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As It Was: Jedediah Smith Faces Hard Times on Way to Oregon

Explorer Jedediah Smith and his travelling companions nearly starved during the first documented land journey of American explorers up the California coast to Oregon in June of 1828.

They were experienced hunters, but had difficulty feeding themselves when making their way through the dense thickets of Humboldt County.  Journals kept by individual members of the party said that they could not push their animals any farther.  The entire brigade was starving, their meat supply exhausted, leaving only a few pounds of rice and flour.

On June 5, they killed a dog and stewed it with a few handfuls of flour.  Smith wrote, “This is what hunters call bad luck, and we felt (it) to be hard times.”

The next day they traded with Indians for lamprey eels and berries, but by the following day the desperately hungry group butchered a young horse that Smith said make quite a feast.

When they reached the beach, they met Indians and traded beads for clams, dried fish, and cakes made of sea grass and weeds.  Things got better a week later when Joseph LaPointe heroically shot a large elk that provided nearly 700 pounds of meat.

Sources: Barbour, Barton H. Jedediah Smith: No Ordinary Mountain Man. Norman, OK, University of Oklahoma Press, 2011, https://books.google.com/books?id=O89PceOzUAoC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. Accessed 18 July 2017; Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 22 June 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jedediah_Smith. Accessed 19 July 2017.

Valerie Ing was a teenager when she hosted her first music program on the airwaves. As a student at SOU, she was JPR’s Chief Student Announcer and the first volunteer in our newsroom. She's now JPR’s Northern California Program Coordinator, hosting Siskiyou Music Hall from JPR's Redding studio in the Cascade Theatre.