French Entrepreneurship
in the
Post Colonial Fur Trade

By B. Pierre Lebeau

(North Central College, Naperville, Illinois)

Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved

In 1671, at Sault Sainte Marie, Simon François Daumon, Sieur de Saint-Lusson, representing the French king Louis XIV, claimed possession of the Great Lakes with their adjacent lands, rivers and their watersheds. This was a rather large piece of real estate that included the Illinois Country and the entire Mississippi Valley down to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1673, Louis Jolliet and Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette explored the Wisconsin River, the Mississippi as far as the Arkansas, and the Illinois. By 1682, La Salle had canoed down the Great River to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed possession of this huge valley in the name of France, calling it Louisiana for Louis XIV. Kaskaskia, that was to become the first capital of Illinois, was established in 1703. New Orleans was founded in 1718. Two years later, Fort de Chartres was built north of Kaskaskia. It functioned as the military and administrative center for Upper Louisiana, also called the Illinois Country, a territory that extended from the Wabash to the North Platte, and from the Peoria area to the Arkansas.

Soon a population of more than two thousand French-Canadian and immigrants from France had settled in five villages in the vicinity of the fort. From there traders and military expeditions would explore the Missouri Valley, build forts as far as Kansas City, and send traders to Santa Fé who marked the path of that famous trail. The Illinois Country with its nerve center at Fort de Chartres performed several functions: it served as connecting point between New France, or Canada, in the north, and Louisiana in the south. It was meant to block the expected westward expansion of the English across the Alleghenies as well as the possible northward expansion of the Spanish from Florida, thus preserving the trade monopoly of the French in the Great Lakes area, the Mississippi and Missouri Valleys. Finally, the rich land of the Mississippi flood plain between Cahokia and Kaskaskia provided much of the food to the city of New Orleans.

However, unlike the English, the French were not successful in colonizing the vast territory they controlled in North America. French policy focused on expansion in continental Europe and left only limited resources to devote to the increasingly intense rivalry between Britain and France in the struggle for empire. This conflict was marked by a series of French and Indian wars that ended in defeat for the French.1 At the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France surrendered to Britain all her possessions east of the Mississippi and turned control of the west side to Spain. Except for a brief interlude from the time Louisiana was retroceded to Napoleon in 1800 until he sold it to the United States in 1803, France officially disappeared from the North American continent.

The French military and most French officials left America shortly after the treaty of 1763. There remained in the middle Mississippi Valley around 2000 French civilians. Afraid of the possibility of religious and legal restrictions on the part of the British administration, the gentry who lived on the east side of the Mississippi in Kaskaskia and Cahokia moved to Ste. Genevieve and the newly founded settlement of St. Louis leaving behind the poorer farmers.

Today, few historians are interested in the French contribution to midwestern and western history. The French presence is generally limited to a small place in American folklore in the persons of the voyageurs whose exploits in the transportation of furs are celebrated by reenactors throughout the Midwest. Generally, the manner in which the French mixed with the Native Americans was found offensive by the Anglo-Saxons. British and American officials and travelers who came to the Mississippi Valley in the late 18th century and early 19th century left reports of mixed impressions of the French. While the upper class was viewed by an American traveler as "rich, liberal and gentlemanly", 2 the habitants were considered by a British officer as habitually drunk, "cruel and treacherous to each other & consequently so to Strangers . . . [and] dishonest in every kind of Business."3 On the other hand Governor John Reynolds observed in his reminiscence of early Illinois, My Own Times, that "the masses of the French [in 1800] were an innocent and happy people. [Their] habits of labor and energy . . . were moderate. Their energy or ambition never urged them to more than an humble and competent support . . . They were a temperate and moral people." 4

Isolated in the Illinois Country, the French had lived through the 18th century under the regime of a monarchy represented by a paternalistic and benevolent military governor. French law did not allow lawyers in the colonies and the French, rich and poor, were distrustful of a civilian representative form of government.5 With a few exceptions, the Chouteaus and Pierre Ménard, they did not participate much in politics and did not leave their mark as the German immigrants did later in the 19th century. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of their role in the economic growth of the middle Mississippi Valley as well as the American westward movement. The purpose of this paper is to present a brief overview of French entrepreneurship and leadership particularly in the fur trade and its related branches of business.

