Mile 1193: Fort Bridger

“The majority of the migration arrived at Fort Bridger in the month of July.  . . . The valley of Blacks Fork is beautiful out of all reason, like a charming but improbable stage setting, for which the snow-topped Uinta Mountains provide a magnificent backdrop. Apparently from sheer altruism the river divides near the head of the valley and sends its cool waters through this lovely flat land in several clear-flowing channels which unite again some miles below, forming a group of islands. On the westernmost of these we found the fort.

When, in the early forties, Jim Bridger built his first rude cabins at this garden spot and fenced them in with a stockade of small logs, he executed quite a stroke of business. . . .

There is evidence that he had completed something in the way of building by the summer of 1842, because an eccentric minister, Williams by name, returning from Oregon, passed on July 3rd of that year and made mention of reaching Bridger’s fort. . . .

Dirty little log outposts of civilization such as this, chinked with mud and roofed with sod, were the first exponents of a new type of business, the emigrant trade, which rolled merrily along throughout all the years of the migration, amassing fortunes for those who embraced its opportunities. Fort Bridger was the first trading post west of the Missouri built especially to cater to this business, and it was a blow when the opening of Sublette’s Cutoff to wagons drew thousands of prospective customers away. In the summer of 1849 Bridger’s partner, Louis Vasquez, with a retinue of Indians camped at South Pass, trading with the emigrants and trying to persuade them to go by way of Fort Bridger.”