Colorado Trading Posts

drawing of Bent's Fort, one of Colorado trading posts, courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society.

Of all the trading posts that were built during the opening of the west for commerce, Bent's Fort is the most famous.

Built in the 1830's, what made this trading post so special was it was built out of adobe, not the traditional stockade style of logs.

Adobe walls could not be set on fire by raiding Native Americans.  The fort stayed cool in summer and warm in winter.

The climate of the area ran from 100 degrees in the summer to below zero in the winter, so adobe was a very good insulating material.

Bent's Fort was located on the frontier of Colorado, but people who migrated there tried to make it like back home in Missouri.

The Bent brothers made themselves and guests very comfortable.  There was dancing, feasts served on tablecloths and fine china and also a wine cellar.

There were permanent residents of the fort.  Blacksmiths, carpenters, wheel makers, gunsmiths, hunters and scouts.

Some famous people of the west stayed in the fort. 

Lucien Maxwell, for example, who would own over a million acres of Colorado and New Mexico; Baptiste Carbonneau, the son of Sacajawea, who traveled with Louis and Clark in their exploration of the Louisiana Territory; and Kit Carson, the famous scout, trader, and guide.

Many Colorado Trading Posts Were Turned Into Forts

For many years, Bent's Fort provided a haven for travelers and a trading station for the Indians and Santa Fe traders.

All that came to an end around 1845, when the U.S. took over Texas.  Mexico saw this act as war.

Bent's Fort became a military installation, with Stephen Kearney's Army of the West embedded there.

Trading came to a halt.  Settlers, Indians and soldiers became hostile to one another, and conflicts arose.

Charles Brent became governor of the territory, but in 1847 he was attacked and killed by Mexicans and Pueblo Indians.

St. Vrain, who had set up the fort with the Bent brothers in 1832, sold his interest in the trading post to William Bent and moved on.

Trade was slowing.  The Army wanted to buy the fort and William Bent sold it to them.  However, the government didn't give him the price it was worth.  He was angry.

Legend has it that Bent packed up his family and traveled a few miles down the Arkansas River.

Then at night, he came back and set fire to the store rooms and powder magazines then left the fort for good.

Although Bent's Fort was the most famous of the trading posts, others occupied the Colorado Territory as well.

Maurice Le Dolux established a small trading post near Florence, Colorado in the 1830's.

Fort Pueblo was in operation during the 1840's and 1850's until it was destroyed by the Ute Indians.

Fort Uncompahgre, or Fort Robidoux as it was known, was located near Delta, Colorado.

Fort Davy Crockett existed near the Green River.

Along the Platte River, four trading posts were set up along a 20 mile stretch of the river.

Fort Lancaster, which was known eventually as Fort Lupton, was the first built.

Lt. Lancaster Lupton, who led an expedition into the Rocky Mountains in 1835, stopped at Bent's Fort.

He noticed that there weren't any Colorado trading posts on the Platte River. 

He returned back east, resigned his commission and packed up wagon trains full of goods and built Ft. Lupton on the Platte River.

Within a few years, Fort Vrain, Fort Vasquez and Fort Jackson were also built.


A few prices of the wares sold at the trading posts:

Black Powder.....$.33/per pound

Coffee...........$.16.5/per pound

Sugar............$.13.5/per pound

Eventually, trade began to decline and the trading posts of the past are no longer in existence.

However, many of the Colorado trading posts set up in the mid 1830's, became present day cities in Colorado.

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