This Day in History: 1798-04-06

African American mountain man, fur trader, pioneer, and explorer James Pierson Beckwourth is born. He was famously known as “Bloody Arm” because of his skill as a fighter. Born into slavery in Virginia, he was freed by his white father (and master), and as a young man moved to the American West, first making connections with fur traders in St. Louis, Missouri. As a fur trapper, he lived with the Crow Nation for years. He is credited with the discovery of Beckwourth Pass, through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, between present-day Reno, Nevada, and Portola, California, during the California Gold Rush years. He improved the Beckwourth Trail, enabling thousands of settlers to arrive in central California. Beckwourth narrated his life story in a book published in New York City and London in 1856 as The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians. A translation was published in France in 1860. Learn more.