Jedidiah Strong Smith, a contemporary to Lewis and Clark and pathfinder through the Rocky Mountains, was born in Bainbridge (Jericho at the time) in 1799. Two monuments in Bainbridge mark the significance of his life of the more than 70 monuments across the country that note his travels– in Utah, Nevada, Kansas, etc.
Jed lived in Bainbridge for the first ten years of his life. He moved on to Pennsylvania, and when he was 21, he began his adventures in the West, where he:
- Discovered the South Pass over the Rockies
- Traveled overland from California from the east to the west
- Was the first known white man to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains from west to east
- Was the first to open a trail from the Salt Lake Region to the Colorado River (I-15)
- Was the first to open a route from California to Oregon;
His total miles travelled in the wilderness from 1826-1831 equals twice the mileage of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
He was described as a “Christian Gentleman on the Frontier.” He went out on his last trading party expedition and was killed by a Comanche War Party when he was only 32.
His name has been bestowed on rivers, mountains, parks and buildings. And in his hometown of Bainbridge, he has two memorials:
- The first was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1950 – a plaque in the village park, identifying Smith as born in Bainbridge and as the Pathfinder of the Sierras.
- A larger monument was erected in 2005 just northeast of the Village on State Route 7. In a triangle of green, the stone identifying the area as Pathfinder Park invites people to stop and wander – sit in the gazebo, have lunch at the picnic table and admire the large mounted plaque describing Jed’s life.