During the Civil War, varying companies of soldiers from five states served at Fort Halleck on the Overland Trail in what’s now south-central Wyoming. They defended stagecoach stations, passengers, freighters and emigrant trains. Some died in blizzards, some witnessed a legal hanging and some lynched an African-American ambulance driver.
Jim Bridger’s skills as guide, mapmaker and businessman were unmatched. After 20 years trapping beaver in the northern Rockies, he co-founded Fort Bridger in 1843. In the 1850s and 1860s he guided important government exploring expeditions and guided troops on Indian campaigns. In 1868 he retired to Missouri, where he died in 1881.
As many as half a million people crossed what’s now Wyoming in the mid-19th century before the transcontinental railroad was built. Their trails followed the North Platte and Sweetwater rivers west to South Pass, after which they divided into various routes bound for Oregon, Utah or California. They were making the journey of a lifetime, on routes blazed by Indians and trappers, and then worn deep and wide by thousands of wagons and perhaps millions of draft animals. These trails remain largely unchanged in Wyoming. Their white-topped wagons still hold an important place in the national imagination.
A stagecoach station established in 1856 at the confluence of the Ham’s and Black’s Fork Rivers west of Green River lay on long-distance travel routes used earlier by Indians, fur trappers and emigrants. In 1868 the Union Pacific Railroad established a station nearby, and renamed the place Granger. The site of the old stage station and one acre of land were donated to the state of Wyoming in 1930 to honor the early travelers.
Point of Rocks Stage Station, 25 miles east of present Rock Springs, Wyo., was built in 1862 by the Overland Stage Company. The station was attacked and burned at least once by Indians, and stagecoach passengers were supposedly robbed and murdered nearby by the notorious outlaw and onetime stage-line superintendent Jack Slade. Point of Rocks Stage Station has been a school, freight station, store, ranch headquarters and a home. It is one of the only stage stations remaining intact on the Overland Trail. This site is on the National Register of Historic Places.