Discover Fort Bridger State
Ft. Bridger, WY 82933
(307) 782-3842 (Office)
Coordinates: 41�19′4″N 110�23′31″W
Fort Bridger was originally a 19th century fur trading outpost
established in 1842 on Blacks Fork of the Green River and later a
vital resupply point for wagon trains on the Oregon Trail, California
Trail and Mormon Trail. The Army established a military post here in
1858 during the Utah War until it was finally closed in 1890. A small
town, Fort Bridger, Wyoming, remains near the fort and takes its name
Bridger's Trading Post
The post was established
by the mountain man Jim Bridger, after whom it is named, and Louis
Mormons and Fort Supply
With the arrival of the
Mormon pioneers in 1847, disputes arose between Bridger and the new
settlers. By 1853, a militia of Mormons was sent to arrest him for
selling alcohol and firearms to the Native Americans, a violation of
Federal Law. He escaped capture, temporarily returning to the East.
Near the existing fort, the Mormons established their own Fort Supply
the same year. In 1855, Mormons took over Fort Bridger, reportedly
buying it from Bridger for $8,000 in gold coins.
The Mormons claimed, over Bridger's denials, they had purchased the
fort from Vasquez. There was a deed dated August 3, 1855, recorded
October 21, 1858, in Salt Lake City in Records Book B. p. 128 that
ostensibly sold Fort Bridger to the Mormon Church. Bridger and
Vasquez's name was signed by H. F. Morrell in the presence of Alinerin
Grow and William Adams Hickman, purportedly pursuant to a power of
Since Bridger was absent from the area in 1855, acting as guide for
Sir St. George Gore, and absent a signed power of attorney from
Bridger, it is extremely doubtful that the purported deed, if
challenged, was worth the paper it was written upon.
Relations deteriorated between Mormon
leaders in Utah Territory and federal authorities in Washington, D.C.
Following the election of President James Buchanan, the United States
Army was ordered to Utah to install a new governor, replacing Brigham
Young, as well as to establish a military presence. As the Army
advanced, the Mormons in the Green River valley withdrew, burning Fort
Supply and Supply City.
On the night of October 7, 1857, "Wild Bill" Hickman set fire to
Fort Bridger to keep it from falling into the hands of the approaching
United States Army during the Utah War. The army wintered near Fort
Bridger. In June 1858, as the majority of Johnston's Army set off for
Salt Lake City, two companies of troops remained behind and
established Fort Bridger as an official Army post. The other troops
continued on and eventually established Camp Floyd south of Salt Lake
William A. Carter was appointed as post sutler at Fort Bridger in
1858. Perhaps more than any other individual, the history of the post
revolves around this civilian merchant who remained at the center of
the post's activities for its entire history.
At the end of the hostilities, the United States Congress rejected
Brigham Young's claim to the fort, nor did it recognize Jim Bridger's
continuing claims to the fort.
Fort Bridger as Pony Express Station
after Jim Bridger. The first owner of the fort was perhaps the most
picturesque figure in early Wyoming. He was often called the �Daniel�
Boone of the Rockies. Fort Bridger, which he built and Bridger�s Pass,
which he discovered were named for him. This historical fort has
several interesting old buildings still standing; the old Pony Express
barn and the Mormon protective wall are still in existence there.
Following the outbreak of the
American Civil War in 1861, all the federal troops in Utah Territory
were withdrawn to fight the Confederate States Army in the east. The
following year, Colonel Patrick Edward Connor was sent to Utah with a
column of California Volunteer Cavalry and Infantry, establishing Fort
Douglas near Salt Lake City. Connor later sent two companies and
reestablished Army presence at Fort Bridger. A variety of volunteer
units were stationed at Bridger during the Civil War.
Return of the Regular Army
In 1866 with the
muster out of the volunteer units, the Regular Army returned to man
Fort Bridger. The first were companies of the Eighteenth Infantry. The
isolation of the post decreased some in 1869 when the Union Pacific
Railroad was built through the area. Ultimately, the expansion of the
railroads in the west made this and other forts obsolete.
Fort Bridger was first
abandoned in 1878 but then re-established two years later. The post
was finally closed by the army in 1890.
Town of Fort Bridger
After the departure of the
Army, the buildings were sold off and the site soon became a cattle
town in southwest Wyoming. A hotel was established in the old
Commanding Officer's Quarters and the large stone barracks eventually
became a milking barn.
Fort Bridger State Historic Site
In 1928, Fort
Bridger was sold to the Wyoming Historic Landmark Commission for
preservation as a historic monument, now designated as Fort Bridger
State Historic Site. Several original buildings remain and have been
restored. The 1888 stone barracks contains a museum with artifacts
from different time periods in the fort history. Visitors can also
tour a reconstructed trading post and an interpretive archaeological
Annual Fur Trade Rendezvous at Fort Bridger
Fort Bridger Rendezvous is a celebration of the fur trade era that
existed in the 19th century. The rendezvous at Fort Bridger has been
an annual event since the mid 1970's. It is now one of the largest
rendezvous in the west drawing hundreds of merchants and several
thousand visitors each year. The rendezvous is run by the Fort Bridger
Rendezvous Association, a non-profit organization. Events include
primitive demonstrations, cook offs, black powder rifle shooting, hawk
and knife throwing contents, candy cannon, native American Indian
dancing, story telling, magic shows and more. A large portion of the
rendezvous is commerce. All products sold within the fort during the
rendezvous must pre-date or be a replicate of something that pre-dates
Photographers at Fort Bridger
been passing through this frontier military post since almost the
inception of the art form. Daguerreotypist John Wesley Jones visited
the garrison in 1851 and Samuel C. Mills, traveling with the Army
bound for Utah, produced at least one image of Fort Bridger in 1858.
Salt Lake City photographer Charles W. Carter came during the winter
of 1866-67 and his former mentor, Charles Savage, visited a number of
times between 1866 and the early 1870s. The noted Union Pacific
Railroad photographer Andrew J. Russell also stopped here in 1869.
Census records show a photographer named Simeon Pierson at the post in
1870. In 1876-77, a soldier, Private Charles Howard ran a studio at
Dr. Dudley Gardner began work at
Fort Bridger in 1990. Over the past fifteen years, he and his students
have uncovered a portion of Bridger's original post, the Mormon
fortification and the Army's subsquenent occupation. Work is currently advancing on the
official excavation reports.
Fort Bridger State Historic Site
can be reached by taking Interstate 80, Exit 34 then going
approximately 3 miles south of Evanston,Wyoming.