It Happened Here: Driggs, Idaho

This lush valley hosted one of the largest rendezvous in Rocky Mountain history.
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Credit: Waldemarpaetz

Credit: Waldemarpaetz

Present-day Driggs, Idaho, located just west of Jackson Hole, Wyo., was known as Pierre’s Hole by 19th-century trappers. In 1832, it was host to one of the region’s largest historical rendezvous, as well as an ensuing battle. 

In the days of the trapper, rendezvous served as meeting grounds and trade fairs for trappers and fur companies, as well as other merchants and Native Americans who were interested either in buying or selling goods. Often held for a few weeks, trappers would bring their pelts and furs to sell and collect income on, if working for a particular company. The rendezvous was a large gathering, in which all were welcome—trappers, mountain men, Natives and their wives and children, and even, in some cases, European tourists. Entertainment was offered and games were played, and often, much whiskey was bought and consumed.

The location for the 1832 rendezvous was Pierre’s Hole. A “hole” often described large, low-lying valleys that were home to abundant game and beaver, in particular. Named after trader Pierre Tivanitagon of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the area is known today as the Teton Valley and remains a valley of lush meadows through which the Teton River flows. 

In July of 1832, this basin filled up with camps of trappers, traders, and merchants that spread across seven square miles, from the south end of Driggs all the way to Tetonia. Rocky Mountain Fur Company and American Fur Company were the two largest company camps, but plenty of smaller independent camps were also represented, along with an estimated 108 Nez Perce lodges and 80 Flathead lodges. Jim Bridger was in attendance at the rendezvous, as well as Joe Meek, who reported, “so that all together there could not have been less than one thousand souls, and two or three thousand horses and mules.”

Pierre’s Hole was designated a historic place in 1984 in remembrance of the battle that followed the 1832 rendezvous. As camps were broken down and companies headed in various directions, one group of trappers and Flathead natives had a run-in with a tribe of Gros Ventre warriors. The Gros Ventre chief was killed, enraging his warriors. A daylong battle ensued with deaths on both sides. It was another 50 years before the valley was permanently settled. 

Credit: Denver Public Library | Noah H. Rose collection Famed mountain man, Jim Bridger.

Credit: Denver Public Library | Noah H. Rose collection Famed mountain man, Jim Bridger.

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