George Ruxton

George Ruxton was born in Tonbridge, Kent, on 24th July, 1821. He was sent to military academy but was expelled. Ruxton was eventually accepted into the British Army and served in Ireland and Canada.

Ruxton left the army to become a hunter in Canada. He also spent time in Africa and Mexico before moving to the United States where he worked as a mountain men in the Rocky Mountains.

Ruxton wrote articles called Life in the Far West for Blackwood's Magazine. After moving to St. Louis he published Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (1847).

George Ruxton died of dysentery on 29th August, 1848.

Primary Sources

(1) George Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (1847)

At a certain time, when the hunt is over, or they have loaded their pack animals, the trappers proceed to the 'rendezvous', the locality of which has been previously agreed upon; and here the traders and agents of the fur companies await them, with such assortment of goods as their hardy customers may require, including generally a fair supply of alcohol. The trappers drop in singly and in small bands, bringing their packs of beaver to this mountain market, not infrequently to the value of a thousand dollars each, the produce of one hunt. The dissipation of the 'rendezvous', however, soon turns the trapper's pocket inside out. The goods brought by the traders, although of the most inferior quality, are sold at enormous prices - coffee, twenty and thirty shillings a pint cup, which is the usual measure; tobacco fetches ten and fifteen shillings a plug; alcohol, from twenty to fifty shillings a pint; gunpowder, sixteen shillings a pint cup; and all other articles at proportionately exorbitant prices.

The rendezvous is one continued scene of drunkenness, gambling, and brawling and fighting, as long as the money and credit of the trappers last. Seated, Indian fashion, round the fires, with a blanket spread before them, groups are seen with their 'decks' of cards, playing at poker, and seven-up, the regular mountain games. The stakes are 'beaver', which here is current coin; and when the fur is gone, their horses, mules, rifles, and shirts, hunting packs, and breeches, are staked. Daring gamblers make the rounds of the camp, challenging each other to play for the trapper's highest stake - his horse, his squaw (if he have one), and, as once happened, his scalp.

A trapper often squanders the produce of his hunt, amounting to hundreds of dollars, in a couple of hours; and, supplied on credit with another equipment, leaves the rendezvous for another expedition, which has the same result time after time, although one tolerably successful hunt would enable him to return to the settlements and civilised life, with an ample sum to purchase and stock a farm, and enjoy himself in ease and comfort the remainder of his days.

(2) George Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (1847)

Seizing with his left hand the long and braided lock on the centre of the Indian's head, he passed the point edge of his keen butcher-knife round the parting, turning it at the same time under the skin to separate the scalp from the skull; then, with a quick and sudden jerk of his hand, he removed it entirely from the head, and giving the reeking trophy a wring upon the grass to free it from the blood, he coolly hitched it under his belt, and proceeded to the next; but seeing La Bonte operating upon this, he sought the third, who lay some little distance from the others. This one was still alive, a pistol-ball having passed through his body, without touching a vital spot. Thrusting his knife, for mercy's sake, into the bosom of the Indian, he likewise tore the scalp-lock from his head, and placed it with the other.

La Bonte had received two trivial wounds, and Killbuck till now had been walking about with an arrow sticking through the fleshy part of his thigh, the point being perceptible near the surface on the other side. To free his leg from the painful encumbrance, he thrust the weapon completely through, and then, cutting off the arrow-head below the barb, he drew it out, the blood flowing freely from the wound. A tourniquet of buckskin soon stopped this, and, heedless of the pain, the hardy mountaineer sought for his old mule, and quickly brought it to the fire (which La Bonte had rekindled), lavishing many a caress, and most comical terms of endearment, upon the faithful companion of his wanderings. They found all the animals safe and well, and after eating heartily of some venison which the Indians had been cooking at the moment of the attack, made instant preparations to quit the scene of their exploit, not wishing to trust to the chance of the Rapahos being too frightened to again molest them.

(3) George Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (1847)

Whilst following a small creek at the southwest extremity of the lake, they came upon a band of miserable Indians, who, from the fact of their subsisting chiefly on roots, are called the Diggers. At first sight of the whites, they immediately fled from their wretched huts, and made towards the mountain; but one of the trappers, galloping up on his horse, cut off their

retreat, and drove them like sheep before him back to their village. A few of these wretched creatures came into camp at sundown, and were regaled with such meat as the larder afforded. They appeared to have no other food in their village but bags of dried ants and their larvae, and a few roots of the yampah. Their huts were constructed of a few bushes of greasewood, piled up as a sort of breakwind, in which they huddled in their filthy skins.

(4) George Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (1847)

The Bayou Salade, or Salt Valley, is the most southern of three very extensive valleys, forming a series of table-lands in the very centre of the main chain of the Rocky Mountains, known to the trappers by the name of the "Parks." The numerous streams by which they are watered abound in the valuable fur-bearing beaver, whilst every species of game common to the west is found here in great abundance. The Bayou Salade especially, owing to the salitrose nature of the soil and springs, is the favourite resort of all the larger animals common to the mountains; and, in the sheltered prairies of the Bayou, the buffalo, forsaking the barren and inclement regions of the exposed plains, frequent these upland valleys in the winter months; and feeding upon the rich and nutritious buffalo grass which, on the bare prairies, at that season, is either dry and rotten or entirely exhausted, not only are enabled to sustain life, but retain a great portion of the "condition" that the abundant fall and summer pasture of the lowlands has laid upon their bones.

(5) George Ruxton, letter to Blackwood's Magazines (1847)

I think it would be as well to correct a misapprehension as to the truth or fiction of the paper. It is no fiction. There is no incident in it which has not actually occurred, nor one character who is not well known in the Rocky Mountains, with the exception of two whose names are changed - the originals of these being, however, equally well known with the others. With regard to the incidents of Indian attacks, starvation, cannibalism, etc., I have invented not one out of my own head.

(6) Blackwood's Magazines (November, 1848)

The readers of Blackwood's Magazine, who for six succeeding months have followed La Bonte and his mountain companions through the hardships, humours, and perils of "Life in the Far West," will surely not learn with indifference, that the gallant young author of those spirited sketches has prematurely departed to his long home, from that Transatlantic land whose prairies and forests he so well loved to tread, and the existence and eccentricities of whose wildest sons he so ably and pleasantly portrayed. Nearly a month has now elapsed since the London newspapers contained the mournful tidings of the death, at St. Louis on the Mississippi, and at the early age of twenty-eight, of Lieutenant George Frederick Ruxton, formerly of her Majesty's 8pth regiment, known to the reading world as the author of a volume of Mexican adventure, and of the above-named contributions to this Magazine. The former work has too completely gained the suffrages of the public to need commendation at our hands: it divides, with Madame Calderon de la Barca's well-known volumes, the merit of being the best narration extant of travel and general observation in modern Mexico.