John C. Frémont exhibit at state museum for Sesquicentennial
January 22, 2014
He described and mapped the Oregon Trail, was the Republican Party’s first presidential candidate, and served as California’s military governor in 1847. Famed explorer John C. Frémont became an internationally recognized figure in the latter half of the 19th Century. The Nevada State Museum, Carson City, and the Deschutes Historical Museum of Bend, Ore., have partnered to produce “Finding Frémont: Pathfinder of the West,” to celebrate Nevada’s Sesquicentennial. The exhibit kicks off with a reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Nevada State Museum and runs through October.
Gov. Brian Sandoval is scheduled to appear at the reception. Students from Frémont Elementary in Carson City will sing for guests. Music will be by the Carson City Symphony’s Silver Strings Quartet.
“Finding Frémont” focuses on the explorer’s Western journey from 1843-1844, when he earned his nickname “The Great Pathfinder” and brought his famed cannon to Nevada. The cannon proved a great burden when the expedition faced a winter crossing of the Sierra Nevada, and they cached it prior to their ascent over Carson Pass on Jan. 29, 1844. The date of the opening reception coincides with the significant moment during the expedition.
“Centerpieces for the exhibit are the mountain howitzer that many believe is Frémont’s lost cannon and an archaeological discovery of mountain howitzer carriage parts that are almost certainly from the cannon,” said Jim Barmore, director of the Nevada State Museum.
Other major exhibit components include modern color photographs of Frémont campsites and vistas that retain their 19th century settings; artifacts recovered from Frémont sites in Oregon; expedition maps accurately portraying the Great Basin; Frémont’s presentation sword and Colt pistol, and objects associated with significant periods of his life.
The Deschutes Historical Museum initiated “Finding Frémont” following its Frémont Symposium in 2010, and partnered with the Nevada State Museum in its development. Principal funding partners are the U.S. Bureau of Land Management offices in Oregon and Nevada. Also partnering in the exhibit is U.S. Forest Service.
Frémont lived from 1813 to 1890 and became a topographical engineer at a very young age. His father-in-law was U.S. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton who led the Westward Expansion movement in Congress.
The Frémont expedition report and maps were among the few trail guides available for the California Gold Rush Forty-Niners.
“Today, some of Frémont’s routes lie beneath highways, but, amazingly, portions of his routes look much the same today as they did in 1843 and 1844,” Barmore said.
Frémont was accompanied by mountain men Christopher “Kit” Carson and Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick; cartographer and artist Charles Preuss; a contingent of Canadian voyageurs; Delaware Indian hunters; and a Prussian artilleryman.
They pulled the cannon along the way. Their adventures along their return route through Oregon, Nevada, and California to Sutter’s Fort are chronicled in “Finding Frémont.”
Among the exhibits is a sword belonging to Frémont, presented to him in 1848 by the citizens of Charleston, S.C., on loan from Arizona Historical Society. Cases show an 1856 presidential campaign flag, commemorative and campaign medallions, original photographic prints and engravings, and books and excerpts from Frémont’s journal.
As part of the Sesquicentennial celebration, the museum will hold a Frémont Symposium July 25-26 at the museum and the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City.
The museum is at 600 N. Carson St. Admission to the opening is free.