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Bent’s Fort #397: Clarice Whittenburg Papers

Photo of the foundations of Bent’s Fort along with a sketch of Bent’s Fort from the Frontier Times, August 1966. Box 18, Clarice Whittenburg papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Photo of the foundations of Bent’s Fort along with a sketch of Bent’s Fort from the Frontier Times, August 1966. Box 18, Clarice Whittenburg papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

From the 1830s through the 1840s, Bent’s Fort was one of the premier trading posts of the Great Plains. Located near present day La Junta, Colorado, the fort was a business venture started by Charles Bent. He had been advised by Cheyenne chief Yellow Wolf that the location was well situated for trading with the Native American tribes which inhabited the area.

It was also a strategic site near the route of the Santa Fe Trail. Bent received wagon loads of beads, cloth, ammunition and other staples from St. Louis. He traded these items with Native Americans for buffalo hides, animal pelts and horses. Travelers and emigrants visited the fort for supplies. The U.S. Army used the adobe compound as a staging outpost for the Mexican-American War in 1846.

At its peak, Bent’s Fort did a bustling business and employed as many as one hundred traders, gunsmiths, blacksmiths and clerks.

See the Clarice Whittenburg papers at UW’s American Heritage Center to learn more about the history of Bent’s Fort.

For more information, visit the American Heritage Center site.