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Doane’s Ill-Advised Expedition #398: Fritof Fryxell Papers

A map illustrating the route followed by Doane’s Expedition, from Fort Ellis in the Montana Territory to Fort Hall in Idaho, 1960. Box 3, Fritof Fryxell papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
A map illustrating the route followed by Doane’s Expedition, from Fort Ellis in the Montana Territory to Fort Hall in Idaho, 1960. Box 3, Fritof Fryxell papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Gustavus Doane was an Army lieutenant with an adventurer’s spirit. In October of 1876 he set off from Fort Ellis in the Montana Territory with the objective of exploring the Snake River regions south of Yellowstone.

He was assigned a small troop of six men and equipped with pack animals and horses. The party also had a cleverly designed twenty-two-foot-long boat that had been disassembled and packed onto two of the mules.

Why exactly the expedition decided to depart in late fall and travel through winter remains a mystery. They believed themselves well prepared with buffalo coats, rubber boots and sixty days rations.

Snow and sub-freezing temperatures soon delayed the party. By early December, they were critically short on supplies and beginning to eat their horses. Finally, their boat was dashed to pieces in the Snake River’s whitewater rapids. In the end, they were saved from starvation by a chance encounter with a trapper.

Learn more about Lieutenant Doane’s ill-advised expedition in the Fritof Fryxell papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.

For more information, visit the American Heritage Center site.