W. A. Carter was a sutler and probate judge at Fort Bridger from 1859 until his death in 1881. After his death Carter's widow, Mary Elizabeth (Hamilton) Carter, took her husband's place as post trader until 1890.
William Alexander Carter known as "Mr. Fort Bridger" was the most important individual at Fort Bridger, Wyoming and a key player in the economic development of the intermountain west. Carter's personality and the Fort were so intimately connected that to many contemporaries Fort Bridger was "Carter's Fort."
Carter, a Virginian, came to Fort Bridger with Johnston's army in 1857 during the so-called Utah War. Since goods and people traveling west passed through Fort Bridger, Carter was at the center of economic activities on the frontier. Making the most of his situation, Carter opened a general store. He carried on a brisk trade with soldiers, scientific expeditions, miners and mountaineers, Indians, and emigrants on the Overland Trail.
Of particular interest is Carter's business with Mormons. Aware of the market opportunity presented by Mormons, Carter opened a second store at Heber, Utah. In order to make things go more smoothly, Carter recruited Mormon Bishop Abram Hatch as a partner. Nevertheless, the Heber store closed in the face of the Mormon policy of not trading with "gentiles."
One of the region's early businessmen, Carter was involved in mining, oil, logging, and cattle ranching, and he also operated a sawmill. He raised hay and grain on the land surrounding the Fort to fill contracts with the government. In addition to his business activities Carter was justice of the peace and probate judge for Green River County. Originally, Fort Bridger was in Utah Territory; but it became a part of the newly created Wyoming Territory on July 25, 1868. (The official date for the organization of the Wyoming Territory was May 19, 1869.)
Judge Carter was known for his hospitality. He tried to lead the life of a gentleman, had an excellent library, and a Steinway piano. He was a Republican and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
W. A. and Mary E. Carter had six children: Ada, who married army surgeon J. K. Corson, Anna (Mrs. James Van Allen Carter), Lulie (Mrs. Maurice Groshon), Roberta (Mrs. W. H. Camp), William A. and Edgar. James Van Allen Carter was not related to Judge Carter but was a son-in-law.
For additional studies of Carter see:
W. N. Davis, Jr., "The Sutler at Fort Bridger," Western Historical Quarterly January 1971 : 37-54.
Robert S. Ellison, Fort Bridger Wyoming; A Brief History Casper: The Historical Landmark Commission of Wyoming, 1931;
Fred R. Gowans and Eugene E. Campbell, Fort Bridger Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1875.
"Diary of Judge William A. Carter" Annals of Wyoming April 1939.
Merrill J. Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988, entry 1588,
Dale L. Morgan and George P. Hammond, eds., A Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Bancroft Library, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963, pp. 244-245.
See also A. R. Standing, "Through the Uintas: History of the Carter Road," Utah Historical Quarterly, Summer 1967: 256.
"Western Justice: The Court at Fort Bridger Utah Territory," Utah Historical Quarterly, April 1955): 99.
This one box collection contains photocopies of W. A. Carter's financial records during his operation as sutler at Fort Bridger, Wyoming and business dealings with the United States military between 1858 and 1860. The ledgers contain a daily log of business information, such as the buyers name, goods purchased, and the price sold.
For additional information about W. A. Carter see USU Special Collections & Archives, Caine Coll Mss 29: The William Alexander Carter Family and Mary E. Carter Papers and Marie Eccles-Caine Archive Mss 1 Box 2 Fd 4, concerning the appointment of John Sharp in 1864 as clerk of the Green River County probate court.
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Permission to publish material from the William Alexander Carter, account ledger must be obtained from the Special Collections Manuscript Curator and/or the Special Collections Department Head.Preferred Citation :
William Alexander Carter, account ledger, 1858-1860. (COLL MSS 168). Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives Department.
Arranged by company and chronologically.
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