Description of Bents Fort

Rooms in Bents Fort, National Park Service

1) Cooks Room Black Charlotte, the fort cook. and her husband, Dick Green, lived in the room just off the kitchen. The Greens had been Bent family slaves in Missouri. Charlotte was famous from Longs Peak to the Spanish Peaks for her slap jacks and pumpkin pie.

2) Trade Room and Council Room "In the store of the Fort,presumably for sale to trappers and travelers, and for use of the proprietors, William Bent's son, George, remembered, are "such unusual luxuries as butter crackers. Bent's water crackers, candies of various sorts, and most remarkable of all, great jars of preserved ginger.. ." The chief items of trade were buffalo robes, beaver pelts, and horses that the Indians, Mexicans, and mountain men traded for factory made goods from St. Louis .

3) The council room, located next to the trade room served as a meeting place where terms and prices were set between the trader and representatives of the Indian tribes. Peace talks were occasionally held here, and Susan Magoffin mentioned its use as temporary sleeping quarters for a large number of men.

4) William Bent's Quarters There are actually two rooms here: William Bent's office, with an Eastern style fireplace and his adjoining bed room. One traveler reported that the owners of the fort "laid on pallets of straw" and Spanish blankets. This was a Spanish colonial custom, as was the calico wainscoting used to keep the wash on adobe walls from rubbing off on the occupant's clothing.

5) Blacksmith and Carpenter Shop As the principal outpost of American civilization on the southwestern frontier, Bent's Old Fort offered all kinds of accommodations to travelers. By 1846 the fort was a fairly self sufficient institution. Employing about 60 to 100 persons it required the services of numerous tradesmen such as wheelwrights, carpenters, coopers blacksmiths, and gunsmith. Lt. James Abert who stayed at the fort for several weeks in the summer of 1846, said "The ring of the blacksmith's hammer and the noise from the wagoner's shop were incessant." A black smith, carpenter, and related tradesmen worked in these areas throughout the fort's existence, a gunsmith operated here only briefly, during the later years.

6) Laborers' Quarters Laborers from Santa Fe and Taos built and maintained the fort. Their wives assisted in the day to day operation, did cleaning and cooking

7) Trappers' Quarters Many of the mountain men who depended on the fort for supplies were "free trappers"independent souls who paused here just long enough to sell their furs and sample the "civilized" life before they were off again for the mountains with an other year's supplies.

8) Military Quarters When Kearney's Army of the West reached Bent's Fort in the summer of 1846, it brought with it evidence of the rigors of the trail Twenty one men were sick with dysentery and scurvy alone. Six would die here. When the army moved on, those unable to travel were left behind to convalesce.

9) Quarters used by Susan Magoffin Mrs. Magoffin s room, like the adjoining four on this floor and several on the first, usually served as temporary quarters for travelers and fort employees. Most of these rooms were small and sparsely furnished, if at all. Susan Magoffin, enroute to Santa Fe with her husband, spent her 19th birthday here in 1846. She lost a baby during her 1O day stay, but still managed to keep a meticulous diary that stands as one of the most complete descriptions we have of the 1846 fort. Her own furnishings, a bed, chairs, a wash basin, and table, were moved into the room for her convalescence, and she took all of her meals there. The room had a dirt floor and featured two windows, an unusual distinction.

10) Billiard Room Ranking second in pleasure only to drink and tobacco was gambling, and the billiard room was, at once most unusual and the most popular feature at Bent's Fort. "The love of gaming seems inherent in our very natures," the young Lewis Garrard remarked. The original billiard table (the one in the room now is a reproduction) was brought to the fort from St. Louis in the 1830s.

11) Warehouses This row of rooms was used for the storage of furs and trade goods during the winters. In the spring these storehouses were gradually emptied as trading expeditions departed to the surrounding Indian tribes, and wagon trains loaded with furs set out across the plains for St. Louis. For a brief period in the 1 840s this area was also used for storage of military supplies.

12) Dining Room This room, the largest in the fort, was used by traders, trappers, hunters, and all employees. Usually simple fare was provided, but on occasion elaborate meals were served here for celebrated visitors such as John C. Fremont on July 4,1844, and Francis Parkman who, in 1846 was delighted to find "a table laid with a white cloth." One traveler used "Knives and forks and plates" here for the first time in 50 days . Kitchen Dried buffalo meat and bread made of coarse flour were prepared here and considered standard fare at the fort. Opinions about the bread differed but the Comanche Chief Old Wolf definitely considered it fit only "to fuel a smoke-fire for coloring buckskins. "

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