John W Rawlings Heritage Center & Museum

formerly the Kit Carson Museum on the Santa Fe Trail

JW Rawlings Museum

The John W. Rawlings Heritage Center opened on May 30, 2012 by an all volunteer team from the Pioneer Historical Society. The museum is now housing the Kit Carson Museum and artifacts from Santa Fe Trail days era through WWII. Located at 560 Bent Ave., Las Animas, CO. Open noon to 4pm Mon- Sat. Visit visit or call 719-456-6066 for further information.

The Museum consists of artifacts through development of Bent County from the days of Kit Carson through WWII. Information on many people who once lived in Bent County is featured in the Museum. Featuring historic store fronts of the Post Office, The Candy Shop, Bent County Bank, and fascinating exhibits about Llewellyn Thompson (Ambassador to six Presidents), John W. & Dorothy Hoag Rawlings, and Kit Carson. Take a look at Bent County Art Guild's Old Trail Art Gallery, and the Grand Hall. The museum also houses the area's historical bells including the Fort Lyon bell. Visit an old jail used when John Martin Reservoir was being built, explore the old ways of medicine and dentistry, and see a black-smith shop and much more!

Christopher "Kit" Carson (1809-1868) Christopher, better known as "Kit Carson," soldier, born in Madison County, Kentucky, December, 24, 1809; died at Fort Lynn, Colorado, May, 23, 1868. He was an infant when his parents emigrated to what is now Howard County, Missouri, which was then a wilderness. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to a saddler, with whom he continued two years. Then he ran away and joined a hunting expedition, thus beginning the adventurous life that made him one of the most picturesque figures of western history.

Because of his remarkable ability for languages, Carson became a translator for a wagon train to Chihuahua along the infamous Santa Fe Trail. Shortly after, he became a trapper and mountain man, traveling extensively throughout the West. For eight years he was on the plains, leading the life of a trapper, until he was appointed hunter for the garrison at Bent's Fort, where he remained eight years more. After a short visit to his family he met, for the first time, General (then Lieutenant) John C. Fremont, who appreciated Carson's experience in the backwoods. Fremont engaged Carson as guide in his subsequent explorations. Carson was eminently useful and much of the success of Fremont's explorations were because of Kit Carson. His real fame grew through serving as scout for the scientific and mapping expeditions of John C. Fremont. From 1854 until 1861, Carson served as an Indian Agent. He was perhaps better known to a larger number of Indian tribes than any other white man. From his long life among them, Kit Carson learned their habits and customs, understood their mode of warfare, and spoke their language as his mother tongue. No one man did more than Kit Carson in furthering the settlement of the northwestern wilderness.

In 1847 Carson was sent to Washington as bearer of dispatches, and was then appointed second lieutenant in the mounted rifles, U. S. Army. This appointment, however, was negated by the senate. In 1853 he drove 6,500 sheep over the mountains to California, a hazardous undertaking at that time, and, on his return to Taos, was appointed Indian agent in New Mexico. During this appointment he was largely instrumental in bringing about the treaties between the United States and the Indians. In 1861, Carson began the final stage of his career as a military officer, first in the Civil War and later in the army campaigns of the Indian Wars. Kit Carson was truly one of America's great frontiersmen.

He was an instinctive judge of character, and, knowing the Indians so thoroughly, his cool judgment and wisdom in dealing with them, even under the most trying circumstances, enabled him to render important services to the U.S. government. During the civil war he repeatedly rendered great service to the government in Colorado, New Mexico and the Indian territory, and was made a brigadier-general for his meritorious conduct. At its close, he resumed his duties as Indian agent. In this relation to the Indians he visited Washington, in the winter and early spring of 1868, in company with a deputation of the red men, and made a tour of several of the northern and eastern states. Unlike most of the trappers and guides, General Carson was a man of remarkable modesty, and in conversation never boasted of his own achievements.

Site Map 

La Junta Sites 

Lamar & Las Animas Sites 

Trinidad Sites 

Byway Museums

Byway Links