Doubleday & Co., Garden
City, N.Y., 1954, 450 pgs., index, notes, map
Reviewer comment -
This marvelous book is about much more than its title. Bent's Fort is the
geographic locus for the story and the Bent family who built it is the human
center, but the story is about the entire development of the south-west region
from the central Rocky Mountains to the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and
from the northern border of Texas into Wyoming and Nebraska between 1820's and
1870. It is a history of the critical time of the Plains Indians (especially
Cheyenne, Comanchee, Kiowa and Arapaho) and the Mexicans in New Mexico and the
American "mountain men' fur trappers and the expanding commerce along the
Santa Fe Trail. It is also about the exappropriation and confiscation of the
Native Indian lands and property and destruction of their way of life by
encroaching white American settlers with the encouragement and protection of
Many famous individuals in addition to the Bent family make their appearance
including Kit Carson, James Beckwourth, Thomas Fitzpatrick, John Fremont,
Stephen W. Kearny, Lucien Maxwell, Sterling Price, Ceran St. Vrain, William
Sherley Williams, and David Waldo and many others.
The Bents were a very extensive family and many members are included in the
index. But it would have been very helpful if the author had provided a
genealogical chart and chronology as an appendix. It is sometimes difficult to
keep track of the dates of the events being described.
The fort is the main center of a web of individuals who pass through it, often
repeatedly, interacting there but also in many other places from St. Louis to
San Francisco and from Texas to Wyoming. William Bent has his main base at the
fort but lives in other places as well. Charles's main home is Taos as is Kit
Carson's, while Ceran's main home is Santa Fe. But they are only there
periodically. This is real history, told at the level of its individual
The names of many individuals who pass through the narrative may be unfamiliar
to the reader. Many others are known from their activities far from Bent's
Fort. Here is an attempt to provide additional context by expanding the wider
activities of some of these individuals or groups.
An excellent web page is at . This
one has some of the best photos of the present reconstruction and a satallite
map as well as a text describing the history.
A very interesting book in which the author provides more information not
included in Bents Fort, is Jolie Anderson Gallagher's Colorado
Forts.A series of photographs of the reconstructed fort are at
NPS site is at The fort is described at the Legendsofamerica site at
the Wikipedia entry (brief) is
There are many other books and Internet sites that include
information on this famous national landmark.
He was Spanish. He moved to Mexico in 1819 and to Santa Fe in 1824 to become a
successful merchant and trader. In 1838 Ceran St. Vrain stepped down as the
American Consul in Santa Fe and was succeeded by Alvarez. He performed his
diplomatic duties well despite continual disputes with Governor Armijo and
especially with Padre Antonio Jose Martinez (the opponent of every sign of
American influence). Alvarez was an associate of Charles Bent and Ceran
throughout the Mexican War and the Taos Revolt. He was the acting governor of
New Mexico in 1850.
American Fur Company
The company was founded by John
Jacob Astor to
organize and create a monopoly in the trade in beaver and other fur from the
Rocky Mounains and western plains. At one point Astor was considered the
wealthiest individual in the World. He competed with the British
Company and the Hudson's Bay
Company for the North
fur trade and with both independent American trappers and several private
partnerships and companies they organized. He created the port of Fort
Astoria in the Oregon
area because the furs from the western areas were to be exported to China in
exchange for cheap Chinese manufactures to be sold in Europe and America. He
also entered into cooperation with the Russian fur traders in North America
(Alaska to California). And he established another center around St. Louis to
compete with the French family trappers bringing fur east from the Rocky Mtns.
In the mid 1830's the fashion of English gentlemen for fur hats suddenly
declined, greatly reducing the profits from beaver fur. Astor sold out at the
height of the market and continued to expand his fortune in New York real
The already 'cut throat' competition in the fur supply industry became even
more so, resulting in many bankruptcies. That was the time astute traders such
as Charles and
William Bent switched
to trade in buffalo hides and even more in the transport of goods between St.
Louis and Santa Fe.
Note this early use of Chinese
goods in a world wide trading system. Astor made his initial fortune not only
on beaver fur but also on tea and silk from China. But he made the great
majority of his huge fortune by investing in real estate in Manhattan. Then he
became a great philanthropist.
The critical years (1833 - 1838) are well described by Bernard DeVoto in his
extremely well illustrated book - Across the Wide Missouri.
Armijo, Manuel (1798 - 1853)
He was born in New Mexico and was both soldier and statesman - 3 times governor
of New Mexico. He suppressed the
1837. In 1841 he successfully repelled the Texian Santa Fe
He favored granting land to American settlers and in 1841 granted 9,700,000
acres east of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to Charles Beaubien, Charles
Bent and others. When
Beaubien died, his will gave his part to his son-in-law, Lucien
Maxwell. This was
for a time the largest private land holding in America and is the origin of
several famous ownerships today such as the Boy Scout summer camp. He also
granted the Vigil - St. Vrain grant that comprises more millions of acres in
what is now southern Colorado.
When General Stephen Kearny arrived in
the Mexican War, Armijo realized he did not have the forces to fight, despite
the desire of some subordinates. He fled south. So Santa Fe was taken without a
shot fired, but the local fighting came a few months later.
Ashley, William Henry (1778 -
He was born in Virginia and moved into Louisanna territory before its purchase.
He lived in St. Louis after 1808. He was a fur trapper and business man. He was
a brigadier general of Missouri militia in the War of
1812. He made a fortune
from making gunpowder. He was elected the first Lt. Governor of Missouri, 1820
-24. He organized major fur trapping and exploration expeditions up the
Missouri River and into the Rocky Mts.. He created the Rocky
Company in competition with Astor's American Fur Company. He discovered South
Pass in 1824 and reached the Salt Lake basin in 1825. He discovered Lake Utah
and build Fort Ashley there which then conducted fur trade valued at $180,000
in the following 3 years. He sold his fur business to
Jedediah Smith when
he turned to politics. He was elected representative to the U.S. Congress three
Jacob (1763 -
He began his fortune as an organizer of the fur trade in the western U.S. and
beyond to Oregon territory; and invested in New York and other real estate. He
has been declared the richest man in the world of his time.
Autobees, Charles (1812 - 1882)
He was probably born in St. Louis. At age 16 he joined the trappers (mountain
men). In 1829 he met William Bent in Taos and joined his trapping team north
into Colorado along the Arkansas. This was the famous occasion during which
William first met and became friends with the Cheyenne. Autobees began working
with Cerain St. Vrain. He worked in the mountains with many of the famous
trapper - hunters including the Bents; Carson, Bridger, Beckwourth and Indian
tribes from the Navajo to the Lakota. He learned several Indian languages as
well as Spanish and married several women from different Indian tribes. In 1847
he was in Taos and aided the other Americans during the
TaosRevolt and then
served on the jury that convicted its ring leaders. In 1853 he homsteaded a
ranch on the Arkansas River in the Beaubien Sangre de Cristo grant. In
Christmas 1854 his, Dick Wooten's, and other local's ranches were attacked by
Ute's. He joined the counter attack that drove the Ute's out. During
Chivington's infamous attack - the Sand
- Autobees' half-Mexican sons managed to save Charles Bent (William's son). In
1861 he was a county commissioner. He acted as a guide for the government in
Indian territories. But later his homestead right was declared invalid so he
lost the property.
Another interesting reference
Beaubien, Carlos (Charles) (1800
He was a Canadian born American fur trapper and trader who moved to Taos and
was awarded by the Mexican governor the immense land grant of 9,700,000 acres
in northeastern New Mexico and south eastern Colorado known as the
Beaubien-Miranda Land Grant. He was a successful business man in Taos and
applied for and was granted Mexican citizenship (in order to own land). The
grant was made by Governor Manuel
signed away a quarter of the grant to Charles
Bentfor help in
settling the property. Settlement of the area was interrupted by the Mexican
War in 1846. Then came the Taos
Revolt in 1847 in which
Beaubien's son, Narcisio, was killed along with Charles Bent and others.
Beaubien turned to his sons-in-law, Lucien
Maxwell and Jesus
Abrejo to develop the
huge property. In 1863 he sold the Colorado part of the grant to Governor
This huge land grant made
Beaubien the largest private land owner in America. It remained the largest
private land holding after Lucien Maxwell inherited it from Beaubien - reaching
1.9 million acres. (Maxwell Land Grant)
Today it has been divided into several still huge properties including the Boy
Scouts of America training camp.
Beckwourth, James (1798 - 1866)
He was a mulatto born in slavery in Virginia and released by his owner. He
moved far west into the Rocky Mountains and became a 'mountain man', fur
trapper, explorer and legendary figure. He lived for years with the Crow
Indians and found (among other things)
through the Sierra Nevada mountains south west of Reno. He also fought in the
War and was with Chivington at the
Massacre in 1864. He also fought in Red Cloud's War. Actually he was
everywhere. He worked for Charles
Bent from 1840 and
built trading posts. And helped suppress the Taos
Revolt. He also was
involved in the development of Pueblo, Colorado. In 1848 during the Gold Rush
he was at Sonoma and then Sacramento, California. He died in Denver and is
buried at Crow Indian place in Laramie, Wyoming.
He dictated a biography that was
published in English and French in 1856. Amazing, he had yet 10 more years of
adventure. But this book itself became an historical reference for the lives of
Bent, Charles (1799 - 1847)
He was born in Charleston, West Virginia. He moved with his parent's family to
St. Louis. From there he established a remarkable frontier trading business
with his brothers and CeranSt. Vrain. He
traveled all over the plains from Texas and New Mexico to St. Louis and
Wyoming. They built Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River. He and Kit
sisters in Taos, Ignacia and Josefa. With his brother,
William, operating the
business from their fort, Charles had his home in Taos and an office in Santa
Fe. When General Stephen W. Kearny used the fort as an intermediate supply
point he and Charles did much business. Then, after Kearny had taken Santa Fe
and New Mexico without a fight he appointed Charles as Civil Governor of New
Mexico, while he continued on to California. Unfortunately the Army did not
leave sufficient troops to suppress any rebels. In 1847 Mexican ring-leaders
organized a revolt in which they obtained manpower assistance from the Pueblo
Indians near Taos. The rebels attacked Americans over a wide area. Charles
decided to go without military escort from Santa Fe to his home and family in
Taos. There he was murdered by the Indians. (See
Taos Revolt) His second
in command, Sterling
Price, soon brought artillery against the Pueblo town and suppressed the
revolt. Besides those killed in the battle, the leaders were executed.
Bent, Charles (1847 - 1868)
He was William Bent's son by Owl
Woman, who died in
childbirth with his sister, Julia. He was raised by his father's second wife,
Yellow Woman, a Cheyenne princess and Owl Woman's sister. Rather than spend
more time as a child with the white side he lived with his step-mother as a
Cheyenne. He was educated in Missouri, so joined the Confederate Army during
the Civil War. He was present in the camp at Sand
massacre commanded by Chivington took place and as a result he joined the
Cheyenne 'dog soldiers' in relentless warfare on the U.S. Army and travelers.
He was the leader of the attack on
was wounded by Pawnee at the Battle of
Springs and died of malaria.
Bent, George (1843 - 1918)
- William's Son - He was born at his father's base, Bent's Fort, Colorado. He
was raised by his mother's sister, Yellow Woman (daughter of the Cheyenne
chief), with her relatives, but he also attended boarding school in St. Louis.
His mother died about 1847. In the Civil War he was a member of the Missouri
state guard in the Confederate Army and fought at the Battle of
Creek, the First Battle of Lexington and the Battle of
Pea Ridge. He
left the army and returned to St. Louis and then to his mother's family in the
Cheyenne village. He and his brothers were in Black
Kettle'scamp at Sand
Creek when Chivington conducted the
then on he and his brother, Charles, joined the Dog Soldiers and fought with
the Cheyenne as they attacked white settlers throughout Colorado, Nebraska,
Wyoming and beyond. They fought at the Battle of
other battles and raids. In 1867 George quit fighting and became a valuable
interpreter for the U.S. Army. He spent the remainder of his life on the
Cheyenne reservation in Oklahoma. He was interviewed by anthropologists and
authors and is cited as an important source for information about Cheyenne
Bent, George (1814 - 1847)
William's and Charles's brother - He was raised in St. Louis and joined Charles
and William at the fort in 1832. He married in Mexico and had a son, Robert
(Elfego) and Daughter, Rumalda. He helped build Fort. St. Vrain and managed it,
where he met Fremont and Gilpin in 1844. In 1845 he was in Santa Fe during the
beginning of the local Mexican riots against the Americans. He served as a
scout for General Kearny's expedition into New Mexico. He died of an illness at
Bent, Ignacia Jaramillo, she was
Charles Bent's wife - from a distingished Mexican family in Santa Fe.
Bent, Robert (Cheyenne name -
(Tovi-wee-his) (1816 - 1841)
He participated as the younger brother in the family business with brothers,
Charles and William. In 1826 he is recorded as traveling with them to New
Mexico. In 1832 he is recorded (age 16) as again traveling back from Taos
across Raton Pass into Colorado. He was killed by Comanche while with a caravan
on the Arkansas River.
Bent, Robert (1842 - d?)
He was William's son and named after his deceased uncle. He was forced at gun
point by Chivington to lead the Colorado militia group to the Cheyenne camp on
Sand Creek and
see the massacre in which two of his brothers, Charles and George were
survivors. He testified at the investigation held at Denver.
Bent, Silas (1768 - 1827)
He was a judge on the Missouri Supreme Court 1817 - 1821. He was the father of
Charles, William, Robert, and George, Bent, the entrepreneurs in opening the
Santa Fe Trail to expanded wagon caravans and builders of Bent's Fort on the
Arkansas River, and of John and Silas Jr. John was a lawyer who entered the
Silas Jr. became a naval officer (midshipman) in 1836. He became a famous
hydrographer. He served with Sloat off California in the Mexican War and with
Perry on the naval opening of Japan, and resigned at the beginning of the Civil
Silas Sr.'s daughter, Juliannah, married Lilburn Boggs, but died young in 1820.
Lucy married Joseph Russell.
Bent, William (1809
He with his brothers Charles and George and Ceran St. Vrain established a
remarkable trading business across the plains between St. Louis and Santa Fe
(and Taos) Mexico centered on the adobe fort they built on the north bank of
the Arkansas River in what is now South east Colorado. He married into the
Cheyenne Nation with Owl Woman and became a
sub-chief. They had two sons and two daughters. He was responsible for many
negotiations between the Cheyenne and Comanche and between the Indians and U.S.
government. The Wikipedia entry on Owl Woman provides much more detail on life
at Bent's Fort. After Owl Woman died in childbirth in 1847, William married her
younger sister, Yellow Woman, with whom he had a daughter, Julia, in 1849 and a
son, George. Another reference -
that also describes detail about life at Fort Bent.
He is the central
personality about whom David Lavender weaves a very complex yet clearly
described story of the life and events in the opening southwest, north of
Texas, between the 1820's and 1870. He continually exerted every effort to
establish lasting peace between the competing Indian tribes and each other and
between all of them and the U.S. government with little success. His house in
Westport (now Kansas City) is a national landmark museum.
Bent, St. Vrain Co.
This originated as a fur trading company collecting the furs trapped by
'mountain men' and then shifted into general trading between St. Louis and
Santa Fe and with the Plains Indians for buffalo hides. They were second only
to the American Fur
Company in income across the plains. They moved their main operations from the
north on the Platte River (but later built Fort St. Vrain there) to the south
on the Arkansas River, where they built Bent's Fort and with depots and stores
in Taos and Santa Fe. The company became the dominant one in southwest Colorado
and on the Santa Fe Trail. The partners were
Ceran St. Vrain.
|another source, with photos and fort plan.
Bent's Old Fort
(1833 - 1852)
The fort was built in south eastern Colorado on the Arkansas River, then the
border between the U.S. and Mexico as a trading post and supply depot for the
fur trappers ranging through the Rocky Mountains and the Indians trading in
Buffalo hides. It was built by Charles and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain in
partnership, with William in charge on site. And he remained as the proprietor
and real owner until he blew it up. The Wikipedia entry on Owl
Womanprovides more detail
about life at the fort. A Google search will find very many other references.
