Jed Smith

Another man in Nana’s mold worth remembering: Jedediah Strong Smith. A devout Christian who carried his Bible and a good rifle wherever he ventured, Jed was a double-tough mountain man who fought a wounded grizzly until his comrades arrived to drive the bear off and then calmly directed one of them in piecing back together and sewing up his torn face, scalp and ear. He survived and went on to discover the South Pass, opening the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest. He next led a party of fellow trappers from the Salt Lake down through today’s Utah and across the Mojave to sunny southern California, becoming the first white man to cross that desolate terrain, and then brought the survivors back across the Sierra Nevada, through the Great Basin and back to Missouri. From there he adventured southwest along the new Santa Fe Trail. His luck finally ran out somewhere in today’s southwest Kansas when a party of marauding Comanches spooked his horse and overwhelmed him — but not before he killed three of them. That was 190 years ago today, on May 27, 1831.

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