Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West

Jerry Enzler

Book cover for Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West
Book cover for Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West
Book cover for Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West
Book cover for Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West

Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West

Jim Bridger: Trailblazer of the American West

Jerry Enzler

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Even among iconic frontiersmen like John C. Frémont, Kit Carson, and Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger stands out. A mountain man of the American West, straddling the fur trade era and the age of exploration, he lived the life legends are made of. His adventures are fit for remaking into the tall tales Bridger himself liked to tell. Here, in a biography that finally gives this outsize character his due, Jerry Enzler takes this frontiersman's full measure for the first time--and tells a story that would do Jim Bridger proud.

Born in 1804 and orphaned at thirteen, 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 twenty he "discovered" the Great Salt Lake. At twenty-one he was the first to paddle the Bighorn River's Bad Pass. At twenty-two he explored the wonders of Yellowstone. In the following 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. Enzler charts Bridger's path from the fort he built on the Oregon Trail to the route he blazed for Montana gold miners 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." This is the definitive story of an extraordinary life.

Critical Reviews

"..it is biographies like Jim Bridger by Iowa historian Enzler that we need more of on our shelves and in the university catalogues...For scholars, researchers and buffs of the history of the mountain men who helped shape the West, Enzler's Jim Bridger is one of best biographies published in recent years. His literary style is highly readable, he provides a clear and detailed path to understanding his research and conclusions through his annotated endnotes and a thorough bibliography...Will this be Enzler's only foray into mountain man history? Let's hope not. He is an excellent biographer and historian, and we would all benefit from more books from the Iowa author."--True West Magazine

"This volume is now the most extensive of Bridger biographies. It reads easily, provides new information on Bridger as trapper and guide, and reveals a good deal about his ambition, energy, and memory. Altogether a delightful read."--Oregon Historical Quarterly

"Enzler leaves the reader with an appreciation of just how remarkable Bridger's life was in the development of the American West."--Overland Journal

"Jim Bridger has tapped sources uncovered since the publication of earlier biographies. It is an engrossing story of the life of one of the greatest "Mountain Men", when all is considered - and the most able scout and guide. It is full of details, excitement, and the history of the period: the fur trade, the army and Indian conflicts, the places [Bridger] discovered, including Utah's Great Salt Lak, the new trails found in this new age of exploration and so on...Jerry Enzler's book provides the minutiae and vast range of Bridger's life and if there is at some places a eulogistic element then this is very much in harmony with a sincere appreciation of the man." -- English Westerners Society

"Jim Bridger's story is as big as the West he called his home, and now we have a biography that captures all the nooks and crannies, nuances and tales of Bridger. Just as Bridger left no area unexplored, biographer Jerry Enzler has left no stone unturned in writing Bridger's life story. This is a remarkable book about a remarkable man."--Candy Moulton, author of The Mormon Handcart Migration: "Tounge nor pen can never tell the sorrow"

"Jim Bridger's is an exciting and significant story, and Jerry Enzler tells it in exceptionally well documented detail and readable prose. Enzler sets forth new dimensions of Bridger, never before published. This is lasting biography at its best."--Robert M. Utley, author of After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific

"In the most reliable, best-researched, and most comprehensive biography of this western trailblazer, mountain man, army guide, and fort operator, Enzler offers readers a valuable reinterpretation of Bridger's remarkable life."--Jay H. Buckley, author of William Clark: Indian Diplomat

"Jerry Enzler has produced a solid, reliable, sympathetic, and quite readable cradle-to-grave and life-and times biography of the legendary frontiersman and American original, Jim Bridger."--Missouri Historical Review

"An extensive and definitive biography of Jim Bridger, a character almost larger than life in his time, is long overdue. Jerry Enzler has provided us with the next chapter in scholarship about the early fur trade era. This book deserves a place on the bookshelf of all those interested in an exciting period in American history."--Nebraska History

Publishing Information

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Pub date: 2023-01-10
Length: 384 pages

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