The following, used by permission of the Colorado Historical Society, was published in "The Colorado MagazineVol. XXIX issue Number 4, dated October, 1952.  This document is reproduced here complete with any original errors.  Any remarks by the webmaster are enclosed in {brackets}.   Toward the end of this paper, the late Mr. Hafen relates a story written by Marshall Cook which tells of an Indian massacre at the hands of Marcellin St. Vrain.  In light of the documented good character of Marcellin St. Vrain and his friendships with and reliance upon the Native American people of his time, this story seems extremely unlikely to say the least.  However, it is included here because of my desire to present the whole paper in its unedited form..  There does remain to this day, however, the question of why Marcellin suddenly left Colorado and moved back to St. Louis.  Perhaps this will always be THE mystery of St. Vrain's Fort!
Fort St. Vrain
LeRoy R. Hafen
As a suppliment to their famous Bent's Fort on the Arkansas, the Bent and St. Vrain Company established on the South Platte the fur trade post of Fort St. Vrain.  The river valley from the mount of Platte Canyon, above Denver, to the vicinity of Beaver Creek (site of present {city of} Brush), was prized Indian country, the special homeland of the Arapahoes and a region frequented by the Cheyennes and Sioux and occasionally visited by the Crows, Pawnees, Shoshones, and Blackfeet.  This valley was good territory for trade with the Indians and to it the white fur men came with their blankets, beads, and trinkets to barter with the natives.

As the demand and price for beaver skins declined in the 1830s the economic base of the fur trade of the area had shifted from beaver pelts to buffalo robes.  Whereas the pelts had been procured by white trapping, the robes were "made" by the Indians and were obtained through trade with them.

To handle the traffic a number of trading posts sprang up in the West.  The most famous of these in the Southwest was Bent's Fort on the Arkansas.  The role of this notable institution is reserved for discussion at another time.  From that principal fort, Bent and St. Vrain had been sending trading agents to the South Platte region for a number of years before they established a regular post in the area.

Louis Vasquez and Andrew W. Sublette, who were operating in the South Platte district during the early 1930s, were the first to buiild an adobe fort as a trade center and depot in the area.(1)  The advantages thus gained induced other traders to make their competition more effective by building similar posts.  Three additional trading posts, or forts, were erected along the South Platte in 1837.  These were:  Fort Lupton, built by Lancaster P. Lupton;(2)  Fort Jackson, by Sarpy and Fraeb;(3)  and Fort St. Vrain (first known as Fort Lookout), by Bent and St. Vrain.  Our present concern is with the last named post.  It was located on the east side of the South Platte, near the edge of the bluff overlooking the river bottom.  The fort was about six miles northwest of present Platteville and about one and one-half miles below the mouth of the St. Vrain fork of the Platte.

Contemporary data about this fort and its competitors during the first years are very fugitive and fragmentary.  But let us assemble the references available.

In 1836 Robert Newell was employed by Bent and St. Vrain and reached Bent's Fort in July.  That fall he accompanied William Bent to the South Platte and then was given barter goods and was directed to trade with the Cheyennes throughout the winter.  He returned to the Arkansas in the spring of 1837 and settled his accounts.

In May I left the South Fork platte. [writes Newell] returned to the arkansas fort Settled with Bent & St.vrain returned to the platte with animals delivered up my winters trade made preparations to leave the mountains  in a few days all was ready  we left Sublette & Vasques fort on the 19th of may   our party now consists of three P thompson myself and a man we engaged to assist us in packing our little bagage  Sublette & Vasques fort is about 12 miles from the mountain near longs peak(4)

Apparently, when he left the South Platte in May to go with Philip Thompson to the Green River country, Fort Vasquez was the only trading post on the South Platte.

Bent and St. Vrain's adobe fort must have been erected in the summer and fall of 1837.  The earliest document we have found that names this post is a receipt to "Frab and Sarpie" for $32, signed by Bent and St. Vrain, and dated "Fort Lookout, April 11, 1838."(5)  

The one-year trading license issued by William Clark to Bent and St. Vrain on July 26, 1838, listed the following places for trade with the Indians:  "At Fort William [Bent] on the North side fo the Arkansas River 40 miles north of the Spanish Peaks. . .  At Fort Lookout, on the South Fork of the River Platte, about 15 miles east of the Rocky Mountains, and twelve miles above the junciton of the Cache la Poudre with the Platte; . . ."(6)  The similar license of July 30, 1839, also listed Fort William and Fort Lookout as authorized places for trade by Bent and St. Vrain.

The volume of trade on the South Platte was not sufficient to support four trading posts, so most of them were shortlived;  and even the last survivor was not maintained the year round after the middle 1840s.

