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Bent's Old Fort

Bent's Old Fort

Bent's Fort was built in 1833 by Williams and Charles Bent and Ceran St. Vain.  The founding of the fort was based on its location.  The fort was located on the north bank of the Arkansas River and was also on the Santa Fe trail, which ran from Missouri to Santa Fe.  This was the major commercial "highway" of the day.  This would be the only stop travelers and trappers could use to relieve their livestock and get supplies between Independence and Santa Fe (known as "the great American desert").  This was the only major permanent white settlement on the Santa Fe Trail.

 Bent's Old Fort Bent's Old Fort

The fort was used primarily for trade and used by travelers, fur trappers and Indians.  The fort had many Indian tribes use the fort, such as Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, Ute, and Akota tribes.  They used the tribes native languages as well as hand signals.  There were about 100 different hand signals developed for communication purposes.  Williams Guerrier and John Smith were the interpreters hired by the fort.  Due to the success of the relationship with the Indians, the fort was used as headquarters for the Upper Platte and Arkansas Indian Agency in 1846.

Bent's Old Fort

During the Spanish-American War, in 1846, American troops were stationed at the fort. This was thought to be an important point to launch an invasion into Mexico.  Disease, disaster and a general decline in business (Indians leaving due to pollution) lead to the forts demise in 1849.  It is thought that William Bent had tried to burn the fort down.  He built an new fort at Big Timber (only 40 miles away) in 1853.  Ceran St. Vrain tried to sell the fort to the U.S. Army, but no sale occurred.

Reconstruction of the fort was completed in 1976.  The park built the fort out of adobe using descriptions made by visitors and archeological finds.

After Bent's Fort
Charles Bent--He became the provisional governor of New Mexico.  He was killed in 1847 by a Pueblo Indian uprising in Taos, New Mexico.

William Bent--He build Bent's New Fort in 1853 at Big Timbers and also served as an Indian Agent.

John Smith--He served as an interpreter for the Cheyenne tribe and went to the white house to act as interpreter for presidents Fillmore, Lincoln, and Grant.

Livestock common to Bent's Fort
Spanish Barb Horse -  These would become the precursors to the wild mustang.  These horses were of Spanish descent and were used for the Pony Express.  The major anatomical difference between this breed and other modern horses is that they have 5 lumber vertebrae vs. 6 in other breeds and they have 17 ribs vs. 18 in other horses.

Oxen -  These animals were primarily of Spanish descent and used to pull  wagons.

Dominique chicken -  This breed of chicken is found in New England.



Typical Goods for Trade
Bells and beads


Gunpowder and powder horns

Beaver pelts and buffalo robestobacco and pipes

Blankets and cloth

Dried food

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