Ceran St. Vrain

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Ceran St. Vrain
Ceran St. Vrain Portrait.jpg
Ceran St. Vrain portrait
Born Ceran de Hault de Lassus de St. Vrain
May 5, 1802
St. Louis, French Upper Louisiana Territory, present-day St. Louis, Missouri
Died October 28, 1870 (aged 68)
Mora, New Mexico Territory, present-day Mora, New Mexico
Resting place Saint Vrain Cemetery, Mora
Nationality American
Employer Bent, St. Vrain & Company, U.S. Government
Spouse(s) 4 wives
Children 3
Parent(s) Jacques Marcellin Ceran de Hault de Lassus St. Vrain and Marie Felicite Dubreuil St. Vrain
Relatives Felix St. Vrain (brother), Savinien St. Vrain (brother), Marcellin St. Vrain (brother) Charles Emanuel St. Vrain (brother), Domitille St Vrain (brother), Emma De Hault Vrain (sister)

Ceran St. Vrain, born Ceran de Hault de Lassus de St. Vrain (May 5, 1802 – October 28, 1870), was a major fur trader, near Taos, New Mexico, where he and his partner William Bent established the trading post of Bent's Fort. St. Vrain acted as an ally of the new United States territorial governor, Charles Bent, appointed during the Mexican-American War, by raising a force of volunteers and participating with the US Army in suppressing the Taos Revolt. Afterward, he served as a translator in the US military's trial of numerous Mexican and Native American men who had been part of the revolt. Later, St. Vrain settled in Mora, New Mexico New Mexico Territory, where he had a grist mill and supplied the U.S. Army.

Early life[edit]

Ceran St. Vrain was the son of French aristocrats, who came to the United States, in the late 18th century, to escape the French Revolution. His father was Jacques Marcellin Ceran de Hault de Lassus St. Vrain (1770-1818), the third son of Pierre de Luziere. Jacques was previously an officer in the French navy and commander of the King's galiot La Fleche – the Arrow – and captain of militia. His mother was Marie Felicite Chauvet Dubreuil of St. Louis. They were married on April 30, 1796. They had a large family. A brother was Felix St. Vrain, who became a US Indian agent and was killed by the Sauk tribe, in what came to be known as the St. Vrain Massacre, during the Black Hawk War of 1832.[1] They settled near St. Louis, Missouri, where Ceran was born on May 5, 1802. His parents arranged for him to be educated by tutors and in a private school.

Into the fur trade and Bent, St. Vrain & Company[edit]

With the St. Vrain family capital, Ceran St. Vrain became established as a fur trader near Taos, New Mexico. He also trapped near the North Platte River in Colorado. In a partnership with William Bent, St. Vrain formed the enterprise "Bent, St. Vrain & Company". The company's Mexican trade grew rapidly in company stores in Santa Fe and Taos, then a part of Mexico, where their wagon trains made deliveries of goods shipped from Independence and Westport, Missouri. They traded cloth, glass, hardware, and tobacco for silver, furs, horses, and mules.[citation needed]

In 1830, a caravan of traders, on the way to Taos, was intercepted by Colonel José Antonio Vizcarra, sometimes referred to as, "Viscarra"[2]) on the Canadian River. According to Ceran St. Vrain, "The object in coming out so fare to meet us was to prevent Smuggling and it had the desired effeck."[3]

The Bent-St. Vrain Company built Bent's Fort, an elaborate adobe fort, on the eastern Colorado plains, along the Santa Fe Trail. Bent's Fort was the only privately owned fortification in the west. It became a premier trading center and rendezvous point for fur trappers. Bent's Fort has been restored and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Site. Ceran St. Vrain also helped establish what is now called Old Fort Saint Vrain, along the South Platte River.

Mexican-American War and Taos Revolt[edit]

During the Taos Revolt, Ceran St. Vrain organized a volunteer force to support the U.S. re-taking of Taos, during the Mexican-American War. Joining more than 300 U.S. troops in Santa Fe, St. Vrain's 65 men set off for Taos. Along the way, they forced the retreat of some 1,500 Mexican and Indian rebels, who took refuge in a thick-walled adobe church in Taos Pueblo.

During the Siege of Pueblo de Taos, Ceran St. Vrain's "Emergency Brigade" positioned themselves between the church and the mountains. They cut off rebel forces attempting to escape the federal troops' artillery fire and frontal assault. The mounted volunteers reportedly raided the rebels and killed a total of 51 Mexicans and Taos Indians in the fierce, close-quarter fighting that followed.[4] St. Vrain's life was saved by one of his volunteers, a New Mexican named Manuel Chaves. Ceran St. Vrain acted as the translator in the following military trial of numerous captives taken at Taos. Fifteen men were convicted and sentenced to death for treason. They were executed in April 1847.

Grist mill and newspaper[edit]

In 1855, Ceran St. Vrain settled in Mora County, New Mexico, where he built a flour mill. He supplied flour to Fort Union north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Fort Garland in southwestern Colorado. He also began publishing the Santa Fe Gazette newspaper.

Death and burial[edit]

On October 28, 1870, Ceran St. Vrain died at the home of his daughter, Felicitas St. Vrain, in Mora, New Mexico.

After his death, more than 2,000 people attended his funeral, which included the U.S Army garrison from Fort Union. St. Vrain was buried in Saint Vrain Cemetery, Mora, Mora County, New Mexico Territory, now Mora, Mora County, New Mexico,


St. Vrain Canyon, near Lyons, Colorado, and St. Vrain Creek, which flows through into the South Platte River are named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carondelet, Baron. "Letter of Instructions Baron Carondelet, Governor of the Province of Louisiana, to Lieutenant-Colonel Don Carlos Howard". Missouri Historical Society collections, Volume 3. Missouri Historical Society. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Lavender, David (1954). Bent’s Fort (1st ed.). Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co. pp. 103–104. OCLC 26332056. 
  3. ^ Weber, David J. (1981-01-01). The Taos Trappers: The Fur Trade in the Far Southwest, 1540-1846. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-8061-1702-7. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  4. ^ Lavender, David (1954). Bent's Fort (1st ed.). Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co. p. 293. OCLC 26332056. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Broadhead, Edward H. (1987). Ceran St. Vrain: 1802-1870 (2nd ed.). Pueblo, CO: Pueblo County Historical Society. OCLC 16464315. 
  • Lavender, David (1972). Bent's Fort. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-5753-8. 
  • Ronald K. Wetherington, Ceran St. Vrain, American Frontier Entrepreneur, Sunstone Press, ISBN 978-0-86534-858-5

External links[edit]