[Reprinted from original]
The name Jim Bridger conjures images of the American West, especially in places like Wyoming.
Even among iconic frontiersmen like John C. Frémont, Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith, Bridger stands out. A mountain man of the American West, straddling the fur trade era and the age of exploration, he lived a life legends are made of.
Born in 1804 and orphaned at 13, Bridger made his first western foray in 1822, traveling up the Missouri River with Mike Fink and a hundred enterprising young men to trap beaver. At 20, it was believed that he was the first white man to discover the Great Salt Lake.
At 21, he was the first to paddle the Big Horn River’s Bad Pass. A year later, he explored the wonders of Yellowstone.
Over the years, he led trapping brigades into Blackfeet territory; guided expeditions of Smithsonian scientists, topographical engineers and Army leaders; and, though he could neither read nor write, mapped the tribal boundaries for the Great Indian Treaty of 1851.
In his book “Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West,” author Jerry Enzler charts Bridger’s path from the fort he built on the Oregon Trail to the route he blazed for Montana gold miners to try to avert war with Red Cloud and his Lakota coalition. Along the way he married into the Flathead, Ute and Shoshone tribes and produced seven children.
Tapping sources uncovered in the six decades since the last documented Bridger biography, Enzler’s book fully conveys the drama and details of the larger-than-life history of the “King of the Mountain Men,” according to the Rockpile Museum.
Enzler served as founding director of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium for 37 years. He has written and curated national exhibitions and films and has published historical articles on Bridger, river history and other topics.
Enzler will give a presentation about his book and sign copies at 7 p.m. July 13 at the Campbell County Rockpile Museum, 900 W. Second St.
The event is free to attend and open to the public.
The museum also will have its Black & Yellow Theatre: Voices of the Powder River Basin presentation titled “Jim Bridger & The Bard,” a living history experience inspired by the life of Bridger and the works of William Shakespeare at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and again July 13.
For more information, visit rockpilemuseum.com or call 307-682-5723.
— News Record Staff