Important Historical Events that Affected Western Colorado

Mexico's Freedom from Spain, Santa Fe Trail, Mountain Men, Fort Uncompahgre

Mexico's Freedom from Spain, Santa Fe Trail, Mountain Men and Fur Trade, and Fort Uncompahgre, 1821-1847

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Mexico's Freedom from Spain 1821

Mexico's Freedom from Spain 1821

Santa Fe Trail 1821 to 1880

Santa Fe Trail, 1821-1880

Mountain Men and Fur Trade 1820's to 1840's

Fur Trade & Mountain Men 1820's to the early 1840's

Fort Uncompahgre 1828 to 1844

Fort Uncompahgre, 1828-1844

Mexico's Freedom from Spain, 1821
Mexico's Flag and Freedom from Spain

       Spain had controlled a large part of southwestern North America and defended their territory from settlers from the new United States of America. However, in 1821 the people in Spain’s colony of Mexico revolted and won their freedom from Spain. Like many newly formed governments, the Mexican government was disorganized and still trying to find its new balance of power.

        The newly formed Mexican government did not have a large enough national army to defend the northern parts of their territory, current day Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Western Colorado. Soon many settlers from the United States of America moved west into these areas. In fact, enough people settled in Texas that for a short while they formed their own country, the Republic of Texas. The Santa Fe Trail was formed and became an important path for traders, mountain men, and other adventurous people to travel west. The Santa Fe trail went through current day parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, and all the way down to Mexico City.

Santa Fe Trail, 1821-1880
Santa Fe Trail 1821 to 1880            The town of Santa Fe was the capital of Spain's colony of New Mexico. When Mexico won its freedom from Spain in 1821, Santa Fe had grown larger and turned into an important trading town for the American southwest. Much of the northern part of Mexico's territory was unsettled by the new country. Mexico used the Santa Fe Trail to help encourage Mexican citizens and bussineses to move into the northern parts of its land.The trail made bringing supplies easier to and from Mexico City and the eastern parts of the United States. The Santa Fe trail went through current day parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico.

        Small trading posts, like Bent's Fort were built by the trail. Many beaver furs, guns, knifes, tools, cotton clothes, food, and other supplies were traded in these forts along the Santa Fe Trail. It became an important path for mountain men and other adventurous people to travel west. After the United States defeated Mexico in the Mexican-American War in 1848, the Santa Fe Trail became an important trail for settlers from the United States traveling west until about 1880 when train travel took over.

Santa Fe Trail Map
Fur Trade & Mountain Men, 1820's and 1830's
Mountain Men and Fur Trade         Ever since the first European immigrants came to North America, the fur trade had become an important business between Europe and the American settlements. Over time, the fur trappers and mountain men would trap most of the animals in an area and move farther west. By the 1820's and 1830's they had over trapped much of the eastern and central parts of the United States and started heading into the Rocky Mountains.

        In addition, beaver skin hats became very popular in the Eastern United States in the 1820's and 1830's, and some men hoping for adventure and fortunes went into the Rocky Mountains and farther west looking for beaver fur and other animal furs. It was a fairly rough and lawless land. Many mountain men died from extreme mountain weather, diseases, injuries, and fights with the Native Americans, the Mexican Army, or other mountain men. The average time spent as a mountain man was less than three years. Most mountain men either died or moved back to civilization.

        By the time mountain men traded their furs for all their needed living supplies, they did not make very much money. First, it was expensive and risky getting food and supplies to the forts. Second, it was expensive and risky getting the furs back east. In addition, there were no other close forts for mountain men to see if they could get a better deal. Most mountain men went back as poor or poorer as when they started their adventure. Though, a few became famous guides to new settlers, like Jim Bridger.


Mountain Man Information

Beaver skin
Beaver Skin Hat
Fort Uncompahgre, 1828-1844
Fort Uncompahgre Historical Museum

      In 1828, Antoine and Louis Robidoux built Fort Uncompahgre. The fort was built by where the Uncompahgre River and Gunnison River came together, nowadays by the current day city of Delta in western Colorado. The area was part of Mexico. However, in reality so few Mexicans lived there that the area was mostly ruled by the Ute Indians. As long as the fort was useful to the Utes, they let it stay open. Antoine Robidoux became a Mexican citizen and got a trading license when he married Carmel Benevedes, the daughter of a Mexican Governer in Santa Fe.

          The fort was not very big. There were a few log building sorrounded by a wood fence. It was an important trading post for local mountain men, Ute Indians, and Mexican people. They would bring furs and other items to trade for food, beads, cloth, and metal tools such as guns, knives, axes, pots, etc. The different traders would also trade and sell slaves they had captured from other Native American tribes. However, in 1844 the Utes got upset with the continually changing Mexican government in Santa Fe and burnt down the fort. Today there is a living History Museum teaching about Fort Uncompahgre in Delta, Colorado.


Fort Uncompahgre History

Fort Uncompahgre Historical Museum