In 1822, before Jedediah Smith entered the West, it was largely an unknown land, “a wilderness,” he wrote, “of two thousand miles diameter.” During his nine years as a trapper for Ashley and Henry and later for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, “the mild and Christian young man” blazed the trail westward through South Pass; he was the first to go from the Missouri overland to California, the first to cross the length of Utah and the width of Nevada, first to travel by land up through California and Oregon, first to cross the Sierra Nevada. Before his death on the Santa Fe Trail at the hands of the Comanches, Jed Smith and his partners had drawn the map of the west on a beaver skin.
Dale L. Morgan
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