The first to be given up was Fort Jackson.  In July, 1838, Sarpy and Fraeb sold the post and all its contents to Bent and St. Vrain.  The transfer was effected in October, as reported by Abel Baker, Jr.  He wrote to his former employers as follows from "Fort Lookout April 1st, 1939." {should read 1839}

Your favor of the 25th July last came duly to hand pr Mr. Wm Bent Oct 3rd last upon receipt of which I delivered Messrs. Bent St Vrain & Co. Fort Jackson, with its merchandise Peltries live Stock, untensils etc etc with an inventory of the same . . .(7)

The South Platte forts were visited in 1839 by a number of travelers, one of whom has given us some data about the posts.  This visitor was F. A. Wislizenus, a German doctor from St. Louis, who had followed the Oregon Trail to Fort Hall and was returning to the States by way of Fort Davy Crockett and the forts on the South Platte.  Writing in German, he spelled the names of the three occupied forts as he pronounced them:  "Penn's [Bent's] and St. Vrain's fort, Vasquez and Sublett's and Lobdon's [Lupton's] fort."  "The construction," he continued, "is the customary one; the outer walls are of half-baked brick.  There is much rivalry and enmity between the three forts."(8)

Robert Shortess and a part of the orginal T. J. Farnham Company, heading for Oregon, spent six weeks at Bent and St. Vrain's fort on the South Platte in the fall of 1839.  Shortess, in the account of his journey, does not describe the fort , but merely reports:  "There were at that time three forts within 10 miles on the South Platte, viz.:  Lubton's, Sublette and Vasquez', Bent and St. Vrain's."(9)

Fort Vasquez was sold by Vasquez and Sublette in 1840 or 1841, to Lock and Randolph, who abandoned the post in 1842.(10)

On his first far western expidition J. C. Fremont, on July 9, 1842, reached the camp of Baptiste Charbonneau,(11) the son of Scajawea, the famousBird Woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their epic journey to the mouth of the Columbia in 1805.  Charbonneau was an employee of Bent and St. Vrain and was boating furs down the South Platte River from their fort.

Upon reaching Fort St. Vrain the next day Fremont wrote a good description of the country, but did not describe the post.  He added:

At the fort we found Mr. [Marcellin] St. Vrain, who received us with much kindness and hospitality, Maxwell had spent the last two or three years between this post and the villiage of Taos;  and here he was at home, and among his friends, Spaniards frequently come over in search of employment;  and several came in shortly after our arrival.  They usually obtain about six dollars a month, generally paid to them in goods.  They are very useful in camp, in taking care of horses and mules and I engaged one, who proved to be an active, laborious man, and was of very considerable service to me.(12)

Rufus B. Sage, a New Englander who was traveling in the Rocky Mountain region with a view to writing a book about his travels and observations, visited Bent and St. Vrain's fort in September, 1842.  The name of the post had been changed from Fort Lookout to Fort George, presumably in honor of George Bent, one of the Bent brothers.  Sage writes:

Twelve miles below Fort Lancaster [Lupton] we passed Fort George [St. Vrain], a large trading post kept by Bent and St. Vrain.  Its size rather exceeds that of Fort Platte, previously described;  it is built, however, after the same fashion--as, in fact, are all the regular trading posts in the country.  At this time, fifteen or twenty men were stationed there, under the command of Mr. Marsalina St. Vrain.(13)

On his second western expedition Fremont spent July 4, 1843, at Fort St. Vrain.  With him was William Gilpin, later to become the first governor of Colorado.  Gilpin subsequently told of their celebration of Independence Day.  They raised the flag, fired a salute from Fremont's howitzer, and served cake and ice cream.  The fruit cake had been made by Senator Benton's niece at St. Louis, milk came from the goats at the fort; and snow for the freezing from Longs Peak.(14)

In the Fremont party was a good journalist, Theodore Talbot, who has given us our first descripiton of the fort:

About noon we reached "Fort George" or as it is more commonly called "St. Vrain's Fort."  Here we were hospitably received by Marcellin St. Vrain, Bourgeois or principal officer, James Barry, Clerk and Mr. Ward,(15) Chief Trader.  We camped opposite the main entrance.  The fort is built on an elevated level near the river.  It is built of "Adobes", or unburnt bricks and is quadrangular, with bastions at the alternate angles so arraged as to sweep the four faces of the walls.  The main entrance is guarded by heavy gates and above by a tower.  There is a small wicket in one of the bastions occasionally used when trading.  The interior or court is surrounded by houses one story high, on one side is the "Korall" or pen for the cattle and horses.  The wall is built sufficiently above the houses to make a good breast-work to their roofs.  An Arapahoe war party on their way to the "Youtas" arrived at the Fort this evening, so for safety we placed our animals in the Fort korall.(16)

