To look at the handwriting of folks who are kin to you in a history museum puts one in a category that very few people are in. Besides the letter of Jessie Benton, there was a letter written by her father, Senator Thomas Hart Benton, who was the editor of the St. Louis Enquirer. Jessie was a prolific writer and a expansionist. Her nephew was the famous artist, Philip Boileau, whose images of beautiful women prepared the way for the work of my late sister, Christine Rosamond Benton. I believe the lithograph above titled ‘Jessie’ was inspired by the daughter of garth Benton, the cousin of the famous artist, Thomas Hart Benton. Thomas’ work needs to be included in the exhibit at the Portland Historic Society. That my adopted veteran son is a part of this history, is ironic.
While in Missouri, Bonneville was inspired by the writing of Hall J. Kelley, as well as editorials in the St. Louis Enquirer (edited at the time by Thomas Hart Benton) to join in the exploration of the American West. Bonneville met with Kelley, who was impressed by him and appointed him to lead one of the expeditions to the Oregon Country; it was scheduled to leave in early 1832. The lack of volunteers for the expedition forced the delay and eventual cancellation of the expedition, leaving Bonneville unrequited in his ambitions.
Jessie Ann Benton Frémont (May 31, 1824 – December 27, 1902) was an American writer and political activist.
Fremont’s initial notability came from her family: she was the daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton and the wife of military officer, explorer and politician, John C. Frémont, she wrote many stories that were printed in popular magazines of the time as well as several books of historical value. Her writings, which helped support her family during times of financial difficulty, were memoirs of her husband’s, and her own, time in the American West—back when the West was an exotic frontier.
A great supporter of her husband, who was one of the first two Senators of the new U.S. state of California and a Governor of the Territory of Arizona, she was outspoken on political issues and a determined opponent of slavery, which was excluded from the formation of California. By maintaining a high level of political involvement during a period that was extremely unfavorable for women, Jessie Benton Frémont proved herself to be years ahead of her time.
She was born near Lexington, Virginia, the second child of Thomas Hart Benton (1782–1858) and Elizabeth McDowell (1794–1854). She was born in the home of her mother’s father, James McDowell. Her father, Senator Benton, had been wanting a son, but went ahead and named her in honor of his father, Jesse Benton.
Jessie was raised in Washington, D.C., more in the manner of a 19th century son than daughter, with her father, who was renowned as the “Great Expansionist,” seeing to her early education and introducing her to the leading politicians of the day, an unusual thing for the period. Jessie was very close to her father and stuck by his side. He shared with her the many books and maps in the valise that always accompanied him on their trips to and from Missouri and Virginia. She began, too, to share his dream of a nation stretching from ocean to ocean. In this manner, she became well educated in the ways of social structure and the disciplines of politics, history, literature and languages. After attaining some fluency in French and Spanish, Jessie helped in the translation of government documents.
In 1840 at age 15, while studying and living at Georgetown Seminary, she met Lieutenant John C. Frémont who was in Washington preparing a report on explorations he had made between the Missouri River and the northern frontier of the United States. They became engaged, but her parents objected to a marriage at that time because of her age. Probably through the influence of Col. Benton, Frémont then received an order from the war department to make an examination of the Des Moines River on the western frontier. The survey was made rapidly, and shortly after his return from this duty they eloped and were married on October 19, 1841.
American West 
For a while after their marriage, Jessie and her husband lived on Army posts, until Frémont was assigned the task of exploring the West and scouting land for future U.S. territorial expansion. It was this assignment that began the couple’s rise to fame.
John C. Frémont
A reconciliation occurred between Jessie and her father when he promoted Frémont’s famous explorations of the West. Senator Benton had been persuaded by his ailing wife to accept the marriage, and the couple moved into the Benton home. Frémont left his pregnant wife behind in the spring of 1842 to lead his first expedition to mark the trails West. He returned, however, days before the birth of their eldest child, Elizabeth Benton “Lily” Frémont, who was born November 15, 1842, in Washington D.C. He then headed off again and Jessie and the baby remained behind.
Frémont became known as the “Pathfinder to the West.” Jessie, intensely interested in the details of his expedition, became his recorder, making notes as he described his experiences. Adding human-interest touches to these printed reports, she wrote and edited best-selling stories of the adventures Frémont had while exploring the West with his scout, Kit Carson. Thus, she involved herself in her most happy life’s work, interpreting her husband and his actions for a public eager for information about the opening of the West. Written during a time when the concept of Manifest Destiny was becoming increasingly popular, these narratives were received with great enthusiasm.
Her husband was instrumental in the conquest of California, successfully taking it from Mexico as a Territory of the United States. He served as the 3rd Military Governor, in 1847. At the time of the court-martial of Frémont, during which he attempted to defend his actions in the Bear Flag Revolt, Jessie gave birth to a son, Benton Frémont, on July 24, 1848, in Washington, D.C. The baby’s death, within the year in St. Louis, she blamed on her husband’s accuser, General Kearny.
In 1849, Jessie and Lily made a harrowing and treacherous journey aboard ship to join Frémont in California. After disembarking and crossing the Isthmus of Panama, they boarded another vessel to San Francisco. With income from their gold mines, the Frémonts established a home and settled into San Francisco society. As a politically informed woman, Jessie was known to get involved in city politics and discuss with the men any issues that were of importance at the time.
