JSS History


Who was the Legendary Jedediah Strong Smith?

His Accomplishments:

  1. 1822-1831 Trapper, Trader, Explorer and Leader.
  1. 1824  Effectively discovered South Pass located at the southern  tip of the  Wind River Mountains  of Wyoming with the help of the friendly Crow (Absaroka) tribe and  made public the  opportunity for  overland travelers to go west to California and the Oregon Territory.  Over 400,000  pioneers travelled over this pass.
  1. 1826 First  American to enter California overland from the East.
  1. 1826-1828 First known person to traverse the West Coast by  land from San Diego to the Columbia River.
  1. 1827  First non-native American to Cross the Sierra   Nevada Mountains near Ebbetts Pass (Highway 4  today).


The idea to form the Society came from a 1956 meeting between UOP President Robert Burns, Director Reginald Stuart, Curator Grace Stuart, and Editor Leland Case. Case wanted a home for the Maurice Sullivan – Jedediah Strong Smith papers. The Stuarts were building the Stuart Library of Western History at the university. Also they developed programs for the California History Foundation at the university. In November 1957, the Society was incorporated by Dr. Burns, Senator Clinton P. Anderson, Leland D. Case, Dr. Malcom R. Eislen, Professor Artjur R. Farey, Dr. George D. Goodwin, Dr. Matthew D. Smith, Reginald R. Stuart, and Dr. G. A. Werner.

The Spring Breakfast was initiated to be a part of the annual California History Institute. The first annual Rendezvous was held on September 1958, upstairs in the Anderson Y reception room (currently 2nd floor of the Presidents Office). It was a dinner, at which Dr. Warren Atherton spoke on Jedediah Smith, followed by a Tiger football game in Memorial Stadium. Over the years the fall rendezvous has been held at various historical sites in California as well as on the Stockton campus of the university. Some of these sites have been locations where Jedediah had traveled.

The Society financially participated with the San Dimas Festival of the Arts in the erection of a statue in San Dimas honoring Jedediah in Southern California. In the early years the newsletter was included as part of the Pacific Historian which was prepared by R.R. Stuart and printed by his brother-in-law, the renown press of Lawton Kennedy of San Francisco. Later this publication has become Castor Canadensis. Other publications have been monographs published through the Center for Western Studies and the Society.

A major benefactor of the Society has been the late Julian Smith Bacon, Jr., “Smitty” was the great grandson of Peter Smith, younger brother of Jedediah. His contributions include personal effects of Jedediah and the Smith family now residing in the archives of Special Collections of the Holt Atherton Library.

The Society influenced the creation of Jedediah Smith State Park located on the Pacific Coast south of Eureka, California. Dr. Robert Burns, and C. M. Goethe of Sacramento donated property to the State of California with the proviso that the State acquire and set aside the remainder of the land necessary to establish the park for public use into perpetuity. A State Park ballot measure was passed to financially support the California State Park system and Jedediah Smith Park came into being on the Smith River. Geoethe was also instrumental in the establishment of the Jedediah Smith Trail along the American River in Sacramento. Geoethe (pronounced Gatey) had emigrated to the U.S. as the Nazi party rose to power. The Jedediah Smith Trail along the American river in Sacramento was one of his many projects for the land, people, and freedom of this country.

The 200th birth year of Jedediah was celebrated throughout the nation in 1999. Dinner with a speaker took place in Washington, South Dakota, and California. At his birthplace, Jerrico NY, now called Bainbridge, teacher Mary Drachler wrote a play and song that was performed several times for local audiences. Her elementary school classes, 4-6, made this a memorable community event. The California History Institute at the university held a symposium on the Fur Trade Era. Relatives of the Smith family in attendance were honored at the lunch banquet with an appropriate birthday cake. An essay contest was held with students in three California counties participating in locally held competitions. Finally the fall rendezvous was held in Red Bluff and Redding, California in his honor. The speaker, Joe Molter presented “Jed’s trip to the Coast.”

Other members through the years have acted upon the placement of numerous landmarks commemorating his travels. The efforts of James E. Smith of Helena, Montana have placed a marker on Interstate 70, Hyham, MT in 2000. Likewise his lobbying efforts for a United States Postal Stamp may in the near future be honored, culminating an effort begun in 1957. October, 2004, Lynne Turner developed a marker on I 80 west at Black Rock rest stop, Salt Lake City UT. Eagle Scouts Alex Cramer and Andy Mc Fee developed Pathfinder Park in Bainbridge NY May, 2005. Joe Molter, BLM, established Turn About Flat and Jed’s Overlook in 2007 near Red Bluff, CA. Jim Smith proposed the first postmark recognition of Jed’s Last Stand Rendezvous Oct 24, 2008, Ulysses, KS The Society is on the list for a future stamp.

Currently our work includes awarding an annual endowed scholarship at the university, the Julian Smith Bacon, Jr. and Jedediah Smith Society Scholarship. This scholarship honors the late ‘Smitty’ Bacon and his Smith family relatives. It provides a stipend for an upper division or graduate student studying in the field of teaching and/or Western U.S. History. In addition to future publications, the Society members are involved in work at the Oregon “Encounter/Massacre Site” on the Umpqua River and locating Jed’s route east over the Sierra range.