It seems that French officials both in Louisiana and France never fully realized the opportunities offered by the natural resources in the Mississippi Valley. While the colony never made a profit for the French government, private fortunes were made and the economy was healthy enough to stimulate the growth of full-fledged cities with many of the social and cultural benefits of civilization found in the mother country.6 By the mid-eigteenth century New Orleans was compared to a French provincial capital. St. Louis founded later would preserve its dominant French culture well into the nineteenth century.

Indeed, the city known as the gateway to the West was founded by an enterprising Frenchman, Pierre de Laclède Liguest. Born in 1724 in a family in which the men had held public office for generations in southwestern France, Laclède as the younger son could only receive a very small part of the family inheritance and decided to seek better opportunities for wealth in the New World.7 He arrived in New Orleans in 1755 and not much is known of his first years in lower Louisiana. He became an officer in the militia and his name appeared in official documents with the mention of négociant, or wholesale merchant, as a profession.8 His reputation in business must have been notable since he joined a prominent merchant to establish the firm of Maxent, Laclède and Company. Its purpose was to exploit trade with the Indian tribes in the Missouri and upper Mississippi River valleys. While the senior partner, Maxent, would run the commercial aspect of the firm in New Orleans, Laclède was to take command of the business in northern Louisiana.

Laclède reached the Illinois Country in November 1763, the year when the French and Indian War concluded with the Treaty of Paris that turned the east bank of the Mississippi over to the British. It is most doubtful that Laclède knew at that time that France had also ceded the west bank of the great river to the Spanish crown. At any rate he stored the trade goods he had brought up with him at Fort de Chartres upon the invitation of the French Commandant and proceeded upriver with his thirteen-year old clerk, Auguste Chouteau, in search of an appropriate location for his trading post. He selected a site on a bluff below the mouth of the Missouri River. Auguste Chouteau will write later that Laclède declared to the French officers at Fort de Chartres that he "had found a situation where he was going to found a settlement which might become, hereafter, one of the finest cities in America."9 Chouteau supervised the buildings of the first cabins in February 1764. When Laclède came later to inspect the site he "directed that the town be laid out in a gridiron pattern similar to the one in New Orleans. His plan called for three streets paralleling the Mississippi, intersected by shorter cross streets, and for a public plaza along the waterfront."10 Laclède called the future city St. Louis after the patron saint of Louis XV, then king of France. Obviously this city was not the result of an accident, but the plan of a visionary and successful businessman.

Maxent, the senior partner in the firm, decided to dissolve the company in 1765, and Laclède purchased the firm's assets in St. Louis. He dealt directly with the Osage Indians in the vicinity of the settlement, but his greatest profit came from outfitting the traders who traveled to the upper Missouri Valley and the Great Lakes area. The English Captain Harry Gordon, who visited St. Louis in 1766, wrote in his Journal that Mr Le Clef [Laclède] the principal Indian Trader . . . takes so good Measures, that the whole Trade of the Missouri, That of the Mississippi Northwards, and that of the Nations near La Baye, Lake Michigan, and St. Josephs, by the Illinois River, is entirely brought to him."11 Paul Chrisler Phillips confirms in his history of the fur trade that "there were a number of traders at St. Louis and near-by towns. Probably most of these were employed by Laclède, but some of them may have undertaken expeditions on their own account. The operations of Laclède soon brought all the furs of the upper Mississippi and Missouri to St. Louis. The village became the preeminent trading center of the Mississippi Valley, and this trade expanded until the village became a great metropolis of the American fur trade."12 The transition from village to metropolis would be accomplished under the leadership of the Chouteau family.

In the tradition of French Catholic families of that period, the Chouteau family was quite prolific. Only three of its members need be considered at this point.

René Auguste Chouteau, who called himself Auguste, was born in 1749 the son of a New Orleans inn keeper originally from France, and Marie Thérèse Bourgeois, born in New Orleans.13 The father returned to France a few years later, leaving both wife and son behind. The small family did not remain long on its own, for Mrs. Chouteau met Pierre Laclède shortly after his arrival in New Orleans. They lived together until Laclède died in 1778. This situation was frowned upon by both civil and religious authorities, but it was tolerated and even accepted in the family's social circle, undoubtedly because of the human and business qualities of both partners. The children of this union took the family name of Chouteau.

