Joshua Pilcher

May 15, 1790 - June 5, 1843

Pilcher, Joshua, frontiersman (May 15, 1790-June 5, 1843). Born in Culpeper County, Virginia, he studied in Kentucky, entered business, and in 1819 the fur trade as a partner with Manuel Lisa and others in the Missouri Fur Company. He was initially stationed at Council Bluffs where he managed trade with the Omahas. He became president of the company when Lisa died in 1820. In 1821 he journeyed to the upper Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, but a Blackfoot attack in 1823 crippled the company, the damage enhanced by the hostility of other Indians. With an improvised force Pilcher, as an Indian sub Agent, accompanied Leavenworth on his punitive movement upriver to attack the Arikara villages, but the engagement ended indecisively, Pilcher blaming Leavenworth for ineptness. Angry charges and bitterness erupted between the two. Although the Missouri Fur Company failure was apparent, Pilcher continued to trade at Council Bluffs until 1827 when he organized a trapping expedition for the Rocky Mountains; the trip was unsuccessful. The following season was equally so, Pilcher continuing on to Hudson's Bay Company territory, circling through Canada and returning to St. Louis in June 1830. In 1833 he was in the employ of the American Fur Company and in 1834 he was named Upper Missouri Indian Agent. He attended the 1836 Green River rendezvous; it was while he was Indian agent that smallpox devastated the northwestern Indians. Pilcher succeeded William Clark as superintendent of Indian affairs at St. Louis in 1838, serving until September 1841. He died at St. Louis.