Today we’re seeing private business beginning to find ways of making money in space. First, NASA sent explorers into orbit and to the moon. Now, we have SpaceX, Boeing, and other business ventures following the path of government explorers. At some point in the future settlers might follow.
This was the same model of exploration used in the West. Lewis and Clark led the way with their Corps of Discovery from 1804 to 1806. Other government-sponsored explorations followed, mostly in an effort to survey and describe the land. Businesses tried to make a buck in the new land not long after Lewis and Clark’s successful journey.
David Thompson established the first fur trading post in Idaho in 1809 for the Northwest Company. In 1813 John Reid established a post at the mouth of the Boise River where it enters the Snake. Reid’s venture died with him shortly after at the hands of the natives. Donald McKenzie, with Thompson’s North West Company, established a post on the same site in 1819. Indian opposition to same led to its quick abandonment.
Thomas McKay, with the Hudson’s Bay Company, picked the site again in 1834 for a post he called Fort Boise. It was in response to a new trading post built the same year near the Snake River about 280 miles to the east by Nathaniel Wyeth. Hudson’s Bay bought out Wyeth’s fort in 1837.
When settlers began making their way west, Fort Hall became an important supply point for Oregon Trail travelers. Fort Boise would serve the same function for many years. Francois Payette built a bigger, better Fort Boise for the Hudson’s Bay Company a few miles away in 1838. It operated until 1854 when flooding and continued Indian hostilities closed it.
The Fort Boise that helped kick-start the town of Boise was built by the military in 1863, about 40 miles east of the original fort.
Meanwhile, (condensing a lot of history) back at Fort Hall, things weren’t going that well for the Hudson’s Bay Company, either. The fort was abandoned in 1856. The military built new Fort Hall about 25 miles away from the Hudson’s Bay site, on Lincoln Creek in 1870.
Government involvement in exploration and forts was interwoven with the efforts of businesses and entrepreneurs (fur trappers) in the early days of the new frontier. Much the same is happening today with space exploration. You won’t be able to take your Conestoga wagon to Mars, or even your Tesla. Settlers are unlikely to encounter hostile natives on those first trips into the new frontier. Their challenges will be more basic: food, water, and breathable air.