One of the early acts performed by a notary in the days before Colorado Territory was formed in 1861, was a marriage in 1842 at Bent’s Fort, a frontier trading post on the Santa Fe Trail, along the Arkansas River, 70 miles east of Pueblo. Bent’s Fort was established in 1832.
Photo credit: National Park Service
The area was part of the land initially acquired by Thomas Jefferson in 1803 in the Louisiana Purchase. After Louisiana became a state in 1812, the land was part of Missouri Territory, with St. Louis as the capital, until Missouri became a state in 1821. After 1821, the land was part of unorganized territory. This area was near the territory claimed by the Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1846. It later became Kansas Territory in 1851, then Colorado Territory in 1861, and the State of Colorado in 1876.
Marriage of George Simpson and Juana Suaso
George Simpson, age 24, and Juana Maria Suaso, age 14, were married on November 30, 1842, at Bent’s Fort by a notary from Missouri. George was the son of a wealthy St. Louis merchant and was one of the builders of Fort Pueblo. The couple signed a statement, agreeing to live as man and wife. The “marriage license” document was signed by witnesses and certified by the notary, using a stamped gold seal over a blue ribbon.
Parchment and quill pens were used at that time. Today, visitors can buy parchment paper, a quill pen, ink, and old-style journals and many other items from the store at Bent’s Fort, or on their website.
Under current law, a Colorado notary is not authorized to officiate a marriage. Notaries in Maine, South Carolina, Florida, and Nevada do have the authority to officiate a marriage. Many years ago, notaries in many locations had powers similar to a justice of the peace. In remote areas, a notary was often the only government official within several days horse ride.
Bent’s Old Fort
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is administered by the National Park Service and preserves the history of frontier life from the 1840s. It offers special living history events and demonstrations showcasing Santa Fe Trail traders, U.S. Army cavalry soldiers and Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Comanche, and Kiowa Indians who traded buffalo robes for trade goods. The wagon journey from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe took 3 months.
See the website and events calendar at Bent’s Old Fort.
Before building Bents Fort, William Bent first built a picket fur trading post in 1826, along the Arkansas River, near the mouth of Hardscrabble Creek, south of present-day Florence, Colorado. In 1830, French fur traders from Taos, New Mexico built more trading posts along Mineral Creek, to trade with the Ute Indians.
San Luis Valley
Spanish-speaking settlers from New Mexico arrived in the San Luis Valley in the late 1840s. Documents were probably notarized in the town of Costilla, which was originally located in Costilla County when Colorado Territory was formed in 1861. Due to surveyor inaccuracies, the town of Costilla and the southern part of Costilla County later became part of Taos County, New Mexico.
[Last-Modified Date 2017-09-18] add new image