tv Jim Bridger the American West CSPAN July 4, 2021 11:00am-12:01pm EDT
i'm jeremy drouin manager of the missouri valley special collections. the library's local history department in archives. thank you for joining us for another online installment of our signature sunday series. we look forward to the day when we can once again hold the vents inside our auditorium, but until that time we will continue to offer a variety of online programming. if you missed one of our recent events, you'll find them archived on the library's website and youtube channel. is my pleasure to introduce our speaker jerry enzler who joins us from his home in east, dubuque, illinois. he is here to discussed his new book. jim bridger trailblazer the american west. published last month by the
university of oklahoma press richard was indeed a trailblazer. he was the first mountain man to come upon the great salt lake in utah had all the bighorn rivers bad pass and explore the wonders of yellowstone. he operated a trading post on the oregon trail and was also a pioneering merchant in westport when it was the frontier outpost. in his new biography insular examines bridgers remarkable life from early explorer guide trapper and trader to his retirement to a farm near watts mill outside of kansas city. insular was the founding director of the national, mississippi river museum and aquarium a smithsonian a smithsonian affiliated institution in dubuque, iowa. he retired in 2016 after nearly four decades heading up the museum. over that time he has written and curated numerous national exhibitions and films published historical articles and given presentations throughout the us and abroad jerry thank you for
being here today. well, thank you very much. it's a pleasure and i thank all of our listeners and watchers. i'm very excited to talk to you about jim bridger, and i've been excited about jim bridger for many many years now and some of you do know about jim bridger and some of you maybe don't know as much as you would like to and that's the opportunity that we have now. um, how did i involved with this? years ago i watched the movie jeremiah johnson was on television. i didn't see it in the big screen and i just was captivated by that tremendous story robert redford played one of the main characters there. and so the next morning i was so thrilled with this whole concept of the mountain men in the frigerators and the explorers. i went to a local library a very small library and couldn't find much about bridger. although i found him usually in the first or second page of about 30 different books.
they were listing him as as one of the most significant frontiersmen in american history. so that really piqued my curiosity and so then i started traveling i drove to memphis. i was about 60 miles away and i i found a book that had been written about them. but i also found that those books one of them was 1946 75 years ago now and one of them was 1962 59 years ago. they were incomplete as would be expected because they don't have the advantage of all the the historical sources the articles the books that have been written and then all the new archival materials which have come forth. so if you don't know a lot about bridger you are just like i was when i started this quest i didn't know who he was and what he did. but as i as i started working on it, i just became captivated right from the very beginning. and so i want to read to you right from the very beginning
just a short segment. just so you get a sense of what the style and pace of the book is so this is a chapter one page one to find a home. jim bridger left home for the west when he was eight years old. he had helped his parents keep a farm and an inn near richmond, virginia now, he and his family were traveling nearly a thousand miles looking for a new life in illinois territory. it was the western edge of the american settlements. for bridger a brown haired lad whose eyes were liquid hazel bright almost a blackness. the move would change his life forever. by day, they followed dusty rhodes and rain swollen streams. by night they sought shelter and talked of dangers ahead. the year was 1812 which was a dangerous time for a family to travel the united states. 36 years old and it was at war with british the british for the second time and as the bridgers
moved west the war of 1812 moved up west with them. the bridgers finally reached their new home in illinois and settled at a place called the american bottom near the mississippi river right across from st. louis. if bridgers adult life is any indication. as a youngster, he was likely gregarious enthusiastic and resourceful, which is totally contrary to all previous biographies about jim bridger. three tragedies did interrupt bridger's childhood in rapid succession when he was 12. his mother died. his brother died the same year and then the next year when he was 13. his father died. bridger and his sister were orphans. he's got a job working on a ferry boat to help travelers cross the mississippi river at the st. louis region, and then you started working for a man named philip kramer early early biographies have said that bridger was apprenticed to a saint louis blacksmith.
