John Reed

d. c. January 10, 1814

Reed, John, mountain man (d. c. Jan. 10, 1814). Reed was "an Irishman by birth," according to Hiram Chittenden who concedes that nothing more is known of him before he joined the Astorians and went west with Wilson Price Hunt in the overland party. He signed on as a "clerk," although he appears to have been experienced and to have assumed more responsibility than a clerk would normally take up. It was Reed and a small party who were sent ahead to reconnoitre the Snake River, exploring its gorges. He seems to have scouted ahead from time to time as the Hunt party struggled to reach and descend the Columbia. From the new post of Astoria, Reed on March 30, 1812, was entrusted with dispatches for Astor, taking them with a small party, intending to cross the continent to New York. May 11 the group abruptly appeared back at Astoria. They had proceeded to The Dalles, Oregon, when Indians attacked them, stole provisions and snatched away Reed's dispatch box, after stunning him; the letters were not recovered. Reed explored the Willamette Valley early in 1813. In the summer he was sent to obtain provisions from the Snakes and to trap the following winter in what is now southern Idaho. He established himself along the Boise River, long known to fur trappers as Reed's River, where in January those mountain men who had survived until then were killed by the Snakes, only Pierre Dorian's wife and children left alive. They eventually escaped with the story.


Gabriel Franchere, Adventure in Astoria. Norman, Univ. of Okla. Press, 1967; Alexander Ross, Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon. N.Y., Citadel Press, 1969; Washington Irving, Astoria. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, & Blanchard, 1836.