Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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Elbridge Trask

 

(July 15, 1815 - June 23, 1863)

 

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts to a seafaring family, Trask was one of the chosen sailors aboard the Nathaniel Wyeth supply ship which sailed from Boston around Cape Horn to Fort Vancouver. It was a smooth trip until the crew floated into a gale. Limping into a port in Chile, it took three months to fix the brig.

 

In 1843, the ship headed to the Hawaiian Islands carrying lumber and returning with slaves and much needed supplies for Wyeth. In Oregon at Fort William, Elbridge spent the summer working on the ship, packing salmon, etc.

 

Much of what is known about Elbridge Trask's fur trapping career is documented in Osborne Russell's book Journal of a Trapper. Since Trask was a comrade of Russell, he is mentioned in this precise diary on various expeditions. Here is a summary of his movements:

 

    September, 1835 - signs up with Wyeth's Columbia River Fishing and Trading Company.

    December, 1835 - arrives at Fort Hall in Idaho

    January, 1836 - first trapping expedition with experienced mountain men joins the American Fur Trading Company

    July, 1838 - meets Osborne Russell at a rendevous

    January, 1838 - camps at Jackson Hole with Jim Bridger

    1838 to 1839 - a number of successful journeys through the Yellowstone area yielding a good number of pelts

    August, 1839 - becomes separated from the group. The party waits a couple of days, but the fear of Blackfeet attack forces the trappers to leave for Fort Hall

    September, 1839 - Trask rides into Fort Hall unharmed.

    March, 1840 - trapping along the Snake River in Idaho

 

Trask joined a wagon train headed for Oregon probably serving as a guide. With the train a widow and he fell in love. Here in the coastal area of Oregon near Astoria and Tillamook, Elbridge worked at various mills. At these ports he was the official greeter to frighten pioneers arriving by ship. His jovial manner and hospitality easied the wariness of the passengers in this frontier.

 

He built a home east of Tillamook, was a partner in the building of a boat which shipped settlers produce to California and helped bring cattle to the Willamette Valley. Later many of these cattle would be bought by Ben Snipes.

 

Indian troubles erupted in the area and Elbridge built a fort around his home. Fort Trask was used by many locals as a refuge during uprisings. Some trouble was averted by Trask because of his fur trapper background. The Tillamook Indians knew his word was a bond and the Tillamook helped fight roving bands of trouble makers. This force helped save the lives of many settlers.

 

Trask was six feet tall, had flowing red hair, two hundred pounds and could move like a cat. He exhibited a good sense of humor and could erupt into spontaneous laughter.

 

Elbridge Trask is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery east of Tillamook, OR. Since the exact location of his grave is not known, a memorial plaque has been placed at the entrance. His home was across the road from the present day Sunset Memorial Cemetery.

 

 

Gravesite Map

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org