Private John Colter

John Colter-historic site-Virginia Lewis and Clark TrailPrivate Colter was born around 1774 near Staunton in Augusta County. He moved with his family to Maysville, Kentucky when he was five years old. On October 15, 1803, he was recruited by Captain Lewis for the expedition. Characteristics that made him a good choice were “… quick minded, courageous, and a fine hunter.” He was one of the Nine young men from Kentucky” and “was trusted with many special missions while in the party.”  Private Colter was honorably discharged on August 13, 1806. From 1806 to 1809 he trapped in the Yellowstone and lived with the Mandan Indians from 1806 to the spring of 1807. After leaving Yellowstone, Colter continued trapping in the upper Missouri with the Andrew Henry trapping expedition. He was sent to trap in the country of the Blackfeet Indians; however, having earlier befriended the Crows – “mortal enemies of the Blackfeet” – conflict arose. He narrowly escaped from the Blackfeet in an encounter where John Potts, another expedition member, was killed. He is known as the “Father of the Mountain Men.” Because of his travels and trapping in the Yellowstone, Private Colter was able to supply many details to William Clark while editing the expedition journals about the Yellowstone, Wind River and other western areas unknown to Clark. In 1809 he returned to St. Louis, married in 1811 and had one son. He died in 1813 of jaundice.