Origin of the Society

Organized and incorporated in November 1957, the Jedediah Smith Society is a private, nonprofit corporation. It was initially established to collect, preserve, and ensure access to

Jed Smith archives at the College of the Pacific’s California History Foundation (now the University of the Pacific; the Foundation became the Pacific Center of Western Studies, Holt-Atherton Center).

Today, the society publishes a quarterly newsletter, an updated annotated bibliography, and a semiannual journal, Castor Canadensis. It also sponsors research, conducts a yearly rendezvous, maintains a website, pursues public education, develops interactive and printed maps, helps to create and install monuments, and provides scholarships for deserving University of the Pacific students.

The first step toward creating such an active society began with a 1956 meeting of the then Methodist-inspired College of the Pacific President Robert Burns, major donors Reginald and Grace Stuart, and new college editor Leland Case. Case, formerly editor of National Methodist Publications, had purchased the papers of prominent Jed Smith scholar Maurice Sullivan in 1943. (Sullivan had written an important book on Jed in 1934, The Travels of Jedediah Smith.)

Case’s interest in Jed Smith was shared by C.M. Goethe, a prominent Sacramento banker, and by Goethe’s wife. Earlier, in 1949, the Goethes had donated funds, matched by the state of California, to establish a Jedediah Smith Memorial Grove on the Smith River in what is now a 10,000-acre state park. They were members of the Save-the-Redwoods League and admired Jed for his strong religious principles. Mr. Goethe was also chairman of the newly formed Sacramento State College Board, a fact which may explain the Smith marker and the Jed Smith Drive on campus as well as markers along the American River.

Reginald Stuart was chairman of the California History Foundation from 1956 to 1965. He and his wife Grace donated 10,000 books and manuscripts on California and the Trans-Mississippi West. Mr. Stuart also launched the campus’s Pacific Historian journal and became a driving force behind the society.

The Pacific Historian’s first issue announced that Case and US Senator Clinton P. Anderson from New Mexico were donating the Sullivan papers to the College of the Pacific.

The first Fall Rendezvous was held in 1957 at the college. Dues were $5.00, and there were nearly 100 members. The society is now 66 years old and still has about that many members. The society’s most famous member was historian Dale L. Morgan. His Jedediah Smith and the Opening of The West remains the classic biography of Smith. It appeared in 1953, 24 years before George R. Brooks published Parkman’s transcript of Smith’s journal of his first California expedition.