Born in Fredericksburg Virginia, of a white father and mixed Indian and African American mother. In 1823 he became a fur trapper. During the course of his lifetime he was a miner, fur trapper, army scout and hunter. He is credited with discovering the pass through the Sierra Nevadas to the Sacremento Valley. He took part in the Apache Wars on the American side. He is said to have taken a number of Indian women as wives.