in the mountains", and "from buffalo down to rattle- snake, including quadruped that runs, every fowl that flies and every reptile that creeps, nothing comes amiss to the mountaineer.

Moses Schallenberger was snowbound in the Sierra Mountains in 1844, he wrote after trapping a coyote. "I soon had his hide off and his flesh roasted in a dutch oven. I ate this meat but it was horrible. I next tried boiling him, but it did not improve the flavor. I cooked him in every possible manner of my imagination, spurred by hunger could suggest, but could not be eaten without revolting my stomach." On another occasion he wrote of catching two foxes, roasted one and found "the meat, though entirely devoid of fat, was delicious."

Lewis & Clark remarked "on October 2, 1805, nothing except a small prairie wolf killed that day" they did not comment as to the flavor. Merriweather Lewis’s journal entry of June 3, 1806 states "our party from necessity having been obliged to subsist some length of time on dog have now become extremely fond of their flesh; it is worthy of remark that while we lived principally on the flesh of this animal we were much more healthy and more fleshy than we had been since we left buffalo country...."

Charles Larpenteaur wrote of nothing but dog to eat, which the squaws cooked. Some of the group cried out "Mad Dog! Mad Dog! sure enough, he did look like a mad dog; his head sticking partly out of the kettle, with his fine ivories, growling as it were, and the scum was frothing about his teeth...."

James Clyman while camped on the Sweetwater River in 1825 became separated from his companions, he wrote "after having killed two badgers, I skinned and roasted them, making a suitable meal with parched corn..."

Thomas Becknell while on the Santa Fe Trail in 1821 wrote "I killed one small prairie dog, roasted it, but found it strong and unpalatable..."
Osborn Russell reported that "beaver feeding on wild parsnips were poisonous and those that ate of the meat, within a few hours became sick at the stomach and the whole system became cramped..."

Rev. Samuel Parker said "that while flesh of the beaver was usable, the fore part is of a land animal while the hind part is of the taste of fish like..."

Joseph R. Walker and his party considered all eggs edible regardless of their age or condition, embryos well deve- loped, and small birds only a few days old, would be cut into small pieces and used in soup or stews. The same group had a feast with Indians on the Sierra Nevada range to find that "pounded fish was really not fish but worms, which suddenly was rejected by our stomachs when found out..."

Buck G. Connor’s journal stated that "ants and snakes when cleaned and roasted were eaten with flour cakes for evening meals while in the employment of the Mexican Army...." and "was probably one of the better meals available at the time" a reporter for the hometown newspaper, the Phila. Evening News wrote.

Joe Meek wrote of the Indians of the Great Salt Lake area pulverized grasshoppers which they mixed with a jam of service-berries and dried in the sun to form a "fruitcake". "Fried grasshoppers, caterpillars, wood-boring beetles, termites and spider bodies were disguised in stews." "Rattlesnake was occasionally eaten by these people as a special treat.." Nuts; hazel, walnut, pinion and acorn were favorites of these travelers.

William Ashley’s journal of May 28, 1824 records that "during the last two days we have lived on fish we caught with hooks and lines..." Hooks and lines were often mentioned on lists of supplies by traders.

John C. Fremont, Benjamin Kern and Jed Smith have written of eating "mule meat, making minced boiled mule meat pies for New Year’s treat... and mentioned that the pies were very good..."
 These early travelers made good use of any provisions available showing great resource fullness for the situation and location they were put into.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Colorado's Mountain Man & Very Smart Business Man

By Buck Conner

 Mike (meauxtown) Thompson and myself were talking about Marino Medina's rifle. Mike got a chance to handle the rifle a while back.

