Peter Ranne of the Jedediah Strong Smith Party

Peter Ranne was the first known man of African descent to enter the boundaries of the modern state of Nevada. As a member of Jedediah Smith's traveling party, Ranne took part in the Smith party's 1826-27 trailblazing journey through the region that would become Nevada.

In 1826, Jedediah Strong Smith of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company gathered a company of fourteen men and began exploring southwest from the Great Salt Lake in search of promising beaver trapping areas. Ranne is listed in the company's records as a “man of color.” Unlike York of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Ranne was not enslaved but was a free person of color—records indicate that he received pay equal to that of the other members of the party. Unfortunately, we know little else about Ranne beyond two specific mentions in the diary of fellow explorer Harrison G. Rogers: “Sunday, 14th. As agreeable to promise I sent Arthur Black, John Gaiter, and Peter Ranne to the Parbalo to meet Mr. Smith to get Horses, which he is purchasing at that place.” And from July 11, 1828: “Peter Ranne has been sick for 6 weeks, with a swelling in his legs.”

The Smith party crossed the borders of the current state of Nevada near the present location of Mesquite. They entered California and explored northward into the San Joaquin Valley. There, Smith left most of his party (including Ranne) and returned to Salt Lake. Later, he came back to California and joined up with Ranne and the rest of the party,and explored northward into Oregon. It was there that Ranne and fourteen other men were attacked and killed by a group of Kelawatset Indians while Smith and two others were scouting other travel routes.

Alexander Roderick McLeod returned with a party to recover any remaining belongings of the Smith party, and he recorded the poignant scene in his journal: “. . . at the entrance of the North Branch, where Mr. Smith's party were destroyed, and a sad spectacle of Indian barbarity presented itself to our view, the skeletons of eleven of those miserable sufferers lying bleaching in the sun.”

Article Locations

Related Articles

None at this time.

Further Reading