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LODI — The Jedediah Smith Society — dedicated to keeping the explorer’s history alive — will mark their 60th Anniversary at a day-long celebration on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the San Joaquin Historical Society/Museum in Micke Grove Park southeast of Lodi.  

Registration is $30 per person. It includes five speakers, lunch, exhibits of artifacts of the fur trade period and a commemorative CD.  Make checks payable to Jedediah Smith Society, and send them to 1040 West Kettleman Lane #147,  Lodi, CA  95240. Registration closes Sept. 10.

For more information see the web site: 

Among Smith’s accomplishments are:

u1822-1831: Trapper,  trader, explorer and leader.

u1824 : Effectively discovered South Pass located at the southern tip of the  Wind River Mountains of Wyoming with the help of the friendly Crow  (Absaroka) tribe and  made public the opportunity for  overland travelers to go west to California and the Oregon Territory.  Over 400,000 pioneers travelled over this pass.

u1826: First  American to enter California overland from the East.

u1826-1828: First known person to traverse the West Coast by land from San Diego to the Columbia River.

u1827: First non- native American to Cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Ebbetts Pass (Highway 4 today).

Smith explored, trapped, traded with the missions and Indians of the area in the following places in California: Colorado River, Bellota near Tracy, Barstow, Lodi, San Gabriel Mission, San Jose Mission, San Diego Mission. Wilton, Bakersfield, Sacramento/The American River, Oakdale, Red Bluff, French Camp / Stockton, and Crescent City.


Smith’s story

Smith was born in Jericho, New York, on Jan. 6,1799, on the Susquehanna River to Jedediah Smith Sr. and Sally Strong. 

In 1822 He joined the William Ashley and Andrew Henry Fur Trade Company in Saint Louis, MO  as a hunter and trapper  destined for the upper Missouri River and its tributaries. Jedediah was not only a successful trapper and hunter  in the Rocky Mountains for several years, but proved himself in bravery and a leader of men and was invited to become a partner in the venture in 1825 when Ashley’s partner left.  Ashley would leave the following year, selling his interest  to Jedediah and two others, David Jackson and William Sublette.

Before 1830 travel westward beyond the Rocky Mountains was virtually unknown. Smith and his party of mountain men in 1824, being advised by friendly Crow Indians {Absaroka) whom they were wintering with, effectively discovered South Pass at the southern end of the Wind River Mountains, passing west over the Continental Divide into the Green River drainage. This discovery provided the United States with a passageway westward which had been basically unknown and forgotten.

Smith travelled in 1826-27 south and west through the Salt Lake area and down to the Colorado River. He was the first American citizen to enter California overland from the east, coming into  the San Bernardino  Valley of Southern California. Being detained for a month and a half by the Mexican Government due to their belief he was a spy, he was finally released to travel.  In January 1827 he traveled north, accessing the San Joaquin Valley through its southern end and continued north along its eastern edge. He continued up this valley following the San Joaquin River as far as the mouth of the American River.


Camps near present

day Oakdale in 1827

Making an attempt to cross the snowy Sierra following up this same river, he was forced to turn-back to prevent  further loss of his horses and to prevent  the loss of life of his men. On May 20, 1827 he established a camp on the Stanislaus River (Appelaminy) near present Oakdale. Leaving a group of trappers at this camp he headed east up this river and following the ridge lines upward towards Ebbetts Pass area, he successfully crossed the Sierra just north of that pass. He continued eastward through Nevada and back to the Rendezvous being held at Bear Lake, some 80 miles northeast of present day Salt Lake City.

Smith returned to California again using his previous route to the Colorado River, this time loosing 10 men in an unprovoked confrontation with the Mojave Indians.  Stopping only long enough in the San Bernardino Valley this time to replenish lost supplies, Smith continued north to be reunited with his men left on the Stanislaus River.   

Needing supplies again, he was forced to head toward the coast to the Mexican settlement of San Jose. Here again he ran into problems with the Mexican government.

Upon his release to travel, he sold his beaver pelts and bought 300 head of Mexican horses and mules, which he planned to make a good profit back at the Rendezvous. Heading west through what is today Sacramento and then turning north along the eastside of the Sacramento Valley, he ended up in the area just north of Red Bluff.  At this point  he realized that the Sacramento River, which he was calling the “Buenaventura River”, did not turn east for him to follow back to the Salt Lake as period maps indicated. 

Also snowy, high mountain ranges on the north and east end of this valley prevented such travel and it was here he decided to head west through a “gap in the mountains.” Upon reaching the coast ,he followed it north up into Oregon to the Umpqua River.  Along the north shore of this river on July 14,1828,a n unexpected Indian attacked killed 15 of his men and the loss of all his supplies and livestock. He and two others had been scouting a route  for the next day’s travels at the time and fortunately escaped the incident. He went on to Fort Vancouver and received help from the Hudson’s Bay Company.  Later he went up the Columbia River and over the Rockies to unite with his partners in the summer of 1829.  

On August 1,1830, Smith, Jackson and Sublette sold their partnership and returned to St. Louis. Early in 1831,Jedediah decided to join his two brothers he had set-up in a trading expedition to Santa Fe, NM. It was on this trip he lost his life. While searching for water for this expedition, he went off by himself and was killed by Comanche Indians along the Cimarron River on May 27,1831.


History of the Jedediah

Smith Society

The idea to form a Society came from a 1956 meeting between the University of the Pacific President Robert Burns, RegionaI Stuart Curator Grace Stuart and Leland Case. Case wanted a home for the Maurice Sullivan Jedediah Strong Smith papers. The Stuarts were building the Stuart Library of Western History Collection and developing programs for the California Foundation. The Society was incorporated November 1957.

They maintain a web site at and a Facebook page.