The rapid decline of the fur trade and the effects on trading posts are indicated in these letters of Solomon Sublette written from Bent's Fort on the Arkansas, Mary 5, 1844:

Trade in this country was very high last winter I do not think that there will be one of them clear expenses there was more goods in the country than there was robes to trade them even at the high prices they were given.(17)
. . . it was remarkable pleasent winter we had more snow last month than we had all winter Messrs ent St. Vrain & Co. are going to take all of their robes down in waggon they are of the opinion that boats cannot get down this season  Bufalo was very scear last Season & Indians made but few robes there was not more then 280 packs made on the South fork and not much more on the Arkansas there was a pleanty of goods for the robes and they paid a high price  The Chiennes are at presasen down near the crossing of the Arkansas and there is no Bufalo nearer then Beaver Creek the Indians threatens to kell all the young Bufalo that the whites attempt to take down for they say that they Bufalo are all a following the calves to the States [white traders had taken some buffalo calves down to St. Louis].
I shall leave here in the morning for the South fork with M St Vrain  they have avacuated their Fort on the Platte in the Summer and only intend to keep it up in the winter.(18)

A month later Solomon wrote from the South Platte that he was going to the mountains to try to catch some bighorn sheep and antelopes for his brother, William, and continued:  "I am in company of M. St. Vrain, Ward, and Shavano(19) who are in the same business as myself."(20)

It would appear that Marcellin St. Vrain was back at the fort, temporarilty at least, in the winter of 1845, for he wrote from "Fort George, Mar. 3, 1845" to Antoine Leroux at Taos, New Mexico:  "If you will have the kindness to let Mr. Andrew Sublette have a mule on my account I will be much obliged to you and well settle with you for the same.  Yours truly, M. St. Vrain."(21)

When Colonel Stephen W. Kearny led his Dragoons to the mountains in the summer of 1845 he found Fort St. Vrain unoccupied.  Captain P. St. George Cooke, of the military party, reported that in moving up the South Platte above the month of the Cache La Poudre they passed the "ruins of several adobe trading posts."(22)

Frances Parkman's tour of 1846 into the West is described in his classic Oregon Trail.  Of his visit to Fort St. Vrain he wrote:

At noon we rested under the walls of a large fort, built in these solitudes some years since by M. St. Vrain.  It is now abandoned and fast falling into ruin.  The walls of unbaked bricks were cracked from top to bottom.  Our horses recoiled in terror from the neglected entrance, where the heavy gates were torn from their hinges and flung down.  The area within was overgrown with weeds, and the long ranges of apartments once occupied by the motley concourse of traders, Canadians, and squaws, were now miserably dilapidated.  Twelve miles farther on, near the spot where we encamped, were the remains of another fort, standing in melancholy desertion and neglect.(23)

The Colorado goldseekers of 1858-1859 who followed the Platte River trail noted the ruins of the old trading posts beside the river.  Jake Gilfillin recorded in this diary on October 21, 1858:

Had breakfest early, and started ahead on my horse to make the old fort.  Rode eight miles and saw in advance the low, broken walls of old Fort St. Vrain.  Soon we were by it, and I was the first to ride into the square though one of the ruined gateways.  It is built of adobes, or sun dried bricks;  the walls in places twelve feet high; in other places fallen down.  Inside, the buildings stand all round the walls.  At the northeast and southwest corners, there are circular towers, built some twenty feet high for watch towers.  The whole is built in the form of a square; located on a point of high table land that runs into a bend of the river and fronting a bold bluff on the opposite shore, and is, I think, a very judiciously selected site for observation, strength, security and convenience, and has been a safe stronghold against Indians.  It is now tenantless.  There is considerable timber in the vicinity and plenty of good grazing.(24)

Sameul S. Curtis, prominent Denver pioneer, wrote from the mouth of Cherry Creek November 24, 1858:

Fort St. Vrain is about 50 miles below here.  It is a well built adobe fort, about 100 feet square, with buttresses on the South East and North West corners.  About seven miles South of it there is another fort, and one about six miles this side of that.  They are all about the same size, and appear to have been abandoned about the same time. (25)

Mr. S. Davis, one of the '59ers, recorded in his diary on June 20, 1859:

Went on and camped at St. Vrain's fort.  It is an old mud fort.  No one lives here at the present time and has not for years.  The roof has been torn off and the fort is going to Ruin very fast.(26)

The post was visited the same year by Rev. W. H. Goode, enroute to his ministerial assignment.  He reports:

