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Picturing history: Jim Bridger and the Little Sandy Crossing

On June 28, 1847, President Brigham Young met and spent an evening conversing with Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man.

A monument on the Big Sandy River commemorates the meeting on the Little Sandy in Wyoming.
A monument on the Big Sandy River commemorates the meeting on the Little Sandy in Wyoming.
Kenneth Mays

On June 28, 1847, President Brigham Young led the vanguard company of pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the crossing of the Little Sandy River near present-day Farson, Wyoming. It was there that he met the famous mountain man Jim Bridger, who was traveling east with several others. Bridger was described as a “pioneer, hunter, trapper and trader, 43 years old, relatively short in stature but with a thick neck” (cited in “We’ll Find the Place: The Mormon Exodus, 1846-1848,” by Richard E. Bennett, page 192-193).

With regard to that meeting, a monument several miles from the actual site notes: “Both companies encamped here over night and conferred at length regarding the route and the possibility of establishing and sustaining a large population in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.” Bridger presented a relatively positive review of the Wasatch Front with regard to establishing settlements. He was somewhat hesitant about the Salt Lake Valley, fearing that the nights might be too cold for the maturing of corn (see “The Gathering of Zion,” by Wallace Stegner, page 156).

Jim Bridger had established a trading post in southwestern Uinta County, Wyoming, in 1842. It became known as Fort Bridger. Ownership of the fort changed hands and was disputed several times in subsequent decades. In 1928 it was sold to the Wyoming Historic Landmark Commission and became Fort Bridger State Historic Site at the little town of Fort Bridger, Uinta County, Wyoming. Jim Bridger died at Westport, Missouri, in 1881. He is buried in Mount Washington Cemetery, Independence, Jackson County, Missouri.

Kenneth Mays is a board member of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and a retired instructor in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Department of Seminaries and Institutes.

Grave of Jim Bridger in Independence, Missouri.
Grave of Jim Bridger in Independence, Missouri.
Kenneth Mays