It has been restored
and opened as a National Historic Landmark. There are excellent books
describing the fort's role in the fur trade and commerce on the Santa Fe Trail.
In addition to being a base for trappers it was a main transit post for the
company shipping business between St. Louis and Santa Fe. A list of the famous
and infamous individuals who visited and used Bent's Fort is a catalog of the
creators of American society in the southwest - John Fremont, Stephen Kearny,
Tom Boggs, Kit Carson, William S. Williams, David Waldo, Joseph Walker, Charles
Warfield, Richen Lacy Wootton, Thomas Smith, John S. Smith, Lucien Maxwell;
Susan, James and Samuel Magoffin; Thomas Fitzpatrick, Philip St. George Cooke,
William Bransford, Carlos Beaubien, and more.
Bent's New Fort
(1852 - 1857)
William Bent burned his old fort and built a new one of stone a few miles down
the Arkansas River at a better location and near the Cheyenne camping grounds
at Big Timbers. This is the location on the Arkansas River William
Bent chose to build
his second fort, because it was a favorite place for the Cheyenne to camp since
it had an unusual amount of trees as well as water. During the Mexican-American
War the Army used it as a supply depot and then built a fort nearby.
Big Timbers is
located on the eastern border of Colorado with Kansas, on the Arkansas River.
There is a museum there.
Black Kettle (1803 -
He was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota but moved into southern Colorado
with his tribe. He was a great leader of the Southern Cheyenne who did his best
to maintain peace between the Indians and white settlers and U.S. Army. In 1854
he was made president of the central council of the Cheyenne. The relations
between the Cheyenne and U.S. were governed by the provisions of the Treaty of
guaranteed extensive hunting lands to the Indians and which the U.S. Government
ignored. The Southern Cheyenne had their main villages along the Arkansas River
and traded extensively with William
Bentat his Bent's
Fort. But the government did not enforce the treaty and especially after gold
was discovered in Colorado the area was flooded by prospectors rushing across
into the mountains and decimating the critical buffalo on the way. In 1864
Colonel Chivington sought political advancement by conducting the infamous
massacre of the Cheyenne at Sand
Creek north of
Fort Lyon on the
Arkansas. Black Kettle barely escaped this outrage although his wife was badly
wounded. The government convened an investigation at Denver which Black Kettle
attended, still working for peace. He managed to obtain a new Treaty of the
River in 1865 but this again was broken by the U.S. Government. The Medicine
Lodge Treaty of 1867 was also broken. General Sheridan sent Custer with the 7th
Cavalry to attack Black Kettle. In 1868 while trying to escape the Battle of
River he was shot in the back by soldiers of the 7th Cavalry.
The Cheyenne obtained
their revenge when they killed Custer and his entire detachment of the 7th
Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Boggs, Lilburn (1796
He was born in Kentucky. He served in the War of
1812then moved to
Missouri in 1816. There he married Julia Ann Bent (1801 - 1820) a sister of
William Bent, and
daughter of Judge Silas Bent. They had two children, Angus and Henry. In 1823,
after Julia died, he married Panthea Grant Boone (1801 - 1880), a grand daugher
of Daniel Boone.
During a trading venture on the Santa Fe Trail his life was saved by Hamilton
Carson, one of Kit Carson's brothers. In 1825-32 he was a Missouri state
senator, from 1832 - 1836 he was Missouri Lt. Governor and from 1836 - 1840 he
was Governor. After moving to California he was a member of that state's
legislature. His son's Thomas and William worked with Charles and William Bent.
He is known in
history as the Missouri govenor who issued the executive order in 1838 to
'exterminate' the Mormon's who had moved into the state or drive them into
Illinois. In 1846 he moved with his family to California in the same caravan as
the Donner Party, but split with them at the Little Sandy River before they
took the disastrous route to their deaths. He then lived in Sonoma County -
Boggs, Rumalda Luna
- Daughter of Ignacia Luna and step daughter of Charles Bent.
Boggs, Thomas (1824
He was born in Missouri, the son of Lilburn Boggs who married (his second wife)
granddaughter, Panthea, in 1823. Lilburn then was a fur trader along the
Missouri River. Thomas was the eldest of Panthea's boys. Thus, Charles, William
and the other Bent boys were his uncles. He lived with his uncle, Albert Boone,
who was another trader. As a teen ager, Thomas learned several Indian
languages, then at age 16 or 17 he set out with the Magoffin brother's caravan
to Chihuahua, Mexico. Upon reaching
remained there and entered their employment, also in their business in Taos.
There he met Kit Carson,
whose wife was Josefa Jaramillo, sister of Charles' wife, Ignacia. There he
also met Rumalda Luna, Ignacia's daughter by a previous marriage and Charles
Bent's step daughter. They were married in 1846. Then came the
War. They fled to Bent's Fort, along with Charles's family and Josefa Carson.
There Thomas met Stephen
Susan and Sam Magoffin. Expecting to
be under General Kearny's protection they all returned to Taos. In December
1846 Kearny sent Thomas to Fort
dispatches where he arrived in Feb. 1847. By the time he returned to Taos in
April his uncle, Charles, had been murdered in the Taos
with several others, but Rumalda, Josepha, Ignacia and Teresia Bent survived.
Next, Thomas was asked to go to California, which enabled him to see his father
and brother, William, at Bodega Bay. After the Mexican War and through the
Civil War Thomas developed ranches on the huge
Grant. In 1866 he established Boogsville (now gone) near present day Las
Animas. He became a
leading business person in the region. With the opening of Fort
Lyon the town prospered
until bypassed years later by the railroad at Animas. Among the new residents
was Kit Carson in 1867. Both Josepha and Kit Carson died in 1868 leaving their
young children in Thomas' care.
William Boggs was
one of his brothers, others were Albert, John, Theodore, George, and Joseph.
His sisters were Minerva and Sophia..
There is much more to the story of Thomas Boggs than can be included here.
Bridger, James (1804
He was a 'mountain man'. They were the independent trappers and explorers of
the far west - Rocky Mountains clear to California and Oregon who later led
American settlers west. In partnership with Louis Vasquez he built Fort
southwestern Wyoming as a rest stop and trading station on the routes to
California and Oregon. He is one of the most famous of the explorers of the
established good relations with the Shoshonee (unusual) and even brought their
delegation to the signing of the Treaty of Fort Laramie.
Cabanne, Jean Pierre
(1773 - 1841)
He was born in France and became a merchant. He moved to Charleston, South
Carolina, then New Orleans and finally St. Louis, Missouri, where he married
Julia Gratiot in 1799. By 1801 he was becoming successful in the fur trade with
Indians. For a while he worked with John Jacob Astor, and then formed his own
company. He built a trading post - fort Robidoux - on the upper Missouri. As
the fur trade declined he formed a company with Bernard Pratte. He became a
wealthy banker and distinguished citizen in St. Louis
Many of his
descendents still live in St. Louis.
Carson, Kit (1809 - 1868)
His full name is Christopher Houston Carson. He was born in Kentucky and the
family moved to Missouri when he was about 1 year old. They bought land for a
farm. His father died when he was 8. He was sent to work in a saddlery located
at the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. In 1826 he ran away with a caravan of
trappers to Santa Fe, whereupon Kit settled in Taos. By age 19 he was ready
(having learned the languages and skills) to be a professional trapper in the
mountains with such experienced men as Jim
Bridger. In 1829 he was
with a party that went as far as California from Sacramento to Los Angeles and
back along the Colorado River. In 1831 he went north with a party through the
Rocky Mountains. On occasion he had to contend with Indians, whom he killed and
scalped, or Grizzly Bears which he often avoided. He particularly hated the
Blackfoot, whom he shot on sight. But around 1840 the beaver pelt market
collapsed when European male fashion switched to silk hats. So in 1841 he was
hired at Bent'sFort
where he switched to hunting buffalo, deer and antelope.
In 1842 he happened to meet John C.
Fremont who was
preparing to explore the routes clear to California, Fremont hired him at the
magnificent sum of $100 a day. In Fremont's first expedition he led the party
over South Pass. Fremont's published report made Carson famous. In 1843 he
again led Fremont, this time to the Columbia River. In 1845 he again led
Fremont to Oregon and California. This time Fremont helped instigate the
separation of California from Mexico. After the Civil War he continued to serve
in various capacities as a colonel (then brigadier general) in the U.S. Army
campaigning in the Indian Wars. His last major battle was at Adobe Walls, a
ruined Bent fort south of the Arkansas..
In 1843 he married Maria Josepha
Jaramillo, sister of Charles Bent's wife, Ignacia. From 1847 on Carson became
an international hero with the publication of numerous dime novels about him in
many languages. During the Mexican War Carson helped General Kearny in
California. During the Civil War he was commissioned a colonel of New Mexico
His home in Taos is now a museum with his belongings. He is buried in Taos. The
Nevada capital, Carson City, is named for him. There are statues of him and
other places named for him.
But of course with the current politically correct mania seeking to destroy all
American heroes Carson has come under the usual violent attacks.
Chivington, J. M, (1821 - 1894)
He was born in Ohio and became a Methodist minister. But then moved to Denver.
He was an erstwhile politician in Colorado who used military campaigns for his
personal aggrandizement. In 1862 he led Denver militia at the Battle of
Pass in which the Confederate offensive campaign toward Colorado was defeated.
His part was in attacking and destroying the Confederate supply base behind the
actual battle in the pass. In 1864 he, against orders, attacked the peaceful
Cheyenne camp at Sand Creek. The
event created a storm of denunciation including commissions and a court hearing
in Denver and one at Ft. Riley. But Chivington escaped justice.
He was a thoroughly evil man who
while seeking to enhance his political popularity in Denver conducted the
surprise Sand Creek Massacreagainst an
innocent Cheyenne camp killing mostly women and children. His later life, after
the Civil War, went from bad to worse but with him still maintaining that he
was right at Sand Creek.
Chouteau, August Pierre (1786 -
He was born in St. Louis to Jean Pierre Chouteau and Pelagie Keirsereau. One of
his brothers was Pierre Chouteau, Jr. The family were early founders of St.
Louis and prominent in the fur trade on the Missouri River. He was appointed to
the U.S. Military Academy by President Jefferson and graduated in the class of
1806. He resigned his commission to enter the fur business but was appointed
Captain of militia in the War of 1812. In 1817 he was arrested by the Spanish
for entering their territory in New Mexico and imprisoned for a while but then
released. He was appointed Commissioner to the Comanche for 1837-38. He built
trading posts in present-day Oklahoma in 1832, then a dangerous region. He
established homes in both St. Louis and in Oklahoma where he died at Ft.
Gibson. He had many children by 5 or more wives.
Chouteau Oklahoma is named for
Chouteau, Pierre, Jr. (1789 -
He was born in St. Louis into a wealthy French fur trading family. For a time
he was agent for the John J. Astor fur trading company, but did much on his
own, including pioneering the use of steamboats on the Missouri River and
building Fort Pierre in
South Dakota and Fort Bentonin Montana.
Cooke, Philip St. George (1809
He was born in Leesburg, Virginia and graduated West Point in 1827. He is noted
as the author of a manual on cavalry and is claimed as 'father of U.S. cavalry
(although many give that title to Philip Kearny). His son, John Rogers Cooke,
and his son in law, J.E.B. Stuart, went with the Confederacy but Philip Cooke
remained a Union officer. During his long service prior to the war he fought
and conducted many campaigns against the Indians and during the Mexican War he
led an expedition to California. During the Civil War he commanded large
cavalry units in the field through the Peninsula Campaign and then served in
staff positions. After the war, as a general, he commanded several of the
different Western departments, Arizona -New Mexico and then into the Dakotas.
He is considered a leading Indian fighter.
He met with the Bents and St.
Vrain repeatedly as a new Lt. and then captain commanding dragoon units. His
experience with them influenced his post- Civil War career as a leader in the
Indian Wars, as did his service with Colonel Henry Dodge..
Dodge, Henry (1782 - 1867)
He rose in prominence when he commanded mounted troops in the Black
Hawk War. He was
second in command to Colonel Henry Leavenworth on the first official U.S. Army
expedition into the southwest plains. It departed Fort
Gibson in 1834 with
John Gantt and some
Indians along as guides and interpreters. The weather and terrain was terrible,
150 of the 500 men in the expedition died, including Colonel Leavenworth. The
command continued, being lead by Colonel Henry
Dodge. They campaigned
to Bent's Fort where they conducted a meeting with the Araphoe and other
tribes. They did succeed in establishing friendly relations with several local
tribes. Later, he became a politician in Wisconsin.
George Catlin, the famous painter
of the early west was among the party and painted scenes, including a portrait
of Dodge. There were many others in this expedition as well; including
Jefferson Davis, Stephen Kearny, Jessy Chisholm. Philip St. George Cooke, and
John Burgwin. This was at the time when the eastern Indians -Creeks, Choctaw,
Cherokee were being moved into Oklahoma, so establishing relations with the
local Indians was very important.
Doniphan, Alexander (1808 -
He was from Missouri. He commanded a unit during the Mexican- American War
which campaigned in New Mexico against Navajo uprising and then into Mexico. He
was at Santa Fe when Charles Bent was the civil governor, but did not leave
sufficient troops as garrison while he conducted his campaign into Mexico.
see also this terrific reference
Fitzpatrick, Thomas (1799 -
He was born in Ireland and for a time was a seaman. He is first known to be in
St. Louis in 1823. From then he was a 'mountain man' trapper and head of the
Fur Company. With Jeddiah Smithhe discovered South
Pass in Wyoming. He led the first two wagon trains to Oregon. In 1831 he
participated in a dangerous trade caravan from Independence to Santa Fe where
he signed up Kit Carson.
That was the trade caravan in which Jedediah Smith was killed by Comanches. He
was the official guide for John C.
expedition and he led Philip
expedition into the plains to show off the howitzers to the Indians. He also
led General Stephen Kearny. In 1851 he helped negotiate the Fort
the largest assembly of plains Indians. He was a staunch supporter of the
Native Americans, well respected by them for his efforts to secure justice. In
1853-54 he went to Washington D. C. to work on treaties but died of pneumonia
and was buried in Congressional Cemetery..
One specialist researcher on
'mountain men' has noted that Fitzpatrick is mentioned in more eye-witness
diaries of his fellow participants than any other individual. He was everywhere
and met everyone. He was at Bent's Fort many times.
He was a friend of Ceran St. Vrain and joined him in 1845 to travel to New
Mexico and stay at Bent's Fort. He went with Ceran on the annual caravan
between the fort and Westport, Kansas - Ft. Leavenworth. From there in 1846 he
again joined the annual caravan back to New Mexico.
Fontenelle, Lucien (1800 - 1840)
He was born in New Orleans. After his parents were killed in a hurricane he
moved to enter the fur trade in Missouri. In the 1820's and 30's he led fur
trading expeditions into the Rocky Mountains as far as Utah with Joshua
Pilcher. In 1828 -38 he worked with the American Fur Company. He knew many of
the famous mountain men. He was treated for Cholera by Dr. Marcus Whitman. . He
operated a trading post at Bellevue on the Missouri River and later sold it to
the government. When he died in 1840 he was attended by Father DeSmitt..
Fremont, John C.
(1830 - 1890)
He had a long and varied career as explorer, soldier and politician. He led
many exploration trips across the Rocky mountains to California and was in
Sonoma and then Monterey when the Mexican-American War began. He organized the
Americans there to create the Bear Republic. He then turned over command to
Commodore Sloat, when the U.S. Navy occupied Monterey. He made a fortune in the
Gold Rush and eventually lost it all. He was the first senator from the new
state of California.
In 1848 he led another expedition passing through
Fort. He again asked for Kit Carson (who had been his
guide for his first expedition) to lead him through the mountains in winter but
Carson refused. Dick Wooten and Old Bill
but they met a blizzard in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, whereupon Wooten
advised them to turn back and did so himself. Fremont continued to refuse
Williams' advice and became mired deep in snow by Christmas Day. (The place is
called Fremont's Christmas Camp). A Ute Indian found and rescued Fremont and
took him to Taos where Kit Carson and his wife nursed him back to life.
