Bents Old Fort
Bents Old Fort (1833-1849) - A fur trading post started in 1828 and completed in 1833 by William Bent, Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain in Otero County, Colorado. Abandoned in 1849. Originally known as Fort William.
An elaborate adobe fur trading post built along the Santa Fe Trail in Otero County, Colorado. The post was located at a strategic point along the mountain route of the Santa Fe Trail adjacent to the Arkansas River.
Construction started in 1828 and was completed in 1833 by William Bent, Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain as "Bent, St. Vrain & Company". The massive post was two stories high built of adobe brick with two circular bastions on opposing corners. The outer adobe walls measured 180 by 135 feet and were 15 feet high. At the back of the fort was a large corral for horses and livestock also protected by adobe walls. The inner courtyard was ringed with rooms for trading, blacksmithing and quarters for the occupants. A well room not only provided water for the fort but also served as an ice room for storing winter ice through the summer. The fort employed up to 60 people.
Bent established a relationship of mutual trust with the Indian tribes and the fort became a gathering place for Indians, travelers, trappers, and military. Treaties were concluded and boundaries established at the post and at times as many as 20,000 Indians were camped nearby to participate in the trading. William Bent regularly traveled back east to Westport, Missouri (now Kansas City) to take the furs and buffalo robes he obtained from the Indians and trappers and to buy supplies for the next year of trading. His summer trips to Westport often took six months or so and he would return in time for the fall trading season. Bent's Fort also was a major resupply stop for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail and many of the famous western explorers and trappers passed through his fort and/or worked there including Kit Carson and John C. Fremont.
At the time of the Mexican War (1846-1848), Mexico lay claim to much of the territory south of the Arkansas River and Bent's Fort lay right on the north side of the river and that border. During the war Bent's Fort was used as a supply depot by the U.S. troops in their invasion of the northern Mexican provinces. General Stephen Watts Kearny use the post as his advance base for his push into Mexico. John C. Fremont used it as a jumping off point in November 1848 for his expedition to find a railroad route from St. Louis to San Francisco.
All of the traffic through Bent's Fort stripped the surrounding land of timber and forage in the 1840s and by the end of the Mexican War, the Indians had moved on to better land. The fur trade had declined and William Bent wanted to move to a new location some 40 miles down the Arkansas River. Charles Bent was killed in January 1847 and the two remaining partners sought unsuccessfully to lease or sell the post to the U.S. Army. The post was abandoned in 1849 and partially destroyed by William Bent.
The fort has been almost completely reconstructed and is operated by the National Park service as Bents Old Fort National Historic Site, Otero County, Colorado.
Visited: 22 Sep 2011