Jim Bridger left a permanent mark on both the Montana landscape and all who heard his stories of the frontier.
Born in Virginia but orphaned by the time he was 13, Bridger was destined for the West. Before his parents died, they moved Jim and his sisters to St. Louis, Missouri, at a time when boats laden with beaver, buffalo hides, and bearded mountain men would stream steadily down the Missouri River into town. Wjem Bridger was older, he worked as a blacksmith. When he saw an ad in the local paper recruiting young men who yearned for adventure out West, he joined others such as Hugh Glass, Jedediah Smith, and Jim Beckwourth as a member of Ashley’s Hundred. A young man couldn’t have asked for a better apprenticeship as the men in his party were expert trackers, hunters, and trappers.
Arrow in the Back
Bridger’s stint as a blacksmith honed his muscles, and his keen mind didn’t hurt him either. When a rival fur-trading company followed Bridger and his men to their coveted fall trapping grounds, Bridger realized this and soon led them into hostile Blackfeet territory where the following party was promptly attacked. Word of his grit spread, too. During a struggle with some Blackfeet, he was arrowed in the hip, but he left the arrowhead in for three years. At a mountain man rendezvous, without medicine or booze, Bridger had a doctor remove the three-inch arrowhead from his hip. A week later, he was back on his horse to guide a group into Jackson Hole.
Bridger, now Bozeman, Pass
He was one of the best and youngest scouts called on by the Army to lead wagon trains, one of which was headed to mines in Montana’s Virginia City. With 300 immigrant miners and 62 wagons, the then-Major Bridger led his party to Livingston and then up and over what was then Bridger Pass, now known as Bozeman Pass.
At the end of the Civil War, Bridger was in his 60s and left the mountains for a farm in Missouri where he died at 77, leaving behind children, grandchildren, and innumerable stories of the American frontier.