of little renowned and that's not true at all. he apprentice to philip kramer. who was the most noteworthy gunsmith for hundreds of miles? and he lived in illinois not in missouri and richard was 12 and 13 when he started working as an apprentice to philip kramer who was one of the most noted gunsmiths in the midwest of the country. and one of his first assignments was to go up the the illinois river to a place called peoria, which was in is an indian name. and he was working under kramer, but trying to help provide goods. and repair guns for the potawatomies and the potawatomies were not nearly as in a good position as they were in the war of 1812 when they were siding with the british. when bridger was 17 there was an
ad that was put in the missouri republican and several other newspapers. and the ad was at was asking for 100 enterprising young men to go up the missouri to be there to be employed for one two or three years. to be trapping beaver bridge was 17 years old and he signed up for that expedition. why did he sign up for such an adventure? was it to escape? civilization and the expectations was it to make his fortune or was it to take the measure of the new land and make it his home? bridger went up the missouri river with andrew henry andrew henry was on the land party and mike think was on the boat party. he was the king of the keel boatman at that time. and bridger was one of the men who stood on the narrow catwalks on either side of the boat long
poles in hand to use their human muscle to move the boats upstream. think atop the cargo would shout set poles for the mountains. and they sank their polls into the river until they hit the uzi bottom. the other end of the poles rested snug against their shoulders. then think with bello down on her now down on her and they lowered their bodies and pushed against. pushed against the polls, which actually moved the boat forward. so that's how bridger got his start. he's really an amazing person in terms of all the areas of the west or the eras in the west that he was part of. he began his journey if you will when when he was eight years old, and he was very very active until he was 68 years old. so you have six decades of activity. so, how do you put a how do you
summarize six decades of activity? in about 80 words i can give you a very quick snapshot just by looking at the table of contents. to find a home keel boating up river the bloody, missouri mike fink and hugh glass bridget discovers great salt lake bridger braves bad pass pilot for the brigades partner in the rocky mountain fur company eagle ribs and the blackfeet the race to rendezvous bridgers family so that's those are the first 11 chapters and it represents the first 13 years of bridger's time out in the rocky mountains. the siege night of the rockies 17 years without tasting bread fort bridger the oregon trail kayaterra and the gulf of california old bridger is death on us.
that's a quote. it's what brigham young said jim bridger and his partner louis vasquez sent a letter to brigham young who had just established the church of the latter-day saints location in salt lake city. and with that warning bring them young said i believe old bridger's death on us and if he knew that that hundreds and hundreds of indians were coming to slaughter us. he would probably kill a man who tried to warn us. so there was conflict there continuing in in the 80 words here marianne chapetta, virginia and mary josephine. that's a wife and three of his children gold rush in the mapmakers bridger pass horse creek treaty the mormons take fort bridger guiding gore gk, warren and ferdinand hayden chief guide for the utah war the search for yellowstone america's guide and storyteller blazing
the bridger trail to powder river campaign red cloud fights back. the battle of the hundred in the hand the crows would not permit bridger to be in dangered so much farther. that's a wide variety of experiences and encounters. in the book follows bridger as he as he went through his life and tried to first be a fur trapper and then be a further and leader. and then being a fort owner and then being a scout and a guide trying to be helpful to as many people as he could and in many cases trying to prevent any kind of warfare with some of the indigenous peoples. so that the first point that i'm making then is bridger is a fascinating figure who actively participated in six decades of western history. the second point is that jim
bridger is someone you would want to meet. in fact people of his day they often remembered when it was that they first met bridger and they described him and they told about you know, what they thought of him what they had heard of him and what he said to them and they said to him he was a very noticed celebrity students in school were well aware of fort bridger was in their school books in the 1840s. and then when sometimes when they came out for the 1849 1850 gold rush they said oh this is the fort we read about in our history books or our geography books. i'm going to turn on to go to some slides here and show you some of the images. i'm going to go to get that here in just a minute here. okay, so you should be seeing the images in this particular image is preparing for a buffalo hunt.
that the painting is by alfred jacob miller who came west in 1837. um and the next image is not moving for me. let's see. there we go. the next image is hunting elk. and so they were not only trapping beaver, but they were actually, you know, surviving by hunting buffalo and hunting elk. so i want to get to of a description somebody who wrote about bridger this one happens to be washington irving who was a well-noted writer at the time. i'm going to read a little bit about what he said in his book here. and this is washington irving was describing a number of people in the 1820s and 1830s. um just band which included
bridger irving said this is a totally different class has now sprung up. the mountaineers the traders and trappers have scaled the vast mountain chains and move from place to place on horseback. heedless of hardship daring of danger prodigal of the present and thoughtless of the future there is perhaps no class of men on the face of the earth lead a life of more continued exertion peril and excitement. that's from washington irving writing about these mountaineers as they called themselves. as soon as called bull boats, and this is also out for jacob miller. this is this is a way of getting a cross a river or taking goods or people downstream. you don't have a boat and the river is too high then you just use buffalo hides and willows and other sticks and you create your own your own floating boat.
