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Wyoming History


Lincoln Highway

Part one of seven parts

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Continue to References

Table of Contents:

Part one - Introduction
Part two - From Wagon Road to Auto Road 1900-1925
Part three - The Politics of Road Construction
Part four - The Black and Orange Cabins (with Martha Powers)
Part five - Recordation and Collection Procedures (with Martin Lammers)
Part six - Shovel test units(with Martin Lammers)
Part seven - Artifacts (with Martin Lammers)

Lincoln Highway Motor-court Cabin Testing Program


Fort Bridger State Historic Site



The Wyoming Department of Arts, Parks, and History intends to restore an original 1920 vintage motel along the Historic Lincoln Highway. This motel sits on the Fort Bridger Historic Site. The motel is a significant property that reflects a period of early vehicle travel along the transcontinental Lincoln Highway. The restoration of this motel will have a beneficial effect to this site.

Prior to the restoration an archaeological testing strategy had to be implemented to determine the nature and extent of the archaeological deposits at the site. In all 4 1x1m units and 9 shovel test units were excavated to determine the nature and extent of the cultural deposits at the site. This report documents our findings and provides a brief historic context to help evaluate what was found during excavations. 



The Fort Bridger State Historic Site began in 1843 as the first permanently settled area in what is now Southwestern Wyoming. The site is located near the Blacks Fork River and several of its sub-channels.


This figure shows the Blacks Fork River and its channels. The site is well watered from moisture that falls in the Uinta Mountains. This range is to the south with peaks ranging between 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) and almost 13,500 feet (4,115 meters) above sea level. 



The Lincoln Highway Motor-court site, as with the entire Fort Bridger State Historic Site, is located 6,675 feet (2,035 meters) above sea level on an alluvial flood plain formed by the Blacks Fork River and its various channels. Flowing from the Uinta Mountains to the south, the stream in former times branched into multiple channels approximately one and one half miles (two and one quarter kilometers) to the south of the Fort Bridger site, and returned to one principle channel one mile (one and one half kilometers) downstream from the site. At present, the Blacks Fork river channel flows one mile to the west of Fort Bridger and a secondary stream, Groshon Creek, courses through the site approximately 300 yards (274 meters) west of the excavation area. Small artificial irrigation canals, or ditches, pass near the site in north-south orientations.

Climate area wide is noted as being semi-arid to arid in nature, with precipitation being no greater than 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) per year.

Soil matrix associated with the presence of cultural was manifested as a uniform sandy loam with a high content of organic matter. Vegetation near the Lincoln Highway
This figure shows the location of the Black and Orange Motel on the Fort Bridger USGS 7.5 minute series map.
The motor-court had a variety of vegetation growing around the buildings including  native Aspen (Populus tremuloides), Cottonwood (Populus spp.), Willow (Salix spp.), Chokecherry, Xeric grasses, ‘Horsetail’ (Equisetum), and introduced species as Crab Apple (Malus spp.).


Historic Context

The automobile has long been recognized as one of the major forces contributing to the present structure of twentieth-century society. Too often, however, what is overlooked in evaluating the auto's social impact is the revolution it caused in road construction. Urban historians, city planners, and casual observers really underestimate the importance of having good arteries in and out of cities. Yet, few are concerned with the evolution of roads in rural areas. Roads that link communities are essential to the growth and development of any town or city, but how these roads evolved in remote areas is rarely considered.

Archaeologists and historical archaeologists have, until recently, been primarily concerned with nineteenth-century overland transportation routes. In part, this is due to mandates by federal management agencies to preserve the remains of nationally significant trails such as the Overland Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the Santa Fe Trail. As an outgrowth of this mandate, freight, stage, and ranch roads have received more attention than have pioneer automobile roads. Interestingly, the early automobile roads exhibit engineering features that are both functional and relevant to understanding the evolution of highway construction. Many of the pioneer road builders learned how to build roads by using "trial and error methods" and left few written records describing changing methods of road construction. Thus, the historic roads themselves are the only design records that show the evolution of road construction in the early twentieth century.

In many ways, early auto roads have been overlooked because they currently appear as little more than "two-tracks." In fact, most auto roads were first two-track wagon roads because in the early part of the twentieth century both automobiles and wagons shared the same roads. Slowly and steadily, graveled roads (such as the Lincoln Highway) replaced the two-tract road and the national highway system began to take shape in the years spanning 1900 to 1925.

*Historic Photographs are  courtesy Fort Bridger State Historic Site and Martha Powers


If you have any questions please feel free to contact Dudley Gardner.

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