Dissolving an Empire: Bent’s Old Fort in 1848

Bent’s Old Fort Volunteers

La Junta, CO – 175 years ago Bent’s Old Fort was a trading post operated by Bent, St. Vrain, & Company as a private place of business that relied on peaceful relations with the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, and other Plains Nations who traded buffalo robes and livestock for the manufactured and commercial goods available at the fort. Bent’s Fort was never occupied or garrisoned by federal troops, however on numerous occasions they did pass by, often camping in the vicinity along the river.

Trader Camp at Bent’s Old Fort

The company also had two other forts they traded out of, as well as a road ranch at the head of the Santa Fe Trail, and stores in Taos and Santa Fe. When war broke out between the United States and Mexico; the company, it’s employees and owners, and their trading partners among the Plains Tribes and in Mexico had drastic changes thrust upon them that would eventually have a lasting effect on everyone involved. In the short term Bent, St. Vrain, and Company, what had been the largest economic force on the Southern Plains, would dissolve its partnership.

Come experience the sights, sounds, and smells of 1848 on Saturday, May 20 and hear firsthand from over forty volunteers portraying fort employees and trading partners about how all these changes altered their lives.

A special Ranger Program will be offered at 10am and 2pm going into detail on the events of 1848.

The park’s fee of $10 per adult (age 16 and older) will apply. Kids 15 and under are free. All National Park Passes are honored.  Fees will be collected at the fort entrance.

As always, visitors should be prepared for the weather.  Water, sun screen and comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Depending on the temperature visitors should dress in layers.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is located on Colorado Highway 194, eight miles east of La Junta or 15 miles west of Las Animas.   For more information, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/beol and click on “Plan Your Visit” and “Calendar” or www.nps.gov/beol/planyourvisit/calendar.htm or call the park at (719) 383-5010.


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