KIT CARSON'S OWN STORY OF HIS LIFE
Facsimile of Original 1926 Edition
FOREWORD TO THIS EDITION
In 1826 a seventeen-year-old Christopher “Kit” Carson ran away from his job as apprentice to a saddler in Franklin, Missouri and joined a merchant caravan bound for Santa Fe in the far Southwest. The flight marked his entry into the pages of history.
In the decades that followed, Carson gained renown as a trapper, hunter, guide, rancher, army courier, Indian agent, and military officer. Along the way, his varied career as a frontiersman elevated him to the status of a national hero, on a par with Daniel Boone.
In 1856, while at home with his family in Taos, New Mexico, Kit (being illiterate) dictated his autobiography, which dealt with the innumerable adventures he had experienced to that point. However, some of the most significant episodes in his life would unfold in the ensuing years, leading up to his death in 1868.
Since Taos artist and writer Blanche Chloe Grant first edited and published the Carson manuscript in 1926, it has become the central source for all subsequent biographers. In 1935 Milo Milton Quaife annotated another edition under the title of Kit Carson’s Autobiography, published by Lakeside Press of Chicago, and afterward reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press. Western historian Harvey Lewis Carter followed suit with publication of the most heavily edited version yet, with his “Dear Old Kit”: The Historical Christopher Carson (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968).
Sunstone Press by electing to bring back into print Miss Grant’s original 1926 book, regarded perhaps as the handiest of the three published versions, calls attention anew to this pioneering memoir of the celebrated Kit Carson.
Grant’s Kit Carson’s Own Story of His Life contains two final chapters added by the editor. Both summarize positive assessments of Carson by people who knew and in some cases worked closely with him.
Also of interest in this reprint edition are the historical photographs, some of which are available nowhere else. They were collected by Grant for inclusion here, and afterward the originals were dispersed and in some cases lost.
Worthy of note are the three photographs of “Col.” Dick Rutledge that appear opposite pages 16, 40, and 132. In her captions, Miss Grant refers to him as the last of the old scouts who knew Carson. Today, it is known that Rutledge was one of several elderly impostors who in the early 20th century fraudulently represented themselves as a friend of Kit Carson. Blanche Grant was not the only writer-historian to be fooled by such claims.
Further, in her book’s frontispiece, Carson is shown standing, with his hand resting on the shoulder of the supposed explorer and soldier John C. Frémont, popularly known as the Pathfinder. That identification was long accepted as accurate. But recent scholarly investigation has demonstrated that, in reality, the man behind the beard is an obscure Edwin Perrin, rather than the famous Frémont.
Perrin had been appointed as a special agent by the War Department in Washington to see to the delivery of military supplies to Colonel Kit Carson, who then commanded New Mexico’s First Volunteer Regiment on active duty in the Civil War. The picture was probably taken at Albuquerque where the Regiment was stationed during January 1862.
One other small correction requires comment. On the title page of this book, Grant states that the autobiography was dictated by Carson “to Col. and Mrs. D.C. Peters.” Peters was an army surgeon and friend of Kit’s. In a letter of his, printed on Grant’s page 136, the doctor, indeed, makes the assertion that Carson “even dictated his life to me.”
Notwithstanding, author Harvey Carter in his book “Dear Old Kit,” by examining the handwriting of the original manuscript and comparing it to that of the Peters couple, along with others, made a strong case that Kit’s clerk at the Taos Indian agency in 1856, John Mostin, was the actual scribe. Mostin’s handwriting preserved in personal letters, matches that in the Carson manuscript.
In the Sunstone reprint, essentially a facsimile of the 1926 edition, no attempt has been made to update or correct the notes supplied by Grant. Surprisingly, after so long a time, they remain useful and for the most part accurate.
Blanche C. Grant is owed credit for bringing out the first full non-embellished printing of Kit Carson’s extraordinary memoir.
Blanch Chloe Grant (1874-1948) was born in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1874, daughter of Willard Webster Grant (Harvard A.B. 1869) and Mercy Ann Parsons Grant. She was a graduate of Vassar College (1896), and studied art at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, the Pennsylvania Academy, and at The Art League in New York. She became an established magazine illustrator and landscape painter in Wilmington, Delaware, and in 1920 moved to Taos, New Mexico and became an author and editor of books on Taos and other areas of the Southwest. Some of her other many books were: One Hundred Years Ago in Old Taos, Taos Today and Taos Indians. She also painted Native Americans extensively until her death in June of 1948.