Hidden History: James Beckworth self-proclaimed founder of trading post

Black History Month

PUEBLO, Colo. — A story hidden as much as the artifacts themselves, the self-proclaimed founder of the El Pueblo Trading Post which ultimately led to the city of Pueblo being established.

Jim Beckworth was born into slavery then turned businessman is highlighted in a Pueblo museum.

Not many people know what the original El Pueblo Trading Post actually looked like because no photographs were ever taken. So a replica at the El Pueblo History Museum is based on remnants found during archeological digs, but it is mostly created from word of mouth descriptions and stories.

The original border between the U.S. and Mexico was along the Arkansas River. So putting up a trading post in Pueblo was a business opportunity. One of those businessmen at the beginning of Pueblo’s timeline was Beckworth.

“He was one of many founders of the trading post. You can read about that in the borderlands exhibition it would eventually go on to become Pueblo the city that we know now,” said El Pueblo Museum Director, Alyssum Skjeie. “He was born a slave, his mother was a slave and his father was his mother’s white master.”

Beckworth had an apprenticeship to be a blacksmith, then headed west creating a different story for himself.

“Having an African American founding member is a really great strength and something that all parts of the community can look to learn that story and should be proud of that story,” Skjeie said.

He was said to be a sensational storyteller it’s Beckworth’s personal history that is believed to have lead to his success.

“Perhaps being able to navigate different cultures based on his background, that other people could not have and I think especially as an African American, that’s an important part of history, that he is able to shed light on his ability, to be the story of many different cultures in the area,” said Skjeie.

The El Pueblo Trading Post was active between 1842-1854 before the town was even founded.

Now as Pueblo celebrates its 150th birthday in 2020. Beckworth’s name and face are still front and center.

“As we celebrate milestones, know what you are celebrating,” Skjeie said. “What does it mean to have been here for 150 years? What was the founding like? What was here before that? This is a great exhibition to learn that.”

If you’d like to learn more the El Pueblo Museum is open Monday- Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

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