In the Civil War he was appointed general in command of the Western area based
in Missouri and campaigned with some success. But insubordination to the
policies of President Lincoln in Missouri resulted in his dismissal. But he was
later given a command in Virginia and opposed Stonewall Jackson in the
He married the
daughter of Senator Benton of Missouri. He was a candidate for President for
the Republican Party in the election of 1856.
Gantt, John (1790 -
He was born in Maryland and moved with his family to Kentucky. In 1817 he was
appointed a Lt. in U.S. Army. As a captain he served under Colonel Leavenworth
in the Arikara War of
1823. He resigned (or was court martialed) in 1829 and became a mountain man -
fur trapper - forming his own company -in the 1830's to trap up the Missouri.
In 1831 he met Thomas
the Laramie. In 1832 he traveled back and forth between the Laramie River and
Santa Fe during which he met Kit
Carson. In 1833 he and
Kit Carson went on a northern trapping expedition. But soon after the fur
business nearly collapsed. In 1834 to replace a more temporary stockade he had
built at the confluence of the Arkansas and Purgatory Rivers, he built an adobe
trading post on the upper Arkansas River about 6 miles below the confluence
with Fountain Creek ( Fort Cass). Both of these were in direct competition with
the Bents. In 1834 he was with William
Bent at the new
stockade on the Arkansas during which the episode in which Bent killed a
visiting Shoshone took place. That ended Gantt's efforts in the fur trade and
he abandoned his trading post. But he became friends of the Arapahoe. And in
1835 he guided Colonel Henry Dodge's campaign west up the South Platte River
then south past Pike's Peak to the Arkansas River, down it to Bent's Fort.
Gantt was sent to bring in Araphoe Indians for conference.. In 1838-39 he was
Indian Agent at Council Bluffs. In 1843 he guided immigrants toward Oregon and
then diverted to California. In 1844-45 he was involved with Mexican government
there. In 1848-49 he built a sawmill but died that year in Napa. California.
Hector (1829 - 1887)
Ceran brought him west from St. Louis in 1846 and he stayed two months with
William Bent. He wrote a journal that was published as a book, Wha-To_Yah, that
has become an important eye-witness account of events at Bent's fort and at Big
Timbers in the mid-1840's. He went on to Taos after Charles Bent was murdered.
He described the response to the Taos Rebellion by William, Ceran and the other
'mountain men'. In April 1867 he joined a caravan back to Missouri. He stopped
with Blackfoot John Smith to help build Fort Mann. Good thing he did, because
between the fort and Walnut Creek the convoy was attacked by Comanche, several
men were killed and Garrard's horses he had sent ahead were among the large
losses. He became a doctor, land developer and member of the Minnesota State
(1813 - 1894)
He was born in Pennsylvania, graduated the university in 1833, attended West
Point 1834 - 1835 but did not graduate. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in 1836
and served in the Seminole War. He moved to
Missouri and became a frontiers man. He met Fremont and went with him on his
expeditions to Oregon, where he settled for a while. He returned east and
promoted settlers to go to Oregon. In 1846 he was commissioned as major for the
during which he was distinguished in the campaign through New Mexico. He
returned to Missouri and then realizing that he had found gold in Colorado
years previously moved there. In 1861 President Lincoln appointed him governor
of Colorado. He took up the post in Denver in 1861 and quickly organized a
Union military militia to defeat Confederate supporters and the Texas
offensive. His volunteers defeated the Texans at the critical Battle of
Pass.. . .
In 1863 with
financial backing he purchased the enormous Charles Beaubien land grant.
However law suits over this land persist to today.
He was a leading chief of a southern Cheyenne band and their keeper of the
'sacred arrows'. William Bent married his daughter, Owl Woman, thus becoming a
member of the tribe with all the cachet that created. He was well known as a
supporter of friendly relations between the Cheyenne and whites.
Kearny, Stephen W. (1794 - 1848)
He was a U.S. Army officer mostly stationed on the Western frontier. He fought
in the Mexican-American War, led military expeditions, founded frontier forts
including Leavenworth. He was
called 'the father of the U.S. cavalry'. During the Mexican War he led a small
Army force through New Mexico to California. He occupied Santa Fe, New Mexico
enroute to California and appointed Charles
Bent as governor. He
was at times governor of both territories. In California he disputed command
with Admiral Stockton and John
Fremont and then
succeeded Stockton as governor of the territory.
Philip Kearny was his nephew.
Many locations are named after him, including a street in San Francisco.
Leavenworth, Henry (1783 - 1834)
He was born in Connecticut and admitted to the bar in 1812. He was commissioned
as Captain in 1812 and then served in the War of 1812. He was wounded in the
Battle of Niagara and breveted to rank of colonel in 1814. He served in the New
York state assembly in 1816 but then returned to Army service. In 1820 he
constructed Fort St. Anthonyand in 1823
commanded troops in the Arikara War, the first
'war' in the west with Plains Indians. He built Fort
1827. He continued to lead expeditions throughout Indian territory and died in
the field in 1834 either from sudden sickness or an accident while buffalo
Lisa, Manuel (1712 - 1820)
He was born in New Orleans before the Louisanna Purchase and later lived in St.
Louis. He was an Indian Agent (appointed in 1814 by Governor William
during the War of 1812), explorer, land owner, fur trader - among the founders
of the Missouri Fur Company. He organized and led fur trading operations on the
upper Missouri and established friendly relations with local Indian tribes
which helped him secure their alliance against the Indians allied with the
British during that war. In 1807 he established Fort
Raymondon the Little
Bighorn River in Montana. In 1808 he built the first Fort
North Dakota. In 1813 he built another Fort
Nebraska which became the origin of Omaha.
After the War of 1812 Lisa became
a very prominent citizen of St. Louis and well respected leader of the fur
industry. But his main rival was the
Company owned by John J. Astor. When Lisa died suddenly in St. Louis, the
company was taken over by his partner, Joshua
eventually when the fur industry declined Pilcher dissolved it.
Lupton, Lancaster P. (1807 -
He was born in New York and graduated West Point in 1829. He was commissioned
and served in dragoons on the plains. In 1835 he participated in Colonel
Dodge's campaign around the plains to insure peace with the various tribes. He
visited Bent's Fort and the trading enterprises along the Platte River. He
resigned and then opened a trading post - Fort
Lancaster (also called Fort
Lupton) - on the South Platte, at which he was a competitor of the Bent-St....
Vrain Company and the other more powerful companies. He held out until 1844
when his finances ran out and he abandoned his trading post. He later moved to
Pueblo, Colorado and then to California during the Gold Rush, where he died.
Colorado is named for him. See also
Magoffin, Susan (1827 - 1855),
James (1799 - 1868) and Samuel (1801 - 1888)
James was born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky and sailed from New Orleans to northern
Mexico in 1824 or 25. He became the American consul at Saltillo, Coahuila from
1825 to 1831. He became a wealthy trader on the Santa Fe Trail with
headquarters at Matamoros. and then Chihuahua. In 1841 he lead a trade caravan
to St. Louis and back via Santa Fe. There he found newspaper man George W.
Kendall who accompanied the Texian expedition in 1841, determined to conquer
New Mexico, and they were all captured and sent to prison. James Magoffin
offered a ransom of $3,000 to free Kendall, but it was refused. In 1844 with
war pending he moved to Independence, Missouri from which he continued to
organize trade wagon trains to Santa Fe. In 1846 he met President James Polk in
Washington who appointed him to go with General Stephen Kearny to arrange the
conquest of New Mexico.
The Wikipedia entry is about his sister-in-law, Susan Magoffin, because she
kept a diary that is a source of information on the era. In 1846 she
accompanied James and her husband, Samuel, who was also a trader, on the trip
to Santa Fe and suffered a miscarriage at
But James was successful in Kearny's taking Santa Fe without a shot. James also
helped Colonel Alexander Doniphan's campaign into Mexico. In 1847 James
returned to Washington to ask for payment, of which he obtained a part. He used
that to organize another trade convoy from Independence to El Paso. From then
on he became a leading merchant and citizen supplying U.S. government
operations. He built Magoffinsville, out of which the government created Fort
Bliss. But in 1861 he supported the Confederacy and supplied Henry Sibley's
campaign to Santa Fe. After the war he had to petition President Johnson for an
amnesty. He died in San Antonio.
Susan and Samuel continued on to Mexico City and then took ship back to New
Orleans and returned to Kentucky.
is an excellent reference for conditions in the southwest and the trade with
the Mexicans and Indians taking place between St. Louis and Santa Fe and on
into Mexico. For much more on James Magoffin see the Texas
Commission article and the
Maxwell, Lucien (1818 - 1875)
He was born in Illinois. In 1834 he moved west to explore. He became friends
with Kit Carsonand in
1841 they both signed on with John Fremont for his expeditions. In 1844 he
returned to Taos, married Maria de la Luz Beaubien whose wealthy father gave
him 15,000 acres out of his million acre land grant. In 1847 he was at Fort
Bentwas murdered in
the Taos Revolt. His
wife survived but her brother was killed. In 1850 he moved to Cimarron, New
Mexico. He inherited the land grant 1,714,765 acres. (Maxwell Land Grant,
it grew to 1.9 million acres - twice the size of Rhode Island state). He was
the largest land owner in the country. After the Civil War gold was discovered
on his property, so he leased stakes to miners. In 1870 he sold out for over a
million dollars. He moved to Fort
Sumnerwhere he died in
1875. After he had sold, the area became the battleground for the
In 1881 Pat Garett killed Billy
the Kid at Maxwell's home at Ft. Sumner, then owned by Lucien's son, Pete.
Billy the Kid was buried next to Lucien.
Today the huge land grant has been divided into many private holdings, some of
them well known such as the
Scout ranch, Ted Turner's ranch and the National Rifle Association center.
See Legends of
America. for the story of the Land Grant, Lucien Maxwell, Kit Carson, The
Colfax County war, Buffalo Bill Cody, Charles Beaubien and more.
The extensive ties over years between Lucien Maxwell, Kit Carson and the Bent
brothers are well described in David Lavender's book -Bent's Fort.
Maxwell Land Grant -see above
Miranda, Don, Guadalupe (1810 -
He was a Mexican official. He was born in Cuidad Juarez and moved to Santa Fe.
He was secretary of the area, collector of customs and captain of the militia.
There are few records of his real business activities. But he was awarded by
Governor Armijo (with his partner, Carlos Beaubien) the massive 1.9 million
acre land grand in northern New Mexico which devolved to Lucien Maxwell, as
heir of his father-in-law, Beaubien.
He registered himself as a
merchant in the census, but appears to have been actually the government
official who managed to obtain the immense land grant.
Missouri Fur Company (1809 -
This was an important early fur trading company established by Manuel
Lisaand others in St.
Louis after Lisa's first expedition up the Missouri showed the profits possible
from fur trading with the Indians. Among the other founders were the Chouteau
brothers, Ruben Luis, James
William Clark. In
1810, however, they made the mistake of trapping and establishing a camp on
Blackfoot territory without permission. The trappers were attacked several
times and had casualties but some managed to return down river. The financial
losses of these and several early expeditions resulted in the company being
reorganized with new capital raised and Lisa became the major owner. Over the
following years he was more successful, due to good relations with the several
Indian tribes. After Lisa died in 1820 the company was controlled by Joshua
Pilcher until he
dissolved in in 1830 when the profitability of fur trading declined due to
changing men's fashions in Europe..
|another reference is
Owl Woman ( - d. 1847)
She was a Cheyenne princess, daughter of Grey Thunder. Her Cheyenne name was
Mis-tan-ta. She married William
Bentin 1835 or 37, and
they had 4 children. These were Mary (1838) - Robert (1840-41) George (1843)
and Julia 1847). She had two younger sisters. Yellow Woman and Island, who
according to Cheyenne custom would live with them. After Owl Woman died in 1847
in childbirth with Julia, then Bent would marry Yellow Woman.
She was included in the Colorado
Woman's Hall of Fame. The Wikipedia article has a much longer background
description of Bent's Fort and William Bent's activities than of Owl Woman.
He was born in Massachusetts and entered Harvard at age 16. He made his life's
work the study and writing about American History. Among his most famous works
are 'The Oregon Trail' and his 7 volume France and
in North America.
In 1846 he departed Boston in 28 March. Passing through Fort Leavenworth, where
he learned much from Colonel Kearny, he attached his small party to several
emmigration convoys. Traveling up the Platte River, he reached Fort Laramie on
He spend over a month living with Sioux tribal groups in the mountains west of
Laramie. He returned to Fort Laramie on 3 August.
The following day he began his move south, along the Front Range to Bent's Fort
on the Arkansas. He reached Pueblo and visited the Mormons who were preparing
to travel west. He reached Bent's Fort in 25 August but the two Bent brothers
(Charles and William) were absent. But he did learn much from the experienced
mountain men present. On 27 August he started east along the Arkansas,
following the well worn Santa Fe train. He passed numerous civilian and
military convoys headed west, including units of Sterling Price's Missouri
Volunteers headed to join Kearny at Santa Fe. He also met the Magoffin's and
Marcellin St. Vrain on different days, both on their way to Bent's Fort and
Santa Fe. He arrived back in St. Louis in 7 October. His diary is full of
details that fill in information about conditions in the area he traversed in
the momentous year, 1846.
Parkman devoted his life to the
study of early American history, especially the three sided conflicts between
the French British-Americans, and Native Indians. Throughout his he kept
detailed daily journals f Scholars now rate Parkman's diary of his summer
expedition in 1846 much the superior historical record of the events throughout
the territory he traversed, than the more romanticized dewscription in his
resulting book. The Oregon Trail.
Pattie, James (1804 - 1851)
He was from Kentucky and explored in the Rocky Mountains in the 1830's while
trapping. Then he accompanied his father to California. He wrote about his
adventures and conditions there.
He Is included in the excellent
List of Mountain
Men. There are many editions of his book - Personal Narrative of James O.
Pattie available from Amazon.
Pattie, Sylvester (1782 - 1828)
He was the father of James and worked with him as a 'mountain man' trapping and
trading. In 1824 they obtained a license to trade with the plains and mountain
Indian tribes. In 1828 he led the first party of Americans to San Diego over
southern trails. He remained in and died in San Diego.
Pike, Albert (1809 -1891) He
visited Taos in 1831 and then settled in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. During the
Mexican-American War he was a captain in Arkansas cavalry. In the Civil War he
was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army and raised Indian cavalry that
fought at Battle of Pea Ridge. After that he resigned.
Pilcher, Joshua (1790 -1834)
He was born in Virginia and the family later moved to Kentucky and then St.
Louis. He became a fur trader and was part-owner the the
Company in 1819 with Manuel Lisa and others. In 1825 he was in partnership with
the Bent Brothers. President van Buren appointed him to be Superintendent of
Indian Affairs in St. Louis.
Pratte, Bernard, General Sr. was
the son of Jean-Baptiste Pratte (1729 - 1836). He served in militia in the War
of 1812. His son was Bernard Pratte and he had 3 daughters.
Pratte, Bernard (1803 - 1886)
He was the 8th Mayor of St. Louis, 1844- 46. His son was Bernard Antoine Pratte
(1826 -1897) and he had 3 daughters. They formed the company, Pratte and
Cabanne and Co.
There are well maintained
memorials to the Pratte family members in St. Louis.
Pratte, Sylvestre (1793 - 1827)
He was born in Montreal and moved with family to St. Louis. He was the son of
Bernard Pratte and worked with him as a 'mountain man' trapping and trading. He
became sick and died while exploring and trapping in north-central Colorado.
Ceran St. Vrain assumed leadership of the group
Pratte and Cabanne Co. It was a
spin off of Astor's
Company. In the 1820's they had warehouses and steam boats on the Missouri
where Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain met. The company was a fierce competitor
with the other companies and independents who struggled to make a profit out of
the fur trade. They occupied Fort Laramie on the South Platte for a while..
Interesting - a Google search
will find several of the court proceedings involving this company.
