Beckwourth, (James Pierson) Jim(1798–1867) pioneer, mountain man; born in Fredericksburg, Va. Born a slave but raised free in St. Louis, Mo., by his mulatto mother and white father, Beckwourth participated in the Ashley–Henry fur-trading expeditions into the Rocky Mountains (1823–26) and lived with the Crow Indians (1826–37). Serving as guide, trapper, trader, army scout, and hunter (1837–50), he discovered the pass—later named after him—in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that opened a route to California's Sacramento Valley (1850) and started a ranch nearby. His Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth (1856) describes the life of the frontiersmen known as mountain men.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.