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Supported in part by an award from the Wyoming State Historical Records Advisory Board, through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), National Archives and Records Administration.

A Child's Interpretation of the Fur Trade - "James [Jim] Bridger/ X"

june 18 1818

It has been 6 months since my mother, father, and brother died. Me and my sister have been living in my aunt’s house since that happened. Before they died, my father owned a tavern and he surveyed land. I never learned to read or write because there were no schools, so I am having someone write for me.

 

august 20 1819

I had been working with people to learn how to be a boatman and, just lately, I  apprenticed myself to be a blacksmith and l can make a lot of metal things.

 

april 19 1820

I moved to St. Louis to have a better life.  St. Louis has been famous to start a better life.

 

march 2 1822

Today I heard in an advertisement that people were enterprising young men to go to the missouri river to it’s source. I did what it said and I got hired to be a mountain man. Mountain Men are supposed to hunt and explore in the Rocky Mountains and we are also supposed to catch beavers and take their pelts for certain clothing. I learned to set beaver traps in the icy waters of the mountain streams.

 

june 22 1823

Today I am working with Andrew Henry. He is one of many people that are doing for trapping like I am. On the way to the Yellowstone, one of the men, Hugh Glass, was attacked by a momma grizzly bear. When I heard his screams I came running and one of the cubs attacked me but I wasn’t injured as much as Hugh was. Me and Tom Fitzgerald agreed to stay with him until he died. After seeing warnings of Native Americans me and Tom left him. Me and Tom think he will die on his own.

 

june 2 1824

Me and a couple of other Mountain Men had to spend a winter with some Native Americans and they told us an easier way through the mountains. It led me through South Pass. Robert Stuart was the first man to go through the easier way but it was forgotten.

 

 

november 26 1824

I was sailing down the Bear Lake and first I thought that it was the Pacific Ocean because it tasted salty. Later, I figured out that it was the Great Salt Lake.

 

july 16 1830

I explored the Yellowstone’s plateaus and the boiling springs. I also saw petrified trees and the huge waterfalls. It was an amazing sight to see.

 

april 27 1832

In this battle I was shot in the back with two 3 inch arrows. We were able to get one out but the other one was still in my back. It hurts like being bit by a poisonous snake.

 

june 26 1835

Today I got the other arrowhead out.  It was taken out by Dr. Marcus Whitman while I was on my way to Oregon.

 

august 27 1840

Since the summer time of 1825 to this day Mountain Men and some Native Americans meet in a place for Rendezvous for about 2 or 3 weeks. Traders bring goods such as gunpowder, traps, lead, food staples, and other things that the men need. Trappers trade beaver pelts for these goods. During the Rendezvous, Native Americans would camp with the Mountain Men. Last week I married a Shoshone woman.. A lot of the Crow people call me “Blanket Chief”. I think they call me that because I wore a coat made from a blandet. Other people think they call me that because that’s what I traded with the Native Americans. In Rendezvous trappers compete in contests. We also share adventures from the last year. I know a lot of different Native Americans. Me and a Shoshone chief, Washakie, are great friends. However, there is some strife between Native Americans and the mountain men. Some of the Native Americans fought the mountain men because they thought they were ruining their land and killing their bison.  I tried to help them by trading with them fairly and respecting their land.

 

may 3 1843

Today I joined Louis Vazquez. A trapper. He established a trading post on the Black Fork of Green River. We built a stockade that is 8 feet high logs with a few buildings inside their log walls. Last year Mormons came and they asked me how to get to the Great Salt Lake.

 

june 7 1853

Yesterday the Mormons took over the stockade when me and Vasquez left the area.

 

march 5 1857

Last night, the fort me and Vasquez made was burnt down to the ground. It was a casualty of the Mormon War. The fort there was made for groceries, tobacco, and gunpowder bought by the people going across the Oregon Trail.

 

april 19 1857

I have been very famous for my knowledge of the west and the memory that I have makes me a great guide. I often make maps of an area with charcoal on bison skin or in the ground with a stick. A scottish man named Sir William Drummond Stewart asked me to be his guide. A couple years later a man named General Albert S. Johnson built a military fort and he named it Fort Bridger in honor of me. The fort that I built was there for groceries, tobacco, bullets, and gunpowder for the people going across the Oregon Trail. A couple years before today I found an easier way to cross than South Pass and it was later named Bridger Pass. The pass ran south from the Great Basin and became routes of the Overland Trail, Pony Express, and the Union Pacific Railroad.

 

february 17 1860

Now that I am older, people are beginning to call me Old Gabe. I don’t know why they call me that. I often speak about my adventures and talk about Yellowstone’s Plateaus. I describe the bubbling springs and the mountain of glass called the Obsidian Cliff. Sometimes people think I am telling lies, and I have to admit that sometimes I turn my memories into wild stories. I have worked with the U.S Army as a scout and an interpreter. The Army used my interpreter skills for the treaty in Fort Laramie in 1851.  My skills an interpreter helped the people who couldn’t speak the same language to understand other people. General Grenville Dodge hired me to help plot the route of the Union Pacific Railroad, and we became great friends as I guided Dodge through the Rockies. I have a brilliant mind that can remember landmarks and languages. I hired someone to read Shakespeare’s plays and I would remember some parts of the plays by heart. Many sections of the West did not have that many details to the maps, but I did add a lot of details to the maps.

 

april 1 1868

When I bought my farm near Kansas City Missouri, a lot of people could travel where they couldn’t travel before. In that time there was a railroad that almost crossed America. It followed the route that I helped scout.

 

april 17 1875

I lost my eyesight but I have a dog to guide me that would help me from getting lost.

 

july 17 1881

This is General Dodge and Jim Bridger died this afternoon. I built a monument at Bridgers grave so no one will forget him. Jim Bridger’s name lives on in a lot of different places such as Bridger Mountain, Bridger Pass, Bridger- Teton National Park and Fort Bridger. He was a Mountain Man, guide, interpreter a scout, and a storyteller. Since he did all those things he helped our young country learn new land and how to travel safely across it.









Bibliography  

 

Maynard, Charles. Jim Bridger Frontiersman and Mountain Guide. Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2003


 

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