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.