A reach of forty miles brings us to old St. Vrain's Fort, near which we had a quiet Sabbath.  I inquired its history from a white man, whom I found seated in his lodge with his two squaws and a lot of papooses.  He says it was built by Colonel Bent, for trading purposes.  St. Vrain became his partner, and it took his name, thus distinguishing it from two forts on the Arkansas that bear the same name of Bent, "Old" and "New."  On Monday morning we examined it.  It covers an area of perhaps one hundred and fifty feet square, walls and buildings of adobe, wall from ten to fifteen feet high, sufficient to garrison two hundred men.  Projections at the corners--I forget the military name--with port-holes to rake the walls with a shot.  Has been a place of considerable strength, now abandoned and in decay.  Adobe formed from this soil resists the weather better than any I have seen elsewhere.(27)

Land claims in the vicinity of Fort St. Vrain were taken up in the summer of 1859.  In the fall the settlers, in typical pioneer fashion, organized a Claim Club to authenticate their land holdings.  Then they platted "St. Vrain City" near the fort.(28)  When W. D. Anthony, Colorado pioneer, passed the place in June, 1860, the town consisted of three frame houses.(29)

When Weld County (one of the original seventeen counties of Colorado Territory) was organized in 1861, the town of St. Vrain was designated the County Seat.  The place did not prosper.  Colony towns founded in the early seventies quickly outstripped it.  It lost its post office to Platteville.(30)  The old adobe fort was not put to use nor protected,.so it continued to deteriorate.

Governor Alva Adams and the well known historian, Dr. Elliott Coues, visited the ruins of Fort St. Vrain June 29, 1898.  They were accompanied by a Rocky Mountain News reporter, who wrote in his paper (June 30) some description of the Fort.  He said the walls had evidently been ten to twelve feet high, that there were gateways on the east and south sides, that the base of the north wall was nearly intact, that the west wall was about half gone, and the south wall had largely disappeared.  A round tower stood at the southwest corner, and several portholes were still to be seen in the crumbling walls.

On April 13, 1903, F. W. Cragin, of Colorado Springs, and J. S. Snook, Weld County Superintendent of Schools, visited the ruins.  Mr. Cragin, avid researcher in Western history, especially regarding the Fur Trade period, took measurements of the post, and wrote the following excellent description of what he saw at the site.  This descriptiuon is perserved in the Cragin Collection of historical materials at the Pioneer Museum at Colorado Springs, and was graciously made available to the writer for inclusion in this article.

Total length of fort proper (exclusive of the bastions, which would, if included, somewhat increase these dimensions), 128 ft. nearly north to south;  total width of fort proper, 106 ft. nearly east and west.  Supposed front of the fort looks a few degrees to the south of east.  There have been two bastions, one on the S.W. and one on the N.E. corners;  that of the N.E. corner is now reduced to a mere semicicular faint rise of ground, representing the melted down remnant of such of the adobes as have not been removed from this bastion for building by the settlers of 1858 and later;  but of the base of the S.W. bastion, a portion 3-3/4 ft. high remains, and this shows a diameter of 19 ft. from exterior to exterior.  The thickest preserved protions of the adobe walls of the fort are 2 ft. thick.  The highest remaining parts of the wall are about 6 ft. high, viz., parts of the south and east walls, near the southeast corner.  The west wall stands 2 or 3 ft. high in places.  The north wall stands about a foot high on its south face, but its north face has been broken down to a slope by weathering.  Besides the south remnant of the east wall, there is a north remnant  3 or 4 ft. high of that wall, and these two east wall remnants are separated by a gap which seems to represent the former great doorway or gate of the fort.  Mr. Snook thinks that the fort stands on section 25, Tp.4N., R. 67 W.

Within the fort, and not far from the southwest bastion, there is a well or cistern; which seems to have had somewhat the form of a cistern at the top, and to have been walled with a poor lime (or possibly ash) morter, now soft and badly decayed.  This well is largely filled by caving in, but still has a depth of about five ft.

The imbedded and very rotten remnants of palisades or posts in a partial row running east and west within the fort, parallel with the south wall, and about 12 or 13 feet from it, seem to indicate a row of rooms of that depth along that end of the fort; and a slight ridge of dirt about 24 ft. south of the north wall may indicate a former wall separating off a large room or rooms along that side of the fort's interior.  There are also some indications of former adobe walls along the east and west sides of the fort's interior; viz. in elevations and depressions of the dirt.  But this is obscured by the dust and debris which has settled to a considerable thickness all over the interior of the fort, especially near the outerwalls of it.

