James P. Beckwourth; A Hell for Leather Gaudy Lair

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Scaramouche, Oct 13, 2020 at 8:15 AM.

  1. Scaramouche

    Scaramouche Student of the Columbian Exchange Supporting Addict

    Sep 15, 2015
    Here's another Old West character who's life was so Forrest Gump-like it's tough to swallow out of jealousy and kicking yourself for being born into the wrong era. Mr. Beckwourth lived redlining the fun meter in a way we never get to crank that needle half as high.

    In 1856, the appearance of the action packed Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, mountainman, scout, and pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians offered the first published account of the escapades of a black man in the American West. He had been born a slave in 1798 or 1800 in Frederick County, Virginia.


    In the goldfields of California, Beckwourth dictated his rousing life story to T.D. Bonner, an itinerant justice of the peace, journalist, and temperance advocate with a heavy drinking problem. The book was an immediate success, a real top 10 on New York Times Book List if they had one back then. It was released in England later the same year, followed by a second U.S. printing and a French edition in 1860.


    While much of the public eagerly devoured the tales of high adventure among the Indians, others, in that time of blatant racism, dismissed the book as musings of a "mongrel of mixed blood". Critics pointed out that among his fellow mountain men, Beckwourth was jokingly referred to as a "gaudy liar". But later historians, such as Bernard DeVoto, reassessed Beckwourth and found that much of what he described actually happened. They also pointed out that to be a "gaudy liar" among mountain men was actually a compliment, since exaggerated tale spinning was a skill as valued as marksmanship and tracking. Beckwourth's autobiography remains the best account of several Indian tribes in the first thirty years of the nineteenth century.


    He is credited with discovery of Beckwourth Pass through the Sierra Nevadas between present day Reno, NV and Portola, CA during the California Gold Rush years, and improved the Beckwourth Trail which thousands of settlers followed to central California. He was a trapper for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, lived with the Crow Indians for 8 or 9 years and married the chief's daughter, worked as a civilian wagon master for the U.S. Army, was a trader for Charles Bent, storekeeper, professional gambler, rancher, hotel keeper, Indian Agent, author. He stayed busy and married 5 different women and sired an unknown number of children while he was doing all this stuff. Come on, we're happy buying a car, getting married and settling down into a track house, Mr. Beckwourth had a thirst for seeing what was on the other side of that distant horizon. Like you need to drink water, this rock n' roller needed to breath air no one else ever had.


    His downfall ultimately came signing on as a scout for one of the biggest A holes in the American West; Colonel John Chivington, and his infamous 3rd Colorado Cavalry Regiment who perpetrated the Sand Creek Massacre.

    Col & Reverend John Chivington born too
    early to enlist in the Nazi Einsatzgruppen or them
    Russian NKVD squads

    Two years later while guiding a military column to a Crow band in Montana he started experiencing a series of unstoppable nose bleeds and severe head aches. On October 6th, 1866 he passed away. The cause of his death has never been officially determined, but the speculation was that either he was suffering from an extreme case of hypertension or he had been poisoned by the Crow because of his part in the Sand Creek genocide and couldn't be trusted any longer.

    Here's to a guy who knew only one direction; out yonder.
  2. nathanotis

    nathanotis Active Member

    Feb 6, 2020
    J.P.B. looks so much like Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. (Snoop Dog), I had to look twice!

    Thanks for this. I'm going to track it down and read it. I'll report back.
    Scaramouche, OneEyedTanker and isialk like this.

  3. isialk

    isialk Well-Known Member Supporting Addict

    Jan 7, 2017
    Very interesting post today Scaramouche! Thanks for taking the time.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Scaramouche likes this.
  4. Cop_Out

    Cop_Out Pearl Pimp Supporting Addict

    Feb 3, 2017
  5. 41 Charlie

    41 Charlie Get off my lawn...

    Feb 4, 2014
    Much thanks, Richard! I always enjoy your life lessons!!
    Scaramouche and isialk like this.
  6. rockittsled

    rockittsled Well-Known Member

    Apr 8, 2020
  7. nathanotis

    nathanotis Active Member

    Feb 6, 2020
    One paragraph into the PREFACE and I am hooked!

    BURIED amid the sublime passes of the Sierra Nevada are old men, who, when children, strayed away from our crowded settlements, and, gradually moving farther and farther from civilization, have in time become domiciliated among the wild beasts and wilder savages — have lived scores of years whetting their intellects in the constant struggle for self-preservation; whose only pleasurable excitement was found in facing danger; whose only repose was to recuperate, preparatory to participating in new and thrilling adventures. Such men, whose simple tale would pale the imaginative creations of our most popular fictionists, sink into their obscure graves unnoticed and unknown. Indian warriors, whose bravery and self devotion find no parallels in the preserved traditions of all history, end their career on the "war-path," sing in triumph their death-song, and become silent, leaving no impression on the intellectual world.
  8. Ethanol Red

    Ethanol Red Make it a double Supporting Addict

    Jul 12, 2015
    I like him and I wish I was more like him.
  9. FWoo45

    FWoo45 Well-Known Member

    Jan 13, 2017
    When I was a kid my mom took us to Beckwourth days (if it's called something different, I'm close) for 5 or 6 years. Very cool for a kid that wore a coon skin cap around (only the tail was real). Thanks for bringing him up. I'll have to read this.

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