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Capt. John Henry Weber


Posted By: Anne Hermann (email)
Date: 9/9/2008 at 07:55:56

J. W. Ellis,
History of Jackson County, 1910
Volume I, pages 370-371

Brief Sketch of the Life and Character of a Remarkable Man –
Discoverer of the Great Salt Lake

The subject of this sketch was born in the town of Altona, then a part of the kingdom of Denmark, in 1779. The boy received a fairly good education and grew to a vigorous and well developed manhood. While quite young he ran away to sea, and for years sailed the “briny deep.” He was captain and commander of a passenger ship before he was twenty-one years old, and in very troublous times, too, owing to the wars then being waged between England and France on land and sea. He commanded sailing vessels for nearly six years. In 1810 he settled in the United States and got married five years later on. About this time he became a resident of St. Louis for the purpose of hunting, trapping and trading with the Indians in the Rocky Mountains. The names of the projectors and the proprietors of this “wild west” scheme were Messrs. Ashley, Weber and Henry. Ashley being the rich man of the firm, furnished the outfit, which consisted of two keel boats (steam as a propelling power was then unknown) loaded with provisions, firearms, traps, ammunition, and such other supplies as was considered necessary for the successful prosecution of such an expedition. Fifty men, mostly Canadians, joined the outfit. The party left St. Louis in the spring of 1822 and slowly ascended the Missouri River. They were six months reaching the mouth of the Yellowstone River, where they halted and made a “cache” in which to store the supplies they could not take with them. Each year this “cache” was replenished, and furs shipped to market. Captains Weber and Henry took command of thirteen men each, the others returning or remaining with the boats. Beaver and otter were the furs then mainly sought after by trappers, and they reaped a rich harvest on the Columbia River, where beaver and otter were found in great abundance. Captain Weber was not only a trapper, but he was also a discoverer. Of the fifty-three men who accompanied this expedition, his name is the only one remembered. It is remembered because he was the first white man to look upon the Great Salt Lake. He was also the discoverer of the Weber River and the now famous Weber Canyon, both of which bear his name. Captain Weber and party roved over the Rocky Mountains for five years, during which time they encountered many dangers, hardships and hairbreadth escapes from Indians and wild animals.

The captain returned to his home in St. Louis in the autumn of 1827, to get acquainted with his family, his son William being born during the first year of his absence. In the spring of 1832 he removed with his family to Galena, Illinois, then famed for its lead mines, where he continued to reside until 1844, when he settled in Bellevue, and lived there until his death in February, 1859. Captain Weber, of St. Louis, and Fred Weber, of Mechanicsville, Illinois. Sarah is the youngest.

Captain Weber was no ordinary man. Nature has done well by him. He was a man of large and powerful frame, of erect carriage and graceful manner. His face indicated the superior intelligence behind it. He had a nose on him like a Roman emperor, and an eye as regal and piercing as that of an American eagle. He had the courage of a hero, and the staying qualities of a martyr. Those who knew him well say that they do not believe that he ever experienced such a thing as a sensation of fear. But he was impetuous and peculiar in many ways, and at times disagreeable and unhappy. His was a mercurial nature that went up in hope or down in despair. He made twenty thousand dollars by hunting, trapping and trading in the Rocky Mountains, but was beaten out of what was then a great fortune by dishonest partners. He never made or saved much wealth after that, and died poor. He performed clerical work in county offices and for Bellevue merchants for years before he died. He, at last, became a victim of neuralgia in the face, and suffered all the torments which that dread malady is able to inflict. Life became a burden to him and he resolved to shuffle off the mortal coil that bound him to this world, with his own hand. He deliberately committed suicide in 1859, by cutting his throat, and bleeding to death a few moments afterwards. His remains lie buried in the North Bellevue cemetery. No stone of any kind marks the grave of this remarkable man who was one of the first pioneers of our now great western empire, the discoverer of the Great Salt Lake, Weber River and Weber Canyon.


Jackson Biographies maintained by Lynn McCleary.
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