Early in his life Auguste displayed self-reliance, determination and firmness of character. He was not flustered when, barely fourteen, he was confronted with some 150 Missouri Indians with families who had come with the intention of settling next to the trading post in 1764. He calmly put the women and children to work on the foundation of the post headquarters after sending for Laclède's assistance.14 Laclède made him a partner when he purchased Maxent's share of the business and Auguste became "principal field agent and trouble shooter."15

Pierre Chouteau, born in New Orleans in 1758, the child of Laclède and Mrs. Chouteau, worked many years for his half brother Auguste. As Auguste became more and more involved in managing the business of Laclède, Pierre replaced him in the field and even lived for a while with the Osage Indians thereby acquiring an intimate knowledge of their culture. Both brothers were fluent in the Osage language. Their relationship with the Indians was based on mutual respect and gave them an immense advantage in building what amounted to a monopoly in the fur trade in that area.

The Chouteau brothers followed the progress of the American Revolution with sympathy and, along with other St. Louis merchants, sold goods to George Rogers Clark whose campaign against Detroit was stranded because of lack of supplies from Virginia.16 Later they would offer the hospitality of their homes to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as well as outfit an important part of their expediton.17 The end of the revolutionary war provided them with the opportunity to expand their business even further. The opening of the roads to Prairie du Chien, Michilimackinac and Montreal gave them access to higher quality English trade merchandise and more efficient business practices than in New Orleans.

Conducting a successful business in that region at that time was extremely difficult. The isolation from the business centers on the east coast, the distances involved in the transportation of the merchandise, the lack of liquid capital requiring extended credit, demanded unusual skills and business sense. The reputation of the merchants based on fair trading practices and quality merchandise was a key ingredient to success. The reputation of the Chouteau family was well established in this regard. They were not exempt from making mistakes, however, as with the founding of the short-lived St. Louis Missouri Fur Company founded in 1809 when Pierre Chouteau, his son Auguste Pierre, Pierre Ménard from Illinois, and other merchants joined forces with Manuel Lisa.

The lack of specie and liquid assets led the Chouteau family to invest its fortune in real estate and to become the largest landowners in upper Louisiana.18 Auguste served as President of the Bank of Missouri, represented other merchants in court and administered their estates. When the Chouteau's Spanish land grants were confirmed by the US government in 1814, Auguste's holdings amounted to 23,500 acres while Pierre's holdings exceeded 22,700 acres.19 Both Auguste and Pierre occupied numerous public office positions at the local, state and federal levels. Both served as chairs of the St. Louis Board of Trustees. Auguste was appointed as Federal Commissioner and negotiated treaties with various Native American tribes. Pierre was US agent for the Osage.

However, the most successful member of the family was probably Pierre Chouteau, Jr. (1789-1865), son of Pierre Chouteau and nephew of Auguste. After training in the business with his father and trying to fly on his own, he joined Bernard Pratte and Company, western agent for the American Fur Company. When John Jacob Astor retired in 1834 his interests in the Missouri area were purchased by Pratte and Chouteau. The new company was reorganized in 1838 as Pierre Chouteau, Jr., and Company. Its business covered an area spreading as far as northern Minnesota, the Rocky Mountains and Texas. After investing in railroads, steel, and mining Pierre, Jr. retired in New York City at the time of the Civil War joining the dominant financiers of the period. With him the Chouteau family reached the height of its power and prestige in the American world of business and finance.

The members of the Chouteau family clearly dominated the trade in the Mississippi and Missouri Valleys. A number of other French traders were part of the Chouteau network through business or marriage; others were bold enough to operate independently. They came from the Quebec area and France. Most resided in Saint Louis where several achieved wealth and prestige and became leading territorial families: for example, the Robidoux, Cerrés, Perraults, Papins, Labbadies, Prattes. Others made their mark if not always their fortune at various places along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers: the Le Sieur brothers who established the first settlement at New Madrid, the port of entry for upper Louisiana; Louis Lorimier who founded Cape Girardeau;20 Pierre Menard who settled in Kaskaskia and became the first Lieutenant Governor of Illinois; Julien Dubuque whose trading post and lead mines exploitation set the emplacement of the city of Dubuque; Joseph Robidoux who founded Saint Joseph on the Missouri River.21

