Frontier Holidays at Bent’s Old Fort

It looks a bit like a castle but it is built of adobe clay bricks rather than stone. Its color blends into the prairie landscape of Eastern Colorado.  This place was once a welcome site to travelers on the Santa Fe Trail and a gathering place for trappers, traders and Plains Indians.
          On a recent Saturday we took a step back in time to see how the Christmas holiday might have been celebrated in this remote outpost on the Arkansas River. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is a reconstruction of the original, which was built in 1833. Living historians in period costumes told us about daily life and answered questions as they went about their work.
Outside the kitchen, bread was baking in this horno (an oven built of adobe) with a deer antler as handle for the oven door. Inside the kitchen a fire blazed in the big open hearth and the women bustled about preparing the noon meal.  
          In the open center of the fort, visiting children learned to play games that would have been familiar to children in the 1830s and 1840s, such as rolling a hoop with a stick .      
The boys pictured below worked off some energy turning a press that compacted animal hides into 100 pound blocks. The blocks were wrapped and shipped back east by wagon train to sell. The only holiday decorations were sprigs of evergreen like those nailed to the posts of the press.

We were entertained by a banjo player while we warmed ourselves around a fire pit, watched blacksmith’s making tools, observed a billiards game in progress in a rooftop room, priced fabric and buttons in the trade room, and took a wagon ride to a trappers camp. It was an interesting and fun experience.
          Author and veteran historic interpreter Kathleen Ernst introduced me to living history sites through her Sites and Stories blog. Thanks, Kathleen. I’m ready for my next historic site experience.

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Published in: on December 13, 2010 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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