Fort Bridger and the Mormons

“The beautiful and fertile valley of Blacks Fork, with Fort Bridger standing squat and picturesque in its midst, was well known to the Mormons. The first small Mormon advance party passed near it in 1847 when, by reason of bloody clashes with their gentile neighbors in the States, they left the Missouri River for an unknown haven near the Great Salt Lake. They were closely followed by the great Mormon migratory caravan, who took careful note of the trading post just east of the passage leading through the Wasach Range. It must be confessed that they also took note of the histrionic Mr. Bridger and recorded him tersely as a man who did not tell the truth.

There he was, however, firmly ensconced in the best piece of pasture land between Salt Lake City and Horseshoe Station, and so situated that whatever the Mormons required from civilization, whether mail, freight, or converts, must pass within a mile or two of his door. The setup was far from satisfactory to Brigham Young. . . .

Distrust and dissension prevailed between Mormon and gentile, aggravated by lack of definite information and the growing gossip concerning polygamy, then an intrinsic part of the Mormon religious custom. The colonists had once been forced, if they wished to continue its practice, to leave their homes, and they felt that their freedom of action was again threatened. Any gentile settlement near them was unwelcome.

The facts and issues are clouded by the passage of many years, but the two conflicting stories are somewhat as follows: Jim Bridger contended that the Mormon leaders had no particular grievance against him but simply coveted his property; that they sent a group of their ‘avenging angels’ to do him bodily harm; that he barely escaped into the willows and, with the aid of his Indian wife, was able to get away, abandoning everything to the Mormons. The Mormons claimed that Bridger was furnishing guns to the dangerous Utes, with whom they were at war. Both are nice healthy arguments and are not at all incompatible. This happened in 1853. The Mormons took over Fort Bridger . . . [which] became a Mormon outpost.