John C. Frémont served from September 9, 1850, to March 3, 1851, as Senator from California. Their third child, John C. Frémont, Jr., was born April 19, 1851, at Las Mariposas, California. While the couple was visiting Paris, France, their fourth child, Anne Beverly Frémont, was born on February 1, 1853. Anne died five months later, on July 11, in Washington, D.C. Their fifth and final child, Francis Preston “Frank” Frémont, was born on May 17, 1855, in Washington.
In 1856, Frémont’s antislavery position was instrumental in his being chosen as the first-ever Republican candidate for President. Jessie played an extremely active role in the campaign, rallying support for her husband. One particular campaign slogan read, “Frémont and Jessie too.” Her father, however, a lifelong Democrat, refused to endorse her husband’s bid for the presidency. This did not stop the supporters of Frémont from continuing to refer to her as the “first lady in the land,” a title her admirers continued to use throughout her life 
Frémont garnered many Northern votes, but ultimately lost the election to James Buchanan, though he did surpass the American Party candidate, Millard Fillmore. Frémont was unable to carry the state of California. If he had taken the state of Pennsylvania he would have won.
In the years following, the couple moved several times, living in California, St. Louis and New York. Some historians  suggest that she played an active role in the anti-Secession movement in California in 1861, but others suggest her influence was less important than other anti-secessionist and anti-slavery speakers at the time, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe. When President Lincoln appointed Frémont as the Commander of the Department of the West in 1861, they returned to St. Louis.
Jessie Frémont served as her husband’s unofficial aide and closest adviser. They shared the belief that St. Louis was unprepared for war and needed reinforcements and supplies, and both pressured Washington, to send more supplies and troops. She threw herself into the war effort, helping to organize a Soldier’s Relief Society in St. Louis, and becoming very active in the Western Sanitary Commission, which provided medicine and nursing to soldiers injured in the war.
One of the most impressive feats of her political career came shortly after Frémont lost his position during the Civil War for issuing his own edict of emancipation, summarily freeing all of the slaves in Missouri, which antedated Lincoln’s own Emancipation Proclamation. Jessie actually traveled to Washington, and pleaded with Lincoln on behalf of her husband, but to no avail.
Jesse Benton Frémont invited Horace Greely to her home in Mariposa and encouraged him to visit Yosemite Valley where he was influenced later to write in favor of federal protection of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia. Galen Clark who is often credited with protecting the Mariposa Grove credited Jessie Benton Frémont for helping with the effort to encourage President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Yosemite Grant in 1864.
Later years 
Frémont sitting at home in Los Angeles
The Frémonts would not live in St. Louis again, moving to New York and then California. In the Panic of 1873, John C. Frémont, who had invested heavily in railroad stock, lost everything and declared bankruptcy. Undaunted by their financial situation, Jessie began writing books to help support the family, namely A Year of American Travel: Narrative of Personal Experience (1878), a story about her journey to California in 1849, and Souvenirs of My Time (1887).
From 1878 to 1881, John C. Frémont served as Governor of the Territory of Arizona. Three months after being allowed to resign from the Army with pension, he died in 1890 in a hotel in New York.
After the death of her husband, the Congress, in recognition of his valued services, granted Jessie a widow’s pension of $2,000 a year. In 1891, she moved into a home at the corner of 28th and Hoover Streets in Los Angeles, that was presented to her by a committee of ladies of the city as a token of their great regard. She remained in good health until about two and a half years before her death when an accident made her an invalid, but she was able to use a wheelchair and enjoy the outdoors.
Jessie Benton Frémont died at age 78 at her home in Los Angeles. A huge box of fragrant and beautiful roses were sent on December 29, 1902, by Mrs. James A. Garfield. The rites of the Episcopal Church were conducted at 10:30 a.m. on December 30, at Christ Church, on the corner of Pico and Flower Streets. She was cremated and her ashes interred in Rosedale Cemetery.
The Story of the Guard: A Chronicle of the War (1863)
A Year of American Travel: Narrative of Personal Experience (1878)
Souvenirs of My Time (1887)
Far-West Sketches (1890)
The Will and the Way Stories (1891)
The Origin of the Frémont Explorations (1891)
The book Memoirs of My Life (1887) by John C. Frémont includes Sketch of Senator Benton by Jessie Benton Frémont.
The letters of Jessie Benton Frémont (1993) edited by Pamela Herr and Mary Lee Spence, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Collection of 271 letters offering insights into the mind and heart of the author, across the span of her life, including her husband’s presidential campaign, her role in the Civil War, her time as First Lady of the Territory of Arizona, and her impressions of the late 1800s in California.
Books about her 
Jessie Benton Frémont: A Biography (1987) by Pamela Herr
Jessie Benton Frémont: A Woman who Made History (1995) by Catherine Coffin Phillips
Jessie Benton Frémont: Missouri’s Trailblazer (2005) by Ilene Stone and Suzanna M. Grenz
Passion and Principle: John and Jessie Frémont, the Couple Whose Power, Politics, and Love Shaped Nineteenth-century America (2007) by Sally Denton
In fiction 
Immortal Wife: The Biographical Novel of Jessie Benton Frémont (1944) by Irving Stone
Phillips, Michael and Judith Pella. The Journals of Corrie Belle Hollister: On the Trail of the Truth Bethany House Pub., 1991.
Dream West is a 1982 historical novel by David Nevin about Charles and Jessie Frémont.