In 1911, after the depletion of ore at Dragon, Utah, the Uintah Railway extended its line northwest along Evacuation Creek to the terminus of Watson. From this railhead a toll road ran north to points in the Uinta Basin. The rail extended southwest to the mining camp of Rainbow. Watson became the center of Gilsonite and ranching activity with hotels and stores. Thousands of sheep were sheared and wool shipped from here.
Fort Bridger, Wyoming was established in 1843 by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez. It served as a trading post for those who were traveling westward along the Oregon Trail, as well as LDS Pioneers, the Pony Express, the Lincoln Highway, and the transcontinental railroad. The fort was also commonly used to trade with the local Native Americans.
The fort was not very glamorous, it was even a disappointment to most travelers. It was simply two log cabins about 40 feet in length connected by a fence to hold horses. Most visitors complained about insufficient supplies and it being over priced. They did, however, have a blacksmith’s that many travelers took advantage of.
By 1858, Fort Bridger became a military outpost. Today, Fort Bridger is a historic site. Jim Bridger’s trading post is reconstructed, along with other historic buildings from the military. There is also a museum with gift shops available for visitors.
- First School House in Wyoming
- Fort Bridger Obelisk
- Fort Bridger Pony Express Station
- Jim Bridger
- Lincoln Highway – Black and Orange Cabins
- The Mormon Wall
- Old Fort Bridger Pioneer Trading Post
The Mormon Wall
On August 3, 1855, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, concluded arrangements for the purchase of Fort Bridger from Louis Vasquez, partner of James Bridger, for $8,000. Final payment was made October 18, 1858. A cobblestone wall was erected in the fall of 1855, replacing Bridger’s Stockade. A few additional log houses were built within the fort. The place was evacuated and burned on the approach of Johnston’s Army September 27, 1857. A portion of the wall is here preserved. In 1855, Fort Supply was established by Brigham Young six miles south where crops were raised for the emigrants.
Kennedy Station was a stagecoach and freight wagon stop along the Uintah Toll Road until about 1935. The Uintah Toll Road was well-graded and was designed for fast stagecoach travel. At the time the Uintah Toll Road was considered the best road in Utah. The road connected Dragon (a ghost town) to Vernal. Tolls were assessed on the road to help with the maintenance of the road, bridges, and ferries. The road was part of a transportation system set up to connect Uintah Basin towns to cities in Colorado. Drivers changed horses at this stop and passengers were fed. Many freighters spent the night here. There are not any known pictures of Kennedy Station so take some time and wander about, try to visualize what buildings were there and what it may have looked like. Some older residents in Uintah County may still remember the station. You will see shards of glass, old nails, bits of metal, and remains of building foundations or corrals. Please leave everything as you find it for others to enjoy in the future. Artifacts are protected by law. More of the history of the area can be found at the Uintah County Library located in Vernal.(*)
Archeologic evidence suggests that portions of the Uinta Basin have been inhabited by Archaic peoples and Fremont peoples. By the time of recorded history its inhabitants were the Ute people. The first known traverse by non-Indians was made by Fathers Dominguez and Escalante (1776), as they sought to establish a land route between California and Spanish America.
By the early nineteenth century, occasional fur trappers entered the Basin. In 1831-32 Antoine Robidoux, a French trapper licensed by the Mexican government, established a trading post near present-day Whiterocks. He abandoned the effort in 1844.
In 1847 the Great Salt Lake Valley, still a property of Mexico, was first colonized by Brigham Young and his followers. In 1861 Young dispatched an exploring party to the Uinta Basin; they reported that “that section of country lying between the Wasatch Mountains and the eastern boundary of the territory, and south of Green River country, was one vast contiguity of waste and measurably valueless.” Young made no further effort to colonize the area.
Vernal, unlike most Utah towns, was not settled by Mormons. Brigham Young sent a scouting party to Uintah Basin in 1861 and received word back the area was good for nothing but nomad purposes, hunting grounds for Indians and “to hold the world together.” That same year, President Abraham Lincoln set the area aside as the Uintah Indian Reservation, with Captain Pardon Dodds appointed Indian agent. Dodds later built the first cabin by a white man in the Uinta Basin about 1868. Settlers began to filter in after that and build cabins in various spots on or near Ashley Creek. In 1879 many came close to perishing in the famous “Hard Winter” of that year.