and this was a common scene and very common for bridge or bridger was some of a boatman he there are many instances where he made these bull boats to help the the scientists from the smithsonian to help the commanders of the topographical engineers who are trying to map the west virginia exactly how to make these and he made them all the time. this is something called devil's gate and it's near south pass on the way across over from the american side. to what was the spanish side? and what was french side and then it was claimed by britain. claimed by mexico this kind of a past was was common kind of a dangerous pass. there were two other instances where bridger went through something like this bridger went through this. he didn't discover it money means but on his way down the bear river following the bear river on his way to finding the great salt lake. he went through the bear river
canyon, which is considerably longer than this one. and he was 20 years old when he was the first of these european explorers to understand that this is a lake which has an enormous amount of salt in it. people had seen this lake from a distance the americans euro-americans, but they did not know that it was full of so so filled with salt. so that was when he was 20 when he was 21, he ran through a pass much more dramatic than this. it was called the the bad pass on the big horn river. and ashley had about 25,000 william ashley. his boss had about 25,000 maybe 50,000 worth of furs that have been trapped. this is now 1825 bridgers 21 years old ashley asked for a volunteer in bridger said i volunteer and he made a raft and he went through this
tremendously harrowing experience through the bad past rapids the crow believed or said anyway that there was a manitou a great evil spirit who lived in that bad pass and what destroy any boat or any person who tried to go through. well richard went through and he did report to ashley that it was not safe for them to try and move their goods through the that pass in the bad past. so this is when bridgers now just 21 so early on he showed tremendous initiative, you know working on a flat boat shortly after his parents died apprenticing and living among the potawatomi indians when he was 12 and 13 signing up at age 17 to go west at age 20 being one of the first two or being the first known to identify salt lake as a lake of salt now at age 21, he's volunteering to go through the bad past.
but this time they had crossed south pass and they were actually over in the area of the shoshone and the crow and the nez perce and the flatheads. in this particular image also by alfred jacob miller. it was drawn sketched in 1837 painted later, but it shows the kind of activity that bridger and others would have would have noticed. this is called indian hospitality. so the man in blue has a long pipe. they are smoking the pipe which is often what you would do first before you would start trading there. are there are two men two shoshone men to shoshone women and and a shoshone infant. and so there was a lot of a lot of camaraderie there was intermarriage. there's another image here called the thirsty trapper. so you have a couple of trappers one in blue and one in green in
red rather and they're stopping and there is a shoshone woman who has providing water out of a shell so that they could you know satisfy their thirst. so it was very common for many of the american europeans to intermarrying and and just talking a little bit about who these people were. you know bridger was from virginia many of them were from kentucky some were from new york, but some some were dutch some were french canadians some were mexicans. they also had with them traveling in these bands of groups of trappers called brigades. they had with them delaware indians and iroquois indians from the east. and then also going along with them in their journeys were shoshone's both the male and female and children some of them
were intermarried. so you might have a an american trapper a native american indian and mixed race children. so the shoshoni and the crow and the flathead the nest person several others, they would often travel with them. most of bridger's relationships with the indigenous peoples were peaceful this is an image of eagle ribs, and it's a painting from 1832 by george catlin and this was not a good relationship for bridger. eagle ribs was a of the blood band of the blackfeet indians. and he in 1832. he attacked a group of trappers who were actually competing with bridger and they were able to under eagle ridge leadership. they killed henry vanderberg and i believe it was six others of their group. then eagle ribs comes over to
the gallatin river this earlier one was on the madison river now on the galveston river one of the three forks of the, missouri. and there's a disturbance as you know, eagle revs in his and his warriors are on one side and bridger and his men are on the other and bridger rides forward with the idea of making. peace. he hears a sound or there's an occurrence. actually, someone was actually as a blackfeet woman who saw her brother and she had been with the with bridger and the trappers and she raced across to the blackfeet and that caused such a commotion. everyone was up in arms bridget cockta's rifle. at that incident eagle ribs who was wearing eight white scalps attached to his formal costume. anyway rents the the gun out of bridger's hands and and hit him on the head. so badly that he almost blacked out and then bridger took two arrows in the back. and they were able to pull one
of those arrows out with a lot of tremendous exertion the other one stayed in his bag for three years almost three years and it wasn't removed until 1835 when marcus whitman came west he was a doctor, but he came west as a match as a missionary to establish missions in oregon territory. so this is a very interesting character and this is from the smithsonian institution this image by catlin of eagle ribs. this is an image of fort laramie in 1837. fort laramie was founded in 1834 by william sublette. and william sublette had been jim bridger's boss and then sublette and his partners sold out to fitzpatrick and bridger and three other partners this company that was known as the rocky mountain fur company so some blood owned it in 1834 in 1835 bridger and fitzpatrick and several other partners owned.
