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"Jim Bridger Replica Stockade" Fort Bridger State Historic Site & Museum ~ Fort Bridger, Wyoming

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posted by alias 1coffeelady on Wednesday 29th of April 2020 06:30:05 PM

James Felix Bridger (March 17, 1804 – July 17, 1881) was an American mountain man, trapper, Army scout and wilderness guide who explored and trapped in the Western United States in the first half of the 19th century. He was of English ancestry, and his family had been in North America since the early Bridger was part of the second generation of American mountain men and pathfinders that followed the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804, and became well known for participating in numerous early expeditions into the western interior, as well as mediating between Native American tribes and westward-migrating European-American settlers. By the end of his life had earned a reputation as one of the foremost frontiersmen in the American Old West. He was described as having a strong constitution that allowed him to survive the extreme conditions he encountered while exploring the Rocky Mountains from what would become southern Colorado to the Canadian border. He had conversational knowledge of French, Spanish and several native languages. Bridger was a contemporary of many famous European-American explorers of the early west and would come to know many of them, including Kit Carson, George Armstrong Custer, Hugh Glass, John Frémont, Joseph Meek, John Sutter, Peter Skene Ogden, Jedediah Smith, Robert Campbell, and William Sublette. In 1830, Smith and his associates sold their fur company to Bridger and his associates, who named it the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Bridger's Trading Post. The post was established by the mountain man Jim Bridger, after whom it is named, and Louis Vasquez. Bridger, perhaps the most picturesque figure in early Wyoming, was often called the "Daniel Boone" of the Rockies. Bridger’s Pass, which he discovered, was also named for him. In 1845, Lansford Hastings published a guide entitled The Emigrant's Guide to Oregon and California, which advised California emigrants to leave the Oregon Trail at Fort Bridger, pass through the Wasatch Range across the Great Salt Lake Desert (an 80-mile waterless drive), loop around the Ruby Mountains, and rejoin the California Trail about seven miles west of modern Elko, Nevada (now Emigrant Pass). The ill-fated Donner-Reed Party followed that route, along which they were met by a rider sent by Hastings to deliver letters to traveling emigrants. On July 12, the Donners and Reeds were given one of these letters, in which among other messages, Hastings claimed to have "worked out a new and better road to California", and said he would be waiting at Fort Bridger to guide the emigrants along the new cutoff. With the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in 1847, disputes arose between Bridger and the new settlers. By 1853, a militia of Mormons was sent to arrest him for selling alcohol and firearms to the Native Americans, a violation of Federal Law. He escaped capture and temporarily returned to the East. Near the existing fort, the Mormons established their own Fort Supply the same year. In 1855, Mormons took over Fort Bridger, reportedly having bought it for $8,000 in gold coins. The Mormons claimed, over Bridger's denials, they had purchased the fort from Vasquez. There was a deed dated August 3, 1855, recorded October 21, 1858, in Salt Lake City in Records Book B. p. 128, that ostensibly sold Fort Bridger to the LDS Church. Bridger and Vasquez's names were signed by H.F. Morrell in the presence of Alinerin Grow and William Adams Hickman, purportedly pursuant to a power of attorney. Bridger was absent from the area in 1855, acting as guide for Sir St George Gore. In 1850, while guiding the Stansbury Expedition on its return from Utah, Bridger discovered what would eventually become known as Bridger Pass, an alternate overland route which bypassed South Pass and shortened the Oregon Trail by 61 miles. Bridger Pass, in what is now south-central Wyoming, would later become the chosen route across the Continental Divide for both the Union Pacific Railroad and Interstate 80. In 1864, Bridger blazed the Bridger Trail, an alternative route from Wyoming to the gold fields of Montana that avoided the dangerous Bozeman Trail. In 1865, he served as a guide and U.S. Army scout during the first Powder River Expedition against the Sioux and Cheyenne that were blocking the Bozeman Trail (Red Cloud's War). He was discharged from the Army at Fort Laramie later that year. Suffering from goiter, arthritis, rheumatism and other health problems, Bridger returned to Westport, Missouri, in 1868. He was unsuccessful in collecting back rent from the government for its use of Fort Bridger. In 1835, Bridger married a woman from the Flathead Indian tribe that he named "Emma", with whom he had three children. After her death in 1846, due to fever, he married the daughter of a Shoshone chief, who died in childbirth three years later. In 1850, he married Shoshone chief Washakie's daughter, and they raised two more children. Some of his children were sent back east to be educated. His firstborn Mary Ann was killed by a band of Indians while being taught by Dr. Whitman's wife. His Son Felix who fought with the Missouri Artillery died of sickness on Bridger's farm. His daughter Josephine who married Jim Baker died leaving Virginia his only living child. Death Bridger died on his farm near Kansas City, Missouri, on July 17, 1881, at the age of 77. In the Independence Missouri School District, a junior high and then the middle school which replaced it are named after him.



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  • Published 01.18.22
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