Jim Bridger by Grace Raymond Hebard by Grace Raymond Hebard - Read Online

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Jim Bridger - Grace Raymond Hebard

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E. A. Brininstool

Grace Raymond Hebard


The Grand Old Man of the Rockies

Copyright © E. A. Brininstool

Copyright © Grace Raymond Hebard

Jim Bridger


Arcadia Press 2017






The western plains and mountains brought forth thousands of men noted for their valor, bravery, daring, sagacity, woodcraft, frontiersmanship and skill in guiding wagon trains and military expeditions across the trackless prairie and barren desert and through snow capped mountain fastnesses on the way to the land of gold beyond the setting sun, or in trailing and bringing to bay the savage hordes that sternly fought the advances of civilization; but among those dauntless spirits there was one who stood head and shoulders above all others as the greatest scout, trapper and guide, the most skilled frontiersman, and the quietest, most modest and unassuming prairie man in all the west. That person was James Bridger, Major Bridger, or, as he was more commonly and familiarly known, old Jim Bridger, the grand old man of the Rockies. No history of the American western frontier would be complete without a sketch of the life of this remarkable man.

Richmond, Virginia, and March 17, 1804, was the place and date of birth of this greatest of plainsmen. His father and mother were James and Chloe Bridger, of whom history records but little. At one time they conducted a hotel in Richmond, and it would appear that Bridger, senior, was in fairly comfortable circumstances, since he also owned a good sized farm in the state of Virginia. Apparently, however, neither the Virginia farm nor the hotel business served to hold him in that section of the country, since he removed to St. Louis in 1812. Four years later his wife died and three children were left motherless. Bridger's sister then came and acted as mother to the children until the autumn of 1817, when the father died, and James Bridger Jr., and his young sister were left orphans, another brother having died shortly before.

Thus at the tender age of thirteen, young Jim Bridger was forced out into the world to make a living for himself and sister, and although it was a rather difficult undertaking for one so young, he operated a flatboat ferry near St. Louis for a time; but apparently this was too strenuous for a boy of his age, for soon he became apprenticed to a blacksmith named Phil Cromer or Creamer, to learn that trade. Here he worked steadily until eighteen years of age, when the desire to see something of the great West, together with a spirit for adventure, induced him to join a band of William Ashley's trappers who were starting for the Rocky Mountains under the command of Andrew Henry, one of the original incorporators of the old Missouri Fur Company and later a partner of Ashley. The expedition left St. Louis in April, 1822.

The party met with great misfortune on its way up the Missouri River. One of their boats, which was loaded with merchandise valued at ten thousand dollars, was upset. To add to the trouble, Indians stole several horses belonging to the party while some of the trappers were marching up the river after the accident to the boat. Thus, it was found necessary to winter at the mouth of the Yellowstone River. Here the party hunted and trapped until the following spring.

The summer of 1823 found young Jim Bridger with


Greatest of all plainsmen, scouts, and guides.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, March 17, 1804;

died near Westport, Mo., July 16, 1881.

a party of Henry's men fighting the Indians in the Yellowstone country. The fort which Henry had erected near the mouth of the Yellowstone, was abandoned after twenty-two of his horses had been stolen. The entire party then moved over near the mouth of the Big Horn River, following it toward its source. It was on this expedition that South Pass was discovered (1824). Through this pass the Oregon Trail later took its course to the Pacific slope.

Doubtless on the expedition of 1823 Bridger was a trapper companion of Hugh Glass, among others. The story of Glass's terrific combat with a huge grizzly bear is a well known western classic. While en route up Grand River, Glass, who was accounted one of the best rifle shots in the command, was often detailed to go out after game. While forcing his way through a