Ceran St. Vrain (1802-1870) Ė A descendant of French aristocrats, St.
Vrain was born on May 5, 1802 as Ceran de Hault de Lassus de St. Vrain
near St. Louis, Missouri.
When he grew up, he became a trader in the Taos,
area, arriving in 1825.
In 1830, with partner and fellow trader,
William Bent, he formed the
Bent, St. Vrain & Company. Almost immediate successful, their fur trade
amounted to as much as $40,000 per year, almost as much as the
Company. They also made regular trips between Missouri
and Santa Fe,
brining back cloth, glass, hardware and tobacco to trade for furs.
1833, the partnership built Fort William near present-day Pueblo, Colorado,
and the next year, established Bentís Fort,
near present-day La Junta, Colorado.
Bentís Fort became a premier trading
center, as their trading influence extended from the Sioux to the north
in the south. In 1837, they built another trading post called Fort St.
Vrain on the Platte River near present-day Platteville,
Though St. Vrain spent much time traveling and at
Bentís Fort, he also maintained a home and
multiple business interests in Taos, New Mexico.
St. Vrain ran the company stores in Taos and Santa Fe
and served as American consul in Santa Fe
during the 1830's.
Both St. Vrain and the Bent brothers became very influential as they were highly
regarded for their business acumen and gentlemanly ways, and during these
influential times, made occasional trips to Washington D.C.
In 1844, he also partnered with Cornelio Vigil, a prominent Taos trader and
former mayor of Taos, in procuring the Vigil-St. Vrain Land Grant, which
encompassed some 4 million acres spread across south-eastern
However, after the American takeover of the southwest, this led to all types of
legal difficulties with the Mexican-American War impending this led to legal
difficulties, which ultimately led to the grant being decreased to 97,000 acres.
With the Mexican-American War impending, St. Vrain and
Charles Bent rushed to Missouri,
on their way stopping at Fort
where Colonel Stephen W. Kearny was stationed. During their visit, they supplied
the army with information about New Mexico
territory and its influential people.
During the Mexican-American War,
the Taos Revolt began on January 19, 1847 and lasted through
July. The insurrection was against the American occupation of
present-day northern New Mexico.
Taos citizens along with the help of their Pueblo, Apache,
and Kiowa Indian allies, rose up against the Americans.
this time, St. Vrain organized a force at Santa Fe,
to put down the Taos insurrection. Raising some
65 volunteers, they joined more than 300 U.S. troops in Santa
and set off for Taos. Along the way, they forced the retreat
of some 1,500 Mexican and Indian rebels, who took refuge in a
thick-walled adobe church in Taos Pueblo.
During the Siege of
Pueblo de Taos, St. Vrain's "Emergency Brigade" positioned
themselves between the church and the mountains, cutting off
the forces attempting to escape the federal troops' frontal
assault. The mounted volunteers reportedly raided the rebels
and killed 51 Mexicans, Taos Indians, and Apache
Indians in the fierce, close-quarter fighting that followed.
St. Vrain was nearly killed in the battle but was saved by a
man named Manuel Chaves. In the end, the rebellion was
the meantime, his partner, Charles Bent, who had become
the first Governor of the newly acquired
Territory, was scalped alive and killed in his home on January 19, 1847.
St. Vrain withdrew from the trading partnership in 1850 in order to
diversify his other business interests and in 1855, moved to Mora,
where he built a flour mill that supplied Fort Union,
He also began publishing the Santa Fe
Gazette newspaper. He served briefly as a colonel in the First New
Mexico Cavalry in 1861. He continued to live in Mora until his death on
October 28, 1870. More than 2,000 people attended his funeral, including
the entire contingent at nearby Fort Union.
buried at Mora Presbyterian Church Cemetery, in Mora, New Mexico, with full military honors.
During his lifetime, he was married four times, fathering a child by each wife.
Nothing remains of the St. Vrain Fort they built other than a marker. However,
Bentís Fort near La Junta,
has been entirely rebuilt and today, is a National Historic Site.
of America, updated March, 2017.