History of Fort Buenaventura

Located on an 84-acre river tract of land near the Weber River, the fort symbolizes a period of western history that was the transition from nomadic ways of the Indian tribes and trappers to the first permanent settlers in the Great Basin. Facilities at the fort include picnic areas, a canoeing pond, the replica fort including three cabins and restrooms.

One of the most fascinating periods in Western American folklore is the mountain man era. The names such as Jim Bridger, Peter Skene Ogden, Jedediah Smith, Etienne Provost, and Hugh Glass, bring to mind strong, independent and rugged men who fearlessly lived in the Rocky Mountains. There they traded with the Indian tribes, married the Indian women, trapped the rivers for beaver, and lived off the land. The legendary rendezvous, where mountain men gathered annually to trade furs for supplies and to eat, drink, and tell stories and demonstrate their skills, have become as famous as the men themselves.

Miles Goodyear

Miles Goodyear was a mountain man during the last years of the fur trade who built and occupied Fort Buenaventura in what is now Ogden, Utah. Goodyear was born in Hamden, Connecticut on February 24, 1817, and was orphaned at the age of four. After serving much of his youth as a “Bound Boy,” or an indentured servant, he was determined to travel west to seek his fortune. In 1836, when he was nineteen, he joined the Whitman-Spaulding missionary party traveling west on the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri. Goodyear was described by his fellow travelers as “thin and spare,” with “light flaxen hair, light blue eyes.” As time passed, Goodyear’s hair turned red. At Fort Hall, Goodyear decided to leave the party (which had brought the first white woman west on the Oregon Trail, Narcissa Whitman). William H. Gray described Goodyear as he left them: “His idea of liberty was unlimited. Restraint and obedience to others were what he did not like at home; he would try his fortune in the mountains; he did not care for missionaries, Hudson’s Bay men, nor Indians; he was determined to be his own man.”

For the next decade, Miles Goodyear trapped, traded, and was by all accounts a successful mountain man. By 1839 he had married Pomona, daughter of the Ute Chief Pe-teet-neet, and by 1842 they had two children, William Miles and Mary Eliza. Goodyear ranged widely across the Rocky Mountains, trapping, trading, and visiting various gatherings of mountain men and Indians, including the rendezvous of 1843. In a letter sent to his brother in 1842, Goodyear wrote that he had not yet made his fortune but did have “property, horses, beaver, and $2,500.”

As the fur trades declined and way stations such as Fort Bridger began to spring up on the overland trails, Goodyear decided to build an enclosed fort on the large westward bend of the Weber River, approximately two miles south of its confluence with the Ogden River and about one-quarter mile west of the present end of Ogden’s 28th Street. The stockade was constructed with cottonwood logs set upright in the ground that enclosed about one-half acre of land adjacent to the river. It was begun in 1845 and completed by the end of 1846. Four log cabins occupied the corners of the fort, and sheds, corrals, and a garden were also located within the enclosure. Additional corrals were located on the outside to accommodate cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. The garden was watered by river water carried by bucket to the beans, carrots, cabbages, radishes, and corn.

The fort was occupied by Goodyear, his family, other trappers, Indian helpers, and visitors. It is apparent that Goodyear hoped also to use the fort as a base for trapping and trading, and hoped also to profit from being of service to overland emigrants. Late in 1846 and early in 1847, Goodyear traveled to Fort Sutter (New Helvetia) in California to acquire some horses to trade to Oregon and California emigrants. Goodyear drove the horses as far east as Missouri in 1847, trading along the way. As he traveled eastward in the spring of 1847, he was one of the first to view the desolation the winter had brought to the Donner Party, and he and his horses followed the Donner Party tracks until he came to the Wasatch Mountains.

In July 1847, Goodyear visited with the first Mormon company traveling west on the Bear River west of Fort Bridger, and he tried to entice them to settle on the Weber River. He was successful, but in November 1847, James Brown was authorized by the Mormon High Council of Great Salt Lake City to purchase Fort Buenaventura. Brown and Goodyear agreed on a price of $1,950, and the fort, the outbuildings, and all of the animals except Goodyear’s horses became Mormon property. The settlement was soon called Brownsville and later, Ogden.

During the next two years, Goodyear was engaged in horse-trading and gold mining in California. He acquired land at Benecia and made a rich discovery of gold on the Yuba River at “Goodyear’s Bar.” At the age of 32 he became ill and died in the Sierra Nevada on November 12, 1849. He was buried at Benecia, California.

The David Elias Browning Farm House

Browning Farm House

Originally located by Birch Creek on Old Post Road in Ogden, UT, the David Elias Browning Farm House was moved to the grounds of Fort Buenaventura in 2007. David Elias Browning (1829-1901) was the son of Jonathan Browning and Elizabeth Stalcup. He was also the half-brother of John Moses Browning, the famous gun inventor. David, born in Davidson County, TN, moved with his family to Adams County, IL, and later to Nauvoo, IL, and Mosquito Creek, IA, before settling in Ogden, UT. In Ogden, David married Charilla Abigail Abbott. David, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was married to Charilla, a convert to the Church. David's occupation was farming. This cabin stood on his farm, but he lived most of the year in Ogden and traveled daily by horse and buggy to the farm. He was commissioned by Brigham Young to be the sealer of Weights and Measures (scales tester) for Weber County and was also commissioned a Justice of the Territory of Utah. He was a member of the Grand Jury, and also served in the Territorial Militia (Nauvoo Legion). Charilla (1829-1914) was Ogden's first school teacher and lived at Fort Buenaventura, then called Brown’s Fort, before she married David. This farm house also served as a post office from 1888-1902.

