Davey Jackson
David E. Jackson, shown in the uniform of Virginia's 19th Infantry, during the War of 1812 (Courtesy of Mountain Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana)


David E. Jackson can truly be called a “son of the American Revolution.” His father, Edward Jackson, and his uncle, George Jackson, both served as Virginian Militia Officers during the Revolutionary War. During the War of 1812, David himself served in the Army’s 19th Infantry in Virginia. (The family had another Military hero. David’s nephew, Colonel Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, led the victorious battle against the Union at Harper’s Ferry, Maryland, during the Civil War in 1862.)  

David was born in 1788, into a prominent wealthy family of Clarksburg, Virginia (today West Virginia). In addition to learning the business, farming and hunting skills of his father, he was educated at the Virginian Randolph Academy. In 1809, at age 21, David married Juliet Norris and the couple had four children. 

In 1822, David saw an ad in a Missouri newspaper, seeking young men to travel the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains, to be employed as hunters with the Rocky Mountain Trading Company. Although his wife was against the idea, David saw this as a great opportunity to explore and gain wealth. He joined the company, along with many other young men, such as Jim Bridger, William Sublette, and Jedediah Smith.

For eight years David pursued this adventure, fraught with troubles, including harsh weather, difficult terrain, competition from Canadian, British and French trading companies, and both kindness and treachery from the Native tribes. The company suffered many losses as their beaver pelts were often stolen. Many hunters died under the harsh conditions or by murder at the hands of competitors or tribes. 

Eventually David Jackson, William Sublette and Jedediah Smith, finding trust in each other, formed their own company, “Smith, Jackson and Sublette.” After long periods of hunting, David often returned to the beautiful valley in the Teton Mountains, which Sublette eventually dubbed “Jackson’s Hole.” By 1830, David was tired of the whole fur trading experience and he returned east, without amassing his fortune. He reunited with some of his family including two sons, but not with his wife Juliet, with whom he had no contact during those eight years. During a visit to see a friend in Paris, Tennessee, in 1837, David became ill with typhoid fever. One of his sons came to see him on his deathbed and in that meeting, David gave instructions concerning the family’s properties, and the collection on loans he had made. David died shortly after that meeting at age 49.  

Source: Jackson, John C. Shadow on the Tetons: David E. Jackson and the Claiming of the American West. Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1993.