The presence of the Church in Fort Bridger in western Wyoming was short-lived but important in the pioneer era of the Church.
The fort's history was spotlighted as the 1997 Sesquicentennial Mormon Trail Wagon Train Re-enactment stopped at the site for two days. A portion of a wall of an old corral built by Mormon overseers when the Church bought the property was dedicated July 10 by Elder J. Kirk Moyes, an Area Authority Seventy."The fort was an important stopping place for immigrants," said Elder Moyes. The Saints of that era were involved in a relocation that assured the survival and future growth of the Church. They also were fulfilling prophecies that were given in the early days of the Church, he said.
The fort was established in 1843 by noted frontiersman Jim Bridger and a partner, Lewis Vasquez, to take advantage of the increasing migrations across Wyoming to California, Oregon and the Great Basin.
The segment of wall that Elder Moyes dedicated was built by Lewis Robinson, who was assigned to oversee the property after the Church purchased it from Jim Bridger in 1855. A fort 100-feet-square with an attached corral measuring 80 by 100 feet were built during the summer of 1857. Work parties from Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs have been excavating and reconstructing the wall for several years.
Elder Moyes suggested the wall represents the barriers that Church members can build to keep evil outside and good inside. It should stand, he said, as a symbol of "those who have gone before with dedication and faith."
When Brigham Young arrived near Fort Bridger in July 1847 with the vanguard company of pioneers, he visited with Bridger and talked about the potential for settling the Salt Lake Valley.
The Latter-day Saints occupied the fort from when they purchased it in 1855 until the fall of 1857, upgrading and building more permanent structures at the site. But when reports came to Brigham Young that a United States Army was being sent to the Utah Territory in response to rumors that the Saints were in a state of rebellion, he demanded that both Fort Bridger and nearby Fort Supply be burned to the ground. He did not want the troops led by Brevet Col. Albert Sidney Johnston to find any shelter or supplies at the forts.
When the "Utah War" ended peaceably the following year, the Latter-day Saints did not return to Fort Bridger. Although Bridger had sold the fort to the Church for $8,000, he leased the property to the federal government and it served as an Army post until 1890, having served an important role in the migrations of the Latter-day Saints and other groups who settled the western United States.