Saturday, May 2, 2015



 Kit Carson, 1840, inscription. Photo by Dell Crandall.
In southeastern Colorado there are a couple of inscriptions on rock displaying the name of Kit Carson. Both of these are on private property and are jealously protected by the land owners. My photos in this posting were both taken by Dell Crandall and provided by him.

Kit Carson inscription. Photo by Dell Crandall.
“Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson (December 24, 1809 – May 23, 1868) was an American frontiersman and Indian fighter. Carson left home in rural present-day Missouri at age 16 and became a mountain man and trapper in the West. Carson explored the west to California, and north through the Rocky Mountains. He lived among and married into the Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes. He was hired by John C. Fremont as a guide, and led ‘the Pathfinder’ through much of California, Oregon, and the Great Basin area. He achieved national fame through Fremont’s accounts of his expeditions.” (Wikipedia)
Portrait of Kit Carson.
 “Carson was a courier and scout during the Mexican-American war from 1846 to 1848, celebrated for his rescue mission after the Battle of San Pasqual and his coast-to-coast journey from California to deliver news of the war to the U.S. government in Washington D. C.. In the 1850s, he was Agent to the Ute and Jicarilla Apaches. In the Civil War he led a regiment of mostly Hispanic volunteers on the side of the Union at the Vattle of Valverde in 1862. He led armies to pacify the Navajo, Mescalaro, Apache, and the Kiowa an Comanche Indians. He is vilified for his conquest of the Navajo and their forced transfer to Bosque Redondo where many of them died. Breveted a general, he is probably the only American to reach such a high military rank without being able to read or write, although he could sign his name.” (Wikipedia)
 Carson home in Boggsville, CO.
"When the Civil War ended, and the Indian Wars campaigns were in a lull, Carson was breveted a General and appointed commandant of Ft. Garland, Colorado, in the heart of Ute country. Carson had many Ute friends in the area and assisted in government relations. After being mustered out of the Army, Carson took up ranching, settling at Boggsville in Bent County. In 1868, at the urging of Washington and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Carson journeyed to Washington D.C. where he escorted several Ute Chiefs to meet with the President of the United States to plead for assistance to their tribe. Soon after his return, his wife Josefa died from complications after giving birth to their eighth child. Her death was a crushing blow to Carson. He died a month later at age 58 on May 23, 1868, in the presence of Dr. Tilton and his friend Thomas Boggs. His last words were "Goodbye, friends. Adios, compadres". Carson died from an abdominal aortic aneurysm in the surgeon's quarters of Fort Lyon, Colorado." (Wikipedia) Kit and Josefa were originally buried at Boggsville, just a little south of Fort Lyons in Bent County, Colorado, but were later moved to their current resting place at Taos, New Mexico.
 The original grave of Kit and Josefa
at Boggsville, CO. Photo Peter Faris.
 There is a fascinating story about another Kit Carson inscription. Supposedly there was a Kit Carson inscription on Morro Rock in New Mexico that had been carved there during Carson’s Canyon de Chelley expedition. In the 1950s the park supervisor there sent out Navajo work crews with powered hand grinders to remove a lot of the inscriptions and markings that he felt were irrelevant to the history and artistic value of the monument. This represents government sponsored vandalism on a truly staggering scale, and the strange, smoothed patches remaining still mar the rock face in many locations and testify to this destruction. According to this story one of the Navajo crew members took the opportunity to also get even with Kit Carson by grinding his name off of the rock at that time.
Now we come to the question – are the Carson inscriptions genuine? Although he was functionally illiterate he did learn to write his name because he had to sign reports when he was in the military. The truth is, however, he is not known to have ever personally used the nickname “Kit” when signing his name. If these inscriptions date back to the time of his life they were made by someone else, perhaps one of the men under his command. The ranch which one of the signatures is found on has been in the same family for a number of generations and they are convinced that it has been there all that time. I think that the answer has to be yes, they are genuine as to that time and place, but were probably not carved by Carson himself. They do, however, provide a portal to a fascinating period in the history of the Western United States and Colorado.

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