James Beckwourth was a contemporary of Kit Carson, Davy Crockett,
and Daniel Booneand, like them, he was tough enough to succeed in the Wild West. Born a slave, he lived with several Native American tribes from 1826 to 1834, including the Absaroka (Crow) people. From them he earned various names acknowledging his increasing honor and braveryfirst White-Handled Knife, then Morning Star (in 1856, when he was made a tribal leader), and, later, Antelope.
In 1844, while leading a wagon train of new settlers, Beckwourth discovered a passage through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. That pass, now called Beckwourth Pass, became an overland wagon route to the upper Sacramento Valley. Beckwourth carried the mail by horseback from Monterey to southern California in 1847. It is believed that he was poisoned by the Absaroka people during a visit in 1864, to keep him from returning to live among people in the outside world.