Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth


Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth : biography

January 29, 1802 – August 31, 1856

On November 6, Wyeth’s journal notes, "…my men came forward and unanimously desired to be released from their engagement with a view of returning home as soon as possible…. I am now afloat on the great sea of life without stay or support but in good hands i.e. myself and providence"., Eugene, Oregon: University of Oregon Press, 1899 After spending the winter months at Fort Vancouver, Wyeth returned overland, reaching Liberty, Missouri by late September 1833, and then on to Boston. Although the expedition had not been a commercial success, he brought with him a collection of plants previously unknown to botany.

In 1834 Wyeth outfitted a new expedition, with plans for establishing fur-trading posts, a salmon fishery, a colony, and other developments. Included in the company were two noted naturalists, Professor Thomas Nuttall (1786–1859) of Harvard University, and John Kirk Townsend, plus the missionary Jason Lee.

Wyeth’s party crossed the Kansas River on May 5, founded Fort Hall (July 1834) in southeastern Idaho. They traveled on to the lower Columbia River, where they built Fort William on an island at present-day Portland, Oregon.

Wyeth reports in his journal that on September 15, 1834, he "met the Bg [Brig] May Dacre in full sail up the River boarded her and found all well she had put into Valparaíso having been struck by Lightning and much damaged. Capt Lambert was well and brot me 20 Sandwich Islanders and 2 Coopers 2 Smiths and a Clerk." Despite some success in its trapping, Wyeth and his company could not compete against the British Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), whose Fort Vancouver operations in the West were led by Dr. John McLoughlin. In 1837, after selling Fort William and Fort Hall to the HBC, Wyeth returned to Boston.

The second expedition was scientifically useful. Nuttall collected and identified 113 species of western plants, including sagebrush, Artemisia tridentata and "mule’s ear", a sunflower genus, which he named Wyethia in Wyeth’s honor.