Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Jim Bridger
Everyone knows who Jim Bridger is, right? A famous frontiersman, Jim Bridger and his partner, Louis Vasquez, established Fort Bridger in 1843 to service emigrant traffic. For the next century, the area—known as the Bridger Valley—served as a crossroads for the Oregon/California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Pony Express Route, the Transcontinental Railroad and the Lincoln Highway. Today, the valley in southwestern Wyoming is a historic byway, incorporating the small towns of Fort Bridger, Urie, Mountain View and Lyman, which were bypassed when Interstate 80 was built.
Since my husband and I do a lot of camping in the Uintahs, we have driven past Fort Bridger more times than I can count, and I have been through the fort a couple of times. I especially enjoy going when the mountain man fair is going on. Lots of things to see and do.

Fort Bridger in its early days. Wyoming.
Fort Bridger, now operated as a state historic site was established on the Black’s Fork of the Green River and planned to trade both with the American Indians they had befriended during their years in the fur trade and the westward-bound emigrants. Their first "fort" consisted of two rude double-log houses about 40 feet in length, joined with a pen for horses. They also boasted a blacksmith's shop, something that many emigrants welcomed after months on the trails. They found it a disappointment. Poorly outfitted, the fort was little more than a few rough-hewn log buildings.

On July 7, 1847, the Mormon Pioneer Company arrived at the fort. They spent a day there, but did not like the inflated prices. Even so, a small group of Mormons settled nearby and tensions developed between Bridger and the new settlers, who reported that Bridger was violating federal law by selling liquor and ammunition to the Indians. In response, Brigham Young, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a federal Indian agent, sent his Mormon militia to the fort in 1853. Having learned they were coming, Bridger fled. Later that year, the Mormons established Fort Supply about twelve miles south of Fort Bridger, specifically to service the Mormon emigrants.

Bridger complained to U. S. Senator, Gen. B. F. Butler, claiming the Mormons robbed him of over $100,000 in goods and supplies and threatened him with death. The next spring, Young sent a detachment of well-armed Mormons to take control of both Fort Bridger and the Green River ferries, both of which became integral parts of the Mormon settlement plans for the region. A large stone wall was built around the fort. For a year, Mormons maintained control of the fort. In July 1855, Bridger returned and eventually agreed to sell out. 

The fort became embroiled in a new controversy in the fall of 1857 when President Buchanan sent U.S. troops to Utah Territory to enforce federal authority and to install federally appointed territorial officers. This began what became known as the Utah War. To keep the fort from being seized, Mormon militia under "Wild Bill" Hickman and his brother burned both it and Fort Supply. Johnston's army spent a miserable winter with little shelter and food.

Fort Bridger today (from Wikipedia).
That winter the Army established temporary Camp Scott on the site, and in the spring of 1858, tension between the Mormons and the U.S. military subsided. The Army took over and rebuilt Fort Bridger to as a base for troops whose later jobs included protecting laborers on the transcontinental railroad, gold miners at South Pass and Shoshone Indians near the fort and later after their reservation was established on Wind River
When the Utah War ended, the U.S. government refused to honor either Bridger's or the Mormons' claim to the property and instead turned the commercial parts of its operation over to William Alexander Carter, who had come west with Johnston's army as a sutler. Along with his family, Carter lived at the fort, rebuilding and stocking it and eventually becoming Wyoming's first millionaire.
Various volunteer units of the U.S. Army were stationed at the post during the Civil War. Beginning in 1866, the post was manned by regular units of the U.S. Army until 1878, when it was temporarily abandoned. The Army again occupied it from 1880 to 1890, when, with the end of the Indian Wars the Army closed it for a final time. Many of its buildings were sold and dismantled.


The 38-acre site was named a Wyoming Historical Landmark and Museum in 1933. Parts of the stone wall constructed by the Mormons in the 1850s have recently been the subject of archaeological explorations. Several historic buildings, which have been restored, remain at the fort, as well as a reconstructed trading post, an interpretive archaeological site and a museum housing artifacts from the different periods of Fort Bridger’s use.

Charlene Raddon’s first serious attempt at writing fiction came in 1980 when a vivid dream drove her to drag out a typewriter and begin writing. A love for romance novels and the Wild West has kept her writing Americana and western historical romance ever since. She also writes an occasional paranormal.

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Caroline Clemmons said...

I didn't realize there had been conflict between the fort and the Mormons. Very interesting post, Charlene.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I didn't realize there had been conflict between the fort and the Mormons. Very interesting post, Charlene.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I didn't realize there had been conflict between the fort and the Mormons. Very interesting post, Charlene.

Anonymous said...

Truth is that the Mormons pretty much stole the fort from Bridger. He was badly cheated.

Julie Lence said...

Very interesting post, Charlene. I have one question. Since I'm only familiar with Cheyenne, where in Wyoming is this fort? Is it close to the Utah border, since you mention the Utah war?