Bent's Fort

views updated May 21 2018

Bent's Fort

Bent's Fort, largest of the trading posts located outside of Mexican territory to capitalize on the potential offered by the Santa Fe trade. Originally known as Fort William, it was built in 1833 near the confluence of the Arkansas and Purgatoire rivers in what is now Colorado. Owners Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain profited not only from the fur trade and the sale of merchandise to surrounding Athabascan-speaking peoples, Mexicans, and Anglos, but also from the traffic in arms and ammunition to Navajos, Apaches, and other native groups who used these weapons to raid northern Mexican settlements. The booty taken in livestock was often sold to Bent's Fort or similar trading emporiums. In this way, U.S. traders influenced shifts in the traditional balance of power and trading relationships among indigenous peoples and Mexicans, which further weakened Mexico's tenuous hold on its far northern territory. With the decline of the fur trade, Bent's Fort lost its strategic importance and was abandoned in 1849.


David Lavender, Bent's Fort (1954).

David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: The American Southwest Under Mexico (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Comer, Douglas C. Ritual Ground: Bent's Old Fort, World Formation, and the Annexation of the Southwest. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Hyslop, Stephen G. Bound for Santa Fe: The Road to New Mexico and the American Conquest, 1806–1848. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.

                                      Susan M. Deeds