this fort called fort laramie now at the time those called fort william on the laramie river. let's go inside the fort. this is a view from the inside this again is is william drummond stewart's depiction of what he saw in 1837. and so and as you know fort laramie has as iconic in american history west this is a scene from rendezvous. rendezvous was a way to supply the trappers and traders who basically lived their whole life. out on the in the rocky mountains. jim bridger went 17 years without coming back to the states. he left when he was 18 years old. and went 3,000 miles by vote and by horse and by foot and he didn't come back for 18 years. and he rarely slept in a in a fixed. place during the summer was often sleeping under the stars.
they would they would be on an indian lodge. maybe they would maybe for winter. they will build a temporary cabin, but bridger had no permanent home at this time, but he was considered the king of the mountain men by this time. he was so knowledgeable about where the beaver furs were how to treat will with the various tribes most of the the indigenous people are indians that are depicted here are shoshone. so if you look on the left, there's two white horses on the left and then there's a man in a dark horse with a red plume. i'm going to give you a close-up of that image. it's a little bit blurry because it is a close-up, but that is a painting of jim bridger wearing a portion of a suit of armor. this armor was given to jim bridger by sir william, drummond stewart. and william, drummond stewart was a friend of jim bridger's and he came over first in 1833.
he hired miller to start painting these paintings in 1837 and at this 1837 rendezvous. he had a very special present for jim bridger because jim bridger was considered to be the leader of these mountaineers. and the way many people in europe viewed these mountaineers as if they were they were like king arthur of the round court or they were the roundtable. they were knights of great valor. there was tremendous enthusiasm for the leatherstocking tales written by james fenimore cooper. well, these were the actual not the fictitious people who is very irving said these mountaineers who roamed through the through the west i just want to read you a little bit about. what we're what we're seeing here. there was a man named david brown who was at this rendezvous and see if i can go back a little bit easier to look at
that one. so david brown writes this in 1837, he was there and he saw captain stewart. on the right of captain stewart, sat or rather squatted in oriental fashion one of the most remarkable men of this remarkable assemblage. this was jim bridger the leader of the beaver hunting parties. he had a thorough acquaintance with the whole mountain region from the russian settlements to the california's and every nook by hood and hidden lake and unfrequented stream. bridger had a complete and absolute understanding of the indian character based on his own large experience. to sum it up. his bravery was unquestionable his horsemanship equally so and as to the school with his rifle, he has been known to kill 20 buffaloes by the same number of consecutive shots. so he was a a very distinctive person and as i said people wrote about them almost always when they saw him and they described him as tall six feet
at least muscular without announced of superfluous flesh. he might have served as a model for a sculptor or painter. his cheekbones were high his nose hooked or aquiline the expression of his eye mild and thoughtful and expression of his face grave almost to solemnity. this is it. this is an image of fort bridger that jim bridger established with louis vasquez. well, he actually in 1841. he established fort bridger with henry frabe frayed died that year and so richard took on a new partner louis vasquez in 1842. they built the second fort bridger in 1843. they built this which is the third ford bridger on the oregon and california trail, and this is from a painting by william henry jackson a noted painter as well as photographer. this is washakie. washakie was a very good friend of jim bridger's washakie was of the shoshone people.