Fur Trapping

Ogden, like many communities of the west, owes its origin to the fur trappers which trapped beavers and muskrats along Ogden streams. In the fall of 1824, one trapper from Fort Bridger, (then only 18), set out from Cache Valley down the Bear River, having placed a little wager among several trappers as to where the river emptied. He reached the area and returned back to the fur camp to report that the river flowed into a salt bay.

One of the best-known trappers was Peter Skene Ogden who visited the area in 1826 as a brigade leader for the Hudson Bay Company. Ogden traded in this area for several years near North Ogden. Later, the river, valley, canyon and city were named after him. The Weber River evidently derived its name from a trapper named Weber, who was a member of Ogden’s Party.

Soon after the beaver industry declined, most of these mountain men began to leave the area. The departure of the fur trappers coincided with the arrival of exploration and settlement parties. The “Great Pathfinder,” John C. Fremont, explored the area in 1843 and made scientific examinations of and charted Weber County. The Fremont reports encouraged men along the frontier and the Mormon settlers to come to settle in the west.

Mormon Settlement

Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders decided to abandon Nauvoo, Illinois, when Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was killed in Carthage Jail in Illinois, in June 1844. Their move to the west began February 4, 1846. With the outbreak of the Mexican War, President James Polk asked the Mormons for a battalion of men. Volunteers were recruited and the Mormon Battalion formed. During their march of 1846-1847 from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to San Diego, California, they blazed a wagon route across the southwest. Their pay and their later explorations helped pioneer settlers. In April 1847, the pioneer company of Mormons started from Winter Quarters, Nebraska to Utah. The company included 143 men, three women, and two children. An advance party entered the Salt Lake Valley July 22, 1847. The rest of the group entered on July 24. Planting and irrigating began immediately.

The struggle for survival was difficult in the first years of settlement for the people of Utah. Because the Mormons had pioneered other settlements in the Midwest, they were better able to tame the harsh land. The church organization served as the first government. Their faith stressed cooperative effort. The city was laid out according to a set plan and building began. Natural resources, including timber and water, were regarded as settlement areas. Bountiful, Farmington, Ogden, Tooele, Provo, and Manti were settled by 1850. The typical family of 1850 consisted of two parents in their 20's or 30's and three children. More than half of the population were farm families. The church authorities would choose a leader for each settlement. Small settlements were frequently forts with log cabins arranged in a protective square.

The Mormon village in Utah was a planned community of farmers and trades people. The village would include a main living area and farms and farm buildings on the land beyond. Life in these villages centered on the day’s work and church activities. Music, dance, and drama were favorite group activities of the early pioneers.

Utah Indians

Native American groups living in Utah included the Ute, Southern Paiute, Navajo, Gosiute, and the Northern and Eastern Shoshones. The Ute, Paiute, Gosiute, and Shoshone speak differently but related languages from a family known as the Numic language family. The Navajo speak a language that is in the Athapaskan language family.

The Ute, Gosiute, Southern Paiute and Shoshone lived similar lifestyles by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plant foods. The pinyon nut was especially important to all of them. These groups now live on reservations in Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho although prior to white settlement, they ranged all across the Great Basin and Intermountain West. Navajo culture during historic times was based upon herding sheep, goats, and cattle.

The state of Utah is named after the Ute tribe. The Uteonce held claim to much of Utah and all of western Colorado. They ranged well onto the Great Plains of eastern Colorado into Nebraska and south into New Mexico. In historic times, there were at least 11 different bands of the Ute tribe. Each band claimed their own territory but membership in a band was fluid. The Ute lived by hunting, fishing, gathering, and trading with other Native American groups in the area. Housing consisted of brush structures and cone-shaped tipi’s made from animal skins. During the late 1800's, the Ute lost most of their lands and were restricted to reservations in southern Colorado and northeastern Utah.

The Paiute is divided into two groups: the Northern Paiute and the Southern Paiute. The Northern Paiute lived in what is now Oregon, California, and Nevada. The Southern Paiute lived in southern Utah, southern Nevada, and northern Arizona. Hunting and gathering with some fishing was the main source of food. A Southern Paiute house might be made of brush and poles stacked in a cone-shape. These are known as wickiups. Basketry was made by the Southern Paiute as was pottery. The western deserts of Utah are the home of the Gosiute. They are related to the Western Shoshone groups and, through intermarriage, to the Ute. The Gosiute lived in the Great Basin as hunters and gatherers lived. They also built the cone-shape wickiups and similar structures as well.

Idaho, eastern Oregon and northern Utah were the homes of the Northern Shoshone. The Eastern Shoshone lived across western Wyoming, northeastern Utah, and northwestern Colorado. Shoshones’ livelihood revolved around hunting, gathering, and fishing. Bison hunting was especially important to their culture.

Herding sheep and goats was, and still is, the mainstay of many Navajo families. Southern Utah, northern Arizona, and northern New Mexico is the land of the Navajo, the largest Native American tribe in the United States. Some people believe the Navajo migrated south into their current homeland sometime after 1300 C.E. where they lived as hunters and gatherers.

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