Who Was Amalia?

Alfred Jacob Miller produced at least 85 paintings or sketches that include Wind River mountain lakes.  They were one of his favorite subjects and provided a backdrop to many other subjects.  Miller almost never named these lakes, instead using terms like “Lake Scene” or “Mountain Lake”.  One exception is Lake Damala (CR# 205a).

Forty years after Miller’s 1837 trip, Ferdinand Hayden’s US Geological Surveys of the 1870s, referred to what is now New Fork Lakes as Lac d’ Amalia, French for Lake of Amalia.  This name did not stick, but was published in Hayden’s reports and maps at the time.

Amalia has been a common female name in Europe and American for hundreds of years.  So it appears the lake was named for someone.  The fact Miller used the name after an 1837 trip to the mountains suggests the name dates to the fur trade era and was later adopted by Hayden.

The name Amalie, nor variants Amala & Amelia, have been found in fur trade records or family members of Stewart, Miller or prominent mountain men.  Possible variants Emily & Emilie are more common including Pierre Chouteau Jr’s wife and daughter. But without further documentation, this seems a stretch.

Did Miller name the painting?  Miller studied art in France before coming to the mountains and regularly used French terms in his writing. It seems uncharacteristic he would mangle the spelling to Damala. He also produced two other copies of the Lake Damala painting (CR# 205 & 205b) and did not use the name even in his narrative. It seems plausible the painting was not named by Miller but by a later owner or historian armed with Hayden’s report. 

A namesake has not been found connected to Hayden or his crew either.  So the mystery remains, who was Amalia?