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Men in Eden

William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade

William Benemann

Publication Year: 2012

The American West of the nineteenth century was a world of freedom and adventure for men of every stripe—not least also those who admired and desired other men. Among these sojourners was William Drummond Stewart, a flamboyant Scottish nobleman who found in American culture of the 1830s and 1840s a cultural milieu of openness in which men could pursue same-sex relationships.
This book traces Stewart’s travels from his arrival in America in 1832 to his return to Murthly Castle in Perthshire, Scotland, with his French Canadian–Cree Indian companion, Antoine Clement, one of the most skilled hunters in the Rockies. Benemann chronicles Stewart’s friendships with such notables as Kit Carson, William Sublette, Marcus Whitman, and Jim Bridger. He describes the wild Renaissance-costume party held by Stewart and Clement upon their return to America—a journey that ended in scandal. Through Stewart’s letters and novels, Benemann shows that Stewart was one of many men drawn to the sexual freedom offered by the West. His book provides a tantalizing new perspective on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and the role of homosexuality in shaping the American West.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-ix

Writing history is often the art of following a slender thread wherever it leads. For anyone writing early gay history the first challenge is finding a thread to follow, and for the thread that led to this book I have to thank Jim Wilke, whose...

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pp. 1-10

In 1980 art historian Ron Tyler traveled to Scotland in preparation for a major exhibition of the western paintings of Alfred Jacob Miller, an event planned for the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The artist had traveled west as far as the Rocky Mountains, engaged by the Scottish nobleman...

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pp. 11-34

Friedrich Armand Strubberg, having fled Germany after wounding a romantic rival in a duel, was slowly making his way through the rugged wilderness of Friedrich Armand Strubberg, having fled Germany after wounding a romantic rival in a duel, was slowly making his way through the rugged wilderness of the Rocky Mountains during the summer of 1843. He and his small party had followed a branch of the Colorado River...

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pp. 35-48

William Drummond Stewart wrote very little about the years he spent in America. A few letters written to a friend in New York announcing his return to civilization after his first two years in the wilderness survive, and a few passages in his later correspondence make reference to his experiences...

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pp. 49-66

When William Drummond Stewart first set foot on American soil in 1832 he was thirty-six years old. He was slightly taller than average for the period, with dark curly hair, a florid complexion, and a thick moustache beneath a pronounced hawk-like nose. He had a somewhat stiff, military bearing, the legacy...

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pp. 67-84

When William Drummond Stewart arrived in St. Louis, most likely during November 1832, he checked into the Mansion House, the finest hotel in town. He presented his letter of introduction to William Sublette and Robert Campbell, offering them $500 to allow him to accompany them on their journey to the 1833 rendezvous, to be held that year near Fort Bonneville...

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pp. 85-102

Alfred Jacob Miller, the artist who would accompany William Drummond Stewart and Antoine Clement on their 1837 journey to the Rockies, left behind a word picture of the couple that is even more evocative than any of the several portraits he painted of the men. Miller, a timid little man from...

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pp. 103-124

William Drummond Stewart and Antoine Clement left the rendezvous of 1833 in a party of about thirty men headed by Tom Fitzpatrick. There were at first a number of different companies that rode together or only a day or so apart, one headed by Robert Campbell, one by Benjamin Bonneville, one by...

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pp. 125-154

Stewart spent the spring and summer of 1834 hunting in the Rockies and attended that year’s rendezvous, held on Ham’s Fork in Wyoming. In a diary entry for June 24, 1834, William Marshall Anderson (traveling with William Sublette) writes, “Mr Stewart an Englishman & I am told a gentleman...

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pp. 155-182

William Drummond Stewart spent the winter of 1834–35 at Fort Vancouver living in baronial splendor with his generous host, and then in February joined a supply party led by Francis Ermatinger, a Hudson’s Bay Company man. Nathaniel Wyeth recorded in his journal, “Went to the Cascades...

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pp. 183-208

When he arrived in St. Louis at the close of the summer of 1836, William Drummond Stewart found several letters waiting for him. Archibald, his youngest brother, wrote welcoming him home from the wilds. George, the fourth of the Stewart sons (a lifelong bachelor...

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pp. 209-234

William Drummond Stewart spent the winter of 1837–38 in New Orleans, and by the spring he and Antoine Clement were in St. Louis once again, planning for the annual trek to the Rockies. The announcement had been made that the rendezvous would be held in the usual location on the Green...

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pp. 235-282

Shortly after dawn on September 7, 1842, servants on the Murthly estate raised a Union Jack at the crest of the highest hill in Birnam Wood. As the flag snapped and billowed in the morning breeze it created a “wild yet fine effect” and could...

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pp. 283-304

In nineteenth-century America if discussions about the private habits of a lifelong bachelor moved from smirking innuendo to pointed accusation, he had only two options: to marry or to move on. When rumors and allegations began to circulate concerning what exactly had happened on the Rocky...

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pp. 305-332


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pp. 333-343

E-ISBN-13: 9780803244696
E-ISBN-10: 080324469X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803237780

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 7 photographs, 23 illustrations
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Stewart, William Drummond, Sir, 1795 or 6-1871.
  • Homosexuals -- Great Britain -- Biography.
  • Fur traders -- West (U.S.) -- Biography.
  • Fur trade -- Social aspects -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
  • Homosexuality -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
  • Male friendship -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- West (U.S.).
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