REEDSPORT — Longtime friends and historians James C. Auld and Jim Hardee joined forces Saturday to deliver their third annual “Fur Trade History Rendezvous” presentation at Defeat River Brewery in Old Town Reedsport.
Dozens of community members listened eagerly as Auld and Hardee retraced 19th century explorer Jedediah Smith’s journey from California’s Bay Area to the Oregon coast.
“If you grew up in (Reedsport) then you’ve probably heard stories all your life,” Auld said. “We want to add research, proof and accuracy to those stories and tell the truth of what really happened here.”
That being said, the two centered their presentation on Smith’s trek up the Umpqua River and recounted the series of events that led to the Defeat River incident, now known as Smith River near Reedsport.
According to Hardee, in 1828 an encounter between Smith’s team and a group of local Native Americans claimed the lives of over a dozen of Smith’s members. In search of survivors, Smith later returned to the scene of the incident and named the location Defeat River.
“After we heard the brewery was named Defeat River we knew we had to come down and tell Smith’s story,” Hardee said. “It just seemed like a good fit.”
For over 20 years, Auld and Hardee have been studying and researching the Rocky Mountain fur trade along with its key locations and standout mountain men explorers. In celebration of Smith’s birthday, the two have committed to visiting Reedsport every January to give their presentation.
Owners Levi Allen and Trevor Frazier said they were influenced by their father-in-law, Tom, to name the brewery after the historical site.
“It’s been fun for us to get to share with people the story behind our name,” Frazier said. “It’s a little known fact, but it’s a significant event in history.”
The two also credit their father-in-law with connecting them with Auld and Hardee and getting the annual presentation off the ground.
“Every year, James and Jim add new things to their presentations and somehow find new ways to make it different than before,” Frazier said.
Being able to foster a space that combines family, community and good beer has always been their motto, said Allen. The yearly presentation does just that, he said.
In addition to the presentation, the event also featured an interactive group discussion and a catered dinner by Rust’d Star Restaurant and Bar.
“We hope people walked away with an understanding of why the fur trade was important to the opening of the American West,” Hardee said. “The Rocky Mountains, California and Oregon Trial were all spurred by the trappers that were out here so many years ago.”