Item #010236 1888 – A Wyoming pioneer, whose earlier discovery of large fossils spawned the infamous paleontological ‘Bone Wars’, describes his new homestead near Fort Bridger. “J”, James Van Allen Carter.
1888 – A Wyoming pioneer, whose earlier discovery of large fossils spawned the infamous paleontological ‘Bone Wars’, describes his new homestead near Fort Bridger
1888 – A Wyoming pioneer, whose earlier discovery of large fossils spawned the infamous paleontological ‘Bone Wars’, describes his new homestead near Fort Bridger

1888 – A Wyoming pioneer, whose earlier discovery of large fossils spawned the infamous paleontological ‘Bone Wars’, describes his new homestead near Fort Bridger

Fort Bridger, Wyoming: 1888. Envelope or Cover. This four-page letter signed “J” [James Van Allen Carter] is datelined “The Willows / Aug 26 188[8]”. It is enclosed in a green 2-cent Washington stamped envelope (Scott Type U71/U72) postmarked “Fort Bridger / Aug / 27 / 88 / Wyo.” and addressed to Carter’s mother in Lexington, Missouri. In nice shape. A transcript will be provided.

The letter, about pioneer life at Fort Bridger, reads in part:

“Observe the heading and see the airs we are putting on . . . The Willows! . .. Of course it’s inconvenient to have to go to Bridger to get a beefsteak or a box of matches. . .. This work is tedious and presents some worry nearly every day. My crop is apt to fall short, [but] My pasture feed is very fair yet. . .. As I sit out front of the cabin and look southward, viewing the beautiful Unita mountains, I know how much Ma would enjoy the same. They have almost lost their snow – only a shot here and there on the highest peaks. I hope there’ll always be a few shots . . . for the snowy peaks are much of the charm.”

. Very good. Item #010236

After the Civil War, James Van Allen Carter of Lexington, Missouri, was inspired to see the west and signed on with a freighting train in 1866 that hauled supplies to Fort Bridger, Wyoming, and settled there.

In 1868, James began sending fossils he had found in Washakie Basin to the famed paleontologist, Joseph Leidy. Intrigued, Leidy visited James, Fort Bridger, and the Basin in 1872. Soon two scientific competitors, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, appeared, and the battle was on. In 1877, railroad workers notified Marsh that they had unearthed giant fossil bones and the hunt for dinosaurs began. Leidy found a complete skeleton of what appeared to cross between and elephant and hippopotamus, which he named the Uintatherium robustum in honor of the Unita Mountains. Cope and Marsh vigorously attacked Leidy’s findings, beginning an acrimonious academic debate between all three men. Leidy soon became so frustrated that he withdrew from further Western research. Wyoming, however, continued to be a hotbed of dinosaur discoveries.

Although James didn’t realize it when he wrote this letter, his days at Fort Bridger were numbered as the growing network of western railroads made the overland trails obsolete. After the Army closed the post in 1890, James relocated to Evanston, Wyoming, where he established a drug store.

(For more information, see “History of Fort Bridger” at the Genealogy Trails website, “The Bone Wars” from the Wyoming Tales and Trails website, and online genealogical websites including ancestry.com.)

Scarce. No similar items are for sale in the trade, and Rare Book Hub shows none having appeared at auction. William and James Carter family paper collections are held at by the Wyoming State Archives and Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

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Price: $250.00