Pierre Menard (1766-1844) had come from Quebec to the Illinois Country by way of Vincennes on the Wabash where he honed his business skills with Francisco Vigo, one of the more important traders in the Mississippi Valley. He moved to Kaskaskia in 1780 and opened a general store doing business with "markets from the Falls of St. Anthony (Minneapolis-St. Paul) to New Orleans."22 He served in the Randolph County militia with the rank of colonel, was appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and was elected representative to the legislature of the Indiana Territory. Menard did not allow his public office functions to interfere with business. In partnership with Manuel Lisa of St. Louis and a fellow Kaskaskian, Menard financed a successful fur trading expedition to the upper Missouri in 1807.23 In 1808 he joined the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company created by the Chouteau family with Manuel Lisa and other St. Louis merchants. A year later he accompanied Manuel Lisa on the first expedition up the Missouri and demonstrated his leadership qualities in handling the difficult task of moving heavy boats upstream and dealing with desertions. The hostility of the Black Feet turned that trip in to a failure, but Menard continued investing in the company until it was dissolved in 1814.24 While he continued his political career in Illinois as member, then Speaker of the Illinois Territory Legislative Council, he devoted a good part of his time looking after the interests of the Native Americans as US commissioner. Open to new ideas, he supported the development of the railroads and served on the board of directors of the Illinois Central Railroad.25 Menard was known for his personal integrity and loyalty to friends as well as a rather thick French accent that earned him affectionate teasing from those who knew him. The prestige and respect he enjoyed were demonstrated when the new State of Illinois constitution was amended by reducing the 20-year US citizenship requirement to two years so that Menard could be elected the state's first Lieutenant Governor.26 When he died in 1844, he left a substantive fortune in both financial assets and land.

Joseph Robidoux III (1783[?]-1868) belonged to a French family who, like the Chouteaus, relied essentially on kinship for its business network. The son of Joseph Robidoux II, a wealthy St. Louis merchant and one time partner of Auguste Chouteau, Joseph Robidoux III preferred the adventures of the open West to the civilization of St. Louis. He worked for a while for the American Fur Company owned by Astor. He was so successful that "Astor bought him out and paid him to stay at home in St. Louis for three years."27 He soon returned to the outdoors and set up in the mid-1820s a trading post known as Robidoux Landing at the mouth of Blacksnake Creek on the Missouri River. Within a few years he was able to buy Astor's interests in that area and on this foundation established a real trading empire in partnership with his brothers. In his essay on Joseph Robidoux III, Trish Bransky writes:

His brothers, Louis and Isadore, traded along the Santa Fe Trail; Antoine, who became known as the "Knight of the Colorado Fur Trade", established a base on the Gunnison River and a chain of posts in Utah and New Mexico. Francis manned the Yellowstone area, and Michel established Robidoux Fort in the vicinity of Fort Laramie. In the family's employ were hundreds of trappers and scouts28

In 1836, the Platte Purchase turned the area into government land. As part of the treaty, the Native Americans demanded that Robidoux receive 160 acres. The latter had a townsite laid out which he named St. Joseph. He donated lots for public buildings, churches and a market place and sold most of the rest. By 1846 St. Joseph had surpassed Independence as the starting point of the Oregon Trail. In 1859 the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad came to town and became the first line to cross the Missouri confirming the town's role as one of the major gates to the west.29 Business was going well in St. Joseph and Robidoux was considered "an immensely wealthy property owner."30 The population of the town numbered about 20,000 when he died in 1868.

Julien Dubuque (1762-1810) was not as fortunate as his compatriots. Born and raised in Quebec he came to the Illinois Country by way of Michilimackinac and Prairie du Chien in the early 1780s. He joined his brother, Augustin and his cousin, Jean Baptiste Dubuque, captain of militia at Cahokia, Illinois. He became the trader for a Fox Indian band who lived in northeastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin. He established such friendly relations with them that they granted him in 1788 the sole right to work an unusually rich vein of lead near the present site of the city of Dubuque. This huge land session which covered 125,000 acres was confirmed in 1795 by the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Baron Carondelet.31 The lead mines were called the Spanish Mines by Dubuque who worked them with both white and Indian labor.32 He became the "largest lead miner of the British and Spanish period" in the Northwest while continuing to trade in furs.33 If Dubuque had concentrated his efforts in developing efficient methods to mine lead he might have become a wealthy man. Lead was in strong demand between 1804 and 1815 and it was the most important trade commodity after furs in the Chouteau enterprise. Julien Dubuque soon became a lead provider as well as a regular customer of Auguste Chouteau.

