Bridger, James

Bridger, James,

1804–81, American fur trader, one of the most celebrated of the mountain menmountain men,
fur trappers and traders in the Rocky Mts. during the 1820s and 30s. Their activities opened that region of the United States to general knowledge. Since the days of French domination there had been expeditions to the upper Missouri River, and in the early 19th
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, b. Virginia. He was working as a blacksmith in St. Louis when he joined the Missouri River expedition of William H. AshleyAshley, William Henry,
c.1778–1838, American fur trader and politician, b. Virginia. In 1820 he was elected lieutenant governor of Missouri. He sent fur-trading expeditions up the Missouri River to the Yellowstone in 1822 and 1823; the parties included Jedediah Smith and
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 in 1822. From that time until the fur trade declined in the 1840s he was a trader and trapper in the mountains, becoming familiar with most of the country N of Spanish New Mexico and E of California. He was associated with Thomas Fitzpatrick and Jedediah Smith in many of their journeys, and he is generally credited with being the first white man to see (1825) Great Salt Lake. He was the guide for the party of Marcus Whitman, and in 1843 he and a partner, Louis Vasquez, opened Fort Bridger on the Oregon TrailOregon Trail,
overland emigrant route in the United States from the Missouri River to the Columbia River country (all of which was then called Oregon). The pioneers by wagon train did not, however, follow any single narrow route.
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. They later were forced by the Mormons to give up the post. Bridger was a guide, notably to Gen. A. S. Johnston on the Mormon campaign in 1857, to an expedition to the present Yellowstone Park (a region he did much to publicize), and to the surveying party of Gen. G. M. Dodge for the Union Pacific RR. He came to be famous for his talk, was a fine spinner of "tall tales," and was one of the most picturesque figures of the frontier.


See biographies by J. C. Alter (1925; rev. ed. 1962, repr. 1967), S. Vestal (pseud. of W. S. Campbell; 1946, repr. 1970), and G. Caesar (1961); B. De Voto, Across the Wide Missouri (1947).

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Bridger, James

(1804–81) fur trader, scout, "mountain man"; born in Richmond, Va. Working with fur companies in the northeast (1822–42), he was the first white man to see the Great Salt Lake (1824). He established Fort Bridger in Wyoming (1843) and discovered Bridger's Pass (1849). After being driven out by Mormons (1853) he guided a federal force in its campaign against the Mormons (1857–58). After serving as a guide to several major expeditions in the West (1859–66), he retired to his farm near Kansas City, Mo.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.