Price, Sterling (1808 - 1867)
He was born in Virginia and admitted to the bar in 1830. The family moved to
Missouri in 1831, where he ran a hotel. He was a member of the Missouri
legislature and then elected to the U.S. Congress in 1845. In 1846 he resigned
to become a colonel and raise a regiment of cavalry. He marched his regiment to
New Mexico with Alexander Doniphan. When Stephen Kearny passed through Santa Fe
en route to California, he appointed Price as the military governor with
Charles Bent as the
civil governor. In January 1847 when Charles Bent was murdered at Taos, Price
led the Army force to suppress the
Taos Rebellion. In
July he was promoted brigadier general. He then led 300 men into Mexico and won
the Battle of
Cruz de Rosales (after the war had actually ended). He was mustered out and
returned to Missouri. He was elected Governor of Missouri. When the Civil War
began he opposed the state joining the Confederacy. But when Union units
entered and took control he switched and became commander of the state guard.
He defeated the Union troops at the Battle of
on 10 August. For the remainder of the war he served as a Confederate Major
General but under the command of others. His final campaign was a raid into
Missouri, the last engagement of the war west of the Mississippi.
Riley, Bennet (1787 - 1853)
He was born in Maryland. He volunteered to serve in the War of 1812 and was
commissioned an ensign, but quickly rose in rank. He fought in engagements
around the Great Lakes. Then he joined his commander, Henry Leavenworth, to
move to the western frontier. He fought in the
Arikara War in 1823. He
was a major in 1829 leading the first military expedition along the Santa Fe
Trail. He fought in the Seminole War and attained the rank of colonel. He
fought in many battles in the Mexican War and was promoted brigadier general.
In 1849-50 he commanded the department of Upper California. He was the sixth
and last military governor of California.
Riley, Kansas is named
for him. Note that the nearby Fort
named for his former commander in the early days on the western frontier.
Robidoux, Antoine (1794 - 1860)
He was born in St. Louis into the prominent French fur trading family. The
whole family was involved from the father, Joseph
on. By the 1820's he was busy establishing trading and fur trapping in the
mountains north of Santa Fe, where he established his residence and married the
governor's young daughter. He was granted Mexican citizenship, which enabled
him to trade and trap into what became western Colorado and Utah where in
1820's he built Fort Robidoux (also named
Fort Uncompahgre) in the Uncompahgre Valley. This was the first white
establishment west of the Rocky Mountains. The fort was burned by the Ute
Indians in 1844. When the market for beaver fur ended he returned to St. Louis.
In 1846 he enlisted as an interpreter in General Stephen W. Kearny's army
campaign to California and was wounded at the Battle of San
St. Vrain, Ceran (1802 - 1870)
His Grand father was Chevalier Pierre Charles de Hault de Lassus de Luziere a
member of the council of King Louis XVI. (many entries at Google) He fled
France during the Revolution and came to America with a contingent of other
French in 1790 to settle on the Ohio River. That settlement failed so he moved
to Spanish New Orleans where a relative was in the government. Ceran was the
son of Jacques Marcellin Ceran de Hault de Lassus de St. Vrain (1770 - 1818)
who followed his father to the U.S. to escape the French Revolution. The
numerous family settled in St. Louis where Jacques built a beer brewery and
entered the fur trade. One of Ceran's brothers was killed in the Black
HawkWar in 1832.
Ceran at age 22 began in the fur trade, trapping on the upper Missouri River
but that activity was dying due to changes in European fashions for fur. Ceran
formed a partnership with Charlesand
William Bent who built
Bent's Fort on the
Arkansas River in what became south-east Colorado. Ceran moved to establish
their company in Santa Fe and Taos Mexico. They also built Fort St.
Vrain in north east
Colorado on the South Platte River and stores in Santa Fe and Taos. They became
famous throughout the Rocky Mountains and western plains and their company was
very profitable as it collected fur and buffalo hides to sell at Independence
Mo. and conduct trade caravans to Santa Fe. From 1834 to 1838 he was the
American consul in Santa Fe. During the Mexican- American War - the
TaosRevolt of Mexicans
and Pueblo Indians killed his partner, Charles
Bent. Ceran organized
his 'mountain men' hunters to aid the Army suppression at the Siege of
Taos during which they killed many of the rebels - and then to act as witness
and translator during the trial of the remaining leaders. In 1855 he settled in
Mora, New Mexico and built grist mills and stores. He supplied flour to the
U.S. Army. He died in Mora and was memorialized with a very well attended
His most well known family
include Felix, Louisa, Charles, Jacques, and Felicita
St. Vrain, Felix August (1799 -
He was Ceran's brother. He was born in St. Louis and moved to Kaskaskia,
Illinois to operate a sawmill. In 1830 he was appointed Indian Agent to the
local tribes. When the Black
Hawk War began he
was stationed at Fort Armstrong. He was assigned to deliver messages but on 24
May, 1832 he and three members of his party were murdered by Sauk Indians. He
was buried by Colonel Henry Dodge.
St. Vrain Massacre 24 May, 1832
This Wikipedia entry provides more details about Felix St. Vrain's murder and
its context as well as a map and details about the Black
St. Vrain, Marcellin (1815 -
1871) He was born in Missouri, the 10th and last child of Marcellin Ceran de
St. Vrain. He was the youngest brother of Charles, William and Felix St. Vrain.
He joined his brother's company and in 1837 was appointed to manage Fort St.
Vrain on the Platte river, their far northern outpost. He married an Indian
known as Red with whom he had several children. When Fort St. Vrain was closed
he moved to Bent's Fort on the Arkansas. In 1848 he fled the fort back to St.
Louis ( reportedly after killing a Comanchee) There he married Elizabeth
Murphy. In 1851 he sent for his two sons by Red, (Felix and Charles) abandoning
her. She waited years for him but eventually married William Bransford. Felix
and Charles both served in the Confederate Army.
St. Vrain - Vigil Grant
A very extensive grant of territory in south-eastern Colorado from the Arkansas
River south to the Colorado-New Mexico border - estimate at 4 million acres - ,
given to Ceran St. Vrain
and Cornelio Vigil (uncle of Ignacia Bent) (and murdered in the Taos Rebellion
of 1847) by the Mexican governor, Manuel Armijo. They gave an interest in the
property to Charles Bent. The Mexican idea
was to grant land to speculators who would then bring in settlers and divide
the huge area into ranches. Work progressed on this effort in 1846 when the
Mexican War began. In 1857 the legality of the ownership of this and the other
land grants was recognized by Congress, but in 1860 Congress decided to limit
the sizes to 97,390 acres, thus reducing the size. The heirs protested in
Congress and the courts for years. See- Las Animas Grant.
Santa Fe Trail (1821 - 1880)
The Bent's Fort was located on purpose ideally to serve as a key point on this
route. It was the transportation route from Independence Missouri to Santa Fe,
New Mexico over which thousands of people and millions of dollars worth of
goods were moved both ways. It was opened by William
Becknell and was
only superceded in 1880 by the Santa Fe Railroad. It crossed Kansas to the big
northern bend of the Arkansas River near Dodge City, then followed it upstream
and turned west through Raton Pass, while the other branch, called the Cimarron
Cutoff, crossed desert to the southwest and then along the Cimarron River. This
was shorter but much more dangerous, both due to lack of water and to exposure
to Comanche raids as it crossed their territory.
Sedgwick, John (1813 - 1864)
He fought in the Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. He led theArmy
expedition against the Cheyenne in 1857. In the Civil War he was promoted major
general, wounded at Antietam, fought in the major battles as a corps commander
until killed in 1864 at Spotsylvania Court house.
Smith, Jedediah (1798 - 1831)
He was born in New York and moved as a young man to St. Louis in search of
adventure. And adventure he had. He was one of the first 'mountain men' and
among the greatest. In 1822 he joined William Henry
Ashley for a
fur trapping expedition up the Missouri. He explored and mapped throughout the
Rocky Mountains and first found
the best route to California and led the first exploration across the
MojaveDesert. He led
the first exploration from Salt Lake to the Colorado River. He was twice
arrested by the Mexican governor in California but freed. He was the first
white American to travel by land up the California coast into Oregon. He
survived several Indian attacks and one encounter with a large grizzly bear.
His maps were used by John C.
Fremont. He was
killed by Comanchee near the Cimarron River and his body was never found.
The Wikipedia entry provides an
extensive biography of Smith's extensive explorations and influence in the
early days of the 'mountain men'. He worked with many of the famous people of
the time. Unfortunately he was killed by the Comanches on the Cimarron River
while leading a trade convoy from Independence to Santa Fe with William
(which he did not make - and note the early date for that caravan).
Frederick Remington painted him on horseback.
Smith, John Simpson (Blackfoot)
(1812 - 1871)
He was born in Kentucky and became one of the greatest of the Rocky Mountain
explorers and fur trappers. He spoke 4 Indian languages as well as Spanish and
French and was employed as an interpreter at several major conferences, as well
as guide. He married a Cheyenne woman with whom he had two sons. His
explorations and trapping enterprises ranged from the Rio Grande to the
Yellowstone Rivers. He frequently worked with William Bent at Bent's Fort. He
was active in promoting friendship between white trappers and settlers and
Indians. He was among the founders of Denver, Colorado. He tried hard in 1864
to prevent Chivington's massacre at
where he was with his wife and children and in which one of his sons was among
the murdered. He testified at the subsequent commissions. He moved with his
wife to the Cheyenne reservation in Oklahoma territory where he died.
Smith, Thomas (Pegleg) (1801 -
He was born in Kentucky and moved to Missouri where he went to work as a
trapper for John Jacob Astor. He lost his lower right leg to amputation after
being shot and made himself a wooden 'peg leg' He explored throughout the Rocky
Mtns and learned several Indian languages. Then he engaged in large scale horse
thieving from Mexicans in California.
Sublette, Andrew Whitley (1808 -
The brothers were all sons of Philip Allen Sublette (1774 - 1820) Andrew was
with his brothers as an early mountain man exploring the Rocky Mounains. In
1835 he was one with the others who partnered with Louis Vasquez in building
Fort Vasquez in Colorado. In 1840 he sold out and moved to Pueblo. He was
killed by a grizzly bear in southern California.
Sublette, Milton Green (1801 -
He was one of five investors to buy the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He was a
prominent trapper in the Rocky Mountains. In 1826 he injured a leg in battle
with Indians in the southwest. It became inflected and was amputated. He had a
cork leg made, but didn't fare as well as Peg Leg Smith. He learned to ride but
the leg became infected again and caused his death at Ft. John on the Laramie
River where he was buried.
Sublette, Pinckney (1804 - 1828)
Another 'mountain man' fur trapper. He did his trapping around the Green River.
He was killed by Indians in 1828 and is buried there.
Sublette, Solomon Perry (1815 -
He participated with his brothers in years of fur trapping and exploring in the
Rocky Mtns. In 1839 he moved to Santa Fe, to trap on the Arkansas River. In
1843 he joined William for an expedition to the Green River. In 1848 he married
his brother, William's, widow. He retired and died on his Missouri farm.
Sublette, William Lewis (1798 -
He was born in Kentucky. He became one of the most famous mountain men
exploring, trapping, leading pioneers, and building in the Rocky Mountains. In
1823 he joined the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, which he later owned in
partnership. He was wounded at the
1832 and retired from trapping. He built Fort William - later called Fort
Laramie, then Fort
John at the eastern entrance to South Pass, where the major wagon train route
to California and Oregon crossed the eastern Rocky Mtns. He sold that and
retired to St. Louis.
Vasquez, Pierre Louis (1798 -
In 1822 William Ashley and Andrew Henry
organized the Rocky
Company and hired Vasquez. He soon was a partner with Andrew
building Fort Vasquez
on the South Platte river in 1835. It was closed in 1842 due to intensive
competition and decline in the beaver pelt trade. He became one of the leading
'mountain men' over the next decades. Vasquez and Sublette faced huge
competition from Lupton, and especially Bent- St. Vrain. They switched from
beaver to buffalo hides, but still could not profit. They sold the fort.
Vasquez then became a partner to Jim
Bridger and they built
a new trading post (Fort Bridger) in south-west
Wyoming to cater to the traffic along the Oregon and California trails. He
retired to St. Louis.
This article is focused on Fort Vasquez, now rebuilt as a
tourist attraction, but it describes the full context of the fur trade and
mentions many of the leading participants.
Vanderburgh, William Henry (1800
He was born in Indiana. He attended West Point in 1813 but did not graduate. In
Missouri he worked for Manuel
Lisa and Joshua
Pilcher. Their Fort
Vanderburgh was named for him in 1821. He was appointed a major in the military
force that General Leavenworth led in
the Arikara War in
1823. He then formed a new fur company in 1826 and spent winters in the camps
on the Green River. He was a party leader for John J. Astor's
Company and organized trapping teams along with Andrew Drips. They participated
in the Battle of Pierre's Hole. They were at the annual rendezvous at Pierre's
Hole in 1832. After the meeting, he was killed by Blackfoot Indians while
trapping in Montana.
This is the best description of Vanderburgh's final activities. They are
also described well in Bernard DeVoto's -Across the Wide Missouri.
Vigil, Cornelio - 1847
He was an uncle of Ignacia Bent. As a citizen, he could apply for a land grant
from the New Mexico governor. So in 1843 he formed a partnership with Ceran St.
Vrain and was approved for the Vigil-St.... Vrain land grant with northern
border on the Arkansas River in southern Colorado and southern limit along the
present Colorado- New Mexico border - estimated now at 4 million acres. It was
thus just north of the huge Beaubien-Miranda grant. In 1844 they secretly
conveyed to Charles Bent a 1/6th interest in the entire grant. The grant was
strongly opposed by Father Martinez, the Bent's constant enemy. Cornelio was
prefect of Taos during the rebellion. He was killed along with Charles Bent,
Sheriff Steve Lee and Narcisio Beaubien.
This documentary reference
describes the petition that Cornelio and Ceran St. Vrain submitted to the
Mexican governor Armijo in New Mexico in 1843 to be granted a charter for an
extensive land grant in northern New Mexico along the Arkansas and Las Animas
Rivers. - the St. Vrain-Vigil grant - called Las Animas Grant. It was north of
the Beaubien- Miranda grant. The Mexican purpose in creating these land grants
was to enable the proprietors to bring in settlers and create ranches and
villages - at the same time hoping to counter Indian raids. Both men were
already prominent residents in Taos. Their land grant was across the Arkansas
River (thus in Mexico) from Bent's Fort- the principal trading post on the
Santa Fe Trail, thus the land was very valuable. In 2 months they assigned an
undivided 2/3 interest in the grant to Charles Bent and several other prominent
residents and politicians. William Bent and Richard Wooten established ranches
but were overcome by Indian raids. The reference here describes the years of
petitions to Congress and even to the Supreme Court by the heirs. The result
was they lost most of the territory in question.
He was a descendent of Cornelius Waldo (1647) but the family is recorded in
England back to the 12th century. He studied medicine in St. Louis in the
1820's and had numerous government positions while doing so. In 1827 he began
to practice as a doctor. In 1828 he took a 'vacation' to Taos, New Mexico where
he met Ceran St. Vrain. There he became a Mexican citizen in order to sell
merchandise far south to Chihuahua. From there he returned to St. Louis by
spring 1829. There he helped organize the caravan for 1829 and nominated
Charles Bent to be the 'captain'. They became life-long friends. This was an
historic caravan as it was the first to have a U.S. Army detachment for
protection. But the army had to stop as the Mexican border despite Waldo's
strong requests that it continue. Waldo described the whole journey in writing.
He entered into the trade routine full time. In 1831 he participated in a
beaver trapping and horse buying expedition clear to California. By 1846 he was
commanding a company in Kearny's army when it arrived at Bent's Fort. Arriving
in Santa Fe he was employed, due to his knowledge of Spanish, in writing the
new constitution for the American civil government. He continued to assist with
the civil government .
Walker, Joseph, R. (1798 - 1876)
He was born in Tennessee and moved to Missouri. He was a famous 'mountain man'
who, among other exploits created a section of the California Trail from Fort
Hall to the Truckee River. In 1820 he already was trapping out of Santa Fe in
Spanish territory, so with Mexican independence in 1821 he and the others
rapidly expanded their trapping.. He explored the Rocky Mountains in 1830 with
"Old Bill" Williamsand Benjamin
1843 he guided the first wagon train from Fort Laramie to California. In 1844
he was with Fremont at Bent's Fort and in 1845 he guided Fremont on his third
expedition. In 1862-63 he led a successful gold hunting expedition in Arizona.
