Fort Vasquez Museum: A Capsule History and Guide

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Fort Vasquez Museum: A Capsule History and Guide
Series Title:
Fort Vasquez Museum: A Capsule History and Guide
Wegman-French, Lysa
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
Publication Date:

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Auraria Library
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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Fort Vasquez Museum: A Capsule History and Guide | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 1:02:40 PM] Home Fort Vasquez Museum: A Capsule History and GuideFort Vasquez Museum: A Capsule History and GuideSubmitted by jainlayconley on 1-22-2010 09:05 AMAuthor: Dianna Litvak Publishing: Denver, CO: Colorado Historical Society, 2009. 63 pages. Photos, maps. 7 x 7. Paperback $8.95. Reviewer: Lysa Wegman-French Reviewer Affiliation: National Park Service Located northeast of Denver between the towns of Fort Lupton and Platteville, the Fort Vasquez Museum features a 1930s reconstruction of the 1835 adobe fur trading fort. Some twenty years after the Works Progress Administration project, the historic site and the reconstructed fort were threatened by the widening of U.S. Highway 85. Only opposition by a coalition of interested parties prevented the destruction of site and structure. The negotiated resolution was not ideal; the building now sits in an impressively nonhistoric setting: adjacent to a truck weigh station in the median of the four-lane highway. The title of this 64-page booklet would lead one to believe that the content would focus on the fascinating story of the museum Instead, the Colorado Historical Society intended the publication to be a guide about the topics interpreted by the museum. Therefore, the scope focuses on the interesting history of the original fort within the context of the fur trade in Colorado, along with the subsequent story of the ruins and site of the fort. Accordingly, about half the book discusses events of the 1830s and 1840s, while the remainder ranges from the 1600s to 2005; only a few pages are about the museum itself. Born in St. Louis the son of a French-Canadian mother and a Spanish father, Pierre Louis Vasquez stepped into the heart of the Rocky Mountain fur trapping industry at its genesis. At the age of twentythree, he responded to William Ashleys famous 1822 newspaper advertisement for young men to join his first expedition up the Missouri River. Vasquez continued in an active role throughout the industrys prime years. As the number of beaverand the demand for their furdiminished, the fur industry shifted to trading for buffalo robes. Vasquez saw opportunity in the buffalo herds along the South Platte River, where the Cheyenne and Arapaho were eager to trade. He and his partner, Andrew Sublette, built Fort Vasquez in 1835, expecting to make a fortune. But within the next two years, competitors established three other fur trading posts in a space of about ten miles: Fort Lupton, Fort Jackson, and Fort St. Vrain. The rivals included titans Bent, St. Vrain & Company and the American Fur Company. A combination of forces including the competitionled to diminishing profits; Vasquez and Sublette sold out in about 1841, and the last of the adobe forts closed in 1846. Restricted by the shortness of the booklet, the text necessarily simplifies and summarizes the complex richness of fur trade history; it does so quite capably. The story begins with a broad view of the fur trade in EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanCasimiro Barela, state senator for over 37 years, fought to ensure Colorados first constitution was published in English, Spanish and German.


Fort Vasquez Museum: A Capsule History and Guide | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 1:02:40 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us Quebec, Montreal and the Great Lakes, then telescopes down to the industry in the Upper Missouri River, the Rocky Mountains, and Colorado. Discussions of the people range from the businessmen, such as the Bent brothers, to the trappers themselves. The intertwining network of characters is woven through the story; for example, Vasquez met Milton Sublette during the Ashley expedition, worked for him in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and then became partners with Sublettes younger brother at Fort Vasquez. Tribes are discussed, including the impacts from shifted social customs, reconfigured relationships with the natural world, the consumption of alcohol offered in trade, the increased workload for women, and the intermarriage of trappers and native women. Overall, the book is well written and edited. The author conveys the complex layers in a simply stated and well-organized fashion. However, the book could have been edited better in a few places for consistency and clarity. On one page we read that the rendezvous lasted from 1825 to 1834, but the next page says 1824 to 1840 (the actual period was 1825 to 1840). In another spot, the text implies that mountain men traveled through the Fort Vasquez locale on their way between Santa Fe and Missouri. A photo caption discusses the original 1835 fort, but doesnt clarify that the photograph shows the 1930s reconstruction. The graphic appearance of the booklet is quite pleasing. Numerous historic photographs and drawings are interspersed amongst the text, which utilizes an attractive font style. The publication would appeal to the general audience looking for an introduction to the history of Fort Vasquez, the fur trade in Colorado, and the preservation of the site. Reviewer Info: Lysa Wegman-French is a historian with the Intermountain Regional Office of the National Park Service, in Lakewood. The sites that she works with represent all aspects of the history of the West, including Native Americans, mining, ranching, women, labor, the military, public lands, and recreation. Currently she is researching the location of the first fort of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, built by Manuel Lisa in 1807. She and her husband celebrated their 25th anniversary with a road trip to rendezvous sites. Add new comment