However, Dubuque persisted in continuing and even trying to expand his business in the fur trade which he conducted with merchants at Michilimackinac and Montreal. The problem was that the Napoleonic wars limited the market for furs in Europe and profits in this sector had become slim.34 Dubuque became heavily indebted to Chouteau and other merchants in St. Louis. In order to cancel his debts and purchase additional goods and supplies Dubuque sold half of his property to Chouteau for the sum of $10,848.60 in 1804.35 Following the Louisiana Purchase, Dubuque was visited twice in 1805 and 1806 by Lieutenant Zebulon Pike on a US Government mission to explore the Upper Mississippi and, in 1808, he was appointed Indian Agent to the Sauk.36 He resigned this position after a few months because of declining health. He died heavily in debt in 1810. Pierre Chouteau, Jr., drew the inventory of his estate which amounted in terms of personal property to $1677.92, a significant sum for the period, but far from the personal wealth of a Pierre Menard.37 At the time of his death Dubuque was seeking confirmation of the Spanish title to his mines by the US government and until this matter could be cleared the value of his real estate was at best doubtful. Dubuque was buried on a bluff about one mile south of the city of Dubuque. His misfortune in business was compensated by the esteem in which he was held by both whites and Native Americans. In his Pioneer History of Illinois John Reynolds wrote: "It was stated by the Indian traders that the Sauk and Fox Indians made it a duty of religion to visit once a year the grave of Dubuque and perform religious ceremonies over it."38

White settlers started moving in the area following the end of the Black Hawk War in 1832 and established a mining town on the site of Julien Dubuque's land. The city of Dubuque was chartered in 1841, but it would take more than fifty years before the citizens of Dubuque recognized and honored the memory of Iowa's first pioneer with a limestone tower over his grave in 1897.

The Mississippi and Missouri valleys were the frontier during the last years of the 18th century and the first years of the 19th century. The term frontier brings to mind images of hardships and primitive living. While voyageurs, mountain men and other employees of the fur trade usually adopted a lifestyle borrowed in large part from the Native Americans, all the merchants and a number of traders insisted on maintaining a standard of living that reflected both their wealth and culture.

Pierre de Laclède, in early St. Louis, accumulated in his comfortable, but still modest home by eastern standards, a small library exceeding 200 volumes at the time of his death in 1778. His collection included books on law, commerce, finance, bookkeeping as could be expected of a businessman. Guides on gardening, farming, animal husbandry, medicine, architecture met the practical needs of daily living at that time. More interesting was his collection of works on ancient and modern history, the Dictionary of the French Academy, an encyclopedia of arts and sciences, various scientific works including one on electricity, literary and philosophical works by Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, etc.39

Laclède obviously exercised a good influence on his stepson, Auguste Chouteau, who left a library of more than 600 volumes when he died in 1829. But Auguste Chouteau was known more for the elegance of his home and the lavishness of his hospitality. His mansion and related buildings for servants, coach house, etc. occupied a city block. The house itself had two stories with walls two and a half feet thick and floors of black walnut polished like mirrors according to John Darby, a St. Louis resident.40 John Francis McDermott describes Chouteau's house in his work, Frenchmen and French Ways in the Mississippi Valley:

Owning seventeen men slaves and fourteen women at the time of his death in 1829, not to mention eleven boys and eight girls, Chouteau had among them house servants not merely to look after the floors but to keep well dusted the many mirrors, large and small, that the French were so fond of, and the sofas and sideboards, the seven armchairs and forty-six 'painted' and common chairs, the ten bedsteads and other furniture that filled the rooms of his house, to polish the forty-two pounds weight of sterling that often was laid out on three dining room tables, to launder the forty tablecloths that figure in the inventory and indicate the extent of entertaining.41

Any visitor of mark in St. Louis was received at the Chouteau mansion, the home of "the First Citizen of Upper Louisiana," as William Henry Harrison called Chouteau in a letter to President Jefferson in 1804.42

The Pierre Menard house built in 1802 in the style of Louisiana plantations, and today a territorial landmark in Illinois, also reflects the taste for comfort and graceful living of its owner. It still displays the original hand-pressed window panes imported from France, quite a luxury at the time, as well as some of the solid mahogany furniture that belonged to the Menard family. A devoted family man, an astute and fair businessman, and a public servant, Pierre Menard enjoyed entertaining American and foreign dignitaries, and his home became known as "The Mount Vernon of the West."

