The Gentleman Fur Trapper

jedediah smith marker

Jedediah Smith carried a rifle and a Bible.

When a fellow fur trapper died, Smith gave what was recorded as a “powerful prayer.” This powerful prayer is considered the first recorded public act of Christian worship by white men in South Dakota. It is commemorated on historical markers at The Bay at Grand River Casino, near Mobridge.

A mural painted by Charles Holloway depicts this act on the ceiling of the House chamber in the South Dakota Capitol. Titled “The Peace that Passes Understanding,” it is the largest mural in the Capitol.

“It would be a mistake to view Smith as a rough-and-ready frontiersman in buckskin. He was a deeply religious person and cultured gentleman whom even the giants of the fur trade, Ashley, Fitzpatrick and William Sublette, respected and admired,” according to “The Reader’s Encyclopedia of the American West,” edited by Howard R. Lamar.

According to information on the historical markers, Smith was “a Methodist by faith, he carried a Bible with him wherever he went …” Smith was born in Bainbridge, N.Y., in 1798 or 1799, depending on the source. In 1822, Smith accompanied Gen. William Ashley on Ashley’s first fur trapping expedition from St. Louis to the upper Missouri River. A year later, Smith was with Ashley’s second expedition up the Missouri River when it was attacked by the Arikara near the mouth of the Grand River in present-day South Dakota. The attack left more than a dozen fur trappers dead, and the rest fleeing for their lives.

John Gardner was one of those killed. In “Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor,” James D. McLaird writes that before Gardner died, he asked Hugh Glass, another member of the party, to inform his parents of his sad fate. Glass did so, stating in the letter that “Mr Smith a young man of our company made a powerful prayr wh moved us all greatly and I am persuaded John died in peace.”

To avoid the river route, Ashley later split the party into two groups and sent them overland to the mountains from Fort Kiowa, located near present-day Chamberlain. Part of the party, including Glass, set out west for the Yellowstone River. Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear near the Grand River and left for dead. Glass’ story has been told in books, poetry and movies.

Smith led the other party west toward the Black Hills. The group camped the first night along the White River. In his book “Journal of a Mountain Man,” expedition member James Clyman described the land as treeless and wrote that it took two days of thirst and starvation to cross a large bend in the White River. When water was finally found, Clyman wrote that Smith “took Some water and rode about 2 miles back bringing up the exhausted men which he had buried in the sand.”

They apparently entered the southern Black Hills through the Buffalo Gap, an opening in the Black Hills where buffalo entered and left the high country. Smith and his men are considered the first whites to enter the region, according to “The Roadside History of South Dakota” by Linda Hasselstrom.

In what some sources report was in the vicinity of Wind Cave and others in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, a grizzly bear surprised and mauled Smith, breaking some of his ribs and laying his skull bare. Smith asked Clyman to sew up his wounds, which Clyman did.

The winter of 1823-24 was spent at the site of present-day Dubois, Wyo. Smith and his group learned from a group of friendly Crow Indians of an easy pass around the southern end of the Wind River Mountains. Although South Pass had been used before by whites, its discovery was forgotten and Smith and his party are credited for bringing South Pass to general knowledge.

Smith was well on his way to becoming one of the most famous of mountain men. In addition to rediscovering South Pass, Smith was the first American to enter California from the east and return from California using an overland route. He opened a coastal trade route from California to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. He filled in many of the missing pieces of western geography and demonstrated that there were feasible routes across the West to California and Oregon.

In 1830, Smith decided to leave the life of a mountain man. He sold his shares in his fur trading company and bought a house in Saint Louis. He was persuaded to take one more load of goods to Santa Fe, N.M., though, leaving in the spring of 1831. Smith was killed by Comanches while riding alone ahead of his party trying to find water along the Santa Fe Trail near the Cimarron River.

This moment in South Dakota history is provided by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Find us on the web at Contact us at to submit a story idea.




