Colorado Traders

Colorado traders headed west to set up shop soon after the explorers and fur trappers arrived in the state.


In the 1820's people who had businesses in the east and New Mexico traveled to the state to trade with the Indians and northern Mexico.

Santa Fe businessmen were not allowed to trade with Americans.  New Mexico was still under Spanish rule.

After the Mexicans won their independence from Spain in 1821, the new government made trade with the U.S. legal.


One of the first easterners to take advantage of the situation was a man named William Becknell.

He traveled from Missouri to Santa Fe with loaded pack mules and wagons.  Others followed and by 1825 businessmen were touting great profits from trading with Santa Fe.


Trading brought cash in the form of gold and silver.  Return trips carried cloth and hardware to the eastern U.S.

The trail used by the traders was named the "Santa Fe Trail" and wound up going through dangerous Indian territory.

The dots from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe mark the route.


Many wagons were ambushed and people killed by the natives.  There had to be a better way to trade with the west.


In 1829, the U.S. government started providing military escorts to the businessmen.

In 1832, three men, two of them brothers, Charles and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, had an idea to just stay in one spot and let the Indians and fur trappers bring their goods to them.

These men had also been traders to Santa Fe.  So the men picked their own locale for their stationary business venture.



The spot found was on the Arkansas River near the buffalo hunting grounds.

It was perfect.  These were lands of the Plains Indians living in Colorado. The Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Ute. 

To the south, other bands resided, the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache.

You can see by the map of the Santa Fe Trail that the direct route from Independence, Missouri to Bent's Fort was a lot closer than New Mexico.


Being at the fork of the Santa Fe Trail leading into Colorado, the business grew.  Wagon drivers, other trading parties and Indians were welcome here to rest and do business.

Bent's Fort became one of the most famous trading posts of Colorado and the old west.



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