I have handled it several when Medina's rifle was still in Loveland at the Library. I lived 4 miles from Medina's Crossing (his toll bridge location) west of Loveland CO, his daughter Lena was buried on our property and Louis Papa (Medina's step son would come to our place to visit his step sister). I found a pair of leather breeches left on our property for years (Mrs. E. Gates who wrote about Medina and Charley Hanson [Museum of the Fur Trade] knew who they belonged to when seen). Both had pictures of Medina wearing them at a ball in Denver (Marino was a fancy-dan and liked to show off at up-scaled affairs. Papa use to wear his step-fathers clothes at parades in Loveland and Ft. Collins around the turn of the century. Mrs. Gates found an old newspaper article that Louis had gotten hurt up the Buckhorn Canyon in the early 1900's. Figured they removed the breeches when taking him to Loveland.

Read on:

We had a famous mountain man living in our area, just a few miles down the road. He was known to have traveled on this land in his adventures.

A Famous Mountain Man

According to local historians, mountain man Mariano Medina, for whom the Mariana Butte area is named, arrived with his wife in 1858 and built a cabin near the Big Thompson River two years later, becoming the first permanent settler of the area.

Sometime before 1864, Medina reportedly buried a friend at the site and soon after buried two of his children there. He built a low stone wall around the cemetery and kept it neatly whitewashed. By the time he died in 1878, the cemetery was full, and he had to be buried outside the walls, according to published reports.

"The cemetery was viewed with curiosity mixed with respect by settlers and travelers, who expressed surprise at finding it so well kept in such an uncivilized land."

"Mariano Medina Colorado Mountain Man" by Zethyl Gates).

First created as the Medina family cemetery, friends and acquaintances were also buried in the cemetery outside the sandstone walls surrounding the Medina plot. The earliest grave at this site was of a family friend buried prior to 1864. This was followed by two of Mariano Medina's children in 1864. The cemetery was surrounded by stone walls that were neatly whitewashed. The entrance was topped with a Blue Cross, a symbol of Medina's Catholic faith.

I'll continue this story and how we have connections with this man on the family property. We will share what was found while cleaning up a century of junk left by the forefathers of this ground, Medina's family included.

Breeches in the Fur Trade
by Buck Conner​

 After reading an article entitled "The Well-Dressed Explorer" by Jeff Gottfred of the NWBC located in Calgary, Canada, he mentions David Thompson's leather trousers and long wool socks, along with Samuel Johnson's dictionary's remarks of trousers used in outposts and common wear on the frontier.

I have always felt that one of the problems in living history has been the dating of men's clothing, especially civilian clothing, seems to be volumes on the subject - except women's clothing. After years of research on what is correct and what is questionable, military clothing is extremely helpful in dating civilian wares. For an example, the British Army went from the fly front to the fall front knee breeches in the “Clothing Warrant of 1768“. The military usually changes fashion late, the front fly was probably going out of civilian styles in the early 1790's. If portraying a fashionable gentlemen from Philadelphia, Annapolis or St. Louis, you would be wearing fall front breeches or trousers. But if you were a farmer in the same period you would likely have fly front's. Fly front breeches were developed around 1650 and in a hundred and fifty years, change was the tightness and size of the waistband going from 4 - 6 inches in 1730 - 1750, to 2 - 2-1/2 inch range found on late 1830 - 1850 fall fronts.

 This article reminded me of an item I found back in the early 1970’s when living in northern Colorado, northwest of the town of Loveland in a small valley called the Buckhorn Canyon (named by Mariano Medina, the Colorado Mountainman). Medina was reported to have shot and killed several young Utes that had stolen horses from his place of business west of Loveland and had rode them a few miles up this canyon when Medina caught up with them. This same canyon was where it was reported that his daughter was buried.

Part 1

 My ex-wife’s family had several hundred acres homesteaded in the late 1800’s of which only half was farmable, the rest was used for pasture and a small sandstone quarry, it was narrow in width and followed the Buckhorn Canyon ridge down into the valley. Only a few miles from the Big Thompson River that Mariano Medina had his toll bridge on for years, charging according to the numbers wanting to cross the river. Namaqua: Mariano's (or Marianne's) Crossing later became known as Namaqua. According to the local newspapers, these charges helped newcomers make up their mind up about settling on one side or the other of the Thompson. Small settlements started springing up in the area like Berthoud, Campeon and Medina Flat's rather than pay Mariano‘s fees. "His post was a known location for the "pony trade", "Whites", "Mexicans" and "Indians" traded on a regular schedule here in the Big Thompson Valley..." reported the Denver Rocky Mountain News. This horse trade attracted many groups of Indians, they counted theirs and Mariano's wealth by the number of ponies one owned at "Marianne's Crossing".

