The Mountain Man
March 17, 1804 - Jim Bridger, the legendary mountain man was born on this day.
When he was just 17 he joined General William Ashley's expedition to follow the Missouri River to its source. This led to more explorations and adventures into the American west. Bridger was one of the first white men to see the geysers of Yellowstone and the Great Salt Lake.
At 26 he started the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and built a trading post that supplied the pioneers who were flowing across the Oregon Trail. Bridger's ability to speak multiple languages kept his services in high demand.
He was incredibly strong and resilient. In 1832 he was shot with an arrow and he waited 3 years before he found a doctor who could cut the arrowhead out of his back.
Bridger married 3 times. All his wives were Indian women, and two were the daughters of chiefs. He fathered 5 children.
When he reached 50, Bridger was still in his prime. He had found an overland route to the South Pass that would come to be known as Bridger's Pass. This shortcut took 61 miles off the treacherous trip to the Oregon Trail. The same route would eventually be used by the Union Pacific Railroad and today's Interstate 80.
At 60 years of age, Bridger blazed a new trail to the gold fields of Montana. Given his unique knowledge of the landscape, Bridger was often hired as an army scout during the Indian wars.
In his last years Bridger went blind and battled with the government over old debts and broken promises. He died in 1881.