In 1825, long before permanent settlers began arriving in present-day Utah, a run-in between British and American trappers triggered an international incident that sparked concerned reactions from as far away as Canada and Great Britain.
One of the groups involved in the Mountain Green fracas was made up of trappers employed by Britain’s Hudson’s Bay Company and led by Quebec-born Peter Skene Ogden. Ogden and his men had stayed plenty busy trapping beaver in the region around the Snake River until they turned the place into a virtual beaver-free zone and began scouting for new streams to trap in the Great Basin to the southeast. Crossing over from the Snake River drainage into what is now Cache Valley, Ogden slowly moved south, first into the area around present-day Huntsville, and then into what’s now Morgan County where he camped near the Weber River.
The second group involved in the dispute was a gang of American trappers from the east led by the fiery Johnson Gardner, who resented the presence of the British on lands he believed belonged to the United States. On the afternoon of May 23, 1825, Gardner rode into the British camp and not only informed Ogden that he was in American territory, but also coaxed a large number of the British trappers to desert, offering them higher American prices for their furs. Ogden hightailed it out of there, reporting the incident to his superiors in Canada. Letters flew back and forth across the Atlantic between Hudson’s Bay Company administrators and George Canning, the British foreign minister, but in the end, things blew over. The British, though, opted to stay out of the Wasatch Mountains after that.
Ironically, both the British and Americans had actually been on Mexican soil and the only trapping party authorized to be in the area was one led out of Taos by Etienne Provost. It appears Provost was canny enough to stay out of the Mountain Green fray altogether.
Image: Peter Skene Ogden, Peter Skene Ogden (1794-1854) was a prominent trapper and explorer who worked for the Hudson Bay Company. Ogden, Utah is named for him. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See William H. Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West (New York: History Book Club Edition, 1966), 95-96; Gloria Griffen Cline, Exploring the Great Basin (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1963), 141-145.