Maurice LeDuc’s General Store in Wetmore

Maurice LeDuc, a French-Canadian adventurer from Detroit, arrived in the country of the Ute people at the end of the 17th century. He married a local native woman and settled at the mouth of the Adobe River, the headwaters of which are into the range of the Wet Mountains nearby.

Photo Jeffrey Beall

Following his mix marriage LeDuc became a merchant and erected a trading post, called “Fort LeDuc”, at a strategic location in the foothills, to supply the mountain men living in the wilderness and also to accommodate the Santa Fe Trail voyageurs. The “General Store”, as the structure was generally known, was situated high enough on top of a nicely rounded hill offering a bird’s-eye view of its surroundings, earning it the English nickname of Buzzard’s Roost (Falcon Perch) and the Spanish nickname of El Cuervo (The Crow). Today, nothing remains of Fort LeDuc, and the site is on a private property within the small hamlet of Wetmore (571 inhabitants in 2016) in the State of Colorado.

The region’s oldest residents

Ute Ceremony (painting by George Catlin)

Before the arrival of the white men, the Ute nation inhabited vast areas of what is now eastern Utah (an Ute word meaning people of the mountains) and western Colorado. Unlike other Native American nations, it appears the Utes did not migrate. Although they also called themselves the people of the horse, it is said that generations after generations they occupied the same territory for many centuries. The adventurous Maurice LeDuc was one of the first white pioneers to establish contact with these skilled nomadic horse riding people.

Wetmore Modern Building (photo Mike & Joyce Hendrix)

This 21st century Wetmore commercial building (photo) has adopted for naming its business enterprise the concept of general store that Maurice LeDuc and his wife were operating together at the utmost western frontiers of Colonial French Louisiana. Given the remoteness of Fort LeDuc, it is likely probable that the entrepreneurial couple also offered their customers indigenous meals to supplement their income. At that time, the word “Fort” meant not only a fortified settlement but also a place of active trading. A case in point was Fort Douville (built in 1720) in Toronto, Canada, which operated as “general store”.