These log buildings and corrals are a reconstruction of the trading post operated by mountain men Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez in 1846. The post was originally built in 1843 when the fur trade was rapidly dying due to a change in Eastern fashions and depletion of beaver from Rocky Mountain streams. The establishment of this trading post, known as Fort Bridger, marked the end of the era of free roaming trappers and the beginning of the westward movement of civilization. Thousands of emigrants stopped here for supplies, smith-work, or fresh animals on their way west to find land, gold, religious freedom, or a fresh start in a new land.
Jim Bridger's original fort consisted of two pole stockades. One
measured 100' x 100' and contained two log cabins at right angles to one
another. Each cabin was divided into two rooms. The proprietors and
their families split one cabin and the other housed the
blacksmith/carpenter shop and the trade room. The other enclosure
measured 100' x 80' and was used to corral the livestock at night to
guard them against theft.
Fort Bridger was briefly occupied by the Mormons in the early 1850s.
This reconstruction was based on diary accounts and made possible by a
donation by former local resident and his wife, George V. and Phila
Caldwell. It was built during 1985-6 and, according to archaeological evidence, sits about 60 yard northwest of the original. The Bridger-Vasquez stockade was not only an active trading post but
soon became a popular stopping point on the Oregon Trail. The post
became one of the most important outfitting points for emigrants along
the Oregon Trail and was a vital re-supply point for wagon trains on the
Oregon Trail, California Trail and Mormon Trail.
According to Wyoming Tales and Trails, the camp
scene above right is ...somewhat inaccurate. The Fort in the right
background had been burned down by William A. Hickman in the autumn as a
part of the Mormon's scorched earth defense. The tents are also
inaccurate. The Army used 250 of Henry Sibley's newly invented and
patented conical tents rather than the walled tents depicted in the
Wyoming Tales and Trails also posts this
description of the scene at Fort Bridger when the Army arrived. It is
written by a New York Times correspondent. The term fort is deceiving in the American West as it could mean a
military post, a supply camp, barracks, or a civilian trading post.
The location and supply of materials largely dictated what these forts
were built of
Where wood and lumber were readily obtained,
the familiar wooden stockades were erected but in the arid southwest
adobe walls and buildings were built out of necessity. Some forts were
no more then a few worn out cabins such as Fort Bridger or an abandon mission such as the Alamo.
How the forts were constructed depended on
date, location and Indian hostilities at the time. Fort Phil Kearny and
Fort Abraham Lincoln were elaborate timbered forts with blockhouses on
each corner and extensive barracks
Fort William was originally a log structure
trading post which later was made into an adobe wall and renamed Fort
Laramie which the government purchased in 1849 and converted into a
military Army post with elaborate fortifications outside the original
Most of the forts are crumbling ruins long
age abandoned, some only exist by a bronze marker of their whereabouts
during the heyday of the settling of the West. A few are active military posts, Fort D. A.
Russell now named Warren Air Force Base near present day, Cheyenne,
Wyoming and Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas.