Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar Map drawn by William Atchinson Photograph of Jim Bridger, American Heritage Center-William Henry Jackson scbl#160 Photograph of Jim Bridger, American Heritage Center-William Henry Jackson scbl#160
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Many of the Bridger Trail pioneer travelers kept dairies, journals, or wrote reminiscences after they arrived in their new home. Several accounts have been located that provided a first hand description of travel along the trail. They include Charles Baker, William Haskell, Howard Stanfield, William Atchison, Cornelius Hedges, Robert Vaughn, Frank Kirkaldie, James Roberts, William Alderson, L.B. Stateler, Albert Brubaker, Ethel Maynard, Thomas LeForge, and Jonathon Blanchard. The diaries were important resources that helped to determine the route of the Bridger Trail in many locations in Wyoming.

Those Bridger Trail pioneers who settled in the new territory contributed to the initial population and its organization. William Alderson and his brother John remained in the region to try their hand at agriculture. They were among the founding members of the town of Bozeman, especially William, who was a leading citizen in the young William Alderson, Refer to Acknowledgements #9community. He was the secretary at the meeting to create the town, offered motions for by-laws and recorded the minutes of the meeting. He contributed in numerous ways to the new territory and the town of Bozeman. In 1865 he was one of the first in the community to teach school; he was instrumental in organizing religious meetings which led to the establishment of a Methodist Church in Bozeman in 1867; he actively helped with the expansion of the Methodist Church on the Crow reservation; he helped to promote agriculture among the Sioux on the Wolf Creek sub-agency; and, as an editor, he was a founding member and officer of the Montana Press Association.


Cornelius Hedges cast a long and distinguished shadow over his new Montana home.Cornelius Hedges, Refer to Acknowledgements #10 Prior to his departure on the Bridger Trail, he had been educated at Yale and then Harvard where he took his law degree. He made his home in Helena where he practiced law and forged one of the most distinguished careers in the early decades of Montana politics and education. Among his myriad contributions, he was a member of the constitutional convention, served two terms as Montana State Senator, was a member of the State Legislative Assembly, served as Superintendent of Public Instruction for several years, and campaigned as a Republican candidate for Congress in 1874.


Major John Owen, refer to Acknowledgements #11


Major John Owen was a veteran trader and Indian Agent returning to Fort Owen in the Bitterroot Valley. He was in the last train (10th) of the season. Bridger guided this train as well as the first train of the season. The loss of 16 oxen near the Shoshone River delayed Owen's progress so late in the year that he wintered in Bozeman before returning to the Bitterroot Valley.



Other Bridger Trail emigrants who successfully settled in the region included O'Dillon B. Whitford who prospered as a physician & surgeon in Butte, Montana, during the halcyon days of Butte's copper industry, and was elected Mayor in 1882. William Haskell became a guide. Joseph Stafford and B. F. Bisel became farmers, while Abram Morgan and Samuel Anderson entered the mining profession. Amede Bessette was an interpreter and Ethel Maynard became a stockman and rancher in the Madison Valley near Ennis, Montana. Robert Vaughn became a stockman, Hugh Duncan and L.B. Stateler were ministers, and Wallace and Martha Millegan settled on a farm.

O'Dillon B. Whitford, M.D., refer to Acknowledgments #11

Amede Bessette, refer to Acknowledgements #12

Robert Vaughn, refer to Acknowledgements #13
O'Dillon B. Whitford, M.D. Amede Bessette Robert Vaughn

Hugh Duncan, refer to Acknowledgements #13 Wallace Millegan, refer to Acknowledgements #15 Martha Millegan, refer to Acknowledgements #16
Hugh Duncan Wallace Millegan Martha Millegan

Of the multitudes who ventured west in 1864, many emigrants, like Charles Baker, Howard Stanfield, William Haskell, and William Atchison, returned to their origins in the East after satisfying their curiosity about the western regions, or after being discouraged by their lack of success in the gold fields. Because this was a common occurrence during the mining boom, the identities of many emigrants are lost to obscurity.

Howard Stanfield went west partly as a prerequisite for achieving manhood and partly in the hopes that the western climate might improve his health. He was just seventeen and from a wealthy family in South Bend Indiana. Unlike his brother, he suffered from poor health and was unfit for military service during the Civil War. Therefore, although the trip west was aPhotograph of Howard Stanfield, refer to Acknowledgements#21 strenuous endeavor, his father (a Judge) permitted it. Stanfield arrived at Virginia City on July 10, and observed the vibrant but raucous activity prevalent in the nascent gold mining community. He and his traveling companion, friend, and neighbor William Bartlett, soon after booked passage on a stage to Salt Lake City. "[H]aving seen all of that town a dozen times over . . . I sailed out of that port which I hope never to see again. . . ." From there they proceeded to California where Bartlett remained. However, Stanfield continued on, sailing to New York via Panama and then rode comfortably by train east to his home where he later prospered: first as a merchant, then in the lumber business.

Both Baker and Atchison had been teachers in small towns in Illinois. Baker arrived in Virginia City on July 28. The previous day, he had staked the first claim at Washington Gulch. By August 7, he had "bought claim & traded [his] mules," and three days later, he was "At work for Prof. [Reverand] Blanchard shoveling Pay dirt for $5.00 per day." Baker spent the years 1865 and 1866 in the gold mining region before returning home to Polo, Illinois, after which he married Lydia Windle, whom he had courted prior to his departure and written to repeatedly during the 98 day trip from Illinois to Montana Territory.
Charles and Lydia Baker, Acknowlegements #28.

Atchison traveled with Baker and arrived on July 27. However, discouraged and longing for his home in a warmer climate, he departed Virginia City exactly two months later on September 27. He and approximately 45 others constructed boats on the Yellowstone near Livingston, and by October 10, floated and "sailed" downstream to the Missouri and beyond, escaping the winter freezeup. He returned to his home in Illinois on November 30. Atchison became a wheat buyer in Des Moines Iowa, and later, a successful banker in the small town of Conway Springs near Wichita, Kansas.

Animated .Gif, Horse and Wagon

Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Map drawn by William Atchison, refer to Acknowledgements #35 Photograph of Jim Bridger,and William Henry Jackson painting scbl#160, refer to acknowledgements #35
Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35 Bridger's Trail by L.D. Edgar,refer to Acknowledgements #35