he lived a very long long life. there is some rumors that bridgers third wife was a british third wife was a shoshone woman, and she was known as either little fawn or mary family tradition is that she was a daughter of washakie in my book? i don't say that. it's proven to the extent yet. this is a map. it's a little bit unusual to see. but are going to i want to tell you about how actually it came about. and if i don't find the quote, i'll just do it for memory. this map and this is written on the back of the map. it's at the american heritage center in laramie, wyoming. this map was drawn first by jim bridger with a stick drawing in the dirt or sand. then bridger drew the map again. with charcoal on the height of an animal he gave that map then
to colonel william collins who wanted to be mapping considerable part of the west the rocky mountain west and he undoubtedly stood over his shoulder colin shoulder while colin actually did the drawings and there's a north platt up at the top and there's a little stream of that called the bed tick creek fort laramie is on the right and and fort hallock is on the left and in this actually shows some of the not only bridges knowledge of the area. which is unusual because he was illiterate. he could not read or write but he could draw it out in the sand and some of the new roots that he that he found. and this is the last image i believe no, it's the second last image. this is called the hanging of the chiefs. we're now in 1865. bridger when he saw this general connor and and others moonlight they were hanging indians who
had taken white hostages and mistreated them and then they left their bodies there. this is right outside of fort laramie and bridger predicted. this would was would end horribly for the for the americans and in terms of the the rage and the outrage of the sioux and the cheyenne and the arapahoe who saw their their countrymen actually hanging and left there to rot. this is red cloud. it led to red clouds war in 1865 and 1866 one of the few wars that the united states army lost in the american west bridger was opposed to to this root going through the land of the sioux and cheyenne and the arapaho and he developed a new trail an alternate trail called the bridger trail. and this is an image of jim bridger. it's actually a unique. this is the last slide. this is a unique way of doing a
artistic image. this is taken from a photograph of 1857 william henry jackson the photographer then blew up a kind of on a stiff mat and then he charcoaled in like corduroy pants as opposed to the photograph doesn't really indicate what kind of fancy had so he added detail to this image. this image is at the smithsonian institution. there's a copy of it at the madison wisconsin historical society. this is smithsonian has this labeled as kit carson question mark i've advised the the curators there that it is jim bridger. maybe that's when they put the question mark on it. so they have that i think in their files there. so i'm going to go out of slideshell. and go back to full screen. we've been talking for 30 minutes already and i feel like i've just touched the surface
and because bridger had so many unique characteristics, but i guess that the third point i want to make the first point was that bridge was remarkably active in many many areas of the american west the second point was bridger made a huge impression a big impact when he met people and he was so well known people were exhilarated to meet him and they would often write about it which made my work easier because i could find their journals and their written letters in archives all across the country from the smithsonian to the huntington library and all about n indeed part of my research was done at the kansas public library and the the historical archives. there was very very helpful in in doing our my work on this bridge here biography. that the third point i want to make is you know do it briefly bridger is someone you would want to meet.
