Kit Carson was a noted fur trapper, mountain man, and explorer who worked with John C. Fremont in founding the California Trail. As the namesake of Nevada’s capital city, he is perhaps best known for his travels between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Colorado Rockies. In honor of great historical figures, we have compiled a list of some of the most interesting facts about him at the California Interpretive Trail.

7 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Kit Carson

  1. Began adventuring as a teenager.
  2. Married three times and had ten children.
  3. He once herded over 7,000 sheep across several states.
  4. Served in the Civil War.
  5. Ran 25 miles on foot to get help during a battle.
  6. Murdered Native Americans in his youth.
  7. In his later years, he became sympathetic and respectful toward Native peoples.

1. Kit Carson Became An Adventurer In His Teenage Years

Kit Carson was born on December 24th, 1809 to a humble family. His father, a Revolutionary War veteran, tragically passed away when Carson was just nine years old, and his mother eventually remarried. At 16, he joined a merchant caravan on the Santa Fe Trail probably due to his contentious relationship with his stepfather.

2. Three Wives And Ten Kids

Carson was married three separate times. Tragically, his first wife, an Arapaho woman named Waanibe (or Singing Grass), died giving birth to their second child. He then married a Cheyenne woman named Making-Out-Road, and eventually Josefa Jaramillo after his second marriage ended in divorce.

3. Herded 7,000 Sheep Through Several States

In 1853, Carson left New Mexico and embarked on the California Trail. Far from alone, he and his New Mexican companions brought 7,000 churro sheep along with them to distribute among settlers in Oregon and Northern California. This arduous journey required trekking hundreds of miles across Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada.

4. Served In The Union In The Civil War

Much like his father, Kit Carson also became a war veteran. During the Civil War, he enlisted in the military and led a Union regiment during the battle of Valverde. He even took command of Fort Garland in Colorado.

5. Ran 25 Miles To Get Help

One of Carson’s most valiant military feats was in December 1846, when he, his commander, and a Native American scout ran 25 miles through the desert to get reinforcements. What’s more, they had to run barefoot across rocks and near prickly pear cacti to avoid being overheard.

6. A Bloody Past

Around the age of 19, Carson joined an expedition that killed and scalped Native American warriors in the Rocky Mountains, most notably those from the Crow and Blackfoot tribes. Tragically, he also obeyed orders to force 8,000 Navajo on the 300-mile Long Walk in 1863 for the purposes of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion.

7. He Changed His Ways Later In Life

Despite his bloodied past, Carson eventually learned to treat Indigenous peoples with respect. He even lived among them and took up a federal job as an Indian Agent after the war ended in 1865. In this role, he ensured that local Native Americans had food and clothing, as well as petitioned the government to set aside land for Indian reservations. Many historians believe that this change of heart is attributable to his first marriage to Waanibe.

Learn About U.S. History In Action

At the California Interpretive Trail in Elko, NV, you will learn about some of the great pioneers and explorers who have made the American West what it is today. Plan your visit today to learn more about Kit Carson and his peers today.

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