Ceran St. Vrain

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Ceran St. Vrain trailhead marker near Jamestown, CO

Ceran St. Vrain (May 5, 1802 – October 28, 1870), also known as Ceran de Hault de Lassus de St. Vrain, 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, where he had a mill and supplied the US Army.

Early life and education[edit]

Ceran St. Vrain was the son of French aristocrats who came to the United States in the late 18th century during 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 Saukees in 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.


With family capital, 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, "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. St. Vrain also helped establish what is now called Old Fort Saint Vrain along the South Platte River.

During the Taos Revolt, 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, St. Vrain's "Emergency Brigade" positioned themselves between the church and the mountains. They cut off rebel forces' attempting to escape the federal troops' cannon firings 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. 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.

In 1855, 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.

After Ceran St. Vrain's death on October 28, 1870, more than 2,000 people attended his funeral. These included the garrison from Fort Union. St. Vrain was buried in Mora with full military honors.

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]