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Document Number: AJ-126
Author: Chouteau, Auguste, 1750-1829
Title: Fragment of Col. Auguste Chouteau's Narrative of the Settlement of St. Louis
Source: Chouteau, Auguste. Fragment of Col. Auguste Chouteau's Narrative of the Settlement of St. Louis. A Literal Translation from the Original French Ms., in Possession of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association. (St. Louis: George Knapp & Co., 1858). Pages 1-10.
Pages/Illustrations: 10 / 0
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-126/

Author Note

(Rene) Auguste Chouteau (1750-1829), a founder of St. Louis, was born in New Orleans to a teen-age mother with an abusive husband. When Chouteau was fourteen, she fled to the wilderness with her lover, Pierre de Laclede, who had obtained a monopoly on the trade in furs from the Missouri region. On February 15, