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

Explorer Jedediah Smith’s party faced hard times in 1828 while making the first recorded Euro-American journey by land from the California Coast to Oregon.

The 19 men couldn’t find enough game to feed themselves in the Humboldt County thickets.  Some of the men wrote in journals that the brigade was starving and could hardly force their broken-down work animals any farther.  All they had left was a few pounds of rice and flour, but no meat.

On June 5, they killed their last dog and stewed it with some flour.  Smith wrote in his journal, “This is what hunters call bad luck, and we felt to be hard times.”

The next day they traded with Indians for lamprey eels and berries, but by the following day the group was so hungry and desperate they butchered one of their young horses, which Smith described as a feast.

When the group reached the beach at the mouth of Wilson Creek, they traded beads for Indian clams, dried fish, sea-grass-and-weed cakes, but still no game.

A week later, Joseph LaPointe shot a gigantic elk, which provided almost 700 pounds of meat for the

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.