Heritage Museum Blog
View Archived Articles
LAYTON'S TREASURE CHEST--Ft. Bridger MusicBox
The Heritage Museum of Layton is filled with priceless antiques--each artifact having its own unique and fascinating story.
For example, there's the Fort Bridger music box.
Fort Bridger was an important outpost as the many wagon trains were crossing the Great Plains during the westward migration. Pioneers heading for the Salt Lake Valley, California, and to the Northwest to the mountains and valleys stopped at Fort Bridger to repair wagons and restock their supplies.
Judge William A. Carter was the colorful post-trader of Fort Bridger from 1858 until his death in 1881. He was appointed to the post-trader position by General William S. Harney known as the Utah Expedition was moving west to quell the "uprising of the rebellious Mormons." Before the detachment reached Wyoming, General Harney was replaced by General Albert Sidney Johnston and Judge Carter worked closely with General Johnston to house, feed, and train the U.S. Army soldiers. When Fort Bridger was built, the post general store and trader's residence occupied a square adjoining the officer's living quarters so Judge Carter was on a first name basis with most of the Army's officers.
The Utah War was resolved without a shot being fired and the majority of the government soldiers went east when the Civil War broke out. Judge Carter remained at Fort Bridger and was instrumental in the transition of the fort to a Union controlled outpost. After the Civil War, William Carter was appointed a U.S. Commissioner for Wyoming Territory and often committed for trial in the Federal court in Salt Lake City. Many of the lawless and dangerous men frequented this wild section of the west. Because William Carter worked with the U.S. courts he earned the honorary title of "Judge."
Judge Carter was a forceful federal official and in his other pursuits was a territorial leader. When gold was discovered at South Pass, Wyoming he outfitted, equipped, and became a partner with a number of prospecting parties. When oil was discovered in Wyoming's Uintah County, he made use of this product by building a still which processed and refined enough lamp oil for illuminating the fort. He was the first person to engage in the Wyoming lumber business, and he was one of the first people to engage in the ranching business which eventually made him a very wealthy man. His legacy in Wyoming is legendary.
At Fort Bridger, Judge Carter and his wife, Mary, loved to entertain. At dinner parties the couple often used a German made music box to supply incidental music. The music box played three popular tunes; and over the years, the music box became one of Mrs. Carter's most prized treasures. After the death of Mr. and Mrs. Carter, some of their Fort Bridger possessions were sold at an auction. In the 1920s the music box was acquired by Layton antique collector Dell Adams, and the music box was donated to the Heritage Museum following Mr. Adams' death.
Today you can see Judge William and Mary Carter's 148 year old music box at the Heritage Museum of Layton.