The Exploration and Naming of the Owyhee River
The Jarbidge narrowly escaped history in the early 19th century. The beaver fur trade was in full swing at that time and these luxurious pelts were highly valued in both Europe and in China. The trade routes of the British trading companies in North America include crossing the Pacfic to reach the trading hubs of China. These trans-Pacific routes include a stop at the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). In 1811, the British Fur companies began recruiting Hawaiians to work as trappers in North America. By 1819, nearly one third of Donald McKenzie’s contingency of the North West Fur Company were composed of native Hawaiians. While wintering along the Snake River in 1819-1820, Mackenzie sent three Hawaiians to trap along an unknown river. When the three did not return, Mackenzie’s search party confirmed that they had been killed by indigenous Americans. Mackenzie christened the river in honor of the homeland of his lost trappers. The river was variously called the “Sandwich Island River” and the “Owyhee River,” the name “Owyhee River'' first appeared in 1825 on a map drawn by one of Mekenzie’s men. Peter Skene Ogden refers to the River as the “Sandwich Island River'' in February 1826, then as the “Owyhee River,” in June 1826. There is no known record that these British fur trapping expeditions explored the entirety of the Owyhee River to its headwaters in the Jarbidge Mountains.