In the interior, about 30 ft. south of the north main wall and about midway of the width of the fort, is an old adobe fire-place or hearth, baked red by fire, and having still considerable ashes.  It represents apparently a former double fire-place and chimney; or possibly an old forge.  All that now remains of it is two partial beds or hearth-floors of (mostly soft and decomposed) red adobe.

Outside of the fort proper, parallel with and about 15 ft. north of its north wall, is a ridge of earth a foot or two high.  Digging into this, Mr. Snook found old and soft adobes, laid up apparently in the form of a wall some two ft. wide, the faces and corners remaining as square as when they first came out of the gang-molds, but laid up (unlike the walls of the fort itself) without morter, that is, laid in close contact with each other.  They may have been palced there as an extra supply of adobes for repairs or later building when the fort was built;  as old Sybille stated to Mr. Frances W. Hammitt that adobes found in mounds, near the fort commonly led "Ft. Vasquez" by early settlers, had been placed in mounds at time of building of Ft. Vasquez and covered over thickly with clay, so as to keep them dry and well preserved for future use.  Or the old wall of compactly placed adobes may possibly represent an outer inclosure, adjoining the fort, made either contemporaneously with the building of the fort itself or for stock-ranch purposes.

Mr. Frances W. Hammitt states that Mr. R. L. Lumry of Ft. Collins, Colo., was living, in about '58, '59, '60, or '61, in a small house built adjoining Ft. St. Vrain;  was ranching there, and used the fort as a corral.

Fort St. Vrain stands on a somewhat westwardly projecting point of land, or brow on the east side of the South Fork of Platte river, which here runs north-easterly, passing the fort at a distance of about a half mile northeast of it.  It is so situated as to overlook the main bottom-land on north, west, and south.  It is perhaps about a mile below a point opposite the mouth of St. Vrain creek.  The bottom land is in part rather sparingly timbered with cottonwood.  On the opposite, that is west, side of the river, are low bluffs, consisting mainly of yellowishrown sandstone.  The highest point of these bluffs is know as "Wildcat mound," and is a little west of north from the fort, from any of the easterly directions, Long's Peak bears somewhat south of true west from the fort.

The morter used between the adobes is simply mud, in part of the same color as the adobes themselves and in part of a somewhat more reddish color.

There was some appreciation for the fort's historical importance.  In 1911 the Centennial State Chapter (Greeley), Daughters of the American Revolution, erected a monument on the site.(31)  The person featured for honors at the dedication was Mary St. Vrain Sopris, the daughter of Marcellin St. Vrain, major domo of the fort throughout most of it's active years.  Mrs. Sopris is recorded as having been born at the fort on March 10, 1848.(32)  This would have been during a temporary winter occupancy of the post.

Marcellin St. Vrain, who was usually in charge of the fort, appeared to have dropped out of sight; and what became of him had, to students of the fur trade period, been a mystery.  So it was a delightful surprise when Paul A. St. Vrain, a son of Marcellin, presented and published his father's story in 1944.(33)  Marcellin's sudden disappearence from the West is thus explained by the family.  While Marcellin was engaged in a friendly wrestling match with an Indian, the latter suffered an injury from which he died.  The Indian's relatives did not look upon the death as accidental, so Marcellin was advised to leave at once for the States.  He did so.

In Missouri Marcellin St. Vrain married Elizabeth Jones Murphy on June 26, 1849.  They settled in Ralls County, Missouri, and there reared a family of  ten children.  He established the first flour mill in the county and operated it until his death, on March 4, 1871.  His Missouri wife died December 4, 1880.(35)

We now present the story of a trajedy that is said to have occurred at Fort St. Vrain.  The story appears rather fantastic and we have found no contemporary records or accounts to substantiate it.  It was written by Marshall Cook, a well known pioneer who came to Colorado in the gold rush and was one of the founders in 1858 of Arapahoe City, located on Clear Creek, about two miles east of Golden.  He says the story was told him by Chief Friday of the Arapahoes.  Friday was the educated Indian whom Thomas Fitzpatrick, famous fur man and Western guide, had found as a boy and took back to be educated in white man schools.  Upon reaching manhood, Friday returned to his Arapaho people.  He finally went to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

Here is the story written by Marshall Cook and contained in his extensive long-hand manuscript which was given to me for the State Historical Society in September, 1932, by Cook's daughter, Mrs. H. A. Clingenpeel of Johnstown, Colorado.

