PIERRE, S.D. – The legend of Hugh Glass, a hard-working fur trapper, dates back to August 1823 in present day PerkinsCounty. Many stories have been told about this mountain man’s adventures, and a 1971 movie entitled Man in the Wilderness, starring Richard Harris and John Huston, was loosely based on the one below.
Glass' most famous adventure began in 1822, when he responded to an advertisement in the Missouri Gazette and Public Adviser, placed by General William Ashley, which called for a corps of 100 men to "ascend the river Missouri" as part of a fur trading venture. Besides Glass, John Fitzgerald, Jim Bridger, and several others also joined the group.
In August 1823, while hunting near the forks of the Grand River, Glass came across a mother grizzly bear with her two cubs. Protecting her cubs, the mother bear attacked Glass leaving him badly mauled and unable to walk. When Glass lost consciousness, others in the group became convinced he would not survive his injuries. Two volunteers, Fitzgerald and Bridger, stayed behind to dig a grave for Glass’ body while the others moved forward. While digging, the two men claimed they were attacked by the "Arikaree" Indians so they grabbed Glass's rifle, knife, and other equipment, and took flight. Later, Fitzgerald and Bridger reported to the group leader that Glass had died.
Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness. He did so only to find himself abandoned, without weapons or equipment, suffering from a broken leg, the cuts on his back exposing bare ribs, and all his wounds festering. Glass was more than 200 miles from the nearest settlement at FortKiowa on the Missouri River.
He ended up wrapping himself in the bear hide Fitzgerald and Bridger had placed over him and began crawling. Six weeks later, Glass had crawled his way to the Cheyenne River where he built a makeshift raft and floated down the river. With the help of friendly locals, Native Americans and the prominent Thunder Butte landmark, Glass navigated his way down the river making it safely to FortKiowa.
Glass's survival story has been recounted in numerous books. The many versions all tell a tale of strength and courage. A monument dedicated to Glass now stands near the site of his mauling on the southern shore of Shadehill Reservoir on the forks of the Grand River in northwest South Dakota.
The Marks of History series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism designed to highlight historic markers all across South Dakota. Click on the special “Marks of History” link at www.MediaSD.com to access the complete list of articles.
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