Fur Trapping Helped Diversify Area
(Reprinted from above link)
Fur trapping during the 19th century in the Weld County area attracted a large mixture of ethnic groups.
Among these were French Canadian, Hispanic, African-American, British, Irish, German, Russian, and Native American peoples, including the Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee, Sioux, and Ute. These tribes hunted and trapped the land along the rivers for millennia before the French, European and Spanish trappers arrived.
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson added 828,000 square miles to the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. This change greatly impacted the people living in the area.
Explorers were sent out to access the land the Americans purchased from France. The area which is now Weld County was considered part of the great American desert, not fit for agriculture. At the time, this area was part of Nebraska Territory.
The peak of the fur trade era was a relatively short time, approximately from 1820 to 1840. In many instances, it was necessary for foreign trappers to adopt native peoples’ way of life, such as the food, clothing, language and geographical knowledge of the area, in order to survive in the wilderness.
Many trappers married members of local tribes in the area they were trapping. Being a part of the tribe allowed for more access to trapping.
Some trappers were hired by companies that supplied them with food and equipment, but all the furs belonged to the company. Many trapping companies posted advertisements to recruit trappers, normally for one to three years.
From 1830 to 1840, fur trading was an international business. The trading posts in Weld County along the South Platte River that played a part in this include Fort Lupton, open from 1836 to 1845; Fort Jackson, open from 1837 to 1838; Fort Vasquez, open from 1835 to 1842; and Fort Saint Vrain, open from 1837 to 1845.
Buffalo hides, beaver, and various other pelts were traded between trappers and Native Americans at these sites.
The decline in use of the beaver pelt for hat making, as an example, marked the beginning of the end for the trading post. Though trapping had become a big, international business and had brought wealth to the central part of the United States, the industry steadily waned.
Today, people still trap and trade or sell pelts as a hobby and there are still rendezvous in the area. For more information, visit Centennial Village Museum’s trading post and the Hazel E. Johnson Research Center to find additional books and transcripts.
— Scott Chartier is Curator of Historic Sites for Greeley Museums