The St. Vrain brothers built Fort St. Vrain at the great Bend of the Platte on the south and east side, after the plan of all Mexican hyciendas, a thick high wall with watch towers at the diagonal corners for the protection of the wall and Fort.  The tower being two story high with port holes through the walls and a fire place on the inside for the comfort of the watch man in cold weather.  The walls of the fort composed a part of the building which was built on the inside of the main walls  the center of these inclosures was used to corrall the stock belonging to the post in times of danger, and also with a well to furnish water in case of a seige and with underground passage that was connected with the main building by a trap door the out side opwning of the pasage way was concealed by placing some split timber over the entrance, with a light coat of earth over, could be displaced from the inside to allow a party to escape under cover of darkness of night, in case they were about to be over powered by a foe superior in numbers.  And huge gate for the admittance of the stock which was alway when occupied kept locked.  If many of these old Forts could talk what history would have been revealed, especially Fort St. Vrain as before stated built by the St. Vrains--and occupied by them as a trading post while trading with the numberous tribes of Indians that frequented this part of the plains until a difficulty arose betweeen the St Vrain and the Arapahoe Indians  From what the writer could learn from an old Indian a Sub Chief known among the early settlers of the Platte, Thompson, and the Poudre rivers, by the name of old Friday who visited the Fort annaly until the last outbreak along the platte, at the time remembered by all the first settler of Northern Colorado   When Wm. Brush was killed in Summer of 1868, when Friday disappeared all of a sudden to join the main body of his tribe.  During his annal visit to the Fort he would paint his face black come and site on the old walls and mourn and cry in a most deplorable manner.  At times he would rend his excuses for clothing asunder and rave like a maniac and at other he would swey his body from side to side and howl like a wolf in the most agonizing lamentations.  From him the writer learned the caus of his great sorrow.  While the St. Vrain were trading at the old Fort that bears their name, they had occasion to go to St. Louis to dispose of their robes and peltries preparatory to purchasing another stock of goods, leaving a squaw and child with some of  his country men and some Mexicans and some halfbreeds to look after the post during their absence thinking no harm would befall this little band of adventurers as all the men were on friendly terms with the Indians in the vicinity.  the St. Vrain felt well at ease and all went well till about the time that they were expected to return when a large party of Arapahoes assenbld near the post to await their return, when one of the Arapahoes discovered that the Squaw and child belonged to some other tribe that was a common enemy of theirs.  The head chieves of Arapahoes called a council of the braves, in which it was decided to kill and scalp the Squaw and her pappoos to avenge some real or immaginary wrong received at the hands of the Squaws relatives and consequently next day they carried out the decission and expression of council by comeing into the post pretending friendship with their weapons concealed under their robes and blankets over powering the men and Seizing the woman and dispatched her babe immediately using Friday words.  "Kill em quick."  St. Vrain's men buryed their body inside the post.  

The Arapahoes continued to stay in the vicinity of the Fort awaiting the St. Vrains return thinking they had done no harm by killing one or two of their common enemy had not taken into consideration that the chid was near and dear as likewise the mother to one of the St. Vrain.  Who upon his arrival soon assertained the Sad State of affairs, and as quick decided to have revenge.  he kept his own secrecies until he had his plans well matured and not till the day of his revenge did he let his men know his intentions and according to customary rule after returning from the east with a stock of goods, invited all his customers to partake of a feast.  In due time the feast was prepaired but part of it in a very different manner to what had been on previous occasion.  he had the brass cannon that had accompanied the daring Frenchman on all occasion placed in one the watch towers and well shotted for action, with nothing to do when all was in readiness but to apply the match which shoud be the signal for human carnage to commense.  He had provided plenty of ammunition at hand and assigned the piece to his regular gunner to command.  his party was about 75 strong of ablebodied men that were eager to wreak vengeance on the Indians for wrongs received at their hands all well armed to be placed in a secure position at the proper time with order to fire into the Indians at a given signal.  He had procured a fine fat Elk started a fire in the center of the fort and had the elk barbecued.  The Savory oder of elk while cooking attracted the unsuspecting savages to gather around the post but was not permitted to enter it  When all was about in rediness one of the young Indian on the out side of the post was sent to gather all the Indians old and young camped in the vicnity of the Fort to partake of the feast the Indians soon collected congratulating themselves on a sumptious repast.  