and he had admirable character. so for example in 18 in the late 1830s smallpox was decimating the the mandans and then the black feet in many other indigenous peoples. and so bridge was leading a group of brigade of brigade of trappers and traders. maybe a hundred men. and they came across i could see the trail of a blackfeet village. which was traveling along and they could see some of the dead that were falling and being left behind. so there are people who were traveling with jim are jim bridger, but they didn't work directly for him. one of them was kid carson. another one was joe meek. another one was osborne russell. all three of them and several others they wanted to go after and attack this blackfoot village that was suffering from smallpox. bridger said no, and he took his his brigade group away from the path, you know didn't set a
continuing following the black feet. he was finding a way to go around them. and there was such a an alarm among these free trappers who did want to attack the suffering blackfeet. because they want to revenge for previous battles. so basically the free trappers including carson and meek and osborne russell and several others. they wrote off to do battle with this suffering village bridger had all of his men who are under his control to say we're just staying here. we're not participating in this and we are going to just protect our the property that we have and protect our own lives if attacked so, that's an example of a discord an argument if you will between carson and bridger carson thought the world of jim bridger, but he also was very could be very impetuous and bridger was a little bit more on the the prudent side. um another incident a big one in
1862 and 1863 gold was discovered in idaho and montana was now, idaho and montana. and this was in the middle of the civil war the us government really needed the gold so that they could actually, you know bolster up its treasury because they had so many debts from the civil war. they wanted so the the miners started going right through the territory the land which had been promised to the sioux and arapahoe and cheyenne. bridget felt that was wrong and not only that he felt it was not prudent it would lead to warfare there would be indians killed there would be soldiers killed it would be minors killed families killed. so bridger who was familiar with this area extremely familiar with both the bozeman trail, which was the route that went through the indian territory. and then he he started the bridger trail and that first year 2,500 of these miners went on the bridger trail and they
were safe because they were in the land of the crow and they were very the crows were very appreciative of jim bridger. only 1,500 went on the bozeman trail and they were relatively safe because of their numbers. there were a couple of people who were killed on that route. the following year the us army said well we are going to build forts on the bozeman trails so they did not take the bridger trail which i would say is was drier and there wasn't as much forage, but it was significantly safer and it wasn't about to lead to war. they didn't listen to bridger and it led to three years of warfare and hundreds of people on both sides being killed. so bridger had what i would say is generally an admirable character. he wasn't perfect. he didn't strive to be a hero. he didn't never really tried to be a villain. he tried to be helpful when he could i'm sure he did make mistakes and i point those out in the book, but he's a he's a
person. one that had an amazing history too. he's a person that people were amazed and and honored to meet and three he was a person that you can really respect for his values and his beliefs. he didn't generally believe that the others people who are black mexican native american that they were somehow different. i mean, he obviously saw the differences, but he did not treat them nearly as differently as others of his era so he was ahead of his time in that regard to a major extent. at that point, i think i'll see whether we have any comments or questions. thank you, jerry. excellent presentation. i would like to open up. for audience questions at this time if you have a question for jerry just go ahead and put it in the in the comments box and we will get to those.
of one i wanted to start out with you referenced the other biographies of jim bridger. and you said you know, they were mostly incomplete. is there anything that those biographies that historians have just gotten wrong or overlooked about about bridgers life and accomplishments? well tremendous i have three pages of of you know, major errors that were that were made. i mean one altar who actually deserves a lot of credit for writing a book in 1925 that included a lot of information not only did you talk about bridger being shy and and kind of on hospital or not congenial. he suggested that bridger owned a canoe and that's what he had all the cross the mississippi river instead of a flat boat. i suggested that parachuto that actually he put this canoe on henry andrew henry's kill boat
as it went up the mississippi river no justification the missouri river no justification for that at all. so he was making supposition, but he wasn't really calling itself position. he was he was just saying this is what happened. and so i mean, i think a documented 13 errors in altar's book in the first chapter. my my point would be if someone wanted to write about about jim bridger you might get a few ideas from altar's book in 1962 in vessels book in 1946, but is not to be relied upon in really almost any way. i mean check it with mine and you know historians will tell me where i've made my errors as well and and that'll be documented as well. but so much more information is known, you know, and and some of the i have come across myself and that's in the book. that's a nice segue to the next question. you mentioned bridger. i had his faults as a historian.
how do you think we should go about balancing accomplishments against the any social shortcomings? well if i social shortcomings you made like the going into indigenous people's lands and taking their beaver pelts etc. you know by today's standards. it's not acceptable by any means. at the time when lewis and clark came back from their expedition 1804 to 1806. they reported that there is actually millions of dollars worth of beaver for that's swimming and scurrying around all these streams in lands that are being contested and there was a very awkward relationship the european and american groups and other groups, they would decide among themselves who had rights to this territory to the total not giving any
consideration to it to indian rights or indigenous people rights now the the us congress did say that that if they were to take some land from an indigenous tribe that they needed to actually get their permission and and provide annuity payments every year provide other land provide other things often that was done. so it's i mean that's an instance where he was acting like many others and the thing is as they went to the blackfoot territory the black feet territory. they would find that the blackfeet are were very comfortable being armed by the british about some bay companies. and so they wanted nothing to do with the american trappers and in fact the american trappers wanted to trap those beaver lands. whereas the hudson bay wanted to let the blackfeet trap them and get the money. and so those first to the hudson bay um, and so so that would be a fault. i would say to bridger and and
all of his man who are doing that on the other hand their friendship with the shoshone and the youth and the flathead the nez perth the crows were very helpful and they they those groups really welcome that because they needed american guns and bullets and other goods to protect themselves from the black feet. i mean, there was warfare going on between the black feet and all these other indian groups. you know, you know jim bridger like a lot of the mountain men and kind of iconic figures of the west were we're known to spin a yarn, or maybe embellish a story and then you know and in later, you know novels and accounts came out of that. is there a favorite fictional account a a story about jim bridger that you you find just fascinating? it's not maybe not true.
