Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was born on December 24, 1809, in Madison County, Kentucky. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Boone’s Lick, Missouri, where he spent most of his childhood. Carson’s father, Lindsey Carson, died when Kit was nine years old. Carson needed to work to help support his family, so he never attended school. At age fourteen, he became an apprentice to a saddlemaker. After less than two years, Kit joined a group of traders traveling to Santa Fe, New Mexico. While out West, Kit worked as a cook, wagon driver, Spanish interpreter, and copper miner. He went on various fur-trapping expeditions taking him all the way to California. In the 1830s, Kit joined a trapper named Thomas Fitzpatrick and his group of men, and they journeyed into the Rocky Mountains. Carson worked as a trapper in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana for the next ten years.
In 1836, Carson married an Arapahoe Indian woman. After the death of his first wife, he married a Cheyenne woman. The marriage with his second wife did not last very long.
In 1842, the explorer John C. Frémont hired Kit as a guide to lead his expedition to the Wind River in Wyoming. Carson went on to work as a guide for Frémont on three expeditions through Oregon and California. At this time, Americans were captivated by life in the West. Frémont’s written reports of the expeditions made Kit famous, and he became a national hero.
In 1846, Frémont and Carson joined California’s Bear Flag rebellion as part of the Mexican-American War. Kit carried messages between command posts in enemy territory. One day, while relaying messages, US General Stephen Kearney asked Carson to lead his troops from New Mexico to California. During the Battle of San Pascual, Carson and two other men went through enemy lines to get reinforcements 25 miles away. In order to elude detection, the men traveled under the cover of darkness barefoot across the desert! The Americans were ultimately defeated at San Pascual but later captured San Diego, San Gabriel, and Los Angeles, California. Carson became a legendary figure after his cross-country journey from California to Washington, DC to deliver news of the conflict in California to the United States government.
In 1853, Carson became a federal Indian agent for northern New Mexico and worked to build reservations. He did this until 1861, when he became involved in the Civil War in New Mexico. Following the war, Carson and his men were tasked with suppressing the region’s various Native tribes. Carson’s campaigns resulted in the destruction of Native crops, orchards, and livestock. In 1864, Carson forced about 8,000 Navajo men, women, and children to take the “Long Walk” of 300 miles from Arizona to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. They were held captive there until 1868.
After the Civil War, Carson moved to Colorado and became a rancher. Interestingly, Carson never learned to read or write during his life. He died in Colorado on May 23, 1868. In Nevada, the Carson Lake (Sink), Carson River, and Carson City are named after Kit Carson.
"Kit Carson." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 24 May 2016. <https://www.biography.com/people/kit-carson-9239728#western-trapper-and-guide>.
PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 24 May 2016. <https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/a_c/carson.htm>.