When St. Vrain appeared before the gate stated to them that as it was a social feast and none would  be admitted with their fire arms.  No one better understood the Indian nature or had more capacity to act on it that St. Vrain.  Notwithstanding through the imprudence of the Squaw the Indians killed her and the child St. Vrain was very particular to send the Indians word that one Squaw and papposse was not much and for them all to come and be merry  (For he intended soon some of them shall die)  and also that he wished to be friendly in particular with those of the tribe that had slain his squaw and child.  At an early hour as above stated they gather around the post, when all had assembled about the post and everything in readiness he opened wide the gates so they could enter quick which they lost no time in doing, little thinking of the death and devastation that awated them.  He extended them a cordial welcome and invited them, as they gathered around  the feast which had been divided after it was sufficiently cooked and placed on Boxes and end gates of wagon boxes to help themselves these rude table were placed rangeing with the cannon so that a raking shot would kill nearly the whole assemblage at the first fire.  After all were in the gates were casually closed and secured and so perfect was the stratagem that not the least suspicion was suspected on the part of the Indians all being ready when the death signal was given to fire.  When the smoke had sufficiently cleared away it was seen that more than 1/2 of reds had fallen.  The cannon had mowed a road through the living map of human being over fifty feet wide killing or crippling all in its scope  the devastating fire of the small arms nearly completing the work of destruction.  So sudden was the surprise and so terrifying the shock that those of the Indian that had escaped the first fire was so paralized as seemingly to be unable to move a hand or foot.  by the time they began to recover from their lethargy the trappers and teamsters empolyees of St. Vrain poured another deadly fire into the Indians, which fully aroused them to their situation and was thrown into the wildest confusion.  then a huried Scrambel commenced to see who could scale the walls.  a few of the most active only succeeded in getting over  among those that made their escape was Friday leaving his whole family to be numbered among the dead.  the slaughter was kept up until all was killed the most of the Squaws and children fell in the first fire  the second finished the remainder.  St. Vrain immediately cast the bodies into the well until it was full, piled the remaineder in one corner of the corrall covered the pools of blood with the dry manure that had accumulated in the corrall part of the fort.  While some corralled the stock others loaded the wagons and they vacated the post During the night and traveled day and night until they cross the divide at the head of cherry creek, and did not waste much time until they reached Bents Fort, where they found Bent and a large party of trappers and santa Fe trader, which they accompanied into New Mexico.  Friday and his companions lost no time till they mounted their ponies and setout for the main village of the arapahoes which was at the mouth Beaver Creek, some 80 or 90 miles distance down the platte.  after relating what had happened to his party and resting for the night, returned with a large party of warriors under the head chief to the Fort.  To their chagrin the post was vacated.  Friday found part of his family in the pile and part in the well.  With the assistance of his friends and his comrade they collected the bodies of their friends and relatives and conveyed them to the north side of platte river and buried them on a point of land about a mile west of B. H. Hows house and sheep ranch, where they rested in peace until the winter of 1869 and 70 when in constructing the Julesburg Railroad bed the bones were unearthed by John M. Hows and contractor on the part of the road.  And thus ends the early history of old Fort St. Vrain.  and a fatal and mournful event on the part of the Arapahoes.  These Indians were the beings of Self provoked destruction, a cold blooded murder commited on their part on a harmless Squaw and child, and for no reason only that they belonged to another tribe, an enemy.(36)

In 1951 the present owner of the land surrounding Fort St. Vrain undertook extensive leveling operations in the vicinity.  Unfortunately, he removed two to three feet of the surface earth from the site, leaving undisturbed only the central part which supports the large granite monument erected in 1911.  Had the removed earth been carefully examined, such relics as ox shoes, nails, etc., would undoubtedly have been found.  The leveling machine was drug behind  tractor and there was little opportunity to see small relics that may have been in the ground.  

The man who did the actual excavation and leveling was interviewed by the present writer at a ranch adjoining the fort on September 16, 1952:  He said that he found no evidence of the existence of a well within the original enclosure nor of a passageway leading downward and then out through the bank to the river bottom.  He saw no relics in the removed surface earth.

An examination of a considerable section of the site on September 16, 1952, by Robert O'Connell and the writer, using a World War II metal detector, failed to reveal anything significant.


1.  See the articles on Louis Vasquez and A. W. Sulette in the Colorado Magazine, X, 14-21 and 179-84.  Vasquez and Sublette were given a trading license by William Clark in 1835.

2.  See L R. Hafen, "Old Fort Lupton and Its Founder," in the Colorado Magazine, VI, 220-26.

3.  L. R. Hafen, "Fort Jackson and the Early Fur Trade on the South Platte," in the Colorado Magazine, V, 9-17.

4.  "Memorandum of Robert Newell's Travels in the teritory of Missourie," manuscript in the library of the University of Oregon at Eugene, pages 41-42.

5.  This receipt is in the Choueau-Maffit Collection (Cal. No. 726), at the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.  Weather conditions would not have permitted the erection of an adobe fort in 1838, prior to April 11.