My ex father-in-law told me as a young boy growing up in the valley he could remember when the Utes would come to town and everyone would gather their tools and vegetables and store them inside until they passed, he said they were looked upon as gypsies and known to steal loose items laying around and sell those items in town for whiskey. This seemed to be the only problem as he recalls was ever present with these people that lived at the northern end of the canyon.

Around 1935 the local college - CSU in Fort Collins was called to look at a grave site that was uncovered in the sandstone quarry on this property. It was decided to be possibly Native American, a women buried sitting up. The college would return in a week to remove the body and look for additional clues at the site. In that time period the local farmers feared that removing the remains could bring a curse on the valley and decided to cover the grave not giving permission to anyone to touch the site. My father-in-law had the pre-mix concrete company pour an 8" slab on top of the grave and then pushed 3 to 4 feet of dirt and riff-raff (broken rock from the quarry) on the slab. When the college showed up a few days later, seeing what had been done demanded the county court to issue an order to remove the body (believed to be Medina's daughter, Lena). After several meetings with the valley farmers and county commissioners, the subject was dropped.

Mariano Medina: His first name was Mariano, his surname has seen different spellings; Medina, Modena and Medena are the more common found. Mariano Medina is what Mrs. Zethel Gates has found on court records, titles and legal documents. Mariano Medina established the first permanent settlement on the right (south) bank of the Big Thompson River in 1858. Mariano’s homestead consisted of a traditional Spanish-style plaza surrounded on three sides by his neatly whitewashed log home, trading store, saloon, corrals and a post office. The settlement was originally called Miraville, then Mariano’s Crossing, Big Thompson Crossing, and by today’s name Namaqua as I‘m sure you are aware of. Mariano is credited with establishing the firsts business, first school, first church, and first cemetery in the valley. Known an excellent horseman and horse trader swapping for worn out stock for his healthy animals he had fattened on river bottom grass. Overland Mail in 1862 selected Medina‘s settlement as a home station. The significance of this first community of “Indians and Mexicans” was discounted by later white settlers.

Part 2

 Now that you have a little history of this area we'll get back to the trousers, forty years later I’m building a new fence on this property and find a small pocket, not really a cave per say. A friend claims we were looking for rattlesnakes, not building fence, can't remember, spent a lot of time on this location year around working, hunting and just looking around. The area was a large rolling hill side that runs for 6-7 miles; not bad walking, lots of game - rabbits, turkey, mule and whitetail deer, along with a local herd of elk. Anyway whatever we were doing we could see something in this loaf shaped hole and after several hours of probing with long sticks we were able removed some of the larger rocks to a point where we could see there were no snakes in the pocket opening. Still not really comfortable I crawled inside with a flashlight and a small shovel and started scraping the ground looking for anything that could have been drug into this natural living quarters that appeared to have housed some local coyotes. Most of the items were clean bones, a few pieces of skulls of small animals, three old beads. There was also found a hard ball of leather that looked like an old shirt, torn but it looked like it was all there. We figured the beads came from the activities of a local mountain man club that ran monthly shoots on the property.

I soaked the hard ball of leather for several days in a 5 gallon bucket of water, once soft the ball was stretched on a plywood surface and tacked down, the leather shirt turns out to be leather breeches that were manufactured by the appearance. Some of the construction was of the early style of machine stitching, commercial type brass buttons with the name “Hammond & Co - Oxford St“, small drop front design with the adjustable waist band tie in the back. The waist band is whip stitched, about 15-16 stitches to the inch with a canvas type material sandwiched between the leather for extra support. The brass buttons are of the dished style with raised lettering of the manufacturer, now white with mineral deposits, pearl buttons on legs suggest they were replacements. The legs are slightly tapered to the knee with the usual buttoned cuff below the knee and the bulky butt area like the military breeches of the early 1800's.

