The following is a very condensed version of the presentation John L. Moore gave at the Where
Eagles Gather Prophetic Conference held in Kremmling, Colorado
The greatest of the Mountain Men was Jedediah Strong Smith. Born into a Methodist family in 1799, he responded to the ad and departed for the wilderness with his Bible in hand. During the following nine years he explored more of the American West than anyone. Smith discovered the South Pass opened the Oregon Trail; ascertained that the Great Salt Lake was a small inland sea, not the Pacific Ocean as Jim Bridger believed; and was twice imprisoned by the Spanish in California. He survived numerous attacks by hostile natives including two ambushes that killed all or most of his men. He lived through hunger, heat, blizzards, and a mauling by a Grizzly bear. Once, nearly dead from thirst, he staggered upon Indians who'd never seen a white man and one young native girl died from the shock. Smith lamented: "Could it be possible that we who call ourselves Christians are such frightful objects as to scare poor savages to death?" Through it all he maintained his faith, was devoted to prayer, abstinence and civil speech, and recorded in his journal: "God only knows, I feel the need of the watch and care of a Christian church." Smith left the mountains in 1830 and returned to the Midwest a wealthy man. But he didn't stay long. Whether it was to detail facts for a book he was writing or to establish his younger brothers in business, he set out with a party on the Santa Fe Trail in the Spring of 1831.
The party encountered drought in southwest Kansas and Smith set out in search of water. He never returned and his body was never found. It is believed he was ambushed and killed by Comanches. Smith's martyrdom did not end the fur trade. It flourished for another half-dozen years and hundreds more brave young souls ventured westward. It was fashion, not warfare, that brought the fur business down. In the late 1830s Europeans abandoned a head covering of hide and hair for one of silk. Almost overnight, fur trappers were unemployed. Most wanted to stay in their beloved mountains but they needed a new source of income.
For many the best available position was that of a scout for the wagon trains that made up what was known as "The
Great Migration". Motived by the belief in "Manifest Destiny" - that America was ordained to reach
from one coast to the other -- thousands of pilgrims set out on the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails and many of these
were Protestant missionaries birthed from the Charles Finney revivals. For the rugged Mountain Men this change
of economy presented a problem. They were not accustomed to the lifestyles and values of the Protestant missionaries.
Nor were the missionaries accustomed to men like them. But each needed the other. The Mountain Men knew the routes,
tribes, wildlife, and seasons. They might be crude and reckless, but they carried the scars of knowledge gained
through experience. The missionaries had a cause, zeal, and more refinement, but they didn't have knowledge of
We have learned to live on life's cutting edge with one eye constantly open. But now it is time to leave the isolation, clean our buckskins and our speech, and seek the wagon masters and wagon trains. There are few other options. Like the Mountain Men of old, our other choices merely include trying to farm and ranch -- either in the domesticated Midwest or in the savage wilds -- or resort to a life of lawlessness. Some Mountain Men of the 1830s did become whiskey traders, horse thieves and slave merchants. Employment with the wagons means a loss of some freedom and individuality. But it also means the responsibility and honor of escorting the next "Great Migration."
The next mass movement of God toward Manifest Destiny. It is time to clean up our acts. If we know the way to the
river's source, it is time to show others. The Kingdom is not ours to protect, it is His to share. As Jedediah
Smith said: "It is, that I may be able to help those who stand in need, that I face every danger. It is for
this that I traverse the mountains covered with eternal snow and it si for this that I pass over the Sandy Plains
in heat of summer...and most of all, it is for this that I deprive myself of the privilege of society and the satisfaction
of conversation with my friends." With his exploring done, Jedediah Smith led his brothers westward. It is
time for the rest of us to do the same.