He established his family home in Contra Costa County, California and is buried
John Fremont named Walker River
and Walker Lake in Nevada after him. The Wikipedia entry has excellent maps
showing Walker's many routes through the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada.
Williams, William Sherley (Old
Bill) (1747 - 1849)
"Old Bill" Williams was a famous 'mountain man' trapper and explorer
in the very early days of American activity in the Rocky Mounains. He was born
in North Carolina and as a youth enjoyed outdoorsman activities, trapping and
hunting. In 1795 his father was invited by the Spanish to move to what became
Missouri. There Williams became a master trapper and guide to the mountains. He
learned several different Indian languages. During the
War of 1812 he was a
sergeant in the Mississippi mounted rangers. He lived with the Osage and later
with the Ute Tribes. He translated the Bible into Osage. He married an Osage
woman with whom he had two daughters. After 1822 he spent the years in the
mountains and western plains as an expert trapper and Indian fighter. He went
everywhere from the Pacific Coast to the plains of Colorado and Texas. He
worked with many of the famous 'mountain men' including Kit
Carsonand was a guide
for John Fremonton
Fremont's fourth expedition. In 1849 he was ambushed and killed by Ute
Several places in Arizona are
named for Williams and a bronze statue of him is in one of them. His amazing
exploits are described on many pages in David Lavender's incomparable book -
Bent's Fort - which is a vivid description of the events and lives of the
entire developing south west from the Texas border to the Dakotas and from the
Mississippi west across the Rocky Mountains from the 1820's to 1870.
Wootton, Richens Lacy (1816 -
Richens Lacy Wootton was born in Virginia, moved to Mississippi and then to
Missouri, but spent most of his life in Colorado and New Mexico as a 'mountain
man' fur trapper, explorer and guide. He worked out of
Bent's Fort and Taos.
During the Mexican-American
War he served as a scout for Army expeditions. In 1866 he hired Ute Indians to
build a toll road through RatonPass which he later sold to
the railroad. He figures in many of the adventures of the 'mountain men' in the
Rocky Mountains and across the western plains.
on this fascinating individual who explored and trapped from New
Mexico to Idaho and California. .
Yellow Wolf (1855 - 1935)
He was the Nez Perce warrior who fought in the Nez
Perce War of 1875.
After 1907 and for years he narrated his view of the war to tell the world the
Nez Perce side of the events. It is not a pretty story. The Indians were trying
to remain peaceful as the whites invaded their last valley home and the USG
Yellow Woman ( - d. 1865)
She was a Cheyenne princess, daughter of medicine man and chief, Grey Thunder,
and younger sister of Owl Woman. She went with her
sister when Owl Woman married William
Bent in 1837. After
her sister died in child birth of Julia in 1847, she married William Bent. She
saved the children during the terrible cholera epidemic in 1847 the year her
sister's daughter, Julia, was born. She raised George and Charles Bent as
Cheyenne. She was killed by a Pawnee raiding party in 1865.
Introduction - The Place Called
The author describes the place - the Purgatory River - and explains its name.
The Purgatory River flows eastward out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
through the Raton Pass in those mountains to join the Arkansas River, flowing
south-east from the high Rockies behind Pike's Peak in what is now south-east
Colorado, and then flowing north-east to a great bend in Kansas from which it
again turns south east to flow across Oklahoma.. The Purgatory is the direct
route from the wide expanse of the plains stretching from those mountains north
and east to the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers through the pass to Santa Fe,
capital of the Spanish (Mexican) territory of New Mexico. The name was Mexican
(Spanish) in memory of a Spanish exploration party who, about the 1590's was
destroyed there by Indians. Over a century later two brothers (Charles and
William Bent with their partner, Ceran St. Vrain) came to this confluence of
the Purgatory and the Arkansas and with the advice of their Cheyenne friends
built the Fort - The amazing adobe fortress - the largest American structure
west of the Missouri-Mississippi and east of California. If the fort had eyes
it would have seen every significant and insignificant trapper, trader, hunter,
soldier, merchant who passed through or tarried in the vast expanse the Bent
brothers (especially William, for he is the one who designed and constructed
it) controlled from this outpost. It saw the passing of the life of the Plains
Indians also. This book is the story of that fort and much more.
Chapter I - The Town on the
The story begins in St. Louis in 1806 as everyone flocks to the river to cheer
the arrival of William Clark and Meriweather Lewis just returned from their
2-year long exploration to the Pacific. Silas Bent has recently arrived from
Virginia with wife and 4 sons, of whom Charles at 6 years is the eldest, The
chapter is about Silas' family moving from Massachusets to Virginia to Ohio and
to Missouri and about life in St. Louis. St. Louis was the river port and at
that time most thoughts of opening the west meant travel up the Missouri past
Independence and Council Bluffs and the treasure sought was beaver pelts in the
Chapter II - Those Bloody Waters
By 1818 all eyes were on the Missouri River route west. And the various Indian
tribes along it were resisting, and raiding. The chapter recounts the
competition that expanded in the 1820's between the various American and
British companies established to profit from beaver and the various Indian
tribes who fought each other and the American trappers. Charles Bent had his
initial experience in the wilderness as a trapper. A major competition was
between the MissouriFur
Company and John Jacob Astor's
Company. Along the Missouri the competing companies built Forts Vandenburgh,
Fort Recovery and Fort Kiowa. To no avail, the Blackfoot and Arikaras ambushed
many trappers on the trail. By 1825 Charles Bent was so experienced along the
river that he was taken into partnership with other fur trappers. By 1827 he
was across the Continental Divide to the Green River. But by then Astor's
American Fur Company had bought out or bankrupted all opposition.
Chapter III - The Trapper from
The story turns to Ceran de Hault de Lassus de St. Vrain bringing his trapping
expedition north from Santa Fe to the Green. We learn of his ancestors, among
the high nobility of France before the Revolution and about their struggles
after moving to the Ohio River and the Mississippi.
Chapter IV - Mountain Winter -
In the winter of 1827 Sylvestre Pratte died while trapping for his father,
Bernard Pratte, and the St. Louis company in Colorado and Ceran St. Vrain was
elected leader of the trappers to continue trapping throughout the winter.
The author describes the gear each trapper carried and their clothing and
personal appearance. He also describes the methods and processes involved in
trapping. He mentions individual veteran trappers such as "Old Bill"
Williams and Tom Smith. As they continued trapping east along the North Platte,
Tom Smith was shot in the leg from ambush which forced its amputation, without
pain killers of course. Tom took a knife and almost completed the process
before passing out. Milton Sublette finished it. Tom survived.
The trapper party turned back west into Wyoming. Ute Indians completed the
medical work and Tom made his own wooden leg. From then on he was Peg Leg
Smith. Meanwhile Charles Bent, his young brother William, and his team (without
their stolen horses) were pushing through snow over South Pass to the Green.
They built a shelter to wait out the weather.
The author continues his narrative and description as the various competing
trapper bands met for the summer gathering at Bear Lake and then split into new
teams or quit trapping. It had been a very disappointing winter.
Rather than risk trying to take their fur to St. Louis, Ceran led his team to
Taos by May 23, 1828. Still the entire winter's trapping effort resulted in a
net financial loss.
The author gives his readers the typical labor prices. A top trader would
receive $1,000 for a year, the average laborer would receive $130 for the 10
months including the winter. Ceran decided to visit Chihuahua, Mexico,
receiving a passport along with David Waldo.
Meanwhile Charles and William Bent, Fontenelle, Vanderburgh and the band
recrossed South Pass and fought a Crow Indian party on the North Platte before
reaching Council Bluffs. They found that the American Fur Company had gained a
near monopoly on the trade. Even Joseph Robidoux had sold out and become an
employee. William Vanderburgh gave in and joined Cabanne's company to lead
trapping parties into the Rocky Mts.... He was killed in 1832 by Blackfoot.
Charles learned that his father, Silas, had died, leaving him to care for the
large family. So Charles and William turned attention to the trade with Mexico
via Santa Fe.
This part of the story is also
described in Bernard DeVoto's well illustrated "Across the Wide Missouri -
1832 - 1838.
Chapter V - Death on the Trail
The author describes the Indian attack on members of the 1828 trading caravan
returning from Santa Fe to St. Louis. The inexperienced traders panicked and
opened fire on some Comanchee Indians. This brought on expanded mass attacks on
several caravans. A few survivors who reached Missouri demanded protection and
retaliation. In 1829 Indian hater Andrew Jackson became president and ordered
federal troop escorts for the spring caravan, to be commanded by Major Bennet
Riley, one of Colonel Leavenworth's captains in the
Arikara campaign of
1823. But the military escort was infantry, no cavalry then existed on the
frontier. And their supply wagons were drawn by oxen rather than mules. There
were few willing store keepers to brave the journey that year, but Charles and
William Bent and David and William Waldo were ready and eager. They received
advice from big Milton Sublette, who had dealt with many an Indian. So they
purchased and outfitted their own trading caravan in St. Louis and moved the
goods by river steamer to Independence.
Here the author again breaks his narrative to describe the scene and activity
along the Missouri. The best mules and muleteers were from Mexico. And, again,
he breaks to describe the details of what a caravan looked like and how it
functioned. And again to describe the terrain through which the caravan passed.
Charles met again with Major Riley and newly with Lt. Philip St. George Cooke.
Charles was elected 'captain' for the caravan, a post that held caravan
authority like that of a ship's captain at sea. The caravan reached the U.S.
Mexican border where the Army detachment was forbidden to cross. After lengthy
pleading the merchants convinced Major Riley to continue a short distance,
while asking for Mexican military protection to come from Santa Fe. The caravan
was then attacked. Rather than Mexican soldiers, the fellow American trappers
in Taos organized a rescue team of 95 mountain men. Among them were Ceran St.
Vrain and Kit Carson. At that meeting Carson and William Bent became life long
Chapter VI - The People of the
The caravan arrives in Santa Fe to be greeted with great excitement. But the
opinion of the American traders soon turned derogatory at the 'miserable'
condition of the town and its population - in their opinions. The author
describes the scene very well. The 1829 traders did profit but Major Riley was
impatiently waiting their return at the border on the Arkansas River. A ad hock
group of volunteer mountain men and Mexicans (commanded by Colonel Viscarra)
was organized and then the return caravan departed down the Cimarron River to
the Arkansas and then for St. Louis. This time they were attacked by Gros
Ventres and the mountain men prevailed. At the Arkansas the Mexican and
American Army detachments exchanged friendly greetings and showed off.
But William Bent did not return with the caravan. Instead he joined a trapper
group and set out northwards into the mountains of Colorado to the headwaters
of the Arkansas. Meanwhile Kit Carson was exploring westward across Arizona to
California. On the Arkansas William Bent's group met a party of Cheyenne out
At this point the author again digresses into a detailed description of the
plains Indians, especially the Cheyenne, with whom Bent was destined to live
his life. He recounts the history of the Cheyenne, who were driven from
Minnesota by the pressure of the powerful eastern tribes being in turn pushed
westward by the white settlers. Very gradually the Cheyenne continued south and
west. First they domesticated dogs, then they met horses brought north by
plains Indians from the Spanish. Horses changed, not only their economy, but
also their entire culture. Horses, in turn, enabled the Indian society to much
more effectively hunt buffalo, which, in turn, enabled them to greatly improve
both clothing and shelter. Horses also made war the major occupation of the
Indian warriors. And war demanded courage and hardihood. War meant seeking
personal glory and avoiding contempt, but individualism in motives prevented
concerted action and led mostly to bands of raiders rather than armies
organized for a strategic or even tactical purpose. As they moved south, the
Cheyenne allies were the Araphoe and their perennial enemies were the Comanchee
The author describes in detail the process by which a buffalo hide was made
into a useful garment or cover. He also describes the method for capturing
horses. Interesting side note - only the Nez Perce conducted selective
breeding. Other Indian tribes treated their horses terribly. All the Indian
actions were conducted with great attention to ritual and mysticism.
Here the author returns to the story of Bent's first meeting with Cheyenne. Two
members of the above mentioned hunting party had remained in Bent's stockaded
camp, when a notorious band of their enemy Comanchee arrived and demanded to
know about them. Bent had hidden them and bluffed the Comanchee into departing.
This unexpected and personal incident forever put William Bent into the highest
place in Cheyenne approbation.
Chapter VII - The Night the
Ceran St. Vrain and Charles Bent were in the 1830 annual caravan from St. Louis
to Santa Fe. This time the Mexicans greeted the merchant traders not only with
a military escort but with customs inspectors who extracted duty that was,
according to Ceran's comment to Bernard Pratte, 60% of the worth. Ever the
business man judging the source of profits, Ceran promptly switched from retail
trade to wholesale, establishing his company headquarters in Santa Fe and Taos.
Ceran then outfitted goods and wagons for the St. Louis journey but remained in
Santa Fe. Among his hired team was Andrew Carson, Kit's brother. Charles Bent,
however, returned himself in the September caravan with his goods to sell. He
was back in Santa Fe by December with yet another load of merchandise. In 1831
he made 5 trips. But once again William Bent remained in New Mexico, this time
with four friends deciding to explore and trap south toward the Gila, despite
the danger from the Apache who had killed previous trapping parties. They
meandered south and west as far as present-day Phoenix. In mid December they
were confronted by a large Indian band. It was five mountain men against 200
Indians. They were victorious and their exploits soon reached epic proportions
clear to St. Louis.
William found Charles again considering the expenses of travel back and forth
carrying goods obtained via credit from the stationary businesses, versus the
profits possible from a well organized business operation. In January 1831
Charles and Ceran formed a partnership in which Ceran would operate the sales
in New Mexico and Charles would operate the transportation between there and
St. Louis. Ceran wrote to Bernard Pratte describing the new company.
By May 1831 Charles was loading another wagon train in St. Louis, after having
put up the required bond and obtained a U.S. government license to trade with
the Indians. That year there were two other caravans on the road ahead of him.
The first became famous due to Josiah Gregg's published account informing the
nation of western life. But the second turned into a disaster despite it being
lead by three of the most experienced and accomplished mountain men, Jedediah
Smith, William Sublette and David Jackson, along with Thomas Fitzpatrick who
was planning then to return into the northern Rocky Mts. Jedediah Smith was
already famous for having been the first man to cross the continent twice. Even
so, these experienced explorers became lost in the wilderness desert between
the Arkansas and the Cimarron. Somehow Smith was overwhelmed by Comanches - his
body was never found. After unloading his merchandise, Charles returned to St.
Louis while Tom Fitzpatrick hired Kit Carson (returned from California) to join
his party back north. By September Charles Bent was moving another caravan out
of Independence, this time the first wagon train to use oxen rather then mules
and horses. They were impeeded by a snow storm in the Sangre de Cristo but made
it through. Meanwhile William Bent was back on the upper Arkansas in 1832
considering how to establish more profitable trade directly with the Indians.
In another diversion the author describes how this barter trade was conducted.
William and Charles decided to build a permanent trading post somewhere on the
Arkansas, as it was the official border with Mexico. This would enable them to
trade with the Indians, supply trappers and explorers into the Rocky Mts. and
facilitate the movement of the trade caravans between St. Louis (and
Independence) and Santa Fe and Taos. For this they formed the partnership with
Ceran St. Vrain. Charles brought trade goods back across the mountains over
Raton Pass and down the Purgatory to Fountain Creek and the Arkansas.
This year, 1832, he was joined by two younger brothers, George (18) and Robert
(16). There they found William's simple stockade. For Charles this would not
do. At that point a large community of Cheyenne arrived, already the friends
William had made. They all discussed the idea of a major fort, which concept
amazed the Cheyenne. But their leader, Yellow Wolf, knew the entire region and
recommended a location down stream at Big Timbers. It was ideal, as William
recognized years later, but the Bents wanted a location nearer to the route to
Taos over Raton Pass, so settled for a place down river from Fountain Creek but
40 or so miles upstream from Big Timbers. They set to work immediately,
The author describes the weather and terrain. Then he provides a virtual
blueprint and photographic description of this remarkable fort. It was to be
the only such building between the Mississippi and California for several
decades - a legend of the west in itself. (But pictures and diagrams of Bent's
Fort are in other books.) (See above for a web site.)
