Pierre Didier Papin
P. D. Papin was a trusted and valued employee of the American Fur Company and its successors for over thirty years. He was born March 7, 1798, In St. Louis. The Papins were a prominent French merchant family in that city.
Papin joined "the Company" in the early 1820s and worked with its Upper Missouri Outfit
headquartered in present-day South Dakota. Papin established his own trading company in 1829
but was soon bought out by the American Fur Company, which then rehired him. By 1842 Papin
had moved to Fort John (popularly known as Fort Laramie) on the Laramie River and in 1845
became chief agent at that post. Meanwhile, the company had reorganized as Pierre Chouteau
Jr. & Co., but operations remained essentially unchanged.
On June 15, 1846, Papin was met by Francis Parkman on the Platte River in Nebraska while
enroute to St. Louis with a load of fur.
"The boats, eleven in number, deep-laden with the skins, hugged close to the shore....Papin
sat in the middle of one of the boats, upon the canvas that protected the cargo. He was a stout
robust fellow, with a little gray eye, that had a pecularly sly twinkle....I shook hands with the
bourgeois, and delivered the letter then the boats swung around into the stream and floated away."
Upon arrival in St. Louis the company granted
Papin a partnership. In 1848 while in St. Louis
he refused to return to Laramie and was succeeded at that post by Andrew Drips. However
by 1851 Papin was back on the frontier and still with "the Company".
In 1849 Fort Laramie was purchased by the U.S. Army and Drips established a company trading
post here in Helvas Canyon. Papin was at this post with the company's Fort John Outfit when
he died in May 1853. He was buried here, his grave marked by a large cedar cross.
Papin was survived by his wife, Catherine, and four children. There were twenty-six
Research by William A. Goff, Kansas City, Mo.
Signing and Funding by Oregon-California Trails Association
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