Fort Supply

Fort Bridger wasn’t the only fort to be established in Bridger Valley. In the early days, a small fort was established to the south of Fort Bridger. Named Fort Supply, there is not much left in the area (other than a marker), but the fort has a short, rich history.

Bridger Valley as Part of the Utah Territory

Within the beautiful Bridger Valley, considered part of Utah Territory back in the early 1800s, a quaint little settlement was established by the Mormon pioneers. Its name gives evidence to one of its purposes, but Fort Supply was settled for a few different reasons.

A group of young men were sent from Salt Lake City in October 1853 to establish a place to give reprieve to and restock the westward pioneers for the last 100-mile leg of their journey to Salt Lake City. The men were also to build good relationships with the Native Americans, and to strive to gain control of ferrying on the Green River. Brigham Young was the Prophet and President of the church at that time, and he called Orson Hyde to head this colonizing project.

Mountain men were already established at Fort Bridger and running the ferries on the Green, claiming ownership by way of their intermarriage with the Shoshone Indians, who claimed the land originally. They did not take well to the Mormons coming in and trying to take over. They had already lost some business when the Great Salt Lake Valley was colonized, and now the Mormons were encroaching on their livelihood in the Bridger Valley area. Word has it that the mountain men poisoned the Indians against the Mormons, saying the “Mormons were driving the Indians off their land and taking away their rights. The mountain men were even supplying the Indians with liquor, lead, and powder, and fought for their rights to the river with their guns.

Mountain men were even further perturbed due to the taxes being assessed on their goods by the Utah Territory. Then, the Walker War in Southern and Central Utah gave way to the banishment of any trade between whites and Indians, even in the Green River area, so the mountain men were even more upset. That did not stop them from trading, though, and a posse from Salt Lake City was formed by court order to arrest Jim Bridger.

Bridger must have gotten word of the order because when the posse arrived, he was nowhere to be found. His Indian wife claimed innocence as to his whereabouts. When the posse left in mid-October, Bridger returned only to move away a few weeks later, back to his home in Missouri.

At this time, Brigham Young also served as the Governor of Utah Territory, also known as the “State of Deseret,” and as such, signed an act that was passed by the territorial legislature that enabled the Utah Territory to control the ferry operations in the Green River Valley.

With Jim Bridger’s absence, the Mormons were able to continue their efforts. Captain and President of the first mission was John Nebeker, with John Harvey and James S. Brown as lieutenants and counselors. The dual titles gave the men power to act militarily, if need be, and as missionaries. These initial missionary efforts were geared more toward the land control and relations with the Indians and mountain men.

A second group of men were sent a month later to the Green River Valley to aid in the colonizing and missionary efforts. The location for Fort Supply had been chosen by the first group and a block house was erected within two weeks. With winter setting in, however, no planting of crops or much missionary work took place. The group was merely in survival mode. As winters in such elevations go, it was months of enduring below-freezing temperatures, howling winds, and heavy snow. During this time, however, a former mountain-man-turned Mormon and his Indian wife taught the missionaries the Shoshone language so they would be able to communicate with the Natives in due time.

Under such harsh conditions, morale declined with the missionaries and several others left the valley without permission beginning in March of 1854. Though crops were started in May, the mission was ended and all missionaries released in July of 1854. A few men volunteered to stay to harvest the crops.

A Second Attempt at Colonization

The next April (1855), during the church’s General Conference, a new mission was announced and more missionaries called back to the Green River Valley. Expansion and colonizing efforts of the Mormons in the Utah Territory had been successful in other areas, so the hope was continued with this valley as well. During the winter of 1854-55, Charles Pulsipher, who was part of the first mission and had learned the Shoshone language, taught some of the Mormons the language. This time, James S. Brown was appointed President and Isaac Bullock was designated as Captain. Most missionaries arrived in May and began planting crops and building the fort. They had several log houses and a hundred acres of land fenced within that first month. They were also commissioned to seek out the Indians and teach any that came to Fort Supply.

The first meeting of this second mission with Chief Washakie was held early in the summer of 1855, where a letter from President Brigham Young was read. The letter offered friendship, trade, and teaching the Indians how to farm. The missionaries also offered a Book of Mormon and explained the relationship to the prophets of old with their tribes today. Some of the sub-chiefs refused the book, but Washakie accepted the information as truth. The Indians became well-acquainted with the missionaries, but many problems continued due to the language barrier.

These troubles continued, along with others, such as the early frost of this elevated area. Despite these troubles, more families moved to the valley in 1856 to further the efforts. On July 24th of that year, the settlers had a celebration of Pioneer Day, complete with a feast, which signified the success of most of their agricultural efforts. Alas, by September 4th, an early snowstorm wreaked havoc. The leaders decided to relocate the fort or establish a new town just north of Fort Supply. They received permission, but had to wait another winter before erecting Supply City. The settlers survived the winter by budgeting their meager harvest and supplies. By late summer in 1857, there were approximately 16 houses built.

The End of Fort Supply

But even more trouble was brewing. President Buchanan had received so many complaints about the Utah Territory not being compliant with U.S. law that he sent a quarter of the U.S. Army (2,500 men) to reestablish dominance and order and to replace Brigham Young as Territorial Governor. Settlers were made aware of the coming of the military by some men who returned from a trip eastward and had met the army. Men were sent to watch the way, but as the army approached closer and closer, it was determined that the settlers would need to hold off the army at the fort by way of a proclamation of martial law. Settlers and their families began to flee and by the end of September, most had abandoned their homesteads at Fort Supply, Fort Bridger, and Supply City.

Finally, all missionaries and settlers were ordered to abandon the fort and burn everything so as to avoid aiding the army, which they considered an armed mob. It was all torched, along with Fort Bridger, by the few men remaining and they left all they had worked hard to establish behind. Colonel Johnston’s army arrived in November of 1857 and took claim to the land and declared it a military reservation.

Though the existence and purposes of Fort Supply were halted, it is still held that the mission was successful, in that peace was established among the Indians and mountain men, and the emigrants were provided a resting spot on their long journey to the west. Later, others would return to settle in what is now known as Lyman and nothing would remain of Fort Supply except some wooden posts and a historical marker. It is quite a story to tell from a short, four-year period of history, and it is amazing that people learned how to survive in this awesome, rugged land that is now known as Bridger Valley.

More to Explore

Fort Bridger

Step back into the Old West and discover a small town with an outsized effect on the westward growth of America.

Mountain View

Dubbed the Gateway to the High Uintas, Mountain View is a great place to visit and base your explorations of Bridger Valley.


Lyman is your family destination for fun and adventure. Explore small-town America with a friendly western atmosphere.