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16 he Frémonts’ time together as newlyweds was shortlived —soon John was off on a new western trip and Jessie remained at home. They were to be separated by many months and many miles, and yet the success of this exploration, and indeed of Frémont’s career, was inexorably tied to Jessie. In May 1842, Frémont left for his first expedition after his marriage. His task was to explore parts of Missouri, Kansas, and Wyoming, paying special attention to the Rocky Mountains. Helping him in this venture was Christopher “Kit” Carson, the western adventurer, guide, and trapper who was to gain fame as a scout for Frémont and others who journeyed west. Carson was born in Kentucky in 1809 and grew up near Franklin, Missouri, in the Boone’s Lick region. Apprenticed to a saddlemaker at fourteen, he ran away shortly thereafter. The following announcement appeared in the Missouri Intelligencer on October 12, 1826: “Christopher Carson, a boy of about 16 years old, small of his age, but thick set, light hair, ran away. . . . All persons are notified not to harbor . . . or assist said boy under penalty of the law.” His “owner” offered a one-cent reward for his return, but Kit had left the area to begin his lifelong adventures in the American West. Carson shared Fremont’s enthusiasm for exploring the frontier and the two men teamed up for several trips, becoming professional colleagues and personal friends. When Jessie helped her husband write the accounts of his western travels , she included Carson’s contributions, and the pioneer from Missouri became famous. CHAPTER 3 The Frémonts ~ The Early Years m T When Frémont departed, he left behind a bride who was heartbroken over his going. The concern Jessie felt was complicated by the fact that she was expecting their first child. There was nothing she could do but wait. Her anxiety was heightened because another family member was also undertaking this arduous journey: her brother John Randolph Benton was in Frémont’s party. In his official report on the expedition, Frémont stated that Ran, as he was called, was “a lively boy of twelve, son of the Hon. Thomas H. Benton, [and he] accompanied me for the development of mind and body which such an expedition would give.” Ran traveled with the group as far west as Fort Laramie, in present-day Wyoming. Frémont considered it too risky to take him farther, into harm’s way from potential Indian trouble, so Ran returned home. In the formal account of the expedition, Frémont wrote that “Randolph had been the life of 17 / THE FRÉMONTS ~ THE EARLY YEARS A young Kit Carson sat for this portrait in his scouting clothes. A guide on many of Frémont’s expeditions, he was a special confidante to Jessie and they remained friends until his death on May 23, 1868. (State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia) the camp . . . [and] it was much regretted by the men, to whom his buoyant spirits had afforded great amusement,” when he left the group. Ran went on to other pursuits, including honing his foreign-language skills: he spoke his hosts’ language fluently when appearing before the St. Louis German community in March 1852 to welcome Hungarian nationalist Louis Kossuth to the city. Unfortunately, a few days later, Ran became ill with a malaria-type fever and died at the age of twenty-two. To keep herself occupied while her husband and brother were trekking through America’s frontier, Jessie helped her father with his work, particularly his efforts relating to western expansion , and the old intimacy they had once shared was revived. Jessie also tended to her mother, who had suffered a severe stroke. Despite all of this activity, she longed for her husband. Happiness came again when Frémont returned home on October 29. Two weeks later, on November 15, 1842, they became the parents of a healthy girl. The baby was named Elizabeth after Jessie’s mother, but she would always be known as Lily. Jessie was 18 / JESSIE BENTON FRÉMONT Fort Laramie, a stopping place on Frémont’s 1842 western trek. It was from here that Jessie’s brother Ran began his journey back east, because it was deemed too dangerous for the young man to continue traveling west. (Memoirs of My Life, by John Charles Frémont; James S. Copley Library) a mother at age eighteen. Lily was the first of...


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