Pierre’s Hole Rendezvous of 1832
Pierre’s Hole is a valley in Eastern Idaho, located on the west slope of the Teton Mountain Range at an elevation of 6,109 feet. Today, the valley is officially known as Teton Valley, and the Teton River flows through it. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company selected Pierre’s Hole in 1832 as a “pleasant place” for a rendezvous, with streams ideal for trapping beaver.
The Rocky Mountain Fur Company contracted William Sublette to supply the rendezvous and remove beaver pelts, and Sublette arrived on July 8, 1832, with 100 merchandise-carrying mules. Pierre’s Hole was one of the largest rendezvous yet: over 1,000 white and Native American trappers attended, and horses and mules numbered between 2,000 and 3,000.
Signs that the rendezvous could go wrong started when Thomas Fitzpatrick, an Irish American mountain man and trapper, reached the rendezvous late after a party of Gros Ventre Native Americans attacked him, prompting him to hide in the mountains for five days. Despite Fitzpatrick’s uneasy encounter, the rendezvous carried on and concluded trading on July 17. The fur company collected 168 packs of furs that contained around 60 pelts per pack, worth a total of $58,305.
Milton Sublette, a new owner in the company, led out a party of men out of the rendezvous. They travelled six to eight miles before camping for the night. The following day, a party of Gros Ventre and Blackfeet approached the encampment. However, indigenous party soon realized they were outnumbered by the trappers, and they waved a white flag of peace. Antoine Godin and a Flathead chief were sent to meet the Blackfoot chief for peace talks, but both men already hated the Blackfeet. Godin’s father had been killed by members of the Blackfeet, and the Flathead Nation also had disputes with the Blackfeet. Acting on a previously coordinated plan, when Godin grasped the Blackfeet chief’s hand to shake, the Flathead chief shot him.
Upon seeing their chief attacked, the Blackfeet retreated into the nearby timber and immediately began building a makeshift fort. William Sublette soon received news of the outbreak of violence, and he arrived with a large group of reinforcements. Seeing they were greatly outnumbered, the Blackfeet further retreated while the traders pressed on and fired into the woods. The traders made little progress against the fort as the day progressed, but the battle eventually ended due to a miscommunication between a trapper and a member of the opposing Blackfoot party. The trapper mistakenly believed that 600–800 Blackfeet were headed for the unprotected rendezvous site, so the fur trapping party hurried back to Pierre’s Hole to protect it. The traders soon realized the error, but by then the Blackfeet party had already abandoned their makeshift fort. On the fur trappers’ side, five whites and seven Native Americans had died; the trappers and traders killed an estimated twenty-six Blackfoot.
Historians added the Pierre’s Hole battle site to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. A historic marker in Driggs, Idaho, located along Highway 33, describes the significance of Pierre’s Hole as a center for the fur trade. It is now a small town with a primarily agricultural focus, appreciated for its beautiful natural scenery.