Personalities from “Rough Enough” #2 – Mary Bingham Clow

Mary Bingham Clow -1870 Wedding Picture:
Mary Bingham daughter of Lucius and Rebecca Bingham was born in 1853, just a few months after her father had dies in late 1852. The family home was in the Little Sioux, Iowa area and Rebecca Bingham fell in love with the middle aged fur trader and frontier sutler of Fort Union and later Fort Buford, Charles Larpenteur. Rebecca married Larpenteur in 1855 and he went back to Fort Union on the boarder between what is now Montana and North Dakota to work, leaving the family in his residence of Fontainbleau near Little Sioux.   Rebecca grew up in that area and when she was about 17 in early 1870, Charles Larpenteur, who was now living in the large Sutler’s post at Fort Buford, decided to bring the family to Fort Buford to live. The fort had grown and it was safer to bring women into the area, so Mary, her mother, step sister Elizabeth, and her step brother, young Louis, all took the steamboat up the Missouri to the fort.  Fort Buford was on the banks of the Missouri very near its confluence with the Yellowstone River coming out of Southern Montana. Just across the river was a big Sioux camp of nearly a thousand Indians, many of whom traded hides and skins at the fort.

Working at the Sutler’s post was the young ex-soldier, Richard Clow, now acting as the clerk for Charles Larpenteur.  Within less than six months, Mary and Richard Clow had courted and were married. Perhaps this was at the same time that Mary’s step sister Elizabeth married another ex-soldier, Alf Knott. The picture on this page is a blow-up of the face of Mary, showing how much detail can be retained by old photographs.  Truly a beautiful young woman.

By 1871 Charles Larpenteur was losing his trading post due to the political battles for that plum position.  In the spring of 1871, Mary and Richard Clow accompanied Charles Larpenteur and wife on the steamboat Andrew Ackley downriver to Little Sioux Iowa. Mary was newly pregnant and the journey to Iowa was the easy part of the next nine months as the family bought land, lived with relatives, built a home and plowed up fields for late garden planting.  By winter they were snug in new homes and ready to overwinter when tragedy struck the Clow/Larpenteur clan.

Young Louis Larpenteur died suddenly, Richard Clow was taken ill and recovered and then the new baby, Bertha, was born in mid winter.  At this point again things seemed to ease up on the family until baby Bertie was taken ill and died suddenly, March 4, 1872.  A month later Mary Bingham Clow also died, April 6, 1872.  Both are buried on a hillside with white tombstones, outside of Little Sioux, Iowa.  In November of 1872, Mary’s stepfather, Charles Larpenteur also died, changing the paths of life for both Richard Clow and his mother-in-law, Rebecca Bingham Larpenteur.

You can follow this story more fully in the full book, “Rough Enough: Including Richard Clow’s Letters and Diary from the Civil and Indian Wars, 1865 – 1875.

2 Comments on “Personalities from “Rough Enough” #2 – Mary Bingham Clow

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