Ceran St. Vrain

May 5, 1802 - October 28, 1870

St. Vrain, Ceran, frontiersman (May 5, 1802-Oct. 28, 1870). Born in St. Louis County, Missouri, he received some education. St. Vrain was raised by Bernard Pratte Sr., and in 1824 formed a partnership with Francois Guerin, with Pratte-supplied goods went to New Mexico, arriving at Taos in March 1825. St. Vrain dissolved the partnership (and soon entered another), disposed of his goods at a profit, and returned to St. Louis in 1826, bringing another supply of trading items to Taos that summer. He trapped beaver in Arizona and elsewhere, and in late 1827 reached the North Platte River at North Park, Colorado, trapping and trading; the leader of the expedition, S.S. Pratte, died from a hydrophobia dog bite and St. Vrain took over its direction. One of the party, Thomas Smith, got his pegleg that winter; a successful spring hunt preceded the return to Taos in 1828. By late 1830 St. Vrain entered a business arrangement with Charles Bent, the firm, Bent and St. Vrain, becoming one of the great establishments of frontier history, always highly respected. Their fur trade, amounting up to $40,000 annually, ranked them next to the American Fur Company. The firm erected Fort William, near present Pueblo, Colorado, in 1833, and Bent's Fort in 1834. St. Vrain, who also maintained a home and interests at Taos, spent much time at Bent's Fort, trading with a spectrum of Indian tribes and incidentally hosting countless visitors form the states, some of them notables. The company established other posts, St. Vrain visiting them all, occasionally going east as far as Washington, D.C., on business. The influence of the firm extended from the Sioux in the north to the Comanches and Apaches in the south; Bent and St. Vrain worked well together, both highly regarded for business acumen and as gentlemen. St. Vrain became part owner of a huge land grant in New Mexico in 1844, although this led to legal difficulties after the American takeover of the southwest. With the Mexican War impending, Charles Bent and St. Vrain hurried to Missouri, visiting Kearny at Fort Leavenworth enroute, and supplying him with information about New Mexico, the personalities influential in the territory, and other matters. St. Vrain organized a force at Santa Fe to put down the Taos insurrection, becoming involved in one incident when his life was in danger, after Charles Bent's murder. Bent, St. Vrain and Company was reorganized as St. Vrain and Bent, with William Bent as junior partner, but St. Vrain withdrew in 1850, diversifying his business interests. As a lieutenant colonel of mounted volunteers he helped subdue the Utes and Jicarilla Apaches in 1855; he served briefly as colonel of the First New Mexican Cavalry in 1861. From 1855 until his death he lived at Mora, New Mexico, where he died. He had been married four times, fathering a child by each wife. An estimated 2,000 attended his funeral, St. Vrain being buried at Mora "after a life full of accomplishments, service and honors."


David Lavender, Bent's Fort. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday & Co., 1945; Guy L. Peterson, Four Forts of the South Platte, Fort Myer, v., Council on America's Military Past, 1982.