While Charles returned again to Independence for more goods and Ceran hired
skilled Mexican adobe workers and supplies in Taos, William supervised the
construction. Meanwhile another Bent brother, Felix, was appointed Indian Agent
to the Sac and Fox and was murdered while on a mission during the Black
By fall of 1833 the fort was sufficiently completed to open for business as the
headquarters for a chain of outposts as far north at Fort St. Vrain on the
North Platte. Kit Carson
joined as trail boss for supplying goods to there from Bents' fort.
On November 12, 1833 the major meteor shower occurred, for which this chapter
is titled. All America witnessed this and drew various conclusions. For the
Cheyenne it was especially ominous and the author explains why. But for William
Bent it was serendipitous. The leading 'medicine man', keeper of the sacred
four arrows, was Grey Thunder. And he had three lovely daughters, Owl Woman,
Yellow Woman and Island.
The story digresses into a background explanation concerning the significance
of the four sacred arrows and their loss in battle earlier that year with their
regular enemy, the Pawnees, in Nebraska. So watching the stars fall from the
sky terrified the Cheyenne. But when all was well the following morning they
considered that they might benefit from friendly association with the white men
who had this powerful fortress.
Chapter VIII - Robes, Alcohol,
The chapter opens with new competition. In 1834 Bill Sublette and Robert
Campbell began construction of Fort
Laramie in Wyoming.
The Bent - St. Vrain Company had to compete. The critical factor was that these
and other companies were seeking to entice various Indian tribes into a
continual trading relationship that constituted a monopoly. This trade was not
limited to the trading post - forts. Each company had its traveling salesmen
who would receive an allotment on credit of goods the Indians wanted and would
then travel around to the various camps and barter.
Another digression describes the ritual process. One interesting detail is that
the plains Indians highly valued Navajo blankets and abalone shells, which had
to be obtained by another trading operation into Arizona. One Navajo blanket
could be worth 10 buffalo robes. The process took place during winter with its
debilitating cold. The dickering was endless. The author also describes the
entertainment including games.
Unfortunately, the well ordered process was disrupted when some unscrupulous
traders introduced alcohol. The Indian constitution could not cope with it. The
author provides a devastating picture of the results.
In 1834 the U.S. Government opened a new era on the western plains, as Charles
reported at the fort. The government was forcing the remaining eastern forest
Indians across the Mississippi into the plains of Oklahoma, Kansas and
Nebraska. This in turn disrupted the resident Indian tribes. The author notes
that between 1829 and 1837 the government signed 94 treaties with various
Indian tribes but ignored them. A chain of forts was constructed from Minnesota
to Arkansas. And of great interest to Charles the infantry escorts of Major
Riley were replaced by the first mounted dragoons commanded by Colonel Henry
Colonel Henry Dodge -
George Catlin, Lancaster Lupton, and Lt. Philip St. George Cooke were in the
expedition that arrived at Bent's Fort.
Meanwhile Kit Carson and 5 other men had been attacked by Comanchee on the
Cimarron River and beaten them off. Colonel Leavenworth fell ill and died that
summer. Colonel Dodge continued on and met a Comanchee and Araphoe group with
which he claimed to have established peace. This optimistic idea set William
Bent the following spring of 1835 to taking a trading party south into
Comanchee territory. Colonel Dodge, with John Gantt as interpreter and guide,
continued to meet the many Indian tribes in Kansas and Nebraska and insist they
all be at peace with each other. The possibility of peace set Grey Thunder to
riding east to attempt to retrieve the sacred arrows from the Pawnee. Colonel
Dodge continued to the mountain range foothills, turned south and reached
Bent's fort. There he called for the Arapaho. John Gantt fetched them. As they
arrived Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain entertained the army officers. The
troops were amazed to find such an establishment in the wilderness. Suddenly
William Bent appeared with thousands of horses back from his expedition far
into Comanchee territory. He reported that at present at least all seemed
This author does not write, but William may on that occasion have begin Fort
Adobe. While Colonel
Dodge assembled a large delegation of Indians from local tribes including
Arapaho, Cheyenne and Pawnee, Grey Thunder was far north east at another Pawnee
village seeking his arrows. His mission believed to have been accomplished.
Colonel Dodge marched from the fort down the Arkansas to Big Timbers. There he
witnessed without understanding it, Grey Thunder's triumphant arrival with one
major arrow and a peace delegation of Pawnees and Arikaras who all celebrated
in a boisterous party.
Conferences and parties over, Charles returned over Raton Pass to Taos. The
author mentions his local friends, especially Charles Hipolyte Trotier, Sieur
de Beaubien - known as Carlos Beaubien. And there was Maria Ignacia Jaramillo,
the widow Luna, and her daughter, Rumalda. Charles and Maria Ignacia were
married in 1835 or 1836. They had five children of whom 3 survived infancy.
Also described by Bernard DeVoto
and Francis Parkman
Chapter IX - Adobe Empire
By spring of 1836 Charles was again in Independence loading another caravan
with trading goods. It was for this trip that Charles hired Richens Lacy Wooten
and Jim Hobbs. That summer another competitor brought his wagons west. He was
Lancaster P. Lupton lately resigned from the Army who set up at the Fort
Lupton he built on the
South Platte a few miles upstream from where Fort St. Vrain was next built.. He
was preceded during 1835 by Louis
Vasquez and Andrew
Sublette who set up
a few miles downstream between the two forts. And the American Fur Company was
already strongly in place at Fort
Laramie in Wyoming.
This generated multisided competition for sure. William Bent sent Doc Newell
north with wagons of trade goods which generated significant quantities of
robes and more brought back to the fort on the Arkansas. At this point the
Bent, St. Vrain company had to add another permanent fort to the three already
there. Their wagons loaded with adobe that same summer moved down the South
Platte and north of Fort Lupton. The result was another formidable fortress
with thick, high walls and corner bastions. George Bent named it Fort Lookout,
but eventually it took the name Fort St.
That same year (1837) William Bent decided it was time to marry and chose the
eldest daughter of Grey Thunder, Owl
Woman. The author uses
this occasion to describe Indian marriage customs. Their first child, Mary, was
born at Bent's fort in January 1838. They had four more children.
Chapter X - Texians
Ceran St. Vrain was the U.S. diplomatic representative in Santa Fe from 1834 to
1838 and in 1839 was succeeded by Manuel Alvarez, at which point Charles Bent
appointed himself as Alvarez's assistant in northern New Mexico. They became
close friends. They had to deal with officials of course, and the main one was
governor Manuel Armijo (not too much of a problem). But the other was Father
Antonio Jose Martinez, the parish priest of Taos who was a mortal enemy. But
Governor Armijo sought power and benefited from the Mexican revolution of
Our author provides a vivid word picture of this worthy. In 1839 the governor
raised an arbitrary custom's duty of $500 dollars per wagon regardless of its
content. The small time traders and smugglers suffered. But Bent- St. Vrain
simply reloaded their wagons at the border to pile much more goods on fewer
wagons. Then the governor exempted Mexicans from city taxes and piled them all
on foreigners - that is Americans. The Americans complained that all this was
simply Armijo's method for hitting his American commercial competitors. Then
the governor complained to Mexico City about the Bent fortress.
The author describes other incidents, over recapture of stolen horses and one
over captured Indians.
In 1840 Charles lead another convoy to Independence and back in 1841. But by
then a foolish group of Texians had conjured up the idea that they could expand
their Republic into New Mexico, and were on the march west. Sam Houston
strongly objected but the new governor, Mirabeau Lamar, was all for it. And New
Orleans newspaper publisher George Wilkins Kendall was going along for who
In another digression we learn about the Bartleson-Bidwell and the Tom
Fitzpatrick - Father de Smett missionaries expedition from St. Louis over South
Pass to California.
Meanwhile, the Texians were moving westward, a combination of merchants and
volunteer 'soldiers'. But governor Armijo already knew all about it and called
out his militia. No real need. The Texians had only a vague idea of where they
were going and practically none of where they were once into the western
desert. Finally the Texians were about to reach New Mexico, and as their
leading emissaries arrived they were arrested.
The author switches to tell us about the fate of the Bartleson-Bidwell party
and a similar but successful trip of local Americans and Mexicans fleeing from
Santa Fe to California. The former, much depleted, reached San Francisco and
the latter did reach Los Angeles in better condition. Both were among the early
arrivals of the following waves to come.
Back in Santa Fe the remaining Texians and George Kendall were in prison. The
Mexican citizens were practically rioting to attack the resident Americans. But
the provincial Secretary of State, Don Guadalupe Miranda, a friend of Carlos
Beaubien and Charles Bent intervened. But Charles was arrested temporarily.
James Magoffin's offer of $3,000 ransom for Kendall was refused.
Chapter XI - Kit Carson's
The Texian affair did have one favorable result, for the enterprising Miranda,
Beaubien and Bents. Governor Armijo realized that his northern and
north-eastern borders were vulnerable, indeed they already had for years been
the scene of Indian raids. He came up with the idea of granting large
territories to speculators on condition that they would then bring in many
families of homesteaders to create ranches and farms. The grant would go to
Mexican citizens, but they could include naturalized ones. The first
application and grant went to Carlos Beaubien in partnership with the
provincial Secretary of State, Guadalupe Miranda. (How convenient!) They
thought BIG and asked for a wild territory twice the size of Rhode Island. It
covered the head waters of the Cimarron and Canadian Rivers. Charles Bent was
to have a share and this raised strong objections from Padre Martinez. He
managed to have the grant withdrawn.
The tale turns to Kit Carson's marriage problems. He already had a child,
Adaline, by a dead Araphoe, Waa-nibe (Singing Wind), and was married to a
Cheyenne who caused nothing but trouble. Then he met Maria Josefa Jaramillo,
sister of Charles Bent's wife, Ignacia, and fell in love. They were to be
married, but part of the engagement was that Adaline was sent to St. Louis to a
convent school. At this time their friend, Lucien Maxwell, was married to Maria
de la Luz, eldest daughter of Carlos Beaubien. So in March 1842 Charles, Kit
and Lucien crossed Raton Pass to the fort and there took Adaline to join the
annual large caravan.
In another digression we learn more about daily routine on the Santa Fe trail.
We learn that the company employed Shawnee and Delaware Indians as hunters and
that these displaced eastern tribes also 'owned' the grazing land around
Westport and on the river bank was William Sublette's town site (it is now
Kansas City). The Bent-St. Vrain company bought and developed their own grazing
operation (ranch) as well as the necessary repair facilities south west of
Westport and placed their nephew, Angus Boggs, as local manager. .
The same year, 1842, the Bent-St. Vrain company, supervised by Baptiste
Charbonneau, son of Toussaint Charbonneau and Sacagawea,, sent hides also down
the Platte by boat from Fort St. Vrain. While on the river, Baptiste had
occasion to host John Fremont riding west on his first expedition.
In another diversion the author describes the attempted assassination of
Lilburn Boggs in Independence for which they blamed the Mormons. He also
describes Kit Carson's view of St. Louis city life (he disliked it) and Charles
Bent's enjoyment of it. After all, his family were among the local
'aristocracy'. That summer also saw the marriage of Lt. John Fremont to Senator
Benton's daughter, Jessie. Fremont hired both Lucien Maxwell and Kit Carson as
guides. Kit sent his Delaware Indians back to Taos with instructions to have
his men meet the expedition at South Pass. When Fremont was ready to turn back
east, Carson would take his crew south, trapping in the mountains until
reaching the fort.
Meanwhile, Charles returned to the fort and found that a rival operation with
fort was being built at Pueblo, nearer to the mountains. Among its operators
was Jim Beckwourth and they were seducing Indians with whisky. Charles decided
the best way to curtail this intrusion would be to ask for an army post to be
established there, but his request was not favored. In December missionary
Marcus Whitman, visited the fort. He was detouring around the Sioux on his way
east from Oregon territory to try to raise financial support. He barely made it
to join the caravan east from the fort. In December also, Kit Carson arrived
from his mountain travel and was married to Maria on Feb 6, 1843. Soon after
that Ceran St. Vrain married another of Carlos Beaubien's daughters, making him
the brother-in-law of his 'nephew' Lucien..
The author does not describe to
the readers the significance of the Delaware Indians. The Delaware (Lenape)
people lived in New Jersey and along the Hudson when the Europeans arrived .
They were gradually pushed into Pennsylvania, then they were made subordinate
to the powerful Iroquois. They lost the land they had been promised by treaty
to the Penn family. They were pushed into Ohio. Then when the entire Indian
population of the NorthWest Territory was pushed across the Mississippi they
were settled in eastern Kansas. Then they were strong enemies of all the plains
Indian tribes and readily worked with the U.S. Army as scouts, hunters and
guides. We find them mentioned repeatedly throughout the south west.
The mention of Marcus Whitman's 'detour" shows a typical travel route. The
routes formed a triangle. The northern side was eventually the Oregon Trail,
that is west from Independence or Fort Leavenworth up the Platte River to Fort
Laramie and then through South Pass. The western side was the ancient Indian
trading route - north - south along the Rocky Mtns foot hills between the upper
Platte and the Arkansas enroute to Santa Fe and Taos. The eastern side was the
route along the Arkansas from west to east to its 'big bend' in southern Kansas
and then northeast to Westport and Independence.
Chapter XII - Land Beyond
The events during 1843 were numerous and complex, with Bent's Fort in the
center of a swirling storm that the author is forced to jump through. We learn
that this year the Texians were plotting revenge and another attempt on New
Mexico. This time the instigator was Charles Warfield. A few volunteers were
found and assembled, but the first result was that when word of the coming
escapade reached Santa Fe and Taos the Mexicans again accused the Americans
there, including Charles Bent, although they had nothing to do with it. Charles
was brought to a trial and forced to pay $800, while a mob continued to
threaten him. He escaped back to Bent's Fort.
The chaos continued as the Texians attacked both Mexicans and isolated American
traders. Now Captain, Philip St. George Cooke led his dragoons with one convoy
to the Arkansas and another from Westport to Santa Fe. Kit Carson rushed back
and forth between flash points and then joined John Fremont at Bent's Fort and
again at Fort St. Vrain for another expedition. William Bent had a new son,
George. Charles and Ceran went back and forth leading caravans in both
directions, sometimes under contract to Cooke to move supplies.
Governor Armijo reacted to the Texian intrusions. The total chaos in his
frontier prompted him to again consider land grants. This time he agreed to one
grant to Carlos Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda that included Narcisio Beaubien
and Steve Lee (whose wife was sister to Beaubien's wife). This grant north of
Taos was for over 1 million acres on the Rio Grande along both sides of the
Colorado -New Mexico border. Other grants followed. Soon, Ceran St. Vrain and
Cornelio Vigil (Ignacia Bent's uncle) applied for a tract to the east, with
north-eastern border the Arkansas River and southern border including most of
southeastern Colorado - totaling about 4 million acres. In March 1844 they
secretly conveyed 1/6th of this grant to Charles Bent. Padre Martinez was still
creating trouble with letters to Mexican President Santa Ana, but apparently
did not learn of this grant.
In April 1844 Charles and William took the annual caravan to visit St. Louis,
leaving George to operate the fort. In July Fremont and Carson with Joe Walker,
arrived back from California, at the fort. William Gilpin arrived soon after
from his participating in Fremont's expedition and diverting himself to Oregon.
On his travel from Oregon to Bent's Fort he thought he had found some gold in
Colorado, which led him much later into further activities in 1862 when, as
governor of Colorado, he bought part of the Sangre de Cristo land from Carlos
Beaubien. Word that Santa Ana had reopened the border for trade generated great
preparations to get a caravan going that year. But there was a new governor
(Mariano Martinez de Lajanza) in Santa Fe. William rushed back to the fort.
