This Mountain Man Had A Huge Impact On Bozeman, But Who Was He?
You don't have to spend too much time here in Bozeman and Gallatin County to hear the name Bridger. There's Bridger Bowl, Bridger Orthopedics, Bridger Brewing, Bridger Animal Nutrition, Bridger Aviation, and of course, there is the Bridger mountain range.
I mean, let's be honest, this Bridger guy must have been something, right? Actually, he was.
Jim Bridger was born in Richmond, Virginia back in 1804. So how does a guy that was born on the east coast end up out west? After moving to the St. Louis area when he was a boy, Bridger soon found himself to be an orphan. He would join a fur trapping expedition that would lead him to the western part of the country and that is where a whole lot of adventures would begin.
Bridger, who never learned to read or write, would become one of the most respected and famous guides the West would ever know. What he was lacking in education, he made up for in memory and understating of the terrain that he would explore.
According to history.com, "At the age of 21, Bridger became the first Anglo definitely known to have seen the Great Salt Lake, though he mistakenly thought it was the Pacific Ocean at the time." Bridger was also a pioneer when it came to exploring Jackson Hole and Yellowstone.
Bridger certainly made his mark on the West and there are several landmarks and historic places that now bear his name such as:
- Fort Bridger
- Bridger, Montana
- Bridger, South Dakota
- Bridger Pass
- Bridger-Teton National Forrest
- Bridger Peak in Utah
- Bridger Mountain Range in Wyoming
- Bridger Mountain Range in Montana
- Bridger Bay in Utah
Jim Bridger would go on to live a tragic life. The man that helped so many along the way would lose a couple of spouses and eventually be run out of the west. Bridger ended up losing his sight towards the end of his life and died on his farm outside of Kansas City at the age of 77 in 1881.