The main items for trade were buffalo hides, horses and mules, and whiskey. We enjoyed seeing this restored merchantile, complete with sleeping cat!
Here is the inside of the fort, a large courtyard in the midst of the two story walls. Though it was a hot day when we visited, we felt a deep coolness inside each room because of the very thick adobe walls.
This is one of the upstairs rooms.
The fort did a brisk business until the U.S. declared war on Mexico in 1846, and the fort became headquarters for awhile for the army. Charles Bent was appointed governor of the new province which included New Mexico, but was killed in the revolt of the Mexican people. This spelled the end of the era and of the company.
Each of the thick walled rooms inside the Fort had its own fireplace. Very cozy!
Within a few years of Bent's and St. Vrain's deaths, the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and other tribes that had frequented their adobe trading post would all be confined to reservations, and the buffalo herds driven to virtual extinction on the southern plains.
Being a cat lover, I had to revisit the merchantile to see if the cat was still sleeping there. He raised his head to thank me for the pets, very content in his old fort. He was not the only animal we saw there. The Fort had a corral in the back with chickens and a few cows and at least one horse. The adobe walls had cactus planted all around the top, thus discouraging thieves from breaking in.
Before we headed back to La Junta we went a little further east to the small town of Las Animas, and there we found this gorgeous Bent County Courthouse in the middle of the dusty, sleepy town. I believe this town is also along the old Santa Fe Trail, which runs through La Junta, too. There is so much history in this area, and we intend to explore it wherever we can! I hope to go into more detail about Bent's Old Fort on future visits.