Tom Broken Hand Fitzpatrick

One of the (1824) discoverers of the South Pass. Born in Ireland in 1799, Tom Fitzpatrick was the old man of the 2nd expedition. Fitzpatrick became a sailor in 1816, arrived in the United States, jumped ship and headed to St. Louis, Missouri. Here he answered an advertisement for adventurous young men to explore the Missouri River. Fitzpatrick's career as a mountain man began. By the age of 17, he had come to the United States, and immediately set out for Missouri. By 1842, he had had a long career as a fur trapper, an explorer of the west, a leader of bands of trappers, head of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and as guide to early wagon trains to Oregon.

On his way to the Pierre's Hole Rendezvous with packhorses in tow, Fitzpatrick was ambushed by 30 Gros Ventres. Leaving the packhorses behind, Thomas forced his horse up a step slope. The resulting falling rocks slowed the pursuit of his attackers. When his horse gave out, Thomas found refuge in a hole, covered it with brush. This disguise foiled the pursuit. Without horses, Fitzpatrick walked to Pierre's Hole living only on roots and berries. The hardship of this journey turned his hair white.

At the Battle of Pierre's Hole during the excitement of the battle, Fitzpatrick's gun exploded tearing off two fingers. The friendly Nez Perce who fought beside Thomas during the battle gave him the name "Broken Hand".

Known as "Broken Hand," or "White Hair," to the Indians of the Rocky Mountains: the first from an exploding rifle having badly damaged his left hand; the second from his hair having turned suddenly white during ten days of a harrowing escape from a band of Indians.

After the fur trade industry waned, Fitzpatrick became a scout and guide. In 1841, he led one of the first wagon trains to Oregon. He guided Father DeSmet and his group to Oregon with the missionary commending Fitzpatrick's ability. He also guided Fremont's second expedition in 1843 and when the large party split-up, Thomas was placed in charge of the second group. In his Report, Frémont always refers to him as "Mr. Fitzpatrick." Later, he guided Stephen Kearney through the Rocky Mountains and at the beginning of the Mexican War..

In 1846, because of his knowledge of the area, and the respect and high regard in which he was held by the Indian tribes, he was appointed Indian Agent of all the tribes on the headwaters of the Arkansas, Platte, and Kansas Rivers. He was instrumental in a number of peace treaties including the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty..

As Indian Agent, Fitzpatrick traveled to Washington D.C. where he contracted pneumonia and died. Tom Fitzpatrick died in 1854. He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC


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