This region was once buffalo hunting grounds for the Cheyenne, Apache, Arapaho, Kiowa and Comanche. Tribes followed the buffalo throughout the plains and controlled the land. During this time, everything south of the Arkansas river was Mexico and trappers and traders lived peacefully amongst the tribes. It was here that the buffalo made their last stand.
In 1830, brothers William and Charles Bent partnered with Ceran St. Vrain to establish
Bent's Old Fort just west of here. It became one of the greatest trade posts in the west. Indian trade was welcome at the fort and William Bent established a strong relationship with both the white emigrants and the five tribes of this region.
Boggsville, established in 1862, was the first settlement in Southeast Colorado that was not military. The families of Boggsville included Thomas and Rumalda Boggs, John and Amache Prowers, the John Hough family and Kit and Josepha Carson. Boggs ran sheep and Prowers ran cattle. They established the first school, ran a trading post and a stagecoach stop. They used irrigated farming to serve the region with great success.
Territorial Bent County was created in 1870 and was about 9,000 square miles. Boggsville became the first county seat that same year.
Thomas Boggs served as Bent County sheriff and John Prowers was one of the county commissioners who appointed Sherriff Boggs.
Customarily, the first railroad tracks were laid to avoid established communities allowing railroad barons to control all
the land near their tracks. Selling off choice parcels close to the new train station made them new fortunes. With the coming of the railroad, the city of Las Animas was platted in 1873. The new Las Animas became the center of business and replaced Boggsville as the county seat in 1875. Bent County was then partitioned into several smaller counties to include Cheyenne, Lincoln, Kiowa, Otero, and Prowers.
Bent County Courthouse
Bent County Courthouse is the oldest functioning courthouse in Colorado and has been in continuous use since 1889. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The Courthouse cupola blew off in the first years and was rebuilt in 2009. Bent County Jail, the two-story brick building pictured next to the courthouse, was built in 1912 and closed in 2000.
The old Bent County courthouse burned to the ground in 1888 at the time the new courthouse was already under construction. It was built and furnished for $58,429 and took from 1886 to 1889 to complete. Contractors M. F. Reilly and B. Bradley, architects the Holmberg Brothers and furniture maker A. H. Andrews and Co. designed and built the courthouse. The cornerstone for the building was laid by the King Solomon Lodge No. 30 of the Masonic order on July 4, 1887. Furniture for the upstairs courtroom, a jury room, and six downstairs offices were of antique oak most of which is still in use today in the courthouse.
Ken Gates (stage name Ken Curtis) and his family lived in the bottom half of the jail. His father was Bent County Sheriff. Ken Gates
started the Las Animas Santa Fe Trail Parade in 1934, known as the longest continuously running high school event in the United States. Ken Curtis went on to co-star in the long running TV series "Gunsmoke" playing the role of "Festus".