Traveling is one of life’s great joys, so we love it when our stories inspire readers to hit the road. Jan and Carl Brush took that idea to the extreme when they used South Dakota Magazine to plan a 360-mile biking trip. The couple has biked in all 50 states, but they like South Dakota the best. Our small towns, friendly people, beautiful wildlife and peaceful roads make for a perfect two-wheel experience…or maybe I should say three-wheel. The Brushes use a tandem recumbent trike that is 10 ft. long. They left from Yankton on July 24 and Jan wrote some notes from the first day that shows why they love biking here. “We rode 51 miles total. We saw lots of wildlife. Everyone waved and a herd of horses greeted us west of Freeman at the Jonas farm and ran alongside us for 100 yards inside their pen.”

Wildlife and animals were a fun part of the Brushes’ adventures. During the 8-day trip they were trailed by a young billy goat and saw a white pelican and a wood stork sunning themselves near Willow Lake. They also met the most famous pet in Canova — Bill Perrine’s rescue dog, Daisy. “The local joke is, if you want to find Bill, find Daisy,” Jan told us. After talking a while with Bill, the Brushes found something they had in common — Bill loved biking, too, but the motorized kind. He and his wife have motorcycled in every state, in all the Canadian provinces, throughout Mexico and much of western Europe.

Bill was just one of many interesting people the Brushes met when they stopped in several small towns. They met Tammy Zulk in Canova, the creator of a memorial garden. “She started the garden in 2007 as a memorial to her late son, Tyler, who died in a motorcycle accident,” Jan said. “Engraved memorial stepping stones are available by contacting Tammy. She etches them herself. The beautiful garden is certainly the pride of the community.”

The Brushes visited with Amish families in Canistota who were there visiting the Ortman Clinic. They also made new friends in Bridgewater whom they had read about in our magazine. Jack Vondra, age 91, who runs the Vondra jewelry store, shared local history.

When the Brushes returned to Bridgewater on their way home they stopped again to say hello to Jack and his wife, Lois. “Jack moved here in 1947 to start a job repairing watches,” they wrote. “He was paid $25 a week and a place to live. In 1951 he and Lois were married and they bought the jewelry store on a handshake agreement. At age 91 he still can be found at the store most days.”

The Brushes met many more interesting people and enjoyed some great food, too. More than I can fit into this column. But visit our website at to see more. We guarantee you’ll find travel tips that aren’t likely to be found anywhere else in the world.

Katie Hunhoff is the editor and publisher of South Dakota Magazine, a bi-monthly print magazine featuring the great places and people of South Dakota. Visit for more information or to contact Katie.

Average Gas Prices Holding Steady


The national average price of gas has held relatively steady over the past week and has declined on just one of the past four days. The national average price for regular unleaded gasoline is $2.12 per gallon, which is the lowest price for this date since 2004 and 26 cents below 2016’s peak price to date of $2.40 on June 11.

South Dakota’s price average today for self-serve regular gasoline has also held steady over the last week at $2.21 per gallon, according to One year ago gas prices were 66 cents higher in the state.
Abundant supplies of gasoline have contributed to starkly lower gas prices across the country during this summer driving season. However, the U.S. Department of Energy last week reported the largest gasoline supply decline since April (3.3 million barrels), which was enough to at least temporarily reverse the lengthy slide in pump prices over the past several days.

As of recently, some 44 percent of gas stations nationwide were selling gasoline for $2.00 per gallon or less, compared to fewer than one in 1,000 on this same date last year. Less than one percent of stations nationwide are selling gasoline for more than $3.00 per gallon, compared to 11 percent of stations one year ago.

With gasoline supplies high and oil prices low, pump prices are likely to remain relatively cheap through the remainder of the summer and into the fall. This comes even as U.S. drivers are on track to shatter the all-time record for total miles driven in a year. Provided the next month does not bring a major market-moving event, like a major hurricane or escalating geopolitical tensions overseas, pump prices are likely to remain at relatively low levels. It is even possible that the national average price of gas may dip below $2.00 per gallon after the summer driving season ends and refineries switch over to less expensive winter-blend gasoline on September 15.

