Thomas Long “Peg-Leg” Smith
Born on October 10, 1801, in Crab Orchard, Kentucky, Thomas Lane “Peg-Leg” Smith was one of the most colorful characters in the early 1800s. He operated a trading post near Bear Lake, for years, near the present community of Dingle, just south of Montpelier on U.S. Highway 89. Located on The Oregon Trail, his post was very profitable, as he traded with its steady stream of immigrants.
Peg-Leg served as a guide for many expeditions into the American Southwest, helping to explore parts of present-day New Mexico. Smith is known as a fur trader, prospector and a horse thief. He ran away from home as a teenager to St. Louis, MO, where he went to work with John Jacob Astor as a fur trapper, with other mountain men, such as Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and Milton Sublette.
Smith became proficient in many Indian languages, including Cherokee, Osage, Choctaw, Sioux and Chickasaw. and was greatly trusted by Indian leaders. His boldness in communicating with Indians is well documented. He had several Indian wives throughout his life.
Peg-Leg earned his nickname in 1827, when he was shot in the leg, shattering his right knee. Left behind to die by his partners, he stubbornly cut on his badly mangled leg himself, mostly amputating his injured leg between fainting, cursing and bouts of nausea. His companions then finished the job, and the amputation site was treated by the Utes with a poultice of tobacco, cow manure and roots. After it healed somewhat, Smith then carved himself a wooden leg and learned to walk once more. He was even able to ride a horse, despite this handicap.
Smith was friends with the great Ute chief Wakara, and Peg-Leg traveled with Ute warriors to New Mexico, where they stole horses from the Spanish. He then drove the horses to his trading post, where he traded them to settlers, whose horses were worn from their long journey west. He also replenished his stock of supplies at Fort Bridger, WY, trading the stolen horses for supplies.
He communicated with Mormon leader, Brigham Young, helping to solve problems Mormon settlers were experiencing with Indians. In late 1850 Smith left the Bear Lake Valley for California. He lost a fortune to drink and several attempts to establish his trading business there met with failure. He died penniless on October 15, 1866 in a San Francisco hospital and buried as a pauper in a local cemetery.
Source material taken from Treasured Tidbits of Time by Patrick Jens Wilde
and from Wikipedia in 2018