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Historical Biography of Jedidiah Smith


Jeddah Smith was born on January1799 in western New York State. His ancestors were Thomas Bascom, Massachusetts and French Basque ancestry. He was born at a time when his family was deeply rooted in the audacious spirit of western migration. He started working as a hunter at the age of 23 years after being hired by William Ashley. His work was to hunt for Ashley fur-trapping voyage at the Missouri River (Auld 2).

He was also a crew leader and during his service as the leader, he once stumbled upon a bear at Mount Rushmore. This was observed by his party affiliates as the bear used its claws on his body and its mouth on his head. Suddenly the bear run off leaving smith nearly dead with his ear and scalp almost torn off. He was rescued by his group members. It was also noted that smith was a great Christian who had been brought up in a Methodist background. He could not leave his bible and his rifle behind because they were his source of inspiration.

During his lifetime, he traveled to many territories than other men of his time. He was a great leader and explorer and was recognized as having led the troop of explorers who discovered South Pass in 1824. Together with his troop, they used the south pass to get to the mountainous region. He used the California coast to discover Oregon during an expedition. They were among the first to enter California through the west.

First Trip to California

In 1826 and 1827, smith made his first expedition to California where he encountered troubles with the Mexican authorities who saw him as a forerunner determined to cause trouble in United States. This was because his party was a private undertaking unlike the Pike’s which had been authorized by the government of United States. Five of the affiliates of Smith’s crew had been granted American passport nevertheless, they were denied authorization by the US government and the Mexican government, but all the same they continued with their expedition. They first walked along the Colorado River down to the west in their search for hunting grounds. They found themselves in a harsh territory where hunting was a big problem (Latham 101).

In their return journey, they chose to go to California although the journey was not good. On their way, they were attacked by a crowd of Mohave and some of their men were killed. The survivors managed to cross Mojave Desert and entered California. It is believed that Smith and his troop were the first men to get into California. At that time Mexico ruled California and smith was seen as an emissary and was given an order to vacate. The only alternative he had was to go back to the east although he was obstructed by snow on mount of Sierra Nevada. Most of his members were left in a camp but he managed to get through the snow together with two members.

Second Trip to California

In 1827, went back to California notwithstanding the warnings he received from Echeandi. He had a group of 18 men and 2 women who followed the Colorado River like in the first trip although by this time he was more familiar with the place. Once more they were assaulted at Mojave and ten of the men murdered and the women were enslaved. The survivors were received in San Gabriel (Maynard 19). They left San Gabriel, and enthused north towards the San Joaquin Valley where they met another group.

There were not acknowledged affectionately by the priests like in San Gabriel because the priests had already been given a forewarning about Smith’s presence in the region. Smith and his group were arrested but just like in the first trip he was released on the promise that he would leave at once. He didn’t keep his promise and together with his men they started hunting from there. They hunted for several months and encountered problems with the authorities. His situation was made worse by the harsh conditions he encountered in the desert which convinced him to return to his homeland (Mason 27). He promised never to return there again and concentrated on his fur company at home.

Back Home

In 1830, he went back to St. Louis from the rocky mountain where he was involved in fur trade. He had managed to make a huge amount from the business which helped him to acquire property and assisted his friends in a generous way. The proceeds he received from the fur deal motivated him to put up a huge convoy at St. Louis. He was later disappointed by lack of water in the convoy but didn’t loss hope and was assisted by his friend Thomas Fitzpatrick to look for a water hole. They were successful in their search and after a few days the convoy was back on truck although Smith never showed up (Auld 5).

Jedidiah Smith’s Death

Smith never returned from his water search. Later stories of Smith’s death spread like fire. It is believed that he was killed by the tribe of Comanches. This was in 1831 when he came face to face with about 16 Comanches (Auld 8). He struggled with them but was shot dead. He was a brave man and could not let his enemies go uninjured; he struggled with his piston and managed to kill the chief of that tribe. On seeing that, the Comanche were angered and stubbed Smith to death. His pistons and ransack were taken to the Mexicans to be sold but his brother Austin Smith was successful in repossessing them.


Jedidiah Smith was a mountain man and an explorer who was highly appreciated. He is believed to be the man who opened the west. He was also a devout Christian who read the bible frequently. He never took alcohol or cigarettes. He believed he was called to be an explorer and a mountain man although this amazed the Patrick church. He was a brave man and risked his life for the sake of the society (Christensen 703). He would walk in mountains where he had to struggle with the wild animals like the bear but he never lost his faith. In California he was struggling with the Mexican authorities but he was determined to find his way of which he did although what he encountered convinced him not to return to California.

He traded in fur and made huge sum of money which he used to help his friends and to acquire property for himself. Smith died having brought a big difference in his home province. His achievements were ranked among those of Clark and Lewis (Shepherd 2). He was the only mountain man and an explorer to have such achievements.

Works Cited

Auld, James, C. “Discovering the lost legacy of Jedidiah Smith.” Jedsmithlegacy, 1996. Web.

Christensen, Lawrence, O. Dictionary of Missouri biography. Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1999.

Latham, Frank. Jed Smith: Trailblazer of the West. New York: Christian Liberty Press, 2002.

Mason, Jesse, D. History of Amador County, California, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009.

Maynard, Charles, W. Jedediah Smith: Mountain Man of the American West Famous explorers of the American West. The Rosen Publishing Group, 2003.

Shepherd, Bob. : Strong Man firm faith: Jedediah Strong Smith ~ He Opened the West” mclane, 2007. Web.


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