Chapter XIII - Rumbles of
Sam Owens organized a large caravan at Council Grove and William Boggs joined
for the excitement. His brother, Tom, already worked for the Bents at the fort.
Behind them were other convoys including one each lead by Charles Bent and
Ceran St. Vrain. The late caravans hit a blizzard on the Cimarron, between the
Arkansas and Santa Fe. They finally made it to Santa Fe where William Boggs met
Charles. Then, from Taos Charles outfitted Boggs to make it through the snow
over Raton Pass to the fort. William took him along the Arkansas for his winter
stay at his cabin at Big Timbers.
This leads the author to describe life there and the Cheyenne medicine methods
that cured William of something, possibly diphtheria. Meanwhile the Cheyenne
camp was in an uproar fearing retaliation from the Delawares for a previous
attack. A new scare erupted from rumors that Texians were riding west in a
foolish hope of conquering New Mexico. William and George; and Tom and William
Boggs rode south to see what the Cheyenne would do. They found the Indians on
the Cimarron, far south of their usual range. They all searched along the
Cimarron and back north to the Arkansas without finding buffalo. William Boggs
returned to Westport in Charles' caravan.
On March 1, 1845 President Tyler signed the law admitting Texas as a state.
Then James Polk became President with a strong desire to acquire California and
more. In June he sent Zachary Taylor with troops to occupy a piece of territory
disputed between Texas and Mexico. He also ordered Colonel Stephen W. Kearny to
start west with 200 dragoons, guided by Tom Fitzpatrick, up the Oregon Trail to
South Pass and then south to the Arkansas to resupply with material Charles
Bent would transport to his fort. Charles and Ceran greeted them with
exceptional hospitality. It was the first time Captain Philip St. George Cooke
saw the fort, although he had known Charles and Ceran for years as had Kearny.
Charles filled Kearny and St. George Cooke with intelligence about conditions
in Santa Fe. In August Fremont arrived leading another expedition west. And Lt.
J. W. Abert led another to survey south into Texas. Fremont wanted Kit Carson
again as his guide, but Kit was busy developing his ranch on the Little
Cimarron. Lucien Maxwell, Tom Boggs and John Hatcher had begun to develop
ranches, but were at the fort. William Bent sent Hatcher to guide Abert.
With this army expedition to the south Ceran and William decided to take
advantage and organize a group of Mexican adobe makers to build them a new fort
in Comanchee territory. This they brilliantly named Fort
Adobe. By early 1846
conditions in Taos and Santa Fe were becoming dangerous and the Mexicans and
Pueblo Indians were hearing rumors of war. .
Chapter XIV - War
In spring 1846 in Taos and Santa Fe a local, personal war broke out between
Charles Bent and Spanish priest Antonio Martinez who had for years been
enemies. That spring, Tom Boggs arrived and took a liking to Charles'
stepdaughter Rumalda Luna. They were married right away. Trouble continued to
escalate in Taos and Santa Fe, but Charles, Ceran and Jared Folger left to
prepare their caravan to Westport. Meanwhile, they were expanding efforts to
create cattle ranches on both the Beaubien and St. Vrain-Vigil land grants in
June. On 12 June they hurried on to St. Louis. On the way they met special
envoy George Howard riding west to inform all that Congress had declared war in
May. He had been in Santa Fe years before with the ill-fated Texian captives.
Next Charles and friends met Tom Fitzpatrick leading two companies of dragoons
west. Their mission was to stop all the merchant caravans from entering New
Mexico. Next, he met Sam Magoffin and his bride Susan Shelby, also headed for
New Mexico. At Westport Charles, Ceran and Folger moved on to Fort Leavenworth
to confer with Stephen Kearny. Kearny was already preparing, his supply convoy
was underway to Bent's Fort, and his dragoons were organizing. Charles gave
Kearny full information about what to expect in Santa Fe. That same spring
Francis Parkman met Kearny at Fort Leavenworth.
Back in Taos George Bent and Tom Boggs, with John Hatcher's help, rushed their
families and Kit Carson's out and to Bent's Fort.
That summer Lilburn Boggs with his family including Bill Boggs traveled over
the Oregon and California trails to Sonoma.
William Bent kept business humming at the fort. In July the first dragoons
began arriving. One detachment led by Tom Fitzpatrick and another commanded by
David Waldo. Soon Kearny, St. George Cooke, Alexander Doniphan and William
Gilpin arrived with the main body of dragoons and with Antoine Robidoux as
guide and interpreter.
That July 31st Susan Shelby Magoffin had a miscarriage in William Bent's
upstairs apartment. Sam Magoffin's, brother, James, arrived as a special envoy
from President Polk to Mexican governor Armijo. Kearny asked William Bent to
lead scouts to check out potential ambushes in the mountains, which he did,
reluctantly. On 12 August James Magoffin and Captain Cooke arrived in Santa Fe
to treat with the governor. On the 17th Charles Bent returned to the Fort and
continued to Taos and then Santa Fe. On 18 August Kearny's troops entered Santa
Fe. General (now) Kearny had to create an American civil government. He had
assistance from Alexander Doniphan, Frank Blair, David Waldo and Charles Bent.
Kearny had to take dragoons through a large surrounding area to inform the
citizens of the change and suppress potential revolts. Soon Sterling Price
arrived with reinforcements and Alexander Doniphan took a large detachment on
south into Mexico, with side expeditions along the way to suppress Navajo
attacks. Kearny appointed Charles Bent to be the civil governor of New Mexico,
with Sterling Price as the military commander. Then, on September 25th, he
departed west to California. Conditions in New Mexico were not only in flux but
Meanwhile William Bent returned to his fort and the creation of his farm on the
Purgatory with George Bent and Hatcher. William encouraged the Cheyenne chief,
Yellow Wolf, to have his tribe take up farming. The Cheyenne were willing, but
as usual the government failed in its promise to provide necessary implements
On August 26 Parkman stopped a day at Fort Bent, then continued east. In August
1846 the government did create a new Indian agency and appoint Tom Fitzpatrick
as the agent. At the time he was with Kearny guiding the dragoons to
California. They met Kit Carson traveling east with dispatches from Fremont.
General Kearny forced a switch. Carson would lead the army west, as he knew the
route best, and Fitzpatrick would carry the dispatches back east. He arrived at
the fort on 14 October to learn of his new appointment with headquarters at the
fort. Later that month St. Vrain and Folger arrived with their caravan from
Westport. Ceran had brought along another young adventurer, Lewis Garrard, whom
he then sent with Blackfoot John Smith down river to Big Timbers. When William
also moved as usual down to Big Timbers to be with Owl Woman and his children,
he knew that their world had changed.
In the years after the end of the
Civil War and the Indian Wars, the concept of raising herds of cattle for
eastern markets was achieved, for a while, at least until the invention of
barbed wire enabled farmers to take the open range from the cattlemen. This is
all described in Walter Prescott Webb's excellent account - The Great Plains.
Chapter XV - Revolution
General Kearny was barely started west when he was informed that the Navajos
were on the warpath again. He sent back orders to Doniphan to deal with this
and Tom Boggs with some of the dragoons to alert Charles. Sterling Price with
his troops arrived in 3 October. Charles went to Taos in an effort to stop the
Navajo raiding. And the Apache were causing trouble to the south at Mora. The
inexperienced soldiers were, themselves, causing trouble with the citizens in
Santa Fe. The citizens were 'secretly' preparing their own uprising, led by
Archuleta, and Martinez.
Colonel Price did react by expanding the military patrols and guards with
artillery in Santa Fe but not elsewhere. Colonel Doniphan and Major Gilpin were
out attempting to subdue the Navajo to little avail. Governor Charles Bent
wrote reports to Washington describing the chaos in detail and recommending
actions. He noted that the situation in the Indian Pueblo, with priest Martinez
in charge was particularly dangerous. He specifically asked for regular troops
with artillery to replace the untrained volunteers. He predicted that a
revolution would take place, otherwise. At the same time Archuleta and others
were deeply involved in preparing that revolution. Charles was alerted by a
leak in the plotting. He attempted to arrest the ring leaders but they escaped
town. At least he did manage to stop a pending order to send Meriweather Lewis
Clark's artillery battalion south to Doniphan.
Further trouble came from the Comanchee war to the east that blocked supply
trains from the Arkansas via the Canadian River. Then a mistake, on 2 January
1847 Charles released Clark's artillery to join Doniphan. Word of the danger at
Taos reached Santa Fe with arrival of Steve Lee, James Leal and Cornelio Vigil.
Despite strong protests from his officers in Santa Fe, Charles decided to go to
Taos himself both to help his family there and to reduce the threat of an
uprising. So on 14 January 1847 Charles returned through deep snow with
Ignacia's brother, Pablo Jaramillo, and Narcisio Beaubien to his home in Taos.
There he had his wife, Ignacia, and children, plus Kit Carson's wife Josefa,
and Tom Bogg's wife, Rumalda.
Immediately the revolutionary leaders, Pablo Montoya and Tomas Romero called
forth the Pueblo Indians to join the local Mexicans. Sheriff Steve Lee and
Prefect Cornelio Vigil were quickly 'butchered'. Circuit Attorney James Leal
was filled with arrows. Other Americans were also killed and their homes or
stores burned. The young boys, Narcisio Beaubien and Pablo Jaramillo, were
found hiding in a barn and cut to pieces. Then came the attackers chief
purpose. They attacked Charles Bent's home, broke through and scalped him
before murdering him. Friendly Mexicans managed to rescue the women.
Chapter XVI - Retribution
The revolt's leader hurried to take advantage of their surprise victory. They
sent messengers throughout the territory urging revolt. But several Americans
also managed to slip out. Charley Towne made it to Santa Fe to Jim Beckwourth's
hotel and Jim then alerted Colonel Price.
Charley Autobees rode east to alert isolated Americans and continue to Big
Timbers. At Turley's distillery the few workers there were alerted but
surrounded and finally killed, except for John Albert, who walked the 140 miles
through the snow to the Arkansas at the Pueblo fort and Mormon battalion camp.
There, half dead, he told the story, Dick Wootton began leading a party of
mountain men toward Taos. A messenger was sent to William Bent.
Revolutionaries meanwhile attacked Mora and a caravan there and killed David
and William Waldo's brother, L. L. Waldo. There army troops from Las Vegas
quickly counter-attacked (See
On January 24th rebels attacked the Bent - St. Vrain ranches on the Ponil and
Vermejo creeks and stole much of the animal stock.
At Bent's Fort Autobees informed Lucien Maxwell that his brother-in-law,
Narcisio, had been murdered. There, the local army commander, Captain Jackson,
sent messengers north to Captain Brown at the Mormon battalion and Louis
Simonds south to Big Timbers, but would not commit his own troops to
counterattack. There Simonds first found Blackfoot John Smith and Lewis
Garrard. William was immediately informed.
So were the Cheyenne chiefs. They decided go on the warpath and to send the
entire Cheyenne warriors to Taos.
But William refused to allow it. The following day William and Lewis Garrard
rode up river to the fort. There he found that Captain Jackson was still
unwilling to participate or even lend anyone. But further north the Mormons
were drilling and preparing. William found that all his men volunteered and was
prepared to lead them. But a strong rumor that a Mexican rebel army was
approaching to attack the fort forced him to remain there to take charge.
Instead, he appointed William Bransford to lead the force west. He rode to
learn from Albert at the Mormon camp more details about the Taos events and
then back. Bransford led his volunteers up the Timpas through a snow storm.
They found the men at the Purgatory ranch well fortified.
In Santa Fe, after the alert from Charley Towne, Colonel Price quickly
He asked Ceran St. Vrain if Ceran could organize volunteer mountain men. Of
course. Ceran was commissioned a captain to lead the 65 experienced mountain
hunters including Carlos Beaubien and Jim Beckwourth.
The rebels from Taos were advancing south. Colonel Price decided to attack them
directly, departing Santa Fe on 23 January.
The author gives his readers an excellent detailed description of the ensuing
campaign including the culminating battle at the Taos Pueblo. Ceran's mountain
men played a significant role in the victory, as did Dick Wootton's group who
arrived in time. They practiced the 'law' of dealing with hostile Indians - NO
Then came execution of some leaders on the spot and others after a 'trial' in
Santa Fe. It was run mostly by Bent-St. Vrain men.
Chapter XVII - Destruction
The plains Indians knew the American army was busy with the Mexican-American
War, so 1847 turned out to be a bloody year. It was the beginning of the
heightened warfare that lasted for over 40 years. The Bents' and St. Vrain led
their annual caravans from the Arkansas to Independence. The lead caravan was
hit by Comanchee who killed many of the whites and stole much livestock.
Ceran's following caravan made it through to St. Louis by 12 June, where he had
discussions with army officers on what strategy to pursue. He was also very
busy taking care of Charles Bent's estate, its extensive holdings. Traveling
the opposite way, Tom Fitzpatrick headed for Santa Fe and then his post as
Indian Agent at Bent's fort. He traveled with a dragoon escort, but they were
hit by Comanchee who killed or wounded dragoons and stole livestock.
Fitzpatrick had to detour to Santa Fe with the dragoons and then backtrack over
Raton to the fort.
The author provides statistics on the relatively large number of killed,
wounded and losses to wagons and animals. Not only were the Comanchee on the
war path but also Pawnee, Kiowa, Apache and Navajo. Even the southern Cheyenne
and Arapaho were restless but kept in check by William Bent.
The government in Washington decided on taking strong measures, but was divided
on what strategy to use - build a full chain of forts or conduct more mounted
expeditions throughout the plains. They did build For
Mann at the big bend of
the Arkansas and Fort Marcy next to Santa Fe. Ceran, sensing an opportunity,
offered to sell Bent's Fort to the Army. But the offer was refused.
That year Owl Woman bore
her fourth child and died doing so. William named the boy, Charles, in memory
of William's dead brother. Owl Woman had a standard Cheyenne funeral and
William followed Cheyenne custom in marrying her younger sister, Yellow Woman.
Meanwhile the Comanchee drove John Hatcher off the new ranch on the Purgatory.
That greatly delayed the Bent- Ceran company from creating ranches in their
real estate grant area. Finally, in August Tom Fitzpatrick's small caravan
reached the fort with Blackfoot John Smith.
In October 1847 George Bent died at the fort from an unknown sickness and was
buried next to his brother, Robert. In November Lt. Colonel William Gilpin
arrived with two companies of dragoons after leaving three companies of
infantry at Fort Mann. Gilpin moved his dragoons up the Arkansas for winter
quarters near Pueblo.
In March 1848 the dragoons moved south east, through Raton Pass to Mora in
preparation for a punitive expedition down the Cimarron and Canadian rivers
against the Comanchee. At that, the Apache and Ute attacked Lucien Maxwell and
his friends in Raton Pass, three were killed and Maxwell was wounded. Dick
Wootton led a rescue party that saved them. Old Bill Williams acted as guide
for the army sortie to quell the Ute and was wounded. The 1848 Bent-St. Vrain
convoy managed to get back to the fort by defeating a Comanchee attack along
Meanwhile Fitzpatrick managed to go north along the mountains to the Platte and
then down it to St. Louis to file an official report charging Gilpin with
failure. But on the contrary, Gilpin had conduced a successful campaign,
killing several hundred Pawnee, Comanche, Apache and Osage along the Canadian
and Cimarron Rivers. But Gilpin recognized that such temporary excursions would
not suffice to defeat the mobile Indians. In August 1848 he wrote Washington
warning that both forts and mobile patrols would not be enough and a major
Indian uprising was likely for 1849 but some forts would at least help, and the
government should purchase Bent's Fort.
During their stop in St. Louis William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain met with city
entrepreneurs who were planning a transcontinental railroad and had hired John
Fremont to do a survey through the mountains. Fremont was determined to do it
that very winter, despite William's and Ceran's warning that winter travel
would be too dangerous. He wanted to use the southern route, via Bent's Fort
and New Mexico. By October William, Ceran and Tom were back at the fort. Soon
Fremont arrived with his team. They enjoyed witnessing Tom's distribution of
agency presents to the 3,500 or so Indians gathered all around the fort. Kit
Carson refused to guide him in winter, so did Hatcher, Dick Wootton agreed to
go but then changed his mind when he saw the level of snow. At Pueblo Fremont
found Old Bill Williams, age 61, and recovering from his wound. He also warned
Fremont but reluctantly agreed to guide. They were isolated north of Taos in
the mountains in deep snow, many of the party died and Ute Indians managed to
get the survivors to Taos where Kit Carson and his wife cared for them.
