Jedediah Smith was born on January 6, Epiphany, 1799 in what is now Bainbridge, New York. Jedediah's family, especially his father had a great love for the new territories of the young United States. The family moved to western Pennsylvania in 1810 and then to Green Township in Ashland County, Ohio in 1817. With the family running low on money, Jedediah left home in 1821 to look for work, and he went west.
Smith was a Christian young man. Wherever he went, he carried three books with him, his Bible, his journal, and an 1814 first copy of Lewis and Clark's journals. (Only 1,417 copies of that first printing were sold to the public.) Jedediah practiced his faith. He prayed, read his Bible, and meditated daily.
By 1822 Jedediah had gone as far as St. Louis and was hired by General Ashley as a trapper with his American Fur Company. After only a few months of trapping in the wilderness, his party was attacked by Arikaras warriors and 13 men were killed. Jedediah fought bravely. Gen Ashley noted Jedediah's bravery and made him a trapping party captain.
In 1824, Smith was able to obtain a map made of buffalo skin and sand that helped him locate South Pass, a critically important break in the Rockies that made it possible to travel safely and easily through those mountains.
Also in 1824, Smith was attacked by a grizzly bear. The bear broke some of Jedediah's ribs and ripped open a place in his side. Then the bear bit his head, nearly scalping him and tearing loose most of his right ear. Smith directed a fellow trapper and friend, Jim Clyman, how to sew his scalp and ear back on. Smith survived the attack but was left with a nasty scar on the right side of his face that he covered with his long hair. Can you imagine being scarred like that at 25. That's tough for anyone to deal with!
In 1831, Smith was working on a wagon train delivering supplies to Sante Fe for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. The wagons were several days ride away from Sante Fe when they ran low on water. Jedediah went to find water. A group of Comanche hunters trapped him in a box canyon and killed him. The Comanches took his rifle and pistols and sold them in Sante Fe. The folks on the wagon train thought Smith got lost and hoped he would catch up with them in Sante Fe. When they got there they found Smith's guns for sale and heard about his death. They recovered Jedediah's guns and returned them to his brother.
None of Smith's other belongings or his body were ever found. Jedediah's Bible, journal, and his copy of Lewis and Clark's journals (all extremely valuable today) were never recovered. Could those three books still be somewhere along the Sante Fe Trail waiting to be recovered?