6.  Statement of licenses granted by William Clark, in Indian Affairs files, National Archives Washington, D.C.  The preceding license issued to Bent and St. Vrain, on November 8, 1836, was for two years and listed as places for trade:  "Fort William on the north side of the Arkansas River, . . . at a point on the Fork of the river Platte . . . 12 miles above the junction of the Cache la Poudre with the Platte . . ."  It names no fort as being in existence at this point on the South Platte in the fall of 1836.

7.  Colorado Magazine, V, 16.

8.  The edition in English is F. A. Wislizenus, A Journey to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1839 (St. Louis, 1912), 137.

9.  Robert Shortess, Transactions of the Twenty-fourth Annual Reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Association for 1896, 92-107.

10.  Letter of Robert Campbell to W. L. Sublette, dated May 23, 1842, in the Sublette Collection, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.  Also [Rufus B. Sage], Scenes in the Rocky Mountains and in Oregon, California, etc. (Philadelphia, 1846), 208.

11.  For a biographical sketch of Charbonneau see Ann W. Hafen, "Baptiste Charbonneau, Son of Bird Woman,"  in the Denver Westerners' 1949 Brand Book (Denver, 1950), 39-66.

12.  J.C. Fremont, Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, etc. (Washington, 1845), 31.

13.  Sage, op. cit., 208.

14.  Will C. Ferril's interview with Gilpin, published in the Rocky Mountain Herald (Denver), July 5, 1913; also found in Dawson's Scrapbooks (State Historical Society library), III, 131.

15.  This was either Seth Ward or Elijah Barney Ward.  Both of these men came into the West at about the same time, in the middle 1830s, and had interesting careers here.

16.  C.H. Carey (Ed.), The Journal of Theodore Talbot, etc. (Portland, Oregon, 1931),  23.

17.  Letter written to William L. Sublette, found in the Sublette Collection, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.

18.  Letter of May 5 to Anrew Sublette, Sublette Collection, ibid.

19.  This was probably Baptiste Charbonneau, an employee of Bent and St. Vrain at this time.

20.  Solomon Sublette's letter of June 6, 1844, dated at Fort Lancaster [Lupton], in Sublette Collection, ibid.

21.  Sublette Collection, Missouri Historical Society.  On the note Leroux wrote:  "I have not given Sublette a mule as I have none here at the present."

22.  P. St. George Cooke, Scenes and Adventures in the Army (Philadelphia, 1857), 403.

23.  In chapter 20, Parkman's Oregon Trail.

24.  Printed in the Rocky Mountain News of April 10, 1872.

25.  Council Bluffs Nonpareil, January 22, 1859.  M. D. Downs, writing of his recent trip to the mines, says that he reached St. Vrain's FOrt on October 30, 1858, and continues:  "This was built by, and belongs to, and is used by, traders, and was never occupied by troops.  The bnuigravel, intermixed with deer'sldding is about 200 feet long and 150 feet wide, and divided into several compartments.  The roof is in ruins, but the walls, built of cement and gravel, intermixed with deer's hair, appear durable and solid."--Printed in W. N. Byers and J. H. Kellom, Hand Book to the Gold Fields of Nebraska and Kansas, etc. (Chicago, 1859), 75-76.

26.  New Mexico Historical Review, VI, 394.

27.  W. H. Goode, Outposts of Zion (Cincinnati, 1864), 418-419.  Irving Howbert, who passed the fort in 1860, later gavthis reminescent description:  "The high walls of Fort St. Vrain were built of sun-dried bricks, with buildings of the same material constructed around the inner side."--Irving Howbert Memories of a Lifetime in the Pike's Peak Region (New York, 1925), 16.

28.  The St. Vrain County (Nebraska) Claim Club Records are in the Courthourse of Weld County, Greeley Colorado.  The State Historical Society of Colorado has a typed copy of these records.

29.  Anthony's diary, in the library of the State Historical Society at the State Museum, Denver.

30.  "George A. Hodgson's Reminiscences of Early Weld County," in the Colorado Magazine, XII, 70.

31.  Greeley Tribune, June 22, 1911; Rocky Mountain News, June 22, 1911;  Dawson Scrapbooks, III 129.

32.  She married Hoh Skelley at Mora, New Mexico, in 1867, and had two children--William Robert and Cora.  Later she married E. B. Sopris at Trinidad, Colorado.  She died in Denver on February 14, 916.--W. R. Sopris, "My Grandmother, Mrs. Marcellin St. Vrain," in the Colorado Magazine, XXII, 63-64.

33.  [P.A. St. Vrain], Genealogy of the Family of De Lassus and Saint Vrain (40 pp.) [1944].

34.  See W. R. Sopris, op. cit.

35.  P. A. St. Vrain, op. cit.

36.  According to Mrs. Clingenpeel the manuscript was written by her father in the 1880s.