The Pathfinders – Jim Bridger

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Jim Bridger was a scout, guide and trapper. But he is perhaps best known for his exploits as a mountainman and for his tall tales.

Jim Bridger – Pathfinder

He was born in Virginia in 1804, an infant at the time of the Louis and Clark Expedition.

His family moved to St. Louis and his parents died when he was 13, leaving him an orphan. He’d never been to school and would never learn to read. But he was apprenticed to a blacksmith and earned a living that way, until, at the age of 18 he signed on with the Upper Missouri Expedition—a group who were seeking to get into the fur trading business. He made friends with Jedidiah Smith and other men who gained skills in living on the frontier.

Beginning at age 18, Bridger would spend thirty years exploring the west, trapping and guiding others.

He was part owner of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, which competed well with John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company.

And he was counted (with some dispute) to be the first white man to see the Great Salt Lake.

Bridger married three times, twice widowed, to a Flathead woman and to two Shoshone chieftain’s daughters.

He was also one of the men who assured the Donner Party that the new trail they wanted to take would be fine. (Apparently HE never had any trouble getting through that pass! WTG Jim!)

But it was as a guide that he really changed the world. Jim Bridger

explored extensively in the mountains and found a pass that cut 60 miles off the Oregon Trail. It was named for him, Bridger Pass and the Union Pacific Railroad and later Interstate 80 would use this same trail.

He also found an alternate trail when the Bozemen Trail became too dangerous with the Indians hostile to the invasion of settlers. It because known as the Bridger Trail

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He was so well known for his tall tales that when he talked of the wonders of the geysers in Yellowstone, no one believed him.

He was personal friends of Jedidiah Smith, John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, among many other well-known mountain men.

When age made living in the rugged mountains difficult, he headed back to St. Louis. He lived there from the age of about 50 until his death at age 77. So many of these rugged mountainmen lived short lives. But Jim Bridger, a man who opened the west in huge and important ways, would live to see his trail chosen for the Transcontinental Railroad…the Union Pacific.


The Fight for the Cimarron Ranch Has Just Begun!

When Cimarron ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, only the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid save him. Before leaving by train to receive treatment to save his leg–and possibly his life–Chance demands that Heath read the patriarch’s will and see its conditions enforced immediately. If Chance’s three bickering adult children, Justin, Sadie, and Cole, don’t live and work at the home for an entire year, ownership of the ranch will pass to a despised distant relative.

Before long, however, Heath discovers that the avalanche may have been intentionally set–and that more danger lurks ominously. Finding his own future–and a desired future with Sadie–locked up in saving the Cimarron Ranch, Heath and the Boden siblings must work together against outside forces that threaten them all.

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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

18 thoughts on “The Pathfinders – Jim Bridger”

  1. Great post! I remember reading about this giant of a man who had such an effect on the new western territory–but some time ago. Thanks again for telling his story, and it’s so neat that he lived to see the results of all what he did.

    • P.S. When I said he was a “giant” of a man, I was speaking figuratively. Then I decided to check it out and found this:

      “Biographer Grenville Dodge described him as:”
      “a very companionable man. In person he was over six feet tall, spare, straight as an arrow, agile, rawboned and of powerful frame, eyes gray, hair brown and abundant even in old age, expression mild and manners agreeable. He was hospitable and generous, and was always trusted and respected.”

      I also found this: “Described as tall and muscular by his contemporaries, Bridger was considered shrewd, honest, and brave.”

      So I guess he was a giant in status, both figuratively and literally. 🙂

      • Eliza, I LOVE IT! I’ve got you googling Jim Bridger.
        I never knew he found the trail that ended up being the route the train took until I researched this blog…or maybe I knew it once but had forgotten.
        I can almost (barely) imagine being out in the wild and trying to find new trails. Did he do it deliberately or was he just wandering for his own education and pleasure?

        Such an interesting, courageous type of person.

        • My guess about Bridger is that being an orphan at 13 and then later at 18 signing up for an Missouri expedition was the start. No family roots, and likely an innate urge to learn things, adventure, and, well, just move around. I have a belief that some people are just born with a need for traveling, adventure or seeing new things.

          My own grandfather was orphaned at 6 in Indian Territory and his young and mature adult life were full of adventures and stories. He lied about his young age to get into the military (WWI), and then his life work was with a Texas gas company that moved him around the US and Canada all his life. Even in retirement, he moved around often to visit friends from all over. He apparently gave my mom and me that gene because being “on the road” headed for some place new absolutely called to us, and vacations were often spent that way. Being in and seeing new places was revitalizing to us.

            • No, I didn’t know, but it does make sense when you think about it, if they wanted to keep the weight on the horse as light as possible for fast travel times, as well as the dangerous aspects of the trail. I found an ad supposedly used: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” I also didn’t know but just learned the Pony Express lasted only about a year and a half before the telegraph took over. Buffalo Bill Cody claimed to have been a rider but I’m not sure that has been proven–although he seemed to be every-darn-where else! 😉

  2. What a wonderful article. I love books with Jim Bridger in them. He was a pioneer in his own time, he left a huge legacy. Your books sounds wonderful.

  3. Hi Mary! Wonderful post on Jim Bridger. He sounds like a decent, fun-type of man. Definitely a “man’s man.” There is just something about a man who enjoys telling tall tales (in good fun.) A sense of humor is so appealing…

  4. Interesting post. Thank you.
    We visited Fort Bridger, Wyoming several years ago. The trading post there was established by Jim Bridger in the early 1800’s. It is now a state historic site. The Fort Bridger Mountain Man Rendezvous is held the first week of September (this year it will be the 2nd-5th) every year. It is a wonderful opportunity to get the feel of what these events were like. From their website: “Admission for the general public is $4.00 for everyone 12 years and up. Come authentically dressed from head to toe in pre-1840 fur trade era mountain man garb only, and get in free!.” It is reasonably priced and quite an experience. If you want to find out more about it, go to their website The park also has a website.
    We chanced upon it and had a wonderful time. There weren’t many places to stay nearby, but it was well worth the trip.

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