After showing the breeches to the local museum in Loveland, I was sent to the library in search of a Mrs. Zethyl Gates - librarian and local historian. At the time she was still working on a book about local mountain man Marino Medina (she had written several museum papers and articles in local newspapers about this man). She has spent most of her working life researching Medina and others of the late fur trade in Colorado and Wyoming, even traveled to Spain to research Medina's family history.

When walking into the library I was sent to her office at once with my old beat-up leather trousers (breeches) and found a very excited Mrs. Gates, she had been called by the museum about these pants. She showed me a late picture of Marino wearing breeches in Denver like the ones I have found and another picture of Louie Papa (Medina's step-son) wearing the same breeches, taken in a parade in Loveland after the turn of the century - 1900. Interesting, but questionable as to whether they were his or someone else's and how did the trousers get on this hill?

A few years later I was visiting an old friend in Chadron, NE; Charles E. Hanson, Jr., you may have heard of him, showed him the old breeches and told him the story and Mrs. Gates interest. He said, " let's go to the study”, Charlie owned “The Museum of the Fur Trade“. Charlie points out a leather coat (short jacket) with the same brass buttons and of similar construction, it had been purchased from a family in northern Colorado at a gun show. Traded around for a period before finding its new home at the museum. The next thing out of Charlie’s mouth was "how much"? According to Mr. Hanson this type of coat and pants (trousers) were made commercially in Europe and shipped to New York or California dealers during the late fur trade all the way up to and after the Indian Wars. This style of garment sold in the gentlemen shops throughout the Rockies during the mid to late 1800‘s. Interesting how the article of David Thompson's leather breeches has brought about more research and this story.

Born in Taos, New Mexico in 1812, Mariano Medina was a personal friend of Kit Carson, Louis Vasquez, the Bent brothers along other legendary mountain men like Jim Bridger and Tom Toblin.
With his early experiences as a trapper, trader, hide trader, bounty hunter (capturing two Utes for a reward), known for his knowledge of the wilderness. He was a half-breed Frenchman, Jicarilla Apache, and Spanish mix according to those that knew him. His ability was apparent as an aide to John C. Fremont in that exploration of the west in providing his mountain skills and knowledge. He also was employed as a guide for Captain Randolph B. Marcy's exciting trek across the Rockies in the winter during the Mormon War.

It is found in reports of events and journals of several fur trade companies that one Mariano Medina was in their employ from time to time. With the days of the fur trade coming to an end and growing older for acting a guide for these explorations, Mariano settled down proclaiming he was the first settler on the Big Thompson Creek (River) in 1858) near present day Loveland, Colorado. The years spent on the Sweetwater and Green River had taught him about water, crossing it and building structures that would withstand its force. His first venture was with a raft ferrying teams across, charging as much fifty dollars in gold for the service. After a season a toll bridge was built high enough to avoid the high spring run-off, eventually building a fort and trading post "Marianne's Crossing". Soon it became the favorite stopping place for the growing numbers of travelers involved in the western movement and of course his now famous mountainmen friends made frequent stops. Many references in journals, newspapers of the time, mention famous mountain men: "Kit Carson spent the past week with old friend Jesus Garcia Mariano Medina at his post in the Big Thompson canyon". Loveland News June 1858 or "Mr. Ceran St.Vrain has been seen in the company of Mariano Medina near Estes Park, a family outing with several other famous people - William Gilpin (future governor of Colorado), Jos'e de Mirabal and William Bent (trader)". Rocky Mountain News 5th of Sept. 1858.

Part 3 

 In March 1861 Tim Goodale and his wife, Jennie, joined old friend Mariano, on the Thompson. Noted this in their journal that “a group of Indians where living about a mile or so below on the south side of the river from Mariano's place, the leader was Nawat (Niwot, or Left Hand) [Arapahoe]. North were Cheyenne’s with their leader Big Mouth, they spent most of their time watching a thousand ponies pastured on the Cache la Poudre River near Fort Collins, Colorado‘. Also noted was the viewing of “a hunting party of Sioux working their way up the Thompson canyon” near present day Estes Park. Mariano had lots of activity around his location, he was pleased, business and the times where good at this location according to friends and family.

