David Jackson was born in about 1790. Little is known about his early life although it is believed he participated in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
On 13th February, 1822, William Ashley placed an advertisement in the Missouri Gazette and Public Adviser where he called for 100 enterprising men to "ascend the river Missouri" to take part in the fur collecting business. Those who agreed to join the party included Jackson, Jim Beckwourth, Tom Fitzpatrick, William Sublette, Hugh Glass, James Bridger and Jedediah Smith.
Ashley's company was the first to depend primarily upon trapping the beaver rather than buying them from Native Americans. Ashley did not pay the trappers a fixed wage. Instead, in return for transporting them to the Rocky Mountains, he took a share in the furs they obtained.
On 30th May, 1823, Ashley and his party of 70 men were attacked by 600 Arikaras. Twelve of Ashley's men were killed and the rest were forced to retreat. Jedediah Smith volunteered to contact Andrew Henry and bring back reinforcements. A message was sent back to St Louis and Colonel Henry Leavenworth of the U.S. Sixth Infantry and later 200 soldiers and 700 Sioux allies attacked the Arikara villages.
David Jackson died in Paris, Tennessee, on 24th December, 1837.