Uinta County, Wyoming
Genealogy and History

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History of Fort Bridger

Fort Bridger

Fort Bridger was built in 1842 - 1843 by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez. The spot that was chosen for the fort was at Black's Fork, west of the Hams Fork of the Green River. It was a supply station for early western pioneers. Wagon repairs were available, food, and ammunition and liquor were sold at the Fort. The Fort ownership remained unchallenged until 1847 with the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers who settled 104 miles Southwest of the Fort in Salt Lake City.

The Utah legislature created Green River County in the northeast corner of the Utah territory in 1850, it included what is today Uinta County, Wyoming. By 1852, the lifestyles of the rough mountain men and the Indians near the fort began to conflict with the Utah pioneers. Federal Indian agents as early as 1849 accurately predicted a coming conflict, which came about over money as well as control of the Green River ferries, the courts, criminal prosecution, taxes, land registration, water rights and the fort itself.

Reports of liquor and ammunition being sold to the Indians near the fort reached Brigham Young as early as 1848. This practice was in violation of federal law, and Brigham Young as federal Indian agent was determined to stop the practice. On 26 August 1853, a Utah territorial (Mormon) militia of forty-eight men led by William H. Kimball started for Fort Bridger from Salt Lake City. Jim Bridger was warned and escaped minutes before the Mormons arrived. The Mormon men discovered ample liquor which they destroyed in small doses, but found no ammunition.

In October, fifty-three men under Isaac Bullock left Salt Lake for Fort Bridger to back up the first assault. They built Fort Supply as a Mormon supply station twelve miles to the southwest. Fort Bridger, located at 7,000 feet elevation, experiences severe winters. With the approach of winter, the Mormon men, except for a few left to guard Fort Bridger, retreated back to Salt Lake or to Fort Supply until the coming of warmer weather.

Bridger wrote a letter to General B.F. Butler, a U.S. Senator, in October 1853 claiming he was "robbed and threatened with death by the Mormons" and that over $l00,000 of his goods and supplies had been stolen.

The following spring (1854), Brigham Young made plans to take control of Fort Bridger by sending in fifteen well-armed men for reinforcement. They also were to take control of the Green River ferries. Both the fort and the ferries became an integral part of the Mormon settlement plan. These men built a stone wall around the fort, vestiges of which remain to this day. This condition prevailed until late July 1855 when Bridger returned to the fort. The Mormons asked him to sell but he at first refused when he noticed the improvements. He finally agreed to the sale after being persuaded by William Hickman, a member of the Mormon militia, and Almirin Grow. An agreement was reached on 3 August 1855 with a purchase price of $8,000--$4,000 downpayment and the balance due 3 November 1856, fifteen months later.
The fort again became a point of contention in the fall of 1857 when the U.S. Army, under the command of General Albert Sidney Johnston, marched across the high plains, determined to use the fort as a base to enter Utah Territory and quell the reported seditious activities of the Mormons. However, on the night of 7 October 1857 the fort was burned by William A. Hickman and his brother. Johnstons Army, with little shelter in a severe winter, without adequate food and clothing and surrounded by freezing, dying animals, endured untold suffering as they camped in the open until the spring thaw.

Brigham Young paid the remaining $4,000 owed on the fort during the peace negotiations to end the war and thought he owned it. However, Congress rejected Brigham Youngs claim to the fort after the war. Jim Bridger continued to press his claim for payment on a lease he had signed with the army. Bridger died in July 188l with Congress still unresponsive to his claim. After years of effort by his descendants, Congress appropriated $6,000 in 1899 to settle the matter.
William Alexander Carter came with Johnston's Army as a sutler or storekeeper in 1858. He stayed on with his family rebuilding and restocking the fort, and he eventually became wealthy. A highly respected man, he was soon known as "Mr. Fort Bridger," Wyoming's first millionaire. The Union Pacific tracks laid in 1869 bypassed the fort by nine miles, reducing it to the historical landmark it is today. Carter's family continued to live at the fort until 1928, when it was sold to the Wyoming Historical Landmark Commission for preservation. As a Wyoming state park it remains a permanent reminder of the early years of western settlement.
[Source: "Uinta County, Its Place in History" by Elizabeth Arnold Stone; Glendale, Calif., A.H. Clark Co., 1924]

JIM BRIDGER (1804-1881)
An accomplished trapper, scout, and mountain man, Bridger was born on March 17, 1804 in Richmond. Virginia. At the age of 17, Bridger joined General William Ashley's Upper Missouri Expedition and was one of the first non-Indians to see the natural wonders of what would become Yellowstone Park. In 1824, he was the first white man to see the Great Salt Lake, which he believed to be an arm of the Pacific Ocean. Known by the nicknames of Old Gabe and Blanket Chief, Bridger became a partner with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1830 and established Fort Bridger on the Blacks Fork of the Green River in Wyoming Territory in 1842. He then guided prospectors to the gold mines of Montana and laid out routes for the Central Overland Stage and the Pike's Peak Express Company. With his eyesight failing. Bridger returned to Missouri in 1867 where he died on his farm near Kansas City on July 17, 1881.
[Source: "Uinta County, Its Place in History" by Elizabeth Arnold Stone; Glendale, Calif., A.H. Clark Co., 1924]

Judge William Alexander Carter

William A. Carter was a sutler and probate judge at Fort Bridger from 1859 until his death in 1881. After his death, Carter's widow, Mary Elizabeth (Hamilton) Carter, took her husband's place as post trader until 1890. William Alexander Carter known as "Mr. Fort Bridger" was the most important individual at Fort Bridger, Wyoming and a key player in the economic development of the intermountain west. Carters personality and the Fort were so intimately connected that to many contemporaries Fort Bridger was "Carter's Fort."

The second school in Wyoming was established in 1860 in Fort Bridger by Judge William A. Carter with Miss Fannie Foot as the teacher.
Carter, a Virginian, came to Fort Bridger with Johnston's army in 1857 during the so-called Utah War. Since goods and people traveling west passed through Fort Bridger, Carter was at the center of economic activities on the frontier. Making the most of his situation, Carter opened a general store. He carried on a brisk trade with soldiers, scientific expeditions, miners and mountaineers, Indians, and emigrants on the Overland Trail. Of particular interest is Carter's business with Mormons. Aware of the market opportunity presented by Mormons, Carter opened a second store at Heber, Utah. In order to make things go more smoothly, Carter recruited Mormon Bishop Abram Hatch as a partner. Nevertheless, the Heber store closed in the face of the Mormon policy of not trading with "gentiles." One of the region's early businessmen, Carter was involved in mining, oil, logging, and cattle ranching, and he also operated a sawmill. He raised hay and grain on the land surrounding the Fort to fill contracts with the government. In addition to his business activities Carter was justice of the peace and probate judge for Green River County. Originally, Fort Bridger was in Utah Territory; but it became a part of the newly created Wyoming Territory on July 25, 1868. (The official date for the organization of the Wyoming Territory was May 19, 1869.)

Judge Carter was known for his hospitality. He tried to lead the life of a gentleman, had an excellent library, and a Steinway piano. He was a Republican and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. W. A. and Mary E. Carter had six children: Ada, who married army surgeon J. K. Corson, Anna (Mrs. James Van Allen Carter), Lulie (Mrs. Maurice Groshon), Roberta (Mrs. W. H. Camp), William A. and Edgar. James Van Allen Carter was not related to Judge Carter, but was a son-in-law.
[Source: "Uinta County, Its Place in History" by Elizabeth Arnold Stone; Glendale, Calif., A.H. Clark Co., 1924]

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