The Life and Travels of Jedediah Smith

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The life and travels of the early American explorers are one great historical account that brings us to the understanding of what makes the United States of American what it is today. At the beginning of the 1700s, trade between the western European men began to infiltrate the Colorado region mostly involving fur and timber. This facilitated the interaction between the natives and their trading partners which saw the nation of America into being later in the 1700s. The people then grew more curious about what lay in the unchartered lands to the west.

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In 1793, a Scottish-Canadian explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie cruiser carried out the first transcontinental navigation of the North America. He was then followed by bold miners and fur traders. Then later in the year, 1804 to 1806 Lewis and Clark had an exploration in Missouri and Columbia rivers crossing the Rocky Mountains having to deal with some peaceful and harsh natives. The exploration of Lewis and Clark was the gateway for the many explorers that followed such as Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Zebulon pike, John Fremunt, Jedediah smith and John Curter (Barbour, 2009).

According to Carter, Brooks & Smith (1979), Jedediah Smith was born on January 6, 1799. Smith loved nature and adventure from childhood. His love for nature was as a result of a great mentorship which he got from Dr.Titus, who was a very close to Smith family. As part of the mentorship, Dr.Titus gave the young Smith a copy of Lewis and Clarks 1814 journal to the Pacific, an article which drew Smiths interest to understand more of the discoveries that Clarkes team had made. This became the beginning toddler steps of Smiths interest and passion that would later see him into great explorations of the west. This was, however, going to be an easy path due to meeting the natives who most would not warmly welcome of his team but his passion, the team spirit his good interpersonal relation made him develop an impulse to get on through his many years of exploring missions.

Jedediah Strong Smith for his livelihood was a hunter, trapper, fur trader, trailblazer, author, and cartographer. As indicated by Dale (1935), he was also an explorer of the Rocky Mountains, the American West Coast, and the Southwest during the 19th century. Smith became the first white man to travel widely from the Salt Lake Frontier, the Colorado River, the Mojave Desert, and finally made it into California. He also became the first United States citizen to explore eastwardly across the Sierra Nevada and the treacherous Great Basin. Moreover, he was also the first American to travel up the California coast to reach the Country. Smith and Robert Stuart also discovered the South Pass, a path which later became the main route used by pioneer teams to travel to the Oregon Country. The explorers Survived from three massacres and one bear mauling. Jedediah Smith's explorations and the documented discoveries of the great achievements through the missions became of high significant in opening the American West to expansion by white settlers and the cattlemen. This became one of the biggest key openings of the west.

During the year 1826-1827, Jedediah Strong Smith and his exploration team carried their first trip to the west. They made their journey in the areas of Colorado River. During this journey, they also looked for new beaver hunting grounds, a quest which led them into harsh territories of the local inhabitants. The group later made up their minds to travel to California to gather supplies for their return trip. As the group advanced through the Mountains into the Mojave Desert, they were attacked by a group of Mohaves, who killed several of their men. The group was finding a rescue shelter with a nearby friendly Mojave village, they recuperated and met two Tongva men, who willingly offered to guide and lead them through their remaining mission. The guides led them through the desert through a path that avoided Death Valley and which was safer to use. During their trip from Soda Lake, they crossed the intermittent Mojave River to get into the San Bernardino Mountains, which they crossed further to get deeper making their way westwards (Morgan, 1953).

During the teams second trip to California in 1827 1828, they first explored to reach the Oregon country overland by traveling up the California coast. Jedediahs parties experienced more great hardships in both trips. Due to the experiences of this time through the explorations, Smith after the journey's success decided to dedicate his time to his fur company. The early explorer's expeditions contributed so much to the opening up of the westward expansion. Among the key contributions to the westward expansions was Jedediah Smith. Jedediah Smith's explorations formed the major baseline foundation for the development and establishment of the reliable and accurate Pacific-West maps. The documentation of all the exploration, expeditions, travels and discoveries of Jedediah smiths team went into the map of the western United States as a very resourceful reference source of in-depth understanding of the early explorers mission and achievements. This map has been a great landmark used in the mapping of the American West. This map is now used as the best tool for the in-depth understanding and study of the Rocky Mountains from the States to the Pacific and the country on both of its sides (Barbour, 2009).

As stated by Dale (1935), Jedediah Smith's passionate exploration of northwestern California has also been taken with honor and great historical memories as found in the names of the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and the River. Most parts of the western slope of Wyoming's famous Teton Range are also named the Jedediah Smith Wilderness after him as a big honor to his great work. Moreover the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, renamed the American River Bike Trail, that runs between Folsom and Sacramento, California, was also an honorary memory after Smith. In looking at the life and travels of the early explorers, it is of great account to notice the great depths of selfless sacrifice, dedication, hard work and team spirit that the various teams showed and had. These great explorations missions brought a big landmark into the developing, mapping and building of the great westward expansion many years after the explorations.

Over the years as the population of the West regions increased and the aspects of statehood for western areas appeared clearer, the nation struggled its way over the future of slavery in the West, a battle which formed the roots of the Civil War. The civil war later slowed the acceleration of expansion that was now finding its quick way up into the west. In the nineteenth century, however, the westward expansions gained back its momentum of accelerated expansion due to the much successful struggle to contain the Plains Indians within the reservations, and the great completion of the transcontinental railroad in the year 1869. By the early twentieth century, the West was on its stable avenue to a successful expansion (Carter, Brooks & Smith, 1979).

The study of the life missions and the explorations accounts is indeed a very key root in establishing the great historical pathway that over and over the many years has created a great gateway into the westward expansion that has been realized over the many years of the American westward expansion. The westward expansion has only mainly found its firm root and foundation in the tireless and great sacrifice and life-threatening risk taking expeditions of the early American explorers such as Jedediah Smith. The work of Jedediah was one among the key holders of way entries of the many avenues through which the westward foundation gradually through the many years through history would see the American westward expansion is realized.


Barbour, B. H. (2009). Jedediah Smith: No ordinary mountain man. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Carter, H., Brooks, G., & Smith, J. (1979). The Southwest Expedition of Jedediah S. Smith: His

Dale, H. (1935). The Travels of Jedediah Smith. A Documentary Outline Including the Journal of the Great American Pathfinder Maurice S. Sullivan. Pacific Historical Review, 4(2), 181-183.

Morgan, D. L. (1953). Jedediah Smith and the opening of the West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Personal Account of the Journey to California, 1826-1827. The Western Historical Quarterly, 10(1), 79.

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