Another man from the Boston area started a business sawing and selling ice about the same time. He was an ice man in Cambridge in the early 1830s, and he was an iceman in Cambridge in 1836. In the intervening years he was decidedly not an iceman and decidedly not in Cambridge. He ran a store in Idaho, before Idaho was even a territory.
Nathaniel Wyeth had getting rich off the fur trade in mind. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company had started holding rendezvous, mostly in what would become Wyoming. A rendezvous was where trappers brought their season’s worth of furs to trade for supplies and sell for cash.
Wyeth got on the supply side of the equation. On April 28, 1834, he left Independence, Missouri with a loaded pack train of 250 horses, and 75 men headed for Ham’s Fork in the Green River country. A couple of naturalists and Methodist minister Jason Lee went along for the ride.
Wyeth must have felt pretty good about his chances of making a little coin, since he had a contract with the American Fur Company. What he didn’t count on was that the man who had been supplying the rendezvous since the beginning, William Sublette, had no intention of quitting the business. When Sublette found that Wyeth—and Sublette’s brother, Milton—were headed west with supplies, Bill Sublette threw together his own supply train and set out to beat the Wyeth train to the rendezvous.
If Wyeth had known he was in a race, he might have won it. As it was, Bill Sublette beat the Wyeth pack train to the rendezvous of 1834 and convinced Rocky Mountain representatives to let him supply the rendezvous, again, in spite of Wyeth’s contract.
Wyeth was livid. He wasn’t about to turn tail and head back east and sell everything for a loss, so he pushed on west and built a fort near where the Portneuf River dumps into the Snake. He named it Fort Hall after Henry Hall, one of his investors.
The Hudson Bay Company, a rival of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, saw the construction of Fort Hall as a threat and immediately put up their own supply post, Fort Boise, where the Boise River enters the Snake.
There was suddenly a glut of supplies for trappers. Seeing that fortune was not in his future at the fort, Wyeth sold out to the Hudson Bay Company in 1836 and went back to cutting ice in Cambridge, Massachusetts.