Are you familiar with John C. Fremont? He was a famed American explorer who made four expeditions to the western states to map its new terrain. Although he had traveled west once before, his next journey was almost his last. Hear how Fremont survived his second western voyage and went on to make history.

Early travels

Born on January 21, 1813, Fremont was the child of French-American parents. His childhood was unsteady, and his family moved around a lot with little money. During his school years, he excelled in mathematics and geographic surveying. By 1838, he was the second lieutenant for the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers. Four years later, he was assigned to his first western expedition to map the Platte River. He headed out on the trip with acclaimed guide Kit Carson and a crew of 24 men. After five months of exploration, he had traveled Wyoming’s South Pass and discovered the Wind River Mountains.

Great Salt Late mistake

After he returned from his first journey, he couldn’t wait to go on his second expedition. On May 29, 1843, he departed from Saint Louis, Missouri to tour the Oregon countryside. While in Colorado, Fremont and his men reunited with their guide Carson. After spotting the Great Salt Lake in Utah, Fremont mistakenly reported that the ground was fertile. This miscalculation actually resulted in the Mormons’ massive migration to Utah.

The Sierra Nevada mission

In November 1843, Fremont and his men landed near Portland, Oregon. Although he was told to travel east on the Oregon Trail, he set out to cross the treacherous Sierra Nevada mid-winter. The trip was freezing and dangerous, and the men ate their own horses for sustenance. They made it to Sutter’s Fort on March 6, 1844, and headed east from there. After two more journeys west, Fremont entered the political arena. However, he will always be remembered for his geographic surveys of the western states.