Alexander Harvey

c. 1808 - July 20, 1854

Harvey, Alexander, fur trader (c. 1808-July 20, 1854). Born at St. Louis, he joined the American Fur Company in 1831 and was on the upper Missouri River by the next year. He was with Maximilian's party up the river in 1833 and, being "an energetic and active man without fear and of great physical strength," was sent ahead from Fort Union to build Fort McKenzie. Larpenteur wrote that he was "the boldest man that was ever on the Missouri. . . six feet tall, weighing 160 or 170 pounds and inclined to do right when sober." His feats of endurance, strength and courage were legendary, although he was hated and despised for cruelty and callousness. On complaints of employees in the winter of 1839-1840, he was summoned to St. Louis and made the trip alone and afoot. Chouteau, in admiration, sent him back to Fort McKenzie where, when he returned, he summoned the men who had testified against him and beat them up, one by one. He killed Isadore Sandoval at Fort Union in 1841. In February, 1844, Harvey, a vindictive and violent man, determined to take revenge against Blackfeet for a dispute with a war party the year before. Francois Chardon, nominally in charge of the post, was an habitual drunkard and Harvey lured a number of Blackfeet (of a party different from the offending one) to within range of a cannon he had loaded with a variety of missiles. He ordered an Irishman to fire the gun, and when told it would be murder and the order refused, he knocked the Irishman down and fired it himself, felling at least four Indians either killed outright or wounded mortally, and wounding 17 others. Harvey then rushed upon the fallen, splitting their skulls with an axe, scalping them and, Weippert was told by an eye-witness, "licked the blood from his axe, saying 'I will serve all the dogs so!'" This massacre became celebrated in fur trade legend. Harvey with Chardon built Fort F. A. Chardon (Fort F.A.C.) at the mouth of the Judith River later in 1844 and remained in charge when Chardon went down the river. Harvey may have intimidated Chardon; at any rate there probably was bad blood between them, and followers of Chardon planned to kill Harvey, but the attempt failed. Harvey went down the river and against all fur company efforts to dissuaded him, reported the illegal sale of liquor by traders on the upper Missouri. Nothing came of the charges, but Harvey then joined Robert Campbell and others in organizing the St. Louis Fur Company in opposition to Chouteau. Harvey was chief organizer of the company, making his headquarters at its Blackfoot post, Fort Campbell. "No one ever accused him of dishonesty, laziness or cowardice." He must have married, for in his last note to Campbell, written July 17, 1854, he begged him to care for his daughters, Edeline and Susan. Harvey was buried at Fort Pierre.