Kansas Collection Books
       The Indian War of 1864, by Eugene Ware



Appendix C.

[From Kansas City Star, Feb. 24, 1911.]

JAMES BRIDGER -- PIONEER
In Mount Washington Cemetery is the Grave of the Trapper.

     In the Missouri Republican of March 20, 1822, appeared a notice advertising for "enterprising young men" who would engage to "ascend the Missouri River to its source, there to be employed for one, two or three years." Among the enterprising young men who responded to this advertisement -- which emanated from the Missouri Fur Company -- was a young blacksmith apprentice named James Bridger, whose unguessed destiny it was to become almost a legendary figure in the pioneer history of the new West. The bare facts of his story are thus summarized upon a monument to his memory in the Mount Washington Cemetery, Kansas City:

1804--JAMES BRIDGER--1881

     Celebrated as a hunter, trapper, fur trader, and guide. Discovered Great Salt Lake, 1824; the South Pass, 1827. Visited Yellowstone Lake and Geysers, 1830. Founded Fort Bridger, 1843. Opened Overland Route by Bridger's Pass to Great Salt Lake. Was guide for United States exploring expeditions, Albert Sidney Johnston's Army in 1857, and G. M. Dodge in U.P. surveys and Indian campaigns, 1865-66.


     Piquant glimpses of the man himself, however, are captured for us by Edwin L. Sabin, writing in Recreation, New York. From Mr. Sabin we learn that, while still a young man, Bridger's qualities won him the honorary appellation, "Old Jim"; that when he discovered Great Salt Lake and tasted its water, he concluded that it was an arm of the Pacific Ocean; and that while not the discoverer of the Yellowstone National Park, he and his companion, Joe Meek, were the first to explore that marvelous region. For a long time their accounts of the wonders of the Yellowstone were received incredulously as trappers' tales.

     When the trade in beaver fur declined at the advent of the silk hat, "Old Jim" Bridger established a general trading-post known as "Bridger Fort," on a fork of the trails that led to Oregon and Salt Lake. Here he made the acquaintance of George Gore.

     It was in 1854 that Sir George Gore, real Irish nobleman and thorough Irish sportsman, passed up the Missouri from St. Louis on the vastly executed hunting expedition which has been compared to the exploits of Gordon Cumming in Africa, and certainly surpasses the late feat of Mr. Roosevelt. Gore must have been one of those royal good fellows such as the Britisher so often proves when tried out, for he and Bridger became fast friends. The nobleman's custom was to lie abed until near noon, then to arise, bathe, eat and set out, by himself or with Bridger, upon a hunt.

     Sir George Core delighted to read aloud to him out of Shakespeare and Munchausen (who "war a durned liar"), and hear his comments. Bridger declared that "that thar Mr. Fullstuff [Falstaff] war a leetle too fond o' lager beer", but Shakespeare, withal, so enthused him that he waylaid an emigrant train and bought a copy for a yoke of oxen. He hired a boy at forty dollars a month to read to him; only to quit in a rage at Richard III -- he "wouldn't listen to any more talk of any man who war mean enough to kill his mother!" He has been called "the Daniel Boone of the West." And it pleases me to think it was something more than a coincidence that he should make his "last camp" (even though he did not remain) in the very same house in which that other great Virginian had passed over the range fifty years before. It pleases me to think that at least they were drawn there by a common impulse.

     Quaint, honest old Bridger. Men today in their prime recall him with a smile and a word of praise. He lived to hear his Yellowstone yarns vindicated, to see a railroad using his particular pass and trail, and to realize that his mountain days had not been wasted. His post has crumbled into a shapeless mass; but over the mountain-man's dust, removed, after twenty years, by a friend, from the farm burial-place to the Kansas City cemetery, arises a noble granite monument, the deed of another friend; and Jim Bridger knows also, that he is not forgotten. -- Literary Digest.


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