well, this is definitely not true, but it's well, first of all bridger what bridger was one of the first group of people who went into what is now the boundaries of yellowstone national park then this was 1826. bridge was 20. 21 22 years old it was 22, but he was under william sublett and so he would tell people years later not in the 1920s but or 1820s, but in the 1830s 1840s it tell people about the wonders of yellowstone and people would not believe him. they wouldn't believe about geysers. they wouldn't believe about obsidian which was appeared to be glass black glass, you know, all these things that these thermal regions and the paint pots and they called them always he's just a big liar. in fact, he told he told many the scientists that he explored with captain reynolds gk warren who did a tremendous map in the
1850s ferdinand hayden who discovered the cretaceous dinosaurs in in north america, he told all of them also stands very he told them all about these and they accurately recorded what he was saying, now in terms of tall tales when bridger kept getting these comments like oh that's just a bunch of lies. you're just a big liar, so he did tell that, you know a lot of the people on the around the campfire told tails anyway, so we had a great one. i won't tell it as well, but it's something along the lines of that. he was going along and he realized that suddenly he was going to be he was being chased by, you know a whole group of indians who are going to kill him and he races horses fast as he could and he was getting away from him, but there was one indian who had a very speedy horse and he stayed right with bridger the whole time and the rest of the indians who are attacking and trying to kill bridger they were falling back but bridget was ahead of this
one this other indian or this indian who was moving forward and suddenly richard realized he just approached a cliff. and he didn't know what to do. and then he stops his tail. and they said what happened? what happened? he said well the indian killed me. so he would tell stories like that that they were meant to be funny not meant to be believed but he really was based on. on a lot of true bravery bridge was good friends with a anthropologist by the name of stevenson and stevenson said, you know for all the stories i heard from jim bridger when i saw it when i was with him twice he we had a very severe encounter with with american indians and when i saw how bridger will calmly and cooley, you know manage to handle the situation and made sure that they were averting any fighting and/or in some cases actually fighting. he said i can tell you for
certain that all of bridger stories about his battles. they are all true. what do you stand on? when the bridge was part of the henry the ashley henry for a company expedition, you know in 1823, you know, they they mentioned that he was with you know stayed back to help hugh glass who he was mauled by a bear, you know and and in presented in the 2000 film the revenant i've read accounts where the that's purely fictional and others where they think that could have been a young jim bridger who who stayed with you glass. where do you follow on that? i think it could have been jim bridger, but i don't think it's proven yet. there are three people who who knew bridge are very well and the first three stories about hugh glass. come from those three people
just not full stories a full story from black moses black harris and a mentioned from pots and a mentioned from james clyman. it wasn't until 17 years later that edmund flagg who was a writer for the louisville literary newsletter produced a kind of a laughable account. there there numerous mistakes that he made in there, but he did say that the men who stayed behind was the young volunteer bridges and a person named fitzgerald. um, and have identified fitzgerald. so and i guess this this is countered by the reason i'm somewhat uncertain one because the story in the louisville literary newsletter from 1839 is really not very reputable. it has among the long river. it has it has so many errors and they're pointed out in the book. but also this man james
stevenson, i talked about those of the man in 1886 who was writing a history of bridger and he wrote 20 very knowledgeable people and he asked stevenson. what do you know about hugh glass and jim bridger and stevenson from the office of the smithsonian on a sunday morning wrote back in 1886. yes. bridger told me about this hugh glass episode, but there was no desertion. and there's certainly was a desertion, but i take that to mean there was no desertion about jim bridger. jim bridger was the topic of all the 20 questions that he was asking and so you've got you've got this one. flag who's writing that it was bridges and you've got someone in 1886 who said bridget told me about this and said he did not desert. i think the young person who stayed with glass is a hero. he shouldn't have lied at the end and fitzgerald was a scoundrel for stealing the rifle and lying about it. but this we had an audience