Fitzpatrick wanted to use the good will created by his gift giving to organize
a full, prairie- wide Indian conference including all the tribes from north to
As a test of conditions he appointed Kit Carson, recently returned from
Washington, to take a team including Lucien Maxwell, Blackfoot John Smith,
Robert Fisher and others south to reopen Fort
Adobe. But at that fort,
the Apache ran off all the animals save a couple mules. They buried their trade
goods and then had to walk back to Bent's Fort, fending off a Kiowa attack on
the way. William arranged for Dick Wootton to take another team back to Fort
Adobe to trade and recover the goods Carson had been forced to hide. This group
also came under fire at Fort Adobe but managed to get back to Bent's with some
of the goods. The following year William tried again and again faced Comanchee
attack, so he used gunpowder to destroy the walls.
With things in general deteriorating Marcellin killed an Indian in a wrestling
match. With a 'price' on his head from the Indians, Marcellin was forced to
flee to St. Louis. Ceran moved to Mora to open a mill. He dissolved the
partnership with William Bent by Feb. 1849. That was a complex process with
Charles', George's estate interests also involved. Everything was divided
except the interest in the St. Vrain-Vigil land grant. At this point the
government decided to buy Bent's Fort but William refused the offer. Instead,
in August he abandoned it, moving all his goods and belonging down to Big
Timbers and then blowing up his second fort.
In 1849 the emigration to California became a flood. The largest part was
through Fort Laramie and South Pass. But considerable numbers of eager seekers
went directly up the Canadian River to Santa Fe, and others continued up the
Arkansas past the ruin of Bent's Fort to Pueblo.
The author describes the influence of gold hunting on various individuals and
the general public. The Indians were astounded at the sight of thousands of
wagons bearing thousands of whites across their hunting grounds, and appalled
at the destruction of the buffalo it created. Much worse, the white travelers
brought Cholera, which killed thousands of the susceptible Indians. They
thought this was a magic curse brought on them by the whites. At least half of
the Cheyenne at Bent's Fort died. William was in Westport, His wife, Yellow
Woman, barely managed to save his young children, Mary, George and Charles, on
Chapter XVIII - Turn Back the
Now at Big Timbers William Bent built himself a new headquarters, first a log
stockade and several years later a stone fort. He was correct in seeing that
Big Timbers was actually a better location for his trading business. Tom
Fitzpatrick arrived, still determined to organize a plains wide Indian peace
conference. It was too late in the year, so 1850 was designated as the time.
Fitzpatrick went to Fort Laramie over the winter to discuss the conference with
the Sioux and northern Cheyenne, who were much in favor. He returned to Big
Timbers in January 1850 where the local Indians were also in favor. But
Congress did not pass the necessary legislation to finance it.
That summer as the wave of emigration to California and Oregon expanded even
more, the traders switched from catering to Indians to bringing supplies from
New Mexico and the south north to the Platte to supply the emigrants. William
and Kit also joined in this new business. It soon switched again from supplies
to horses and mules driven north. William decided to repair and reopen Fort St.
Vrain as a base for these northern operations.
In May 1851 Congress approved the pending Indian conference to be held at Fort
Laramie. William assembled his friendly Cheyenne and Arapahoe on the Arkansas
who readily agreed to journey north. But the Comanchee, Apache and Kiowa
refused on the grounds that they would be unsafe while in the lands of their
hereditary enemy, the Sioux. By September the Indians were gathering around
Fort Laramie and so were the traders, William included. Fitzpatrick was the
main host and Blackfoot John Smith was an interpreter. August came and went,
but the government agents with their 'gifts' and troops did not show. They were
stuck at Westport, as usual not knowing how to do things.
Then, as the author dramatically describes it, Jim Bridger brought in 'his'
Shoshone warriors in a spectacular demonstration of precision mounted drill
that stunned the Army dragoons. He gives the total as 10,000 Indians with tens
of thousands of their horses. The vast assemblage had to move due to depletion
of local grass and supplies (and although the author does not mention it, no
doubt also due to the abysmal sanitary situation.) Then more tribes arrived,
Crow, Assiniboins, Arikaras, Minetarees with their missionary Father De Smett.
He had a missionary's field day baptizing Indian children.
The wagons loaded with 'gifts' finally arrived on 20 September. Much was
theoretically decided at this famous meeting. The entire open plains was
divided and specific areas allocated to each tribe. A delegation of tribal
chiefs was dispatched to meet President Fillmore with Blackfoot John Smith as
their interpreter. The conference concluded on 22 September.
In July 1852 William had a brief conflict with the Comanchee near Fort
Atkinson. But in fall 1852 he ventured south to attempt to trade with them.
That fall Fitzpatrick was expected to bring gifts and arrange for the Comanchee
and Kiowa to sign the Laramie treaty. That encouraged William to build a new,
stone, fort at Big Timbers. Over the winter of 1852-53, after returning from
his southern expedition, William began the foundations of the new stone fort.
He went again to Westport for supplies, where he also signed a contract with
the army by transporting their supplies to New Mexico.
By June 1853 he was back at Big Timbers and continuing construction. He also
had to go to Santa Fe to deliver the army freight and then back over Raton to
the new fort. That fall he took his three eldest children; Mary, Robert and
George, to Westport for education under the supervision of his relatives. The
children would also be with Louis Vasquez's children on his and Jim Bridger's
ranches. William returned again to his new fort to distribute the annual
The author describes the protocol for this in detail. It had a very destructive
result. As the Indians became more and more dependent on govenment handouts and
less able to survive on the dwindling buffalo and prairie life, they became
less and less self reliant and also were acutely aware of the loss of their own
At the same time the mass population building in California could not feed
itself. The merchant traders from El Paso such as Maxwell, Wootton and Carson
drove thousands of sheep across the desert to California. The demand for
railroads increased. John Fremont was determined to regain prestige, lost
during his Christmas debacle, by leading another survey party through the
mountains. Meanwhile transport of increased loads of freight required more and
larger wagons with more teams of oxen. William Bent prospered now on the
freight business, both military supplies and 'gifts' to the dependent Indians
on the way south and buffalo hides on the winter way north.
In another digression the author describes an Indian antelope hunt. Then he
describes William's solution to stop a coming small pox epidemic.
Still, in 1854 the Ute continued to attack whomever they could. They destroyed
the old post at Pueblo. They attacked Dick Wootton's and Charley Autobees'
ranches at Huerfano Creek. Governor Meriweather Clark commissioned Ceran St.
Vrain and Kit Carson to lead a retaliatory raid. In 1854 conditions worsened on
the plains. The Army began an unofficial policy of shooting Indians on sight.
Conflict spread to the Sioux and northern Cheyenne. Retaliations escalated with
killing of individuals and groups of whites and Indians who had nothing to do
with any earlier incident. By fall, when William again called in the Cheyenne
for their handouts, he was despondent over his realization that there would be
no turning the clock back. The warfare in Kansas between the slave proponents
and the abolitionists escalated also with John Brown's attacks. That forced the
recall of Army troops from the western plains.
In May 1857 army cavalry rode out of Fort Leavenworth up the Arkansas and North
Platte Rivers to encircle the Cheyenne whom they thought were on the Republican
River. The cavalry commander, Colonel Sumner attacked and dispersed some
Cheyenne and then destroyed their annual subsidy at Big Timbers. Before he
could do more damage he was called to participate in the Mormon War in Utah.
William used the lull in winter 1857 to move across the Arkansas to continue
building his ranch on the Purgatory in the St. Vrain-Vigil land grant.
That winter Blackfoot John Smith dug out some gold near where the present
Colorado State capitol is located. With California gold rush ended the new gold
rush in Colorado generated excitement across the Midwest.
In June, 1858 William Russell brought both whites and his Cherokee friends to
Big Timbers on their way to Colorado gold. Another party led by John Easter
soon followed. At the same time William went to Kansas City. He returned to his
fort that September. The gold fever had spread. .
Chapter XIX - The White Tide
For sure, while California had created the mass migrations across the plains
largely confined to the two narrow Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, gold in Colorado
generated the 'White Tide' that swept across it. And Denver was still IN the
plains. The Governor of Kansas was Denver so the capital of the new western
territory would be Denver and the new settlers carried his edict. His 'Arapaho
Country' was actually (according to the Laramie treaty of 1851) owned by the
Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne. But by winter the horde of settlers had begun
'towns' such as Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver.
In December William wrote to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs urging that
the govenment take action to settle affairs. This resulted in William himself
being appointed by President Buchanan in 1859 as the local Indian Agent,
against William's will. But he carried out his new duties as best he could.
Enroute home he stopped in Denver where Dick Wootton was now a leading citizen
known as "Uncle Dick'. And Ceran was bringing goods from his own
properties in New Mexico to sell at good profit to the thousands of newcomers.
Louis Vasquez and Jim Beckwourth soon joined the trade, bringing goods from
In September William started back to St. Louis with an unsuccessful visit to
the Comanchee and Kiowa. There, in October he wrote another report to
Washington, urging prompt efforts to separate and protect both sides. But the
Army was already preparing a new punitive expedition commanded by Major John
In July 1860 William was back at his fort at Big Timbers to distribute the
annual subsidy. There were 3,000 Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Apaches waiting. The
Comanchee and and Kiowa were boycotting. Major
Sedgwick had attacked
them. Sedgwick needed as safe place to store his gear over winter and talked
William Bent into leasing the stone fort for $65 a month. This turned out to be
a big mistake for William, as he didn't get paid for years. After that, in
September he resigned and recommended Albert Boone as the new Indian Agent.
In February 1861 Boone arrived and made many mistakes in his dealing with the
Cheyenne. William moved to develop his ranch on Purgatory Creek with Robert
assisting and his daughter, Mary Bent Moore with husband and child arrived as
well. He was hoping that George and Charles would finish their schooling in St.
Louis and join.
But then the Civil War began and George and Charles enlisted in the Confederate
Army. Missouri was the center of border war between Northern and Southers
adherents. But William was loyal to the North and engaged in contracts to
transport Union military supplies. In 1861 Ceran St. Vrain was appointed
commander of the New Mexico volunteers, but being 61 years old resigned the
command to his Lieutenant Colonel, Kit Carson. In 1862 Colorado volunteers with
Colonel Chivington drove the Texas invasion back. Carson was largely busy
forcing the Apache and Navajo to surrender.
The Confederates appointed Albert
Pike to raise cavalry
from among the 'civilized tribes in Indian Territory and the plains. William
managed to keep the Arapaho and Cheyenne from joining and preserved Forts Lyon
(renamed Fort Wise) and Larned for the Union. In 1862 Cheyenne and Arapaho
chiefs visited Washington to assure their loyalty. But Pike did recruit several
'regiments' of Cherokee. Against Pike's advice, however, the Cherokee did
participate in the Battle of Pea Ridge, as did George Bent. He was captured in
1862 messages the battle of Corinth. He was released due to the great influence
of his father and sent to William's stockade. Charles also returned, in 1863,
but then departed to live with his mother's Cheyenne kinsmen. Charles and Julie
Meanwhile, the Sioux had opened warfare in Minnesota. The western frontier
forts were nearly deserted of troops due to the demands for them in the battles
further east. This created panic throughout the plains to Denver and other
Colorado towns as well as in Nebraska and Kansas.
In 1863 Tom Boggs returned from a 5-year stay with his father in California and
decided to work with Lucien Maxwell on a new idea, raising cattle for market.
(See The Great Plains)
In 1864 William led another of his caravans to Westport and on the way
discovered American cavalry units were attacking Cheyenne camps without
warning. Chief Black Kettle was still urging the young warriors to remain
peaceful, despite the killings and appealing to William for help. He sent his
convoy on to Westport and returned to Ft. Lyon to attempt to avert all out
warfare. But, there he met Colonel Chivington, with his volunteers, eager to
gain political stature throughout the plains by killing off the various Indian
tribes. William went alone across the prairie to deliver messenges to Cheyenne.
Chapter XX - The Last Agonies
The Cheyenne responded to William's urging and began assembling on the
Arkansas. Charles and George Bent were with them. William managed to restore a
fragile peace. But, again, several soldiers killed Kiowa and attacked Cheyenne.
War began. The attacks began on the caravans along the northern route to Oregon
and in the white settlements in Colorado and Kansas. The Indians knew how to
perpetrate atrocities on the whites with scalping the least of them. Panic
ensued, travel across the plains ended. Food shortages began in Denver. At
William's urging a delegation of Cheyenne chiefs went to Denver in hopes of
concluding peace. Chief Black Kettle went from the camp on Sand Creek to Fort
Lyon assuring peace. But Chivington wanted war. At Fort Lyon he ordered at
gunpoint to Robert Bent to guide his force to Sand Creek. Robert's brothers,
George and Charles, and sister Julia were there as was Blackfoot John Smith. At
dawn Chivington launched a surprise attack on the sleeping camp. Black Kettle
raised an American flag and a white one. Many of the old chiefs were killed.
Charley Autobees's sons saved Charles Bent. George was severely wounded.
Chivington proclaimed victory over many Indian warriors. Actually the camp held
mostly women and children, who were most of the dead. The warriors were away on
Result? Even more wide spread warfare along the Platte, the chief area in which
the whites were most vulnerable. The Cheyenne warriors 'dog soldiers' with
Charles and George as leaders struck again and again. So did the Sioux, Arapaho
and more of the Northern Cheyenne. They sacked Julesburg twice.
In summer 1865 Congress reacted to public opinion and opened investigations
against Chivington. William Bent and Brigadier general Kit Carson testified.
Both urged that they could still bring about a lasting peace. Meanwhile, the
Pawnee scouts working for the Army in Wyoming killed William's wife, Yellow
Woman. The government confessed to the
Massacre crime and offered reparations and future subsidies but noting more.
Charles Bent continued and expanded attacks in northern Kansas, Colorado and
eastern Wyoming. In 1868 he was wounded by Pawnees and died of malaria.
Back in New Mexico Lucien Maxwell worked to control the entire Beaubien-Miranda
grant. He bought out the heirs except Charles Bent's two daughters and son,
Alfred. Alfred was murdered in Taos in 1865. The courts forced Maxwell to pay
the Bent children $18,000 in 1866. Four years later he sold the huge grant for
William Bent continued in the long distance freight hauling business while
Lucien Maxwell set up a entire town with gristmill and ranches and farms at the
entrance to Raton Pass. Ceran St. Vrain, William, Kit, Lucien, Dick Wootton,
Tom Boggs, Charles Ritz, and John Powers all settled in the area and began
business for the new era. Tom Boggs created Boggsville, now Las Animas. William
and Kit both traveled to Washington on business and back. In 1867 William may
have married Adalina Harvey at Westport. Kit Carson died in 1868 and William
Bent followed him in 1869.
Notes and Bibliography
- Considering the peripatetic life the individuals who populate this story led,
it is amazing how much written documentation was created and still exists. Of
course in those days writing letters was a standard activity and many families
kept the correspondence. As government officials, off and on, or as supplicants
to the government their letters and reports were kept in the National Archives
or other repositories. Some of them, such as Kit Carson, became national heroes
and even legends in their own time so generated much public press and even
books. David Lavender has found this material in many places and provides
excellent detail on where one can find it now. The end notes for each chapter
are important in providing dates and more background on the families of the
- The shift from the Native Americans hunting buffalo on the southern plains to
large scale cattle raising that the author's protagonists considered in the
last years described here did come to pass. It is a major theme in Walter
Prescott Webb's account - The Great Plains. At its peak hundreds of thousands
of cattle raised on open ranges were driven north to be transported east by
railroad. But this, too, didn't last, as farmers occupied the ranges and used
the newly invented barbed wire to fence off their farms.
Bent's Fort has now been reconstructed and is open as a monument. There are
photos of it on various web sites.