E C.V. celebrates the Bicentennial of the journeys of Jedediah S. Smith
“Chasing the Buenaventura River” through 35 Chapter territories – the ECV/JSS Bicentennial Trail Project 2023-2030
In the next few years, beginning summer 2023, ECV is presented with an unparalleled opportunity to commemorate and celebrate the epic journeys of Jedediah S. Smith — one of the most legendary of the mountain men and the first non-native person to cross the Sierras. As Dale L. Morgan writes in “Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West” (1964):
“In the exploration of the American West, Jedediah Strong Smith is overshadowed only by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. During his eight years in the West, Jedediah Smith made the effective discovery of South Pass; [from the East] he was the first man
to reach California overland from the American frontier, the first to cross the Sierra Nevada, the first to travel the length and width of the Great Basin, the first to reach Oregon [Columbia River] by a journey up the California coast. He saw more of the West than any man of his time, and was familiar with it from the Missouri River to the Pacific, from Mexico to Canada.”
The travels of Jedediah S. Smith were over twice the distance of Lewis and Clark – and covered a broader territory.
He and his fur trapping brigades opened up both a southern route and a central route to the west coast in 1826-1828.
He was known for his many systematic recorded observations on nature and topography. His expeditions raised doubts about
the existence of the legendary (mythical) Buenaventura River, and then effectively disproved its existence for once and for all.
Jedediah Smith and his comrades traversed the modern territories of no less than 35 E C.V. Chapters in 9 states (!!)
Does the “JSS Trail” traverse your Chapter territory ? Will your Chapter be “plaquing” the Trail during the Bicentenary ?
In fall of 1826, having crossed the Mojave Desert in August 1826, Jedediah Smith and his fur-trapping party arrived at Mission San Gabriel (about five miles southeast of present-day Pasadena). Smith’s party had left the second annual fur trader’s rendezvous in Soda Springs, Idaho (near the border of Utah) in late August 1826, and traveled via the Mojave Villages (near present-day Needles, California) to Mission San Gabriel Arcángel – a journey of nearly 1,000 miles. He and his group spent the winter of 1826 negotiating with Spanish authorities in Southern California, and the spring of 1827 trapping beaver in the Central Valley north to Folsom CA.
On December 16, 1826, Smith had written in a letter to the 1st United States minister plenipotentiary to Mexico [Joel Roberts Poinsett] his plans to “follow up on of the largest Riv(ers) that emptied into the (San Francisco) Bay cross the mon (mountains) at its head and from thence to our deposit [cache] on the Great Salt Lake.” The mythical Buenaventura River allegedly flowed west from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, and was imagined to be the western equivalent of the Mississippi River, draining an enormous watershed, making it possible to float goods to and from the Pacific Ocean. It was shown on all the Spanish maps of western North America from 1778 until the 1830s — when the expeditions of Jedediah Smith in 1826-28 proved that it did not exist.
Here is a sample of the type of plaque that your Chapter may choose to ERECT for the Bicentenary of Smith’s travels:
source: Castor Canadensis http://jedediahsmithsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Castor-Summer-2016-1.pdf
In late May 1827, Smith started over the Sierra Nevada, up the Stanislaus River to Ebbetts’ Pass, with just two men, seven horses and two mules. They intended to cross the Sierras, Nevada and Utah to rendezvous with his fur trading partners in Northern Utah:
“On the 20th of May, 1827 my preparations being finished. I took leave of my small but faithful party and started on an enterprise involved in great uncertainty. I took but two men with me — Robert Evans and Silas Goebel. I had six horses and mules. I had about 60 lbs. of meat and a part of my horses were packed with hay to feed them during the passage of the Mountains.” J.S.S.
This was a journey begun by 3 men, without any map, through uncharted and unknown territory. Some of the native tribes Smith encountered had never seen a white man, and had never seen a horse. After great hardship, with great courage, they succeeded.
Plaquing the routes of JSS is something almost ALL Chapters have an opportunity to do during the Bicentenary period of 2023-2030.
Contact the ECV – Jedediah Strong Smith Bicentennial Celebration Committee Chairbrother Wit Ashbrook at (510) 847-8015