Forgotten Frontiersman

In The Western Odyssey of John Simpson Smith, author Stan Hoig recalls a little remembered early pioneer of the American West.

Smith was a Kentucky boy. By 1830 he was in St. Louis and apprenticed to a tailor. He likely ran away that year and went west with a group of trappers and traders. He spent the winter in a Blackfeet Indian camp and learned to speak their language. The author says Smith likely participated in the 1835 rendevous of trappers and traders that met on the Green River. Among the men he met there were Jim Bridger and Kit Carson.

By 1840 Smith was living in a Cheyenne camp with his Cheyenne wife and her son. About 1842 the couple had a son called Jack. John Smith became a principal trader at Bent’s Fort. He accompanied several Indian delegations to Washington, serving as interpreter for treaty talks. Smith became an advisor to Indian Agents and official government interpreter for the four major treaties with the Cheyenne and Arapaho.

For an interesting and detailed account of life in the early West and in Indian camps, look for a copy of this book published in 1974 by The Arthur H. Clark Company, Glendale, California.

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