Cat’s Cafe Who’s Who ~ Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh

Grand Teton National Park’s Leigh Lake is named for Beaver Dick. Jenny Lake is named for his wife.

Beaver Dick’s actual diary transcription available from the University of Wyoming. Fascinating.

WYOhistory photo link here.
WYOhistory photo link here.

Mountain man, Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh, was born in Manchester, England, but immigrated to America with his sister when he was seven years old to become a fur trapper with the Hudson Bay Fur Company. A decade later, after serving in the Mexican-American War in 1848, he headed north and became a successful independent beaver pelt trapper in the Idaho Territory and the Tetons. He eventually settled in 1858 in the vicinity of where Eagle Rock would eventually form later in 1879.

Dick was probably the area’s first permanent White settler and chose to live in the wild, long before other settlers arrived. On one early trip in 1862, traveling south to trade in Utah, he camped near a Bannock couple whose wife was going through a difficult labor. With no one else around, he assisted the father with the delivery of a baby girl who was later named Tadpole after her mother, who happened to be the sister of the local Shoshone chief, Taghee. The couple was so pleased with Leigh’s assistance they promised Tadpole to be his wife when she came of age. This must have gotten him thinking about a family because the following year he married a 16-year-old Eastern Shoshone girl from the Chief Washakie tribe whom he gave the name of Jenny. He and Jenny continued to live a life similar to the Native Americans in the area and reared six children.

Over the next decade, the whole family traveled with Beaver Dick on his trapping trips and guide services. Because he was fluent in both the Bannock and Shoshone languages and reasonably knowledgeable in Native American sign language and smoke signals, he was asked to assist with the U.S. government’s first geological surveys of the area and served as a guide to many notable Americans, including Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1876, after taking in a starving woman and her child, they found the women had left her husband who was suffering from smallpox. Within the month Jenny, all six children, the woman and her child had died from smallpox. Dick had contracted the disease as well but managed to survive it. Three years later, Beaver Dick, came upon the Bannock couple who had promised him their daughter. At age 48, Beaver Dick married Tadpole, age 16 and they went on to have three children.

Even though living a somewhat nomadic life, embracing the Native American lifestyle, Beaver Dick had a voracious need to read everything he could find; books, magazines and newspapers and even kept a diary of his travels. His diaries “from 1875, 1876 and 1878 can be found in the collections of the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming at

Next in Who’s Who: Dick Chamberlain

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