Jedediah Smith was born in New York in 1798 and would become the most extensively traveled mountain man in the unknown western territory during his short life. In 1822, in answer to an ad in the Missouri Gazette, he became a fur trader in the Rocky Mountains. His explorations were significant in opening the American West and he was the first white man to cross what would become Utah and Nevada, the first to enter California by the overland route, to cross the High Sierras, and the first explorer to reach Oregon overland by traveling up the California coast.

Westward Expansion

In 1824, he rediscovered South Pass as a relatively gentle route through the Rockies and across the Continental Divide. During westward expansion, this route became widely used by pioneers moving to Oregon Territory and Alta California which was part of Mexico at that time. Jedediah Smith played a key role in opening up the way for thousands of westward-traveling pioneers.

The Rocky Mountain Fur Company

In 1825, Smith partnered with William Henry Ashley to found The Rocky Mountain Fur Company. The following year, Smith led a small group of trappers on his first trip to California. Along the way, they were attacked by Mohave Indian and escaped. The group was eventually guided by Tongva Indians to the San Gabriel Mission and spent some time exploring California. Eventually, Jedediah Smith moved north concentrating on Oregon Territory

Exploring The Southwest

Widely traveling the southwest, Smith explored the Great Salt Lake, the Colorado Plateau, and led the first expedition to cross the Southwest to California and return through the Great Basin Desert. He also traveled up the coast to Oregon Territory. Jedediah Smith was an excellent cartographer. His map-making skills were utilized by the U.S. Congress in 1832 to show the potential for western expansion.

Visit Us Today

In 1831, Smith would get involved with the Santa Fe fur trade which would lead to his death in May. Near present day Ulysses, Kansas he was attacked and killed by Comanche Warriors while looking for water. To learn more about Jedediah Smith and other California Trail mountain men, come see us at the California Trail Center in Elko, NV, today.


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