December 24 – Happy Birthday, Kit Carson

Posted on December 24, 2014

Most people don't rate a page in Wikipedia.

Of those actually in Wikipedia, most people only get identified by one or two labels. (You know, like “medical doctor and scientist,” or “astronaut,” or “teacher and author.”)

But Kit Carson rates six labels—and they're pretty exciting labels, at that:

He was a trailblazer, mountain man, Indian fighter, guide, Indian agent, and U.S. Army officer.

Kit Carson was born on this date in 1809. He left home at age 16 and became a mountain man and trapper. (Hey! Another label!) Starting in his childhood home in Missouri, he explored much of the continent, reaching California and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Washington, D.C., to the east, and northward along the Rocky Mountains.

Carson had a complex relationship with various native and Hispanic peoples. When he was young, Carson lived among and married into the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, but when he was older (and as part of his duties as an Army officer), Carson led armies to suppress the Navajo, Apache, Kiowa, and Comanche Indians. Carson served as an Indian Agent to the Ute and Jicarilla Apaches. During the Civil War, he led a Union regiment made up mostly of Hispanic volunteers, and his third and last wife was Mexican.

Last summer I was wandering around a cemetery in Taos, New Mexico, and I was surprised to find the grave of Kit Carson. I wondered why he had been buried in New Mexico, and it turns out that that last wife was from Taos – and the two were buried together with great honors in that teeny cemetery.

It's interesting to see that Kit Carson was quite famous during his own time. His explorations with John C. Fremont were not only recorded by Fremont himself, they were even published by Congress! For years, Carson was widely respected for his heroism and gallantry—and his exploits were written about (and I imagine exaggerated) in the newspapers and dime novels of the day.

Also on this date:

Yap Constitution Day in Micronesia

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