Blood in the Borderlands


Blood in the Borderlands

Conflict, Kinship, and the Bent Family, 1821–1920

David C. Beyreis

270 pages
10 photographs, 5 illustrations, 2 maps, index


May 2020


$50.00 Add to Cart

May 2023


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2020


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2020


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Finalist for CSAW’s Outstanding Western Book of 2021
Historical Society of New Mexico’s Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá Award 
Santa Fe Trail Association's Louise Barry Writing Award

The Bents might be the most famous family in the history of the American West. From the 1820s to 1920 they participated in many of the major events that shaped the Rocky Mountains and Southern Plains. They trapped beaver, navigated the Santa Fe Trail, intermarried with powerful Indian tribes, governed territories, became Indian agents, fought against the U.S. government, acquired land grants, and created historical narratives. 

The Bent family’s financial and political success through the mid-nineteenth century derived from the marriages of Bent men to women of influential borderland families—New Mexican and Southern Cheyenne. When mineral discoveries, the Civil War, and railroad construction led to territorial expansions that threatened to overwhelm the West’s oldest inhabitants and their relatives, the Bents took up education, diplomacy, violence, entrepreneurialism, and the writing of history to maintain their status and influence.

In Blood in the Borderlands David C. Beyreis provides an in-depth portrait of how the Bent family creatively adapted in the face of difficult circumstances. He incorporates new material about the women in the family and the “forgotten” Bents and shows how indigenous power shaped the family’s business and political strategies as the family adjusted to American expansion and settler colonist ideologies. The Bent family history is a remarkable story of intercultural cooperation, horrific violence, and pragmatic adaptability in the face of expanding American power.

Author Bio

David C. Beyreis has a PhD in history from the University of Oklahoma and teaches history at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina.


"The author is to be commended for his writing style, his wordsmithing, his command of sources, and his ability to balance the rather confused historiography on the building of Bent's Fort and its demise. His narrative is easy to follow, and his analysis is a compliment to his training. . . . Students of the fur and robe trades and those focusing on the Santa Fe Trail will find this book indispensable."—William R. Swagerty, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"Well-researched and well-written, Blood in the Borderlands is a very readable account of the Bent Family. The integration of kinship as an analytical framework makes this book more than the sum of its parts, and anyone with an interest in the nineteenth-century Southwest borderlands will find this work of interest."—William S. Kiser, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"This book is a concise multigenerational saga of the Bent family in Colorado, New Mexico, and Indian Territory, particularly as their fortunes intertwined with the plight of the Southern Cheyennes, with whom the Bents intermarried and conducted business. . . . Beyreis combines the epic scope of earlier accounts like David Lavender’s Bent's Fort (1954) with concepts of intercultural exchange in line with more recent scholarship, including Elliott West's The Contested Plains (1998) and James Brooks's Captives and Cousins (2002)."—R. L. Dorman, Choice

"Blood in the Borderlands reads well and utilizes deep research to make a compelling argument in a book that tells a nuanced history of the southwestern borderlands through the lives and generations of the Bent family."—Hayden L. Nelson, Kansas History

“This is a remarkable book about what may well have been the most remarkable family of the American West. . . . Nimbly negotiating the color line, the Bents sometimes sided with the American state and sometimes challenged it to protect their Cheyenne kin. As told by David Beyreis, their story forces us to think hard about what it took for a family to survive in the West.”—Pekka Hämäläinen, author of The Comanche Empire

Blood in the Borderlands brings all the major players of this fascinating borderlands family into a single frame in a brisk, well-told story that illuminates the transformation during the nineteenth century of the central plains and what became the U.S. Southwest. . . . Blood in the Borderlands is that rare volume that really should appeal to scholars and lay people alike.”—Andrew R. Graybill, author of The Red and the White: A Family Saga of the American West

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1: Into the West: The Bents and St. Vrain to 1834
Chapter 2: Marriage, Business, and Diplomacy in the Great Plains: William Bent and His Family, 1834-1846
Chapter 3: Marriage, Business, and Diplomacy in New Mexico: Charles Bent and His Family, 1834-1846
Chapter 4: Collapse: The Final Days of Bent, St. Vrain and Company, 1846-1849
Chapter 5: Fifty-Niners, Freighters, and School Children: The Bent Family, 1849-1861
Chapter 6: The Road to Sand Creek: William Bent and His Family, 1861-1865
Chapter 7: War, Diplomacy, and Land Grants: The Bent Family, 1865-1869
Chapter 8: Reservations, Ranches, and Respectability: The Bent Family, 1869-1920
Conclusion: Contesting the Memory of the Bent Family



Finalist for CSAW’s Outstanding Western Book of 2021
Historical Society of New Mexico’s Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá Award 
Santa Fe Trail Association's Louise Barry Writing Award

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