For those who don’t know, Fort Bridger was a fort built on the Green River and used to supply travelers on the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and also the Mormon Trail. Jim Bridger started it up with his partner, Louise Vasquez, in 1843.
The fort was later burned down by the Mormons during the Mormon War of 1857. One of the most contentious issues surrounding Fort Bridger is whether Jim Bridger did in fact sell the fort to the Mormons. Let’s take a look at what the literature says on the subject.
Fort Bridger in 1853
Bridger denied that such a transaction had taken place and claimed he still owned the land around the fort (as well as the fort itself, which he and Vasquez had built) through a Mexican grant of 30 square miles.
However, when the Mormon leader Brigham Young tried to confirm Bridger’s grant claim in Washington, D.C., he was unsuccessful.” (Janin, 78)
It’s a quite lengthy quote and I’d like to continue it below:
“There are three explanations for this imbroglio. One theory is that Bridger simply made up the land grant story in order to sell to the Mormons property which he did not legally own.
Another thesis is that he honestly thought he did have title to the land but was mistaken. A third possibility is that the Mormons forced Bridger to sell out against his will. This is at least what Bridger himself wanted his friends to believe.” (Janin, 78)
Newspaper Accounts in 1855
One theory surrounding this story is that Bridger was selling guns to the Indians in the hope that they’d fight the Mormons. If Bridger did indeed get ripped-off by the Mormons, this has some validity.
Was Fort Bridger Sold in 1858?
Those were all sources that I used when I originally wrote this article and chapter in my book, in April. As to my assertion that the fort was seized being “highly disputable and also inflammatory,” perhaps there’s a point there.
It seems from the accounts of the time and recollections later, however, that the Mormons did their damndest to get Bridger out of that fort, mainly as a way to pacify the Indians in the area. One of their main contentions with Bridger was their accusation that he was purposefully supplying arms to the Indians as a way to get back at the Mormons.
Well, why would he be trying to get back at them if he’d willingly sold his fort? While it may be true that the fort wasn’t actually seized, I think the events surrounding its changing of hands are suspicious at best and illegal at worst.
If anyone has a different opinion I’d love to hear it!