Less affluent than the Laclèdes, Chouteaus and Menards were the Robidoux and Dubuques who lived at some distance from the civilization of St. Louis. Joseph Robidoux III was a family-oriented and practical man who built homes for his seven children, helped finance the business undertakings of his five brothers and liberally gave land for the establishment and growth of the city of St. Joseph, Missouri. He certainly had enough wealth to enjoy many of the fashionable refinements available to the merchants in St. Louis, but he preferred to cling to frontier ways. He and his wife, Angélique, lived in a log house built over a stone basement, quite rudimentary in comparison with the Chouteau mansion, but comfortable. While the door was always open to visitors the usual fare in the kitchen was dog meat.43 His simple tastes contrasted with the prosperous city of St. Joseph that had reached a population of 20,000 when he died in 1868.

Julien Dubuque lived much more isolated than Joseph Robidoux III. Prairie du Chien was the closest white settlement. Located near the mouth of the Wisconsin River it counted thirty-seven houses in 1807 according to John Reynolds.44 A few of the families were well known French traders; the others were probably half-breeds. On his side of the Mississippi Dubuque had built a house that probably resembled Robidoux's house in St. Joseph according to what we know from the inventory of his estate. The list of goods stored in the cellar and in the loft indicate the house was of fairly good size. Besides work clothes Julien Dubuque owned linen shirts, knee breeches, waistcoats, dress shoes, etc. showing he wanted to dress properly as a land owner for his visits to St. Louis. He had little furniture, but it was typical of the middle class at the time: painted wardrobe (or cupboard), walnut table, pedestal table, etc. On the other hand the inventory lists 45 stoneware plates, 18 coffee cups, silver spoons, goblets, flasks, a crystal decanter, etc. This extensive table service, an expensive cooking stove, two mirrors, two pictures, and four pairs of lady's gloves reflect a feminine presence. We assume that he was married at one time because a number of correspondents send their greetings to Madame Dubuque, but it appears he lived alone at the time of his death.

Dubuque had learned to read and write before he left Canada. His written French was more inventive that grammatically correct, but he was obviously intent on bettering himself because he, too, had a small library counting at least 56 books. The works of the French philosopher Montesquieu and eight volumes on various aspects of government, two dictionaries and a five-volume encyclopedia suggest he may have had ambitions beyond trading in lead and furs. This may also explain why he failed in business while acquiring an honorable reputation as "a man of talent and great enterprise."45

This sketch of a half dozen French and French Canadian entrepreneurs is by necessity incomplete. There was quite a number of French merchants whose fortunes placed them between the Chouteaus and a Dubuque. French was the dominant language in Missouri during the territorial period. If St. Louis had lost its distinctive French flavor by the middle of the nineteenth century, it still had a French population strong enough to support at least one newspaper. Most French merchants were concentrated in the St. Louis area. Others made their way to Santa Fé, San Francisco and other points in the west. These people along with the small army of minor French traders and voyageurs played a major role in the American fur trade.

While the fur trade by itself represented only a small part of the American economy, it played an important role in the exploration of the west and determined the paths of migration towards California and Oregon. French mountainmen gave names to the topography of the west. French merchants and fur traders functioned as guides, suppliers, financiers and, in a few cases, founded cities. Even the military who supported this migration often established their forts alongside the trading posts. In short, "the fur trade . . . set the pace for subsequent Euro-American activity in the West."46 Much of this activity was in the hands of French entrepreneurs. The words of Jay Gitlin, of Yale University, provide a fitting conclusion: "The resources, connections, and goals of French merchants were of vital importance in the first period of the economic development of the American Midwest, toughly from 1815 to 1860. . . The traditional narrative history of the American frontier needs revision."47


