Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

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Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

El Pueblo:

El Pueblo was a trading post established in the late 1830’s, and located at the confluence of Fontaine-qui-bouit (Fountain Creek) and the Arkansas River at the site of what would someday become the community of Pueblo, Colorado.  This crude adobe fort, founded by a group of mountain men, possibly including Jim Beckwourth, was described as one of the strangest trading establishments in the West.  It was home to a mélange of American trappers, French coureurs de bois, Canadian Iroquois, Mexican trappers and traders, Negroes and European immigrants.  Rent was free, and whiskey was paid for in beaver.  It served as a sort of destination resort for Mountain Men who tired of winters in the mountains, but didn’t want to travel as far as St. Louis or other civilized parts.

The permanent inhabitants had Mexican wives from Taos.  Here is what Rufus Sage had to say about El Pueblo (In Rocky Mountain Life): "At the delta, formed by the junction of Fontaine qui Bouit with the Arkansas, a trading fort, called the Pueblo, was built during the summer of 1842.  This post is owned by a company of independent traders, on the common property system;. and, from its situation, can command a profitable trade with both Mexicans and Indians. Its occupants number ten or twelve Americans, most of whom are married to Mexican women, while everything about the establishment wears the aspect of neatness and comfort."  

Flour and other food stuffs, as well as distilled alcohol were also obtained from Taos.  The fort was a center for whiskey trade both to the Indians and Mountain Men.  By 1842 Turley had opened a shop in El Pueblo to sell whiskey produced by his distillery at Rio Hondo.  Business declined after the Mexican War (1846-1847) and at the time of the Colorado  gold rush the post consisted of a single adobe house and three inhabitants.

George Frederick Ruxton (Reference) observed the following regarding El Pueblo in 1846:  "The Pueblo is a small square fort of adobe with circular bastions at the corners, no part of the walls being more than eight feet high, and round the inside of the yard or corral are built some half-dozen little rooms inhabited by as many Indian traders, coureurs des bois, and mountain-men. They live entirely upon game, and the greater part of the year without even bread, since but little maize is cultivated."  

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