And [Gabriel] informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. Daniel 9:22
Jim Bridger, dubbed "Old Gabe," was indeed a leader that imparted skill and understanding to his trappers.
One day when Old Gabe and his trappers were working the rivers of Montana, they came upon 100 Blackfeet Indians. It was ostensibly a peaceful meeting, peace pipes and all. Jim Bridger moved on his horse toward the band as their Chief stepped out to meet him.
Bear in mind that Bridger's group had had many amicable encounters with Indians. It was in his own best interest to work in peace with the Indians. Indeed some of his men had married Indian women; he himself later married one.
But this time, due to their reputation for violence, Bridger was not entirely comfortable with the Blackfeet, so he dismounted and cautiously cocked his rifle. It was an almost involuntary action.
The story we have is that the Chief immediately grabbed the barrel of the gun, aimed it downward and discharged it in the dirt. There was a struggle and arrows were launched. Two of them lodged in Bridger's back.
The trappers scrambled to safer positions while tensions endured until nightfall when the Indians finally moved away. One of the arrows was removed but the other arrowhead remained in Bridger's back for the next three years. It wasn't until the fur trader's rendezvous of August, 1835, at the site of Daniel, Wyoming, that the missionary, Dr. Marcus Whitman, removed the arrowhead.
In 1843, as the westward flow of emigrants began to exceed the lure of beaver pelts in Wyoming, the enterprising Jim Bridger established a trading post to supply the needs of travelers. It was a relatively refreshing spot on the weary Oregon Trail, but reactions from travelers were mixed. Some emigrants were repulsed by the huts that housed mixed breed families of trappers including Jim Bridger and his wife, a Flathead Indian. Other travelers appreciated the pleasant groves of cottonwoods and the ample water supply.
Indeed no one could say it was an impressive facility. However, the supply of basic items: food, clothing, shoes for livestock and materials for fixing wagons, was vital to many of the weary emigrants trudging across the dry Wyoming landscape.
But impressive or not, its three most valuable features were: location, location and location. This strategic outpost not only served the Oregon trail emigrants, but it also served the California Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the Cherokee Trail. It served the elite stage coach travelers of the Overland Trail and those dauntless mail carriers of the Pony Express. The Union Pacific Railroad came by in 1869. Later US highway 30 and finally Interstate 80 passed nearby.
Ft. Bridger was run by the Mormons in the early 1850's but came under the control of the US Army in 1858. In 1860 the first school in the area was established in the board and batten building (below) next to the ice house. Until then, children of the staff were sent to boarding schools elsewhere. One of Jim Bridger's daughters attended school at the Whitman Mission in the Oregon Territory. She died there in the massacre of 1847.