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 Thomas (Tom) "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick

One of the (1824) discoverers of the South Pass. Born in Ireland in 1799, Tom Fitzpatrick was the old man of the 2nd expedition. By the age of 17, he had come to the United States, and immediately set out for Missouri. By 1842, he had had a long career as a fur trapper, an explorer of the west, a leader of bands of trappers, head of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and as guide to early wagon trains to Oregon.

Known as "Broken Hand," or "White Hair," to the Indians of the Rocky Mountains: the first from an exploding rifle having badly damaged his left hand; the second from his hair having turned suddenly white during ten days of a harrowing escape from a band of Indians.

Highly respected by all, Tom Fitzpatrick was invaluable to Frémont on the 2nd expedition. When the large party split up to follow different routes, it was Tom Fitzpatrick who was put in charge of the second division. In his Report, Frémont always refers to him as "Mr. Fitzpatrick."

In 1846, because of his knowledge of the area, and the respect and high regard in which he was held by the Indian tribes, Colonel Thomas Fitzpatrick was appointed Indian Agent of all the tribes on the headwaters of the Arkansas, Platte, and Kansas Rivers. He was instrumental in obtaining important treaties.

Tom Fitzpatrick died in 1854. He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

Hafen, LeRoy R., and Ghent, W. J., Broken Hand - The Life Story of Thomas Fitzpatrick, Chief of the Mountain Men, The Old West Publishing Co, Denver, Colorado, 1931.

©1999, 2007
Bob Graham