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Opera house 'Kit'

GEM presents talk on prominent western figure Kit Carson

 


Residents and visitors to Encampment were treated to a talk about an important figure in the American West, Kit Carson, Thursday at The Encampment Opera House.

The talk wrapped up a series of three talks held as part of the Grand Encampment Museum’s (GEM) speaker series, and was delivered by Valley resident and historian John Farr. The event was held as a fundraiser for GEM.

About 50 people were in attendance at the event, and the Plexiglas box for optional donations was well stuffed with bills. Farr spoke for about an hour about Kit Carson and his importance to the development of the American West, as well as his forays into Wyoming that brought him through the Valley.

Carson was born in Kentucky in 1809, but was raised in Missouri when that state was still considered the American frontier. His family became close friends with the family of Daniel Boone, with one of Kit’s older half-brothers marrying into the Boone family.

At the age of 16, he ran away from Missouri where he had been apprenticed to a saddle maker and headed west to Taos, New Mexico where he settled and worked as a trapper, copper miner and wagon driver, among other things.

He was married three times. His first two wives were Native American women, with the first marriage ending after his wife died in childbirth, the second after she divorced him in the custom of her tribe; by throwing his possessions out of the family teepee. His third wife he married in New Mexico when he was older.

Carson went on to work as a mountain man and a guide, during which time he went on expeditions with the famous explorer John C. Frémont. It was during his expeditions with Frémont that Carson came to Wyoming, visiting the Valley, Farr said.

It was also during his time with Frémont that Carson became synonymous with the history of the West thanks to Frémont’s wife, Jessie Benton Frémont, who chronicled their expeditions, making the explorers famous.

Carson eventually went on to become a guide for the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War, and eventually became an officer in the army, obtaining the rank of general, unusual for a man who was illiterate, Farr said.

Eventually, Carson went on to work with Native American tribes, especially the Navajo and Apaches at a time when, according to Farr, the U.S. Government’s official policy toward Native Americans was simply their extermination.

Carson, he said, was a moderating force in that struggle, and is considered by many historians to be one of the more enlightened people of his time when it came to issues surrounding Native American rights, especially in his later years.

At the conclusion of his talk about Carson, Farr took several questions from audience members, most of which were about Carson’s visits during various expeditions to the Valley.

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