Quick Stats
· Gas prices in fifteen states are now below $2.00 per gallon: South Carolina ($1.81), Alabama ($1.86), Tennessee ($1.89), Mississippi ($1.89), New Jersey ($1.90), Virginia ($1.91), Arkansas ($1.92), Delaware ($1.94), Louisiana ($1.95), Texas ($1.98), Missouri ($1.97), Oklahoma ($1.97), Georgia ($1.98), Kentucky ($1.98) and North Carolina ($1.97).
· Despite year-over-year savings, the West Coast remains the most expensive market for gasoline, including the only four states where drivers are paying an average of more than $2.50: Hawaii ($2.73), California ($2.66), Washington ($2.62), and Alaska ($2.59).

As has been a regular refrain in recent years, gas prices in the Great Lakes region and central states continue to be the most volatile in the nation, with tightening supplies and refinery issues temporarily sending prices sharply higher. The past week has been a microcosm of this effect as the region has featured the three most dramatic increases in the nation (Michigan +14 cents, Illinois +7 cents, and Ohio +7 cents) as well as the largest decrease (Indiana -7 cents). In last week’s AAA Gas Price Report, Indiana featured the largest weekly increase (+10 cents). Wholesale gasoline prices in the Great Lakes region spiked last week following reported issues at the BP facility in Whiting, Ind. (the region’s largest refinery), which built on recent data from the Energy Information Administration showing that regional supplies, while still robust, are tightening. Much of these gains were reversed on Friday when outlets reported that the refinery issue had been resolved, so it is likely next week’s report will once again feature the region as experiencing significant declines.

Prices in the Central United States are not immune to volatility of those in the Great Lakes, however drivers in the Central region continue to pay among the cheapest pump prices in the country, including four states where prices are now below $2.00: Tennessee ($1.89), Missouri ($1.97), and Oklahoma ($1.97).


The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP) has documented the first deer mortality in 2016 due to hemorrhagic disease, also known as epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) or blue tongue. EHD was recently confirmed by laboratory analysis in a white-tailed deer in the southeastern part of the state.

This disease is common in white-tailed deer and is typically detected in late summer or early fall. Minor deer losses to EHD can occur in any given year in South Dakota, but weather and habitat conditions will dictate the severity of the disease. EHD is not infectious to humans.

The virus is spread by a biting midge and causes extensive internal hemorrhaging. Many deer exhibit no clinical signs and appear perfectly healthy, while others may have symptoms such as respiratory distress, fever and swelling of the tongue. With highly virulent strains of the virus, deer can be dead within one to three days. Affected deer are often found near low lying areas or near water like a river or a pond. This is due to the deer going to water to combat the high fever.

As there will be a heightened level of activity on the country-side during crop harvest and hunting seasons, GFP asks anyone who observes sick deer or finds several dead deer to contact their local conservation officer or local GFP office. This information is valuable to wildlife managers in monitoring deer populations across the state.

EHD outbreaks can be locally severe, but rarely affect a high proportion of a deer population. In rare cases, the disease can affect deer populations in certain areas of South Dakota as observed in 2012 and 2013. License adjustments were made in some units to react to these unforeseen mortality events. Deer can continue to succumb to this disease until a hard freeze reduces midge populations that carry the disease.

Circuit Court Allows Initiated Measure 21 on 36% Interest Rate Cap to Remain on 2016 General Election Ballot

Attorney General Marty Jackley announced that Circuit Court Judge Mark Barnett has ruled that the Secretary of State was correct when she determined Initiated Measure 21 contained enough signatures to be placed on the November 2016 general election ballot.

“For the second time this week, the court has upheld Secretary of State Kreb’s certification process affirming her and her office’s work is upholding the integrity of our elections in South Dakota,” said Jackley.

