1850 Fort Bridger on the Green River

History of Fort Bridger

Sometime in the year 1842 James Bridger and Benito Vasquez established a trading post on Black’s Fork of the Green River, about thirty miles east of the present city of Evanston and gave it the name of Fort Bridger. Here was made the second permanent settlement in Wyoming. The post was several times attacked by Indians, one of the most disastrous occurring in August, 1843. The fort was surrounded by a number of Shoshone Indian lodges, that tribe being on friendly terms with the old trader and his partner. While the men were absent on an antelope hunt a large party of Cheyenne and Arapaho made a descent upon the place, killed several squaws and ran off a herd of ponies. They were pursued by the Shoshone warriors, the horses were recovered and several Arapaho Indians were killed in the encounter. Lieut. John C. Fremont, then on his Rocky Mountain expedition, encountered the same war party shortly after the fight and reported that a number of wounded men “were trailing along in the rear.” These savages made a hostile demonstration against Fremont, but a shot from the howitzer put them to flight.

Joel Palmer, who led a company of Oregon emigrants westward in the summer of 1845, made this entry in his journal for July 25th: “This day we traveled about sixteen miles, crossed the creek several times, and encamped near Fort Bridger. This is a trading post owned by Bridger and Bascus (Vasquez). It is built of poles and daubed with mud; it is a shabby concern. The fort is surrounded by about twenty-five lodges of Indians, or white trappers who have married Indian wives.”

In 1854 Bridger sold his fort and a Mexican grant of thirty square miles of land to a Mormon named Lewis Robinson, for $8,000. The next year the Mormons built a boulder wall fourteen feet high enclosing a space 100 feet square and a large corral for live stock. They changed the name of the post to “Fort Supply,” the new post being intended as a supply point for westbound emigrant trains. When Col. Albert Sidney Johnston’s expedition reached this place in the fall of 1857, the Mormons evacuated the fort and returned to Salt Lake. Part of Johnston’s men wintered there during the winter of 1857-58, and when Colonel Johnston moved on toward Salt Lake City, Lieut. Col. William Hoffman was left with a detachment of troops at Fort Bridger.

Fort Bridger, 1858. By Samuel C. Mills, photographer with the Simpson Expedition.

During the summer of 1858 Lieutenant Colonel Hoffman erected a number of log buildings, cleaned up the place and the Government then established there a military post and reservation bearing the old name of Fort Bridger. A garrison was maintained there for about thirty years, during which time numerous changes were made in the fort and the adjacent country. In May, 1861, soon after the beginning of the Civil war, Colonel Cook sold the Government supplies at Fort Bridger to the Mormons and left the post in charge of an orderly sergeant. About a year later the Indians began to assume a threatening attitude toward emigrants, and a detachment of the Third United States Cavalry was ordered to Fort Bridger. During the next three years these soldiers were kept busy in guarding the mails, escorting trains and holding in check the hostile Indians in the vicinity.

In the fall of 1867 five companies were stationed at Fort Bridger to protect the surveyors and construction camps of the Union Pacific Railroad. The following summer Gen. W. T. Sherman, Gen. A. H. Terry, Gen. C. C. Augur and Gen. W. S. Harney all visited the fort and there concluded a treaty with the chiefs of the Shoshone and Bannock tribes on July 3, 1868, by which those Indians relinquished all their lands in Wyoming except the reservation in the Wind River Valley. A full account of the negotiation of this treaty is given in another chapter of this work.

After the treaty a portion of the garrison was removed to other posts and for a number of years only a small detachment was kept at Fort Bridger. In 1881 Post Trader Carter constructed a road from the fort to Fort Thornburg, which was located at the junction of the Du Chesne and Green Rivers in Utah. Two years later new barracks and quarters were erected and in 1884 the garrison was increased. Fort Bridger was finally abandoned about 1890.

See Also:

Source: History of Wyoming, Volume 1, by I. S. Bartlett, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918

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