member question in your research of bridger. was there another individual you discovered in your research who you think is a deserving of a book potentially. well, there's not really a good full-length book on andrew henry. although i know i know someone who's working on one and i think he's making very good progress. there's others as well. but andrew henry comes to mind certainly as one who had a very remarkable life and there hasn't really been a full length story on on henry. so, you know, we're obviously in kansas city and interested in bridgers the time in kansas city. so another audience member asks. how did bridger decide to leave the rockies in settle in kansas city? or was i i think he would not have come back to what we call
the settlements or the states if he hadn't been he ran a foul of the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints. so there was an altercation or a an ongoing competition if you will between brigham young and jim bridger and so brigham young felt, you know, as i said earlier, i think bridger's death on us and and they claimed that that he was selling guns and alcohol to the huge indians who were at war in 1853. so brigham young well, i should say several people who brought charges against bridger for selling guns and/or alcohol to the indians. and so there was a warrant for his arrest for the charge of treason against the united states. so bridger didn't really know how to react to that is where they just going to give myself on the wrist. so they're gonna say you have to leave or they're going to kill
them. and so there was so he and his wife his third wife as shoshone woman named mary and their children they they went by horse and or maybe wagon two kansas city vesque as his partner had already established a home in in the westport area and bridger did bought it bought a home. i think in 1850 or bought the the thatcher farm in 1855 in 1853. this is when when bridger felt he better get out of fort for fear of his life. in 1854. he went to washington dc and he talked to members of congress and felt gave his view that the fort had been taken from him against his will. brigham young was furious at this and said that bridget would have come back and try to disobey the rules of this territory the way he'd done before he will find himself
being hung up between heaven and earth. he also said wrote not to members of congress but to his own delegate bernheisel in washington, dc. if members of congress think that jim bridger is the oracle of all things west we should just tell them meaning congress. that they can kiss my --. -- you. now that's a that's in the letter and it's crossed out now brigham young was very frank and he could be very very earthy in his language. he was a tremendous leader and he you know was a very very successful leader for his people, but obviously they were not getting along and bringing was very aggravated the reason why is because after bridger went to washington dc the douglas who was the senator who was running the kansas-nebraska act or bill actually was
considering reducing the boundary belonging to utah territory and increasing nebraska territory basically cutting out fort bridger and the green river ferries and keeping them part of nebraska instead of giving them to utah and that's where all the money was the green river ferries which bridge are operated as well as bridgers ford which bridge are operated and they they were the first ones to get the money before the the saints in this tremendous explosion of immigration, you know came to salt lake city. so we have a looks like one final audience question. it's a good one to wrap up wrap up wrap up this segment. we they were they were curious how the book tours going. you know, it's different, you know different type of tour with the zoom presentations online presentations. a traditional. a book tour where we be speaking next where can people get the book? well, this is my fourth of five online events.
i'm doing one wednesday. well, well you have probably a book a local bookstore that you'd like to suggest they could get a book. but yeah, i think rainy day books in kansas city would be a good one. but of course look for it at your favorite bookstore. yeah do that. so on wednesday i'm speaking virtually from boswell books in milwaukee and that's in conversation with doug brinkley who's a friend of mine, but he happens to be chief historian for the cnn and and we've talked back and forth about this book and other books some delighted that wednesday night. that'll be boswell books in milwaukee. and now i'm planting a tour and i have four stops already lined up in. council bluffs, iowa and gillette wyoming pinedale, wyoming and casper, wyoming and this is in the period and this will be in person on in the the range of july.
maybe seventh or 8th to july 14th. and then i also intend to be at the fort bridger rendezvous on saturday, i believe it's a september 4th of that weekend, and i'm looking for more in person talks because i love to talk about bridger and i love to meet readers face to face. well, i'd like to thank our audience for joining us today. and of course a jury insular for for just an excellent presentation. i encourage everyone to go out and pick up a copy of the book. and and make sure to go to the library's website to see some of the upcoming programs we have for the remainder of this month into the summer. jerry thank you.