"His post was a known location for the "pony trade", "Whites", "Mexicans" and "Indians" traded on a regular schedule here in the Big Thompson Valley..." reported the Denver Rocky Mountain News. This horse trade attracted many groups of Indians, they counted their’s and Mariano's wealth by the number of ponies one owned, this turned out to be trouble for "Marianne's Crossing".

On the morning of 17 April 1861 Mariano Medina experienced a raid at his post, stealing of his ponies, that throws him into a rage. In the days to follow Medina, Goodale, and Mirabal tracked down the stolen ponies along with the band of Indians that had taken them. "On the morning of 21 April 1861 they discovered the remains of a camp fire on the banks of a small creek (Buckhorn Creek), at which time they discharged their rifles and charged forward, the Ute Indians fled in all directions with Mariano, Tim and Jos'e in hot pursuit". according to W. J. Menton, reporter for the Rocky Mountain News. "Cowards!" yelled Mariano, "Come back and fight for horses!". “Suddenly the Indians charged Mariano, taking his hat off and waving as though signaling for help, where upon the Indians scattered, thinking they were out numbered. Mariano shot several of the Indians, leaving the battleground bestrewn with blood, their weapons left in all directions, they escaped with only five ponies." the report reads. Three days later Mariano and his group return with fifty head of stolen horses, the Indians had shot five and had gotten away with five. This event happened three miles north of the Big Thompson in a narrow valley referred to as “The Buckhorn Canyon”. Twenty one shots were fired, in less than three minutes according to reports, with the highest number given to Medina, Sueze Luis, Merival and 'Uncle' Tim Goodale for their skills in handling firearms. After this attack Mariano had his Mexican labors start building his fort to protect the people living at his settlement.

It has been noted that in the 1871 Medina loaned the new found First National Bank of Fort. Collins, Colorado a sum of money to start business, money gotten from the toll bridge operation and trading post enterprise - $61,000.00. A large sum like this shows how successful his business had become. It's said that some would pay as little as 25 cents to make the crossing on a busy day and as much as $100.00 on a slow day, freighters loaded with gold would usually pay the most and Mexicans crossed free. With such extreme changes in "crossing" costs, some researchers claim Mariano was responsible for many of the small communities around the Loveland area. Settlers waiting for a busy business day to make their crossing in moving westward would decide that the area and available homestead ground was more attractive than first thought.

Talk about an uneducated man that knew how to play the game of making money - WOW.

Part 4


Always keep one handy... Flint & Steel

By Buck Conner

 Always Keep One Handy

I always keep a flint and steel set handy, you never know when your normal sources (matches for fire may get damp or even wet). * Plus I always try to start a fire every few months to test my skills, never hurt to be on your game. Here's a strike-a-lite kit that's at least 40 years old and looks like new.

Sample of what will be needed as you start to assemble your kit, a good quality striker w/flint.
I use one of my old food bags from one of our business (Clark & Sons Mercantile Ltd) to hold everything (personal thing).
You'll need a few small tin containers (try and find ones with round corners (save cutting your carrying bag withe the square edges).

Start thinking about building a strike-a-lite kit for yourself. Shown is what will make a good kit that will last for years.

#1. beeswax candle on homemade holder (section of a trunk and limb makes a great holder.
#2. char cloth, beeswax candles, candle holder and striker w/good flint.
#3. Clark & Sons Mercantile cotton cloth bag used to hold my kit.
#4. striker (copy of one found at Bents' Old Fort in sothern Colorado).
#5. tin container (round edges saves cutting holes in cloth storage bag).
#6. brain tanned bag w/ tou fire starter material.
#7. wasp's nest make wonderful fire starting material.
#8. Gather small limbs for making your nest to use with your fire material.

Never hurt to practice old skills, never know when they may be needed.......