Early history of the Arkansas Valley in Colorado

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The early history of the Arkansas Valley in Colorado prior to the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 saw a number of trading posts and small settlements established in the Arkansas and South Platte valleys including Bent's Fort and Fort Pueblo[1]

John Gantt[edit]

Gantt's Picket Post, also known as Fort Gantt, was built near the present-day Las Animas in 1832 by John Gantt and Jefferson Blackwell. It operated as a trading post until some time in 1834. Fort Cass was then built near the present-day city of Pueblo, Colorado by John Gantt,[2] a former Army officer. It was built in May, 1834 on the north side of the Arkansas River about 6 miles below Fountain Creek. His fort was soon attacked by a competing trader, William Bent, manager of a nearby stockade built by Bent, St. Vrain & Company, who attacked Shoshone Indians trading at Gantt's Fort, killing a few and driving them away. Gantt abandoned his fort that winter, as the Bents did their stockade, building Bent's Fort about 70 miles down the Arkansas. The adobe forts were built by Mexican laborers hired for construction and other work. Mexican workmen built permanent adobe forts and trading posts as far north and west as Idaho and were a major part of the frontier workforce forming the foundation of the bi-cultural population of Southern Colorado.[3] The trading post operated until some time in 1835.[2]

Bent, St. Vrain & Company[edit]

Bent, St. Vrain & Company was a partnership formed in New Mexico by Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, traders on the Santa Fe Trail from St. Louis. In 1832 they entered the Indian trade as licensed traders, completing Bent's Fort in 1835 with Charles' younger brother William as manager. William Bent, as well as younger brothers George and Robert later became partners. Marcellin St. Vrain, Ceran's younger brother, who managed Fort St. Vrain for the firm on the South Platte, was never a partner. In addition to Bent's Fort on the Arkansas and Fort St. Vrain on the South Platte the firm maintained a store in Taos managed by Charles Beaubien. The firm's relations with the Cheyenne was cemented by the marriage of William with Owl Woman, daughter of White Thunder, Keeper of the Sacred Arrows of the Cheyenne. A post built on the South Canadian River to trade with the Kiowa and Comanche was only briefly maintained; however, later, two battles were fought at its ruins, by then known as Adobe Walls.[4]

EL Pueblo[edit]

El Pueblo, also called Fort Pueblo, was an adobe settlement and trading post built in 1842 by a group of independent traders at the ford of the Arkansas about half a mile west of the Fountain River.[5] The exact location of the site is somewhat uncertain but is near First Street and Santa Fe Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado. The course of the Arkansas has changed by floods and the ford is gone, as is all surface evidence of the buildings at the fort. [6] The builders of Fort Pueblo included George Simpson, son of a wealthy St. Louis merchant, who at 23 had set out in May 1841 on the Oregon Trail with a mule-drawn wagon. Simpson received a yearly remittance from his father throughout his life. Simpson was side-tracked from his westward journey at Fort Laramie when he was invited by William S. Williams to join a company of fur trappers. However, he never went but was hired by Robert Fisher a trader for Bent & St. Vrain and journeyed down the Front Range of the Rockies to Bent's Fort where he learned the basics of trading with the Indians. Fisher was his principle associate in establishing Fort Pueblo.[7]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lecompte, Janet (1978). Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn: The Upper Arkansas, 1832-1856. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 1–354. ISBN 0-8061-1462-2. Pueblo, Hardscrabble, and Greenhorn were among the very first white settlements in Colorado
  2. ^ a b Jolie Anderson Gallagher (April 2, 2013). Colorado Forts: Historic Outposts on the Wild Frontier. Arcadia Publishing Incorporated. p. PT9. ISBN 978-1-61423-903-1.
  3. ^ Lecompte, Janet (1978). Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn: The Upper Arkansas, 1832-1856. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 10–12. ISBN 0-8061-1462-2. John Gantt was the first to make a business of trading with the Indians on the Arkansas.
  4. ^ 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. By 1842 Bent's Fort reigned supreme in the Arkansas Valley. Competing posts were so short lived that almost no records of them remain.
  5. ^ Lecompte, Janet (1978). Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn: The Upper Arkansas, 1832-1856. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 35–44. ISBN 0-8061-1462-2.
  6. ^ Lecompte, Janet (1978). Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn: The Upper Arkansas, 1832-1856. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 265–267. ISBN 0-8061-1462-2.
  7. ^ Lecompte, Janet (1978). Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn: The Upper Arkansas, 1832-1856. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 3–12, 35. ISBN 0-8061-1462-2.