Mountain Men

1825 - 1840

Jim Bridger

The Hawken rifle was the firearm of the mountain men. The Hawken brothers made the first gun in 1823 for William H. Ashley, who along with partner Andrew Henry advertised for 100 young men to work for their Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Among those responding to the call to trap beaver in streams feeding the Missouri River was young Jim Bridger, who would find his place in the West. He trapped, traded, guided, and mapped the region, particularly Wyoming. His trading post, started in 1842 to serve emigrant travelers, later became a key military post. When gold seekers sought a route to gold fields in southwestern Montana in 1864, Bridger led them through the Bighorn Basin.


Actor Robert Redford carried a Hawken rifle in the film Jeremiah Johnson, based on the life of a late-day mountain man, whose nickname "Liver Eating" Johnson is part of American West legend and lore. John Johnston fought the Blackfeet and lived with the Crow Indians. He is buried at Old Trail Town in Cody. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West has Johnston’s Hawken rifle and Bowie knife on display.

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