Kit Carson Pioneer of the West

Christopher (Kit) Carson<br />

A portrait of Carson in 1860 before his action in the Civil War  

The two lives of Kit Carson have been shown all throughout American History. The life of rugged trapper and frontiersman in the new American West is one life. His second life is his larger than life figure as a legend with the likes of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. In his time as a trapper, guide, army officer, solider, and guide he helped document the West for America and gain land for the country. In his time exploring and traveling the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, and deserts in this new part of America, he helped document the land for future travelers, and explorers. He was known to solitary as trapper and explorer, but when he started to work with other Americans he changed the West forever. He worked with men in creating the West such as John C. Fremont on the Oregon Trail, and James K. Polk. While working with such important men in America, stories of Carson arose in America. The stories from his time with Fremont grew into legend because of how much he knew about the land while working with him. He quickly rose to the heights of legend similar to Davy Crockett in America as people were surprised what this man knew and accomplished. As Carson gained fame his important impact on America was his accomplishments in creating the Oregon Trial, fighting in the Mexican-American War, creating settlements in the West, and fighting in the Civil War, not necessarily the public popularity he gained over his life.

            Carson started from humble beginnings and at the time was born of the edge of America on December 24, 1809, in Madison County Kentucky[1]. He was born to Lindsey Carson and Rebecca Robinson and was Lindsey’s eleventh child. His father was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and many battles against Native Americans. Shortly after his birth, Carson’s family moved to Missouri to the land of which was by the sons of the famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone. The Carson’s and the Boone’s became close friends with each other and intermarried at times. The families had the constant danger of Natives attacking the settlements. The Carson family was struck with a harsh loss when Lindsey was killed, Kit was only eight years old at the time. His mother soon remarried, after this tragic loss, and sent him when he was a young teenager to become a saddler apprentice. While Carson was working at the saddle shop, he learned about the tales of the West and the adventures of the people who came into the shop. The shop was stationed on the Santa Fe Trail and many trappers and hunters entered the West on the trail. The voices of the West called to Carson as they did to Daniel Boone, and in 1826, at the age sixteen Carson ran away with a party of traders down the Santa Fe Trail.[2] 

            The moment Carson ran away from his home and his job in Missouri, his life changed for forever. Over the next few years he explored the West with different bands pioneers and learned various skills which would help his life as a frontiersman. He was one of the pioneers with a group of men who crossed California. In the 1830s Carson became a successful trapper and did this while he fought with some groups against Natives. He gained skills to fight against Natives which he used as a soldier in the armies in the later part of his life in the Civil War and Mexican-American War. Carson worked with many different groups all across the West and worked by himself also when it came to trapping and hunting.  In 1832 he became a guide for Captain Lee, a founder of Bent’s Fort in Arkansas, over the Old Spanish Trail. He was able to lead him to a group of trappers for the winter. During this time he had his first larger than life experience when he fought against two bears and won, giving his first mythological story. [3] The ability of his name being sent around to men around the Frontier meant he was gaining fame as a well-known trapper and guide in the area. He also had a large area of where he worked, it was from Missouri to New Mexico and all the way up the Rocky Mountains. This gave him great knowledge of the West in America because he traveled to so many places.[4]  

            Carson gained great knowledge in his early years as a trapper and guide in places such as Santa Fe New Mexico, California, and the Rocky Mountains. He came from the area of where one of the greatest frontiersmen created, Daniel Boone. This first Chapter of his life he was able to run away from his home to begin the life which called out to him. He even had his first amazing event in which he defeated a bear attack. The start of his life as a boy and grew into a young man would lead him on greater adventures and fame, which bring him into the national spotlight as a rugged pioneer and leader into the West.    


[1] Emerson Hugh, Outing, an Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation (New York, Jan 1905) Pg. 480, Pg.1

[2] Emerson Hugh, Outing, an Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation (New York, Jan 1905) Pg. 480, Pg.1


[3] Emerson Hugh, Outing, an Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation (New York, Jan 1905) Pg. 480, Pg.4

[4] Dr. Matthew DeSpain “ The Superior Dignity of Such a Character” Nineteenth-Century American Manhood and the Image of Kit Carson (Post, 2007) Pg. 47-73