Cache Valley Rendezvous of 1826

Cache Valley was the site of the second rendezvous organized in the Rocky Mountains by white fur traders. This year marked a shift in ownership of fur industry interests, as well as a shift in the atmosphere of the event.

Cache Valley is a high mountain valley in northern Utah, near the border with Idaho. Although there has been historical debate as to whether the 1826 rendezvous was held specifically in Cove or Hyrum, the contemporary consensus is that Hyrum is the accurate location. Cache Valley is named after the caches fur trappers used to store their pelts and supplies. Fur trappers referred to the valley as Willow, for the many willows which grew in the area. William Henry Ashley, founder of the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, chose the location in part for the abundance of beavers around the banks of the Bear River. The Rocky Mountain Fur company had also held the spring hunt of 1826 in northern Utah, making Cache Valley a convenient place for the summer rendezvous.

Ashley arrived with the supply train at Cache Valley on July 25 along with Jedediah Smith. In contrast to the business-focused atmosphere of the first rendezvous, the 1826 meeting was more a social gathering and celebration. It lasted for at least a month, possibly up to eight weeks. This was the first year that alcohol was present, and later rendezvous also featured spirits. In keeping with the Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790—which required a trading post for legal fur trading—fur traders built Fort Defiance, a settlement of log cabins and brush shelters to use in winter months.

Traders packed the furs and shipped them to St. Louis once trading at the rendezvous concluded. Ashley had decided to leave the fur industry after a profitable winter season, and he sold his interests to Jedediah Smith, David E. Jackson, and William Sublette as they headed to St. Louis along the Bear River. The men purchased surplus supplies at 150%, to be paid over the next five years in either currency or beaver. The new firm also contracted Ashley to purchase and transport supplies for new rendezvous locations in the future. He had managed to make over $80,000 from the last two meetings, clearing his debts and giving him a small fortune. In a speech, he declared “I now wash my hands of the toils of the Rocky Mountains.” At the 1826 rendezvous, the pelts amounted to a worth of $60,000. Jackson and Sublette then took groups of trappers north to Idaho and Wyoming to begin the fall hunt.

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