1 King William's War (1689-97), Queen Anne's War (1702-13), King George's War (1744-48), French and Indian War (1755-63).
2 Richard L. Mason, Narrative of Richard Lee Mason in the Pioneer West. New York: C.F. Heartman, 1915. Quoted in Solon Justus Buck, Illinois in 1818 (Springfield: The Illinois Centennial Commission, 1917), 89-90.
3 Lieutenant Fraser to Brigadier General Haldimand, May 4, 1766, in The New Regime 1765-1767, eds. Clarence W. Alvord and Clarence E. Carter (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1916), 228.
4 John Reynolds, My Own Times (Chicago: Fergus Printing Co., 1879), 37-39.
5 William E. Foley, The Genesis of Missouri. From Wilderness Outpost to Statehood (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1989), 147-150.
6 Jesuit Father Vivier's correspondence describes the agricultural and mineral resources of the Mississippi Valley. Vegetables, orange trees, "indigo, maize in abundance, rice, sweet potatoes, cotton and tobacco," wood, muscat vines were found in the lower part. The Illinois Country produced wheat, Indian corn, healthy domesticated cattle, and game. Its mineral holdings included salt, borax, lead and copper. Father Vivier is quoted in Pierre H. Boulle'essay "Some Eigteenth-Century French Views on Louisiana," John Francis McDermott,Frenchmen and French Ways in the Mississippi Valley (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1969), 17-20.
7 Much of the information on Pierre de Laclède is drawn from John F. McDermott, "Myth and Realities Concerning the Founding of St. Louis" in The French in the Mississippi Valley, John F. McDrmott, ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,1965), 1-15.
8 McDermott, The French in the Mississippi Valley, 13.
9 ibid., 15.
10 Richard C. Wade, The Urban Frontier: Pioneer Life in early Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lexington,Louisville and St. Louis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 3-4. Cited in William E. Foley and C. David Rice, The First Chouteaus River barons of Early St. Louis (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983), 5.
11 Alvord and Carter, 300.
12" Paul Chrisler Phillips, The Fur Trade, vol. 2 (Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1961), 176.
13 Most of the information on the Chouteau family is drawn from William E. Foley and C. David Rice, The First Chouteaus. River Barons of Early St. Louis.
14 Foley and Rice, 6.
15 Foley and Rice, 20.
16 Foley and Rice, 27.
17 Foley and Rice, 90-91.
18 Foley and Rice, 82.
19 Foley and Rice, 180.
20 Foley, 91-92.
21 An overview of the important French fur traders and merchants in upper Louisiana is found in Phillips, 223-244.
22 Richard E. Oglesby, "Pierre Menard" in French Fur Traders and Voyageurs in the American West. Twenty-five Biographical Sketches. LeRoy R. Hafen, ed. (Spokane: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1995), 217.
23 Oglesby, 219.
24 Oglesby, 221-222.
25 Oglesby, 227.
26 John Reynolds, The Pioneer History of Illinois. 2nd ed. (Chicago: Fergus Printing Company, 1887), 292.
27 Trish Bransky, "Joseph Robidoux: Trader, Town Builder." Pamphlet by Saint Joseph Historical Society. Reprinted with permission of St. Joseph Magazine, no date.
28 Bransky.
29 David Dary, Entrepreneurs of the Old West. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), 104, 155.
30 Bransky.
31 Copy of map by Dubuque in Dubuque County Historical Archives.
32 William E.Wilkie, Dubuque on the Mississippi, 1788-1988. (Dubuque, IA: Loras College Press, 1987), 93.
33 Louise Phelps Kellogg, The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest. (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1925), 363.
34 Wilkie, 96.
35 Copy of probate of Julien Dubuque's estate in Dubuque County Historical Archives dated June 17, 1810.
36 Wilkie, 96.
37 ibid.
38 Reynolds, 127.
39 McDermott, The French in the Mississippi Valley, 12-13.
40 John Darby, Personal Recollections. (St. Louis, 1880), 10-11. Cited in John Francis McDermott, Frenchmen and French Ways in the Mississippi Valley, 9.
41 McDermott, Frenchmen and French Ways in the Mississippi Valley, 9.
42 ibid., 13.
43 Bransky.
44 Reynolds, 151.
45 Reynolds, 21.
46 David J. Wishart, The Fur Trade of the American West, 1807-1840. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 212.
47 Jay Gitlin, "Old Wine in New Bottles: French Merchants and the Emergence of the American Midwest, 1795-1835," in Proceedings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Meetings of the French Colonial Historical Society, ed. Philip P. Boucher (Lanham, New York and London: University Press of America, 1990), 37, 51.


[Back to Library]