37 – Yampa Valley Trading Post Ledger (1870s)

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

In 1872, before any white men had settled in the Yampa Valley, Joe Morgan and his brother Dave opened a trading post at the confluence of Elkhead Creek and the Yampa River about 6 miles east of today’s Craig, CO. With the post almost exclusively operated by Joe, he became Yampa Valley’s first permanent resident.
The location was strategic: it was near the Yampa River crossing of the “Government Road” that ran from Rawlins, WY to the White River Ute Indian Reservation near today’s Meeker, CO. Various goods were traded at the post with the Ute Indians and trappers in the area. Tobacco, clothing, ammunition, lead bars, beads, food staples, etc. were all common goods. The major currency used was furs from beaver, coyote, mink, buffalo, wolf etc.
Joe, standing at a commanding 6’2” (huge for the day) was even-tempered and well-respected by everyone who knew him. In fact, he was so well respected that the governor of Colorado named him the first sheriff of the newly-formed Routt County in 1877. The Utes, too, respected Joe enough to personally tell him to leave the area just before the local Ute uprising known as the Meeker Massacre in 1879.
With the Ute unrest in 1879, most settlers in the area packed-up and left for good – including Joe and his trading operation. He relocated just over the Colorado border near Savery, Wyoming where he lived out his days as a rancher until his death in 1922 at the age of 79.
Pictured below is, unbelievably, the nearly 150 year old ledger book used in the Morgan trading post. It includes several pages detailing transactions that were conducted at the post. One page (pictured on the right side below) includes several of the notable Utes in from area including “Jack” “Unkle Sam” “Dana” “Rainbow” “Masisco” etc.
We owe a huge thanks to Joe’s grandson, Sam Morgan, and great-grandson Rod Morgan for the recent donation of several of Joe’s personal effects including this ledger, Joe’s handcuffs from his time as Routt County sheriff and his Sharps rifle.