There comes a time when you run out of questions to ask or run out of people to ask them to. There’s definitely a portion of people who enjoy learning about their ancestors and a portion that really could care less. I’ve searched my family about as far as I can and it was only recently that someone replied to a post I had made several years ago asking for information about the Colter family. That kind of kick-started me again into 1) looking for some additional information and 2) organizing what I already had. Seems like when someone starts asking questions, you know you have all the answers, but suddenly, you can’t find them.
So this gentleman asked about…Callie Shoults’ second husband, John L. Colter.
Mary Callie Shoults was born circa 1889 in Alcorn County, Mississippi to John C. and Eliza Robinson Shoults. By 1910 the family is in Craighead County, Arkansas and along with my grandpa, John Henry and older sister, Pearl, a new baby, Zula has joined the family. By 1910, Callie has been married three years to William Whitaker and has moved to Poinsett County, Arkansas and they have a one year old child, Ethel. William Whitaker died in 1923 and in 1924, Callie married John Colter. In 1930, they have moved to Lonoke County, Arkansas and are listed with Callie’s daughter, Irene Whitaker, age 8, Mamie Colter, age 3 and John’s widowed father, William, age 59. 1940 lists them still in Lonoke County but now with two additional sons, John Jr., age 8 and James, age 5.
The gentleman asking about Callie turned out to be a great-grandson of Callie and John Colter and turned me on to the fact that, after all my family searching, I may have someone important in my lineage, John Colter.
William J. Colter, the father-in-law, of my great aunt, Callie Shoults, is the son of Joseph Colter and Lucinda Chumbley Colter. They are in Franklin Co., Missouri in 1880 along with William and their other children, Angenetta, Lavonna, Andrew and Emily, Joseph’s child from his first marriage to Emily Adams. Joseph Colter is the son of Hiram Colter, who is the son of my famous, sort-of relative, John Colter, Mountain Man.
Mary Lou Schulte writes in her story: Bravery Personified: The Life of John Colter,
John Colter was born about 1775, the fourth generation of his family in America, the first being his great grandfather, Micajah Coalter, a pioneer of Scottish ancestry, who came to Virginia from Northern Ireland around 1700. Colter joined the Corps of Discovery, also known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, on October 15, 1803 at Maysville, KY, the fourth man to join the company.
As a private, he was entitled to $5.00 per month pay, but Congress voted to raise the pay to $10.00, and to grant each man 320 acres of land west of the Mississippi River. Meriwether Lewis informed Clark that he had made “a judicious selection,” and although Colter was taken on trial, Lewis believed he would answer “tolerably well.” This opinion turned out to be quite an understatement.Colter was experienced in woodcraft and the use of firearms, and was strong, active and intelligent. At first he was somewhat unruly, but after being forbidden to leave camp for ten days, he settled down and became one of the most dependable members of the company. The party needed fresh meat in their diet, and Colter was an expert hunter. In the late summer of 1804, after a few days’ hunting, it was recorded that Colter brought back “1 buffalo, 1 elk, 3 deer, 1 wolf, 5 turkeys, 1 goose and a beaver.”
…On the way back to St. Louis, Colter met up with two trappers, Joseph Dickson and Forrest Hancock, near the mouth of the Yellowstone. They asked Colter to join them, and he, eager for more adventure, asked for his discharge. Captain Clark wrote, “As we were disposed to be of service to anyone of our party who had performed their duty as well as Colter had done, we agreed to allow him the privilege.” The rest of the company traveled on downstream toward St. Louis. Author Stephen Ambrose writes, “Colter turned back upstream, back to the wilderness, back to the mountains, on his way into the history books as America’s first mountain man and the discoverer of Yellowstone National Park.”
After parting company with Dickson and Hancock in the spring of 1807, Colter came across another fur trading expedition, that of Manuel Lisa. Some of his former companions were in the group, so he was easily persuaded to join them. During his travels, he encountered hostile Blackfeet Indians and was severely wounded in one fight. However, he was determined to trap in the Three Forks region. A one-time companion, Thomas James, once wrote, “Dangers seemed to have for him a kind of fascination.” The next time he confronted the Blackfeet, the result would become a legend known as “Colter’s Run.”
Colter had gone with a companion named Potts to the Jefferson River to look for beaver. Suddenly a war party of several hundred Blackfeet approached and ordered them to come ashore. Colter obeyed, thinking he might escape with losing furs only, but Potts stayed in his canoe, seeing Colter stripped naked by the Indians. Potts foolishly shot one of the Indians, and was then shot, dragged to shore, and cut to pieces with hatchets and knives. Colter had no idea what horrible fate awaited him. After holding a council, the chief waved him away. As he walked toward freedom, he saw some of the braves throwing off all encumbrances, as if for a race. He realized he would have to run for his life. He ran like the wind toward the Madison branch, five miles away. His nose began to bleed profusely. Finally, in looking back, he saw that he had outstripped all his pursuers, save one. He turned, accosted his enemy, seized his spear, and stabbed him to the ground. He reached the stream ahead of his attackers, plunged in, and took refuge inside a pile of driftwood or beaver dam. He remained there until the next morning, when it was evident that the Blackfeet had gone. He headed for Manuel’s Fort, and after about a week, arrived there exhausted by hunger and fatigue. He was emaciated and his feet were swollen and pierced by many thorns, but he was alive. He not only recovered, but went back on his own voyage of discovery.
In the winter of 1807-08, Colter was sent by Manuel Lisa from ‘Fort Manuel, also known as Fort Raymond, at the mouth of the Big Horn River, to invite Indians to bring furs to the fort. He started late in November, alone and on foot, carrying a thirty-pound pack on his back, besides his gun and ammunition. It was during this time that he made the discovery of what is now called <strong. It wasn’t recorded at the time, and many doubted his veracity, but trees and rocks were found there with dates and names on them to verify his claim. Colter is believed to be the first white man to see the stunning hot springs and geysers, one of which is now called “Colter’s Hell.”
…Never one to shirk his duty, Colter served in the War of 1812 under Nathan Boone, son of Daniel, beginning his service on March 3, 1812 and being discharged three months later on May 6. He must have been ill when he enlisted, as he died of jaundice on May 7, 1812. Nathan Boone held Colter in very high regard, naming his son, born May 13,1816, “John Colter Boone.”
So this is the story of my famous ancestor. Well, almost ancestor. Ancestor by marriage.
To read the complete story on John Colter, click here.
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