Fort Bridger Across the Decades

Are you familiar with Fort Bridger? While it’s not as famous as Fort Laramie on the opposite side of the state, Fort Bridger has a colorful history that includes disputes over ownership, being burned, contributing to the creation of Wyoming’s first millionaire, and a somewhat surprising use in the early twentieth century. If you don’t believe me, the large sign that greets visitors to the museum depicts the various eras of the fort’s history.

Trading Fort

It all started in 1843 when Mountain Man Jim Bridger and his partner Louis Vasquez decided to establish a trading post in what is now southwestern Wyoming. Realizing that emigrants traveling the Oregon/California and Mormon Trails would need supplies, Bridger and Vasquez cobbled together a modest fort whose blacksmith’s shop was perhaps more valuable to the pioneers than the limited supplies available in the fort’s store.

When Mormon pioneers arrived in the valley four years after Bridger built his fort and found the store’s prices exorbitant, tensions began to rise between the settlers and Bridger. These culminated in the Mormons’ accusing Bridger of violating federal law by selling both ammunition and liquor to the native Americans. Unwilling to be arrested, when Bridger learned that the Mormon militia were coming after him, he fled, and the Mormons assumed control of the fort until 1857 when they burned it to prevent the United States Army from seizing control during what is sometimes called the Utah War.

Army Fort

A year later, the Army reestablished Fort Bridger, giving control of the commercial aspects of the fort to Judge William Alexander Carter. That proved to be a profitable association for Carter, who as sutler (fort trader) became Wyoming’s first millionaire, but the benefits were not only financial. When he rebuilt the fort, Carter established Wyoming’s first schoolhouse so that his children – both boys and girls – could be educated, and the education was so complete that students were readily accepted into Eastern colleges.

The site was an active Army fort until 1878, when it was closed for two years. After it reopened in 1880, it remained open until its final closure in 1890. As you can see from the picture of the commanding officer’s home, the late nineteenth century fort bore little resemblance to Bridger’s trading post.

Lincoln Highway Stop

Although many of the fort’s buildings were sold and dismantled, its history did not end in 1890. With the advent of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road of the automobile era, the area around Fort Bridger had a new purpose: serving travelers. As someone who enjoys traveling by car, I’ll admit that the “garage camp cabins” were my favorite part of this trip.  Not only did I find their bright orange color eye-catching, but I was intrigued by the fact that the garages were right next to the cabins themselves. The dark spots next to the doors are the garages.

As you might expect from the era (this was the 1930s), the interior was less appealing. While there was heat and electric light, you’ll notice the lack of running water. No wonder they called it a camp. Still, these cabins must have felt like pure luxury compared to sleeping in a tent.

So, what does all this have to do with my latest release? Absolutely nothing. Out of the Embers takes place in the Texas Hill Country with not an Army fort or garage camp cabin in sight. The heroine’s an orphan who winds up opening a restaurant, while the hero raises some of the finest quarter horses in the state but dreams of a very different life.

Does fort life intrigue you? Have you ever toured any of these old forts? I’m offering a signed copy to one person who comments. (Giveaway rules apply.)


A young woman with a tragic past has arrived in town . . . and trouble is following close behind

 Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents’ murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds shelter in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don’t include a family of his own.

At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage?

Suspenseful and sweetly romantic, Out of the Embers is the first in a new series that invites you to the Texas Hill Country in the 1850s, when the West was wild, the men were noble, and the women were strong.

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Amanda Cabot’s dream of selling a book before her thirtieth birthday came true, and she’s now the author of more than thirty-five novels as well as eight novellas, four non-fiction books, and what she describes as enough technical articles to cure insomnia in a medium-sized city. Her inspirational romances have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists, have garnered a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and have been nominated for the ACFW Carol, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers Best awards. A popular workshop presenter, Amanda takes pleasure in helping other writers achieve their dreams of publication.

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47 thoughts on “Fort Bridger Across the Decades”

  1. Yes, I have been to one where I live here in San Diego, CA. It was a Spanish fort called Fort Guijarros and it was built in 1797 as the first defensive fortifications for San Diego harbor. In 1873 the US Army took over the property. In 1962 the US Navy over the property and built a submarine base which the US Navy still currently operates. The site where the remains of the fort currently are was registered as a California historical landmark.

    • Diana, I wish I’d known about that fort when I was in San Diego visiting cousins. It sounds like a place I’d enjoy visiting, and — who knows? — I might find a story just waiting to be told.

  2. Good morning Amanda- what a great history lesson you have given us. I love all things history so this blog really intrigued me.
    I read another one of your fort books a few years ago and loved it. You have a great talent in writing history and incorporating a a a wonderful storyline in your books.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  3. Unfortunately for me I haven’t visited a fort. I do enjoy reading about them and love history. Thank you for the informative post.

  4. I have toured old forts. I find them fascinating. Life would have been hard and uncertain. thanks for the great post.

    • I agree that life in the 19th century was hard, at least by our standards. I still marvel at the courage the pioneers had to leave their homes and travel across the country in search of a better life.

