Charles Bent

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Charles Bent
Portrait of New Mexico Territorial Governor Charles Bent, at the Bent Home, in Taos, Santa Fe Territory, Mexico, circa 1846–1847
Governor of New Mexico
In office
September 1846 – 19 January 1847
Preceded byJuan Bautista Vigil y Alarid (last governor of Mexican period of New Mexico)
Succeeded byDonaciano Vigil
Personal details
BornNovember 11, 1799
Charleston, Virginia (present-day West Virginia)
DiedJanuary 19, 1847(1847-01-19) (aged 47)
Taos, Santa Fe Territory, Mexico
Resting placeSanta Fe National Cemetery
Spouse(s)Maria Ignacia Jaramillo
ParentsSilas Bent
RelativesWilliam Bent
Occupationfur trader, soldier, sutler

Charles Bent (November 11, 1799 – January 19, 1847) was appointed as the first civilian Governor of the newly acquired New Mexico Territory by military Governor Stephen Watts Kearny in September 1846.

Charles Bent had been working as a fur trader in the region since 1828, with his younger brother, William and later partner Ceran St. Vrain. Though his office was in Santa Fe, Bent maintained his residence and a trading post in Taos, New Mexico Territory, in present-day New Mexico. On January 19, 1847, Charles Bent was scalped and killed by Pueblo warriors, during the Taos Revolt.

Early life[edit]

Charles Louis Bent was born in Charleston, Virginia, the oldest child of Silas Bent and his wife Martha Kerr.[1]

U.S. Army and Bent & St. Vrain Company[edit]

After leaving the army, in 1828, Charles and his younger brother, William, took a wagon train of goods from St. Louis to Santa Fe. There they established mercantile contacts and began a series of trading trips back and forth over the Santa Fe Trail. In 1832, he formed a partnership with Ceran St. Vrain, another trader from St. Louis, called Bent & St. Vrain Company. In addition to its store in Taos, New Mexico, the trading company established a series of "forts", fortified trading posts, to facilitate trade with the Plains Indians, including Fort Saint Vrain on the South Platte River and Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River, both in Colorado; and Fort Adobe on the Canadian River.[2] Bent's Fort, outside La Junta, Colorado, has been restored and is now a National Historic Site.


In 1835, Charles "Carlos" Bent married Maria Ignacia Jaramillo, who was born in Taos, New Mexico. Maria's younger sister, Josefa Jaramillo, would later marry Kit Carson.[3]

As Mexican-American Territorial Governor during Taos Revolt[edit]

Following the bloodless American victory, during the Mexican–American War, many of the inhabitants of New Mexico were not satisfied with the new American rule. Some mourned the loss of the old connection with Mexico, others feared the loss of their private goods and others hated the new Mexican Territorial Governor, Charles Bent, who served under the U.S. war-time occupation, because of his negative attitude towards Mexicans. In December 1846, the influential families in the state started to plan a revolt against the new rule. The governor and Colonel Price revealed this conspiracy in advance. Some of the Taos Revolt leaders were arrested, but two important leaders of the movement were able to escape.

Scalping and murder[edit]

It seemed as if the rebellion had been put down when Governor Charles Bent issued a proclamation, which some citizens thought was written in an arrogant and overbearing tone. In January 1847, while serving as territorial governor, Charles Bent traveled to his hometown of Taos, without military protection. There he was scalped alive and murdered in his home by a group of pueblo Native American attackers, under the orders of Mexican conspirators, who started the Taos Revolt. Bent is buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe.[4]

The women and children in the Bent home were not harmed by the insurgents, and the remaining Bents fled to safety next door through a hole in the parlor wall.

In the following months, Colonel Price was able to reassure the country. Most rebels were caught and some of them executed. The uprising was finally crushed in July 1847.[5][6][7]


Bent and the renowned frontier scout Christopher "Kit" Carson had married sisters. Maria Ignacia Bent[8] outlived her husband by 36 years; she died on April 13, 1883. The Bents had a daughter, Teresina Bent. Maria Bent and the Carsons are interred at Kit Carson Cemetery in Taos.[9]

Sign directing visitors to Governor Bent Home/Museum and Gallery in Taos

Bent Street, which runs in front of what had been his home in Taos, and Martyr's Lane, which runs behind it, are named for him.

The Governor Charles Bent House is now a museum. An elementary school in northeast Albuquerque is named in Bent's honor.


Bent documented the indigenous peoples of New Mexico in an essay which was published posthumously in Henry Schoolcraft's study of American Indians:

  • Bent, Charles (1846). "Indian Tribes of New Mexico". In Schoolcraft, Henry R (ed.). Information respecting the history, condition and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States. Vol. I. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1851. pp. 242–246.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grinnell, George Bird (1923). "Bent's Old Fort And Its Builders". Kansas State Historical Society Collections (Reprinted ed.). Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society. 15: 1–2.
  2. ^ Lecompte, Janet (1978). Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn: The Upper Arkansas, 1832-1856. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 14–17. ISBN 0-8061-1462-2.
  3. ^ New Mexico history biography of Bent Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Browning, James A. Violence Was No Stranger (1993). Barbed Wire Press. ISBN 0-935269-11-8.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Grinnell, George Bird (1923). "Bent's Old Fort And Its Builders". Kansas State Historical Society Collections (Reprinted ed.). Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society. 15: 21.
  9. ^ Exhibits, Governor Bent Home and Museum, Taos, New Mexico


  • "Charles Bent". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  • Dunham, Harold H. (1965). "Charles Bent". In Hafen, LeRoy R. (ed.). The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade. Vol. II. Glendale, California: Arthur H. Clark Co. OCLC 5504216.
  • Lavender, David (1954). Bent's Fort. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. OCLC 26332056.
  • Lecompte, Janet (1978). Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn: Society on the High Plains, 1832-1856. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-1723-0.
  • Wroth, William H. "Bent, Charles". New Mexico Office of the State Historian. Archived from the original on 2013-10-30. Retrieved 2011-03-31.