Charles Bent

November 11, 1799 - January 19, 1847

Bent, Charles, frontiersman (Nov. 11, 1799-Jan. 19, 1847). born at Charleston in what became West Virginia, he was taken to St. Louis in 1806, and received a fair education. In 1822 or 1823 he became associated with the Missouri Fur Company, but his activities are uncertain although he probably worked in the upper Missouri country. He became a partner in the reorganized Missouri Fur Company in 1825. In 1827 he accompanied his partners to the green River on a trapping-trading expedition, but the following year his attention turned to the Santa Fe trade and in 1829 he captained a caravan to New Mexico, fighting off a large party of Kiowas enroute. The trip proved immensely profitable, Bent returning to the states with furs, specie and mules worth a quarter million dollars. In 1830 he established a business relationship with Ceran St. Vrain largely handling the New Mexico end of the operation and Bent the eastern portion, through not exclusively. By 1833 Bent "was recognized as one of the leading Santa Fe traders," and he continued an average one round rip a year until his death. In 1833 he was a leader in the company's erection of a fort on the Arkansas River in present Colorado, to trade with western Plains and certain mountain tribes. It became the best known and most effective of southwestern forts, its operations vast and profitable, and Charles Bent the most experienced and competent of traders, freighters and empire builders in the region. By 1832 Bent had established a residence at Taos, married a Spanish-American widow of good family and become involved in political and other controversies, developed "special standing" with Governor Manuel Armijo and various leaders. In September, 1846, Bent was named first civil U.S. governor of New Mexico; in December he quelled an incipient revolt, but in the Taos uprising in January 1847, Bent was among those "brutally slain." His death "cut short a life of great accomplishment and great promise."


David Lavender, Bent's Fort. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday & Co., 1954.