Lower Bridger School

A Piece of Canyon History

In 1806, Lewis and Clark separated for a time on their return from the Pacific coast. Clark traversed the Gallatin Valley and camped near the other end of Kelly Canyon Road, about 6 miles from the school. Jim Bridger was a 2 year old in Virginia at that time, so we are sure the Canyon had another name until after he came through in 1856. The Christie family homesteaded in Bridger Canyon in the 1880's.

Lower Bridger School is a one-room school house located directly across Bridger Canyon Road from our property. The school was established in 1897 and operated as a school until 1956. In 1981 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This 1924 photo taken looking south from what was then part of the Christie property shows that Bridger Canyon Road and Kelly Canyon Road were narrow dirt roads. To the left of Kelly Canyon Road are Christie farm buildings.

Contrast the photo of the school with this 2009 photo taken from approximately the same location. Several of the builings are easily recognized, and the main difference in the school is the addition of a foyer where the students could leave their coats and over-boots. The two outhouses are still there, and are still “operational.” The building has electricity now and the wood stove has been replaced with a propane stove, but there is still no plumbing.

In 1954, children from the school white-washed a “B” they had created on the lower portion of what is now our property. The snow on the mountains suggests that the photo was taken in June at the end of the school year. It is easy to determine the approximate location of the “B” from the photo; we think we know exactly where it was (note the large stones at the lower right, upper left and center of the B). It appears that many of the stones have been moved, the white-wash is long gone and lichen has made many stones blend in. The grass around the stones is also much higher now; judging from the condition of the grass, the area was very heavily grazed before the photo was taken. Now only deer and elk graze here, mostly in the Winter.

In 1900, the students and teacher of Lower Bridger School posed for this picture in front of the school building.

The names of the students and teacher are written on the back of the photo. The two family names that dominate are Sparr (descendants still own the property across the highway, immediately west of the school) and Papke (with whom we share our western fence). It is unusual that no Christie children were in school at the time.

Parting Shot
Lower Bridger School

Taken from the “B”
14 September 2009

Parting Shot, Take 2
The B

Telephoto taken from the school
28 September 2009