  5. We toured a couple of small forts years ago near Dodge City, Kansas. They were a lot of fun and very much off the beaten path. We wouldn’t have even known we were there except our host at the Boot Hill Bed and Breakfast suggested them to us.

  6. There is a small fort close to here called Old Fort Harrod state park but I have never visited it. I will have to check it out one day when things are good again around here.

  7. I am not intrigued by fort life, although I love to read stories about forts. Have never visited a fort.

  8. Amanda, welcome back! We’re happy to have you on P&P. I love old forts and here in Texas there’s a lot. I’ve toured quite a few and at some point in each I stand quietly and listen to the stories whispering in the wind. I try to imagine what it was like and what type of men lived there. Enjoy your visit and good luck with your books!

  9. When I was in grade school we visited Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island. I remember the beautiful view high on a bluff. It had cannons! You could climb all over the place. Supper cool!

    I would have felt protected from outlaws and Native Americans who didn’t like the soldiers or the pioneers who took over their land and destroyed their way of life.

    I wouldn’t have wanted to live in those primitive times.

  10. I’ve been to Fort Ticonderoga in New York. I’m interested in all things old. The history intrigues me. Hugs and thank you

    • That’s a fascinating fort and very different from the western ones, since it was built earlier. Have you been to Fort Niagara? I know it’s on the opposite side of the state, but I wondered if you’d gotten there and what you thought about it compared to Ticonderoga.

    • I loved the living history presentations at Ft Laramie and also enjoyed a wagon ride tour of Ft Robinson in Nebraska. I, too, have been to Ft Ticonderoga. It’s not far from where I grew up. We also visited Ft William Henry on Lake George,NY. It is another fort that played an important part in the French and Indian wars of the 1750’s. Visiting these historic sites gives me a better perspective on what life must have been like for people in that time period.

      • I don’t know how this ended up here instead of below……my crazy tablet has been driving me nuts for the last three days.

  11. I visited Fort Ticonderoga which was fascinating. The history of the forts and the locales interests me greatly.

  12. I have visited forts and found them very interesting. I think fort life would have been hard.

  13. I’ve been to two old forts, the one at St. Augustine, and one at Fort Christmas. I didn’t know of Ft Bridger, but I knew of Jim Bridger from the old Johnny Horton song!

  14. Amanda, I sure enjoyed your blog today. The pictures also put things into perspective for me. I have been to a few forts and it is a marvel. Wyoming is one of my favorite states and yet I have not visited the forts. Your story looks like a great read. Looking forward to getting more acquainted with you as an author. Thanks for coming to P&P today.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the blog and the pictures, Kathy. The next time you visit Wyoming, I highly recommend going to Fort Laramie and seeing the wagon ruts nearby. They’re absolutely fascinating … at least to me.

  15. There is a really cool old restored fort, Fort Atkinson, that has living history weekends all summer. I just love the place. I’ve been there many times and just typing this makes me want to go again!

  16. Intersting post. We like to take road trip and always stop when there is a fort or camp or some other example of life in the past. Always fascinating, although I do enjoy my modern conveniences.

    • Road trips are so much fun, since they let us take detours to interesting sites. I agree wholeheartedly about the modern conveniences. I can’t imagine cooking on a wood stove or facing a blisteringly hot summer without air conditioning.

  17. I don’t remember visiting a fort. The history is fascinating. Amanda, Congratulations on your release!

  18. Many years ago, lol, my mom would pack up all five of us kids and we would go to fort and get to sort of live how they did way back when. Some of these forts had an area that we could camp out in a tent. These were in the CA AZ NV area. I dont remember the names of the forts now, but they were fascinating. How people could live so simply yet have so much stirred my soul deeply. I think that is where I first fell in love with women from the western age, who were strong of character and physically and yet were a community. At the time I just wanted to learn more. And through reading from various authors I have been able to garner much from those times. Thank you to all you authors who share your research with us. Much appreciated.

  19. We visited Fort Bridger maybe 10 years ago. It was not a planned stop, just a happy discovery along the way. We were doubly lucky because we arrived during their annual Mountain Man Rendezvous held on Labor Day weekend. We did see the reconstructed trading post and the Barracks/milk barn/museum. I don’t think we ever saw the commandant’s house. That weekend, the park’s 35 acres are covered with over 150 teepees and tents. Vendors sell pelts, native American goods, period clothing, black powder guns and supplies, books, etc. There are people in period clothing (if you are dressed head to foot in pre-1840 attire, you get in free). There are food, kids activities, music, dancing, marksmanship competitions. We had a wonderful time and I would love to go back just to visit the fort as well as attend another rendezvous. We did find a couple other rendezvous in our various travels out West, but missed them. We have also been lucky enough to visit other old forts out West in Texas, Washington State, Arizona, and more.
    If anyone ever gets the opportunity to attend a Rendezvous, I would encourage them to do so.

  20. Your book sounds wonderful and definitely something I would enjoy reading.
    Forts are very interesting. I have been to Fort Laramie several times and love it each time I am there. It certainly gives you a small window into the life that was led inside the fort grounds. When I walk around you can’t help but think of the people who walked there before you.

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