Initiated Measure 21 seeks to place an interest rate cap of 36% on loans made by certain licensed money lenders. On December 28, 2015, the South Dakota Secretary of State certified that the measure would appear on the general election ballot. In January, opponents challenged the filling of Initiated Measure 21 with the Secretary of State. Following a denial of their challenge by the Secretary of State, a lawsuit was filed in Hughes County Circuit Court. Opponents made over twenty-six thousand objections to the Initiated Measure 21 petition. At the conclusion of a two-day trial, the court agreed with the Secretary of State. Initiated Measure 21 will be put to vote at the general election on November 8, 2016.

Circuit Court Denies Marijuana Measure on 2016 General Election Ballot

PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced that Circuit Court Judge Mark Barnett has denied Melissa Mentele ‘s request to place an initiated measure involving marijuana on the November 2016 general election ballot based upon an insufficient number of valid signatures.

“Today’s decision affirms the hard work Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and her office put into ensuring the integrity of our election process,” said Jackley.

South Dakota Secretary of State previously rejected the measure for lack of valid signatures. Mentele, as a primary sponsor of the measure, asserted that she did not receive proper notification from the Secretary of State of the rejection and requested the measure be placed on the ballot. In denying her request, the Circuit Court found that she did receive proper notification from the Secretary of State and that she had not proven that the petition contained a sufficient number of valid signatures to be placed on the November 2016 general election ballot.

Couple Celebrates Anniversary

taggart anniversary

John and Lillian Taggart, Northglenn, Colo., formerly from Colome, recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.
They celebrated their anniversary with their children Doug (Polly) Taggart, Jerry (Janine) Taggart, Karen (Jerry) King, Bradley Taggart and Robert (Kim) Taggart, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish church in Northglenn.

Barbeque Contest Winners


bbq midnight ranch

A large crowd feasted on the wonderful flavor of barbeque ribs and brisket at the Winner Area Chamber of Commerce Pit Row BBQ Saturday evening on Main Street.
There were 14 teams in the contest and the hungry customers were able to sample a wide variety of food in addition to vote on a people’s choice side dish.
Here are the winners in the rib contest.  They are listed in the order they placed.
First place went to Smoke N Ribblets. Also placing were The Money Pit, Grossenburg Implement, Smoke Encounters of the Third Swine, Midnight Ranch, Two Monkeys and a Warrior BBQ, Totally Smoked BBQ, Low Cash Cowboys, Case in Point, R. J. Bones, Winner Volunteer Fire Department, Smoking Bull BBQ, It’s Whatever and Redneck Ribs.
For the third year in a row Totally Smoked BBQ won first place for best brisket. They were followed in placing by Smoking Bull BBQ, It’s Whatever, R. J. Bones, Smoke N Ribblets, Two Monkeys and a Warrior BBQ, Smoked Encounters of the Third Swine, The Money Pit, Grossenburg Implement, Low Cash Cowboys, Winner Volunteer Fire Department, Redneck Ribs, Case in Point, and Midnight Ranch.
The people’s choice winner for a side dish went Low Cash Cowboys with their Southern Spuds.
There was music, a bean bag contest and a photo scavenger hunt all part of the fun an activities of the Winner Chamber of Commerce Event.

Singer to Perform in Colome

Stephen Bautista

Stephen Bautista will present an evening of music Sunday, Aug. 28, at the Vet’s Hall in Colome starting at 7 p.m.

Admission is free and there will be a free will offering.  Bautista is a singer/songwriter based out of Las Vegas, Nev.  He travels around the country with his wife and eight kids to share his Christ-centered music.
When asked what his music sounds like he is often at a loss to fit it into a particular genre, “but I often hear the name James Taylor when people describe how my music sounds to them. It can be very upbeat, but also very mellow and solemn.”  All of his music is original.

He has three CDs that were professionally produced and recorded in Nashville, Tenn.

Playhouse Plans Auditions

commnity playhouse play cast

Winner Community Playhouse will hold auditions for a fall production on Aug. 15-16 at 7 p.m. at the playhouse.
A comedy is planned for Sept. 30-Oct. 1 and Oct. 7-8 and will be directed by Sandra York.
Persons are asked to bring their personal calendars with them to the audition.
Persons who have questions or would like more information can call York at 842-2397.