Moses (Black) Harris

d.c. May 13, 1849

Harris, Moses (Black), mountain man (d.c. May 13, 1849). Born in Union County South Carolina, he may have been with Ashley in his first ascent of the Missouri River in 1822; he certainly was a member of the 1823 party, taking part in the disastrous battle against the Arickaras, June 1. He brought news of the upper country to St. Louis by January 22, 1824. Back in the Rocky Mountains with Jedediah Smith and others in 1825, Harris was one of four who first circumnavigated Great Salt Lake; later he visited the Yellowstone region. His yarns about petrified trees and Yellowstone wonders became mountain classics. Harris was back and forth between the mountains and St. Louis several times, becoming one of the half dozen most famous mountain men. He was present at the founding of Fort William (Laramie) in 1834, and three years later was depicted by artist Alfred Jacob Miller who accompanied a Stewart party to the rendezvous. In 1840 he engaged in a bloodless shooting bout with Robert Newell over a minor difference. He guided one of the largest emigrant companies to Oregon in 1844; in 1845 he rescued a party of stranded emigrants in central Oregon. He was back at St. Joseph in 1847, returned to the mountains in 1848 and to Missouri again, contracting cholera at Independence in 1849 where he died, an "enigma," but a "man of real significance in the early history of the West."