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Jedediah Smith

Born: 1799 AD
Died: 1831 AD
Nationality: American
Categories: Adventurers, Explorer, Hunter, Writers

1799 – Smith was born in Jericho, New York, (now known as Bainbridge) on January 6, His early New England ancestors include Thomas Bascom, constable of Northampton, Massachusetts, who came to America in 1634. Thomas Bascom was of Huguenot and French Basque ancestry.



1822-1830 – Jedediah Smith is best known in history for leading the party of explorers who rediscovered South Pass (to which the Crow Indians showed him the direction), which shortened the time needed to get to the west slope of the Rocky Mountains from St. Louis, Missouri. Smith also explored northwestern California, which is commemorated in the naming of the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and the Smith River. He was the first explorer to reach Oregon by traveling up the California coast.



1816? -1830s – Smith was also a devout Christian from a Methodist background. His Bible and his rifle were said to be his closest companions. In his lifetime, Smith traveled more extensively in unknown territory than any other single mountain man. Most of the western slope of Wyoming’s famous Teton Range is named the Jedediah SmitH Wilderness after him. And the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail runs between Folsom and Sacramento, California, through the former gold-dredging fields that are now the American River Parkway



1831 – Later, Smith became involved in the fur trade in Santa Fe. Smith was leading a trading party on the Santa FE Trail in May, 1831 when he left the group to scout for water. He never returned to the group. The remainder of the party proceeded on to Santa Fe hoping Smith would meet them there, but he never arrived. A short time later members of the trading party discovered a Mexican merchant at the Santa Fe market offering several of Smith’s personal belongings for sale. When questioned about the items, the merchant indicated that he had acquired them from a band of Comanche hunters. The Comanches told the merchant they had taken the items from a white man they had killed near the Cimarron River Smith’s body was never found.



     -Smith was a slender man, perhaps 6 feet tall, with brown hair, blue eyes, and noticeable scars from his encounter with the grizzly. A practicing Methodist, he not only carried a Bible into the mountains but, unlike many of his companions, abstained from liquor and tobacco. His associates liked and respected him for his skill and his courage.



One of the greatest of the mountain men, b. near Binghamton, N.Y. Early in 1824, Smith took a party through South Pass, beginning the regular use of that route. He and a few men headed north and into present-day Montana and as far north as the Canadian boundary before going back to Great Salt Lake. In 1825 he set out from Great Salt Lake on his most famous journey. Traveling southwest with a small band of men, he crossed the Colorado River and the Mojave Desert, arriving in San Diego, Calif., then part of Mexico. In 1831, Smith set out from St. Louis with a company on the Santa Fe Trail and was killed along the Cimarron River by Comanches. His wide travels opened not only the rich fur-trapping and trading country but also trails and territory that were soon frequented by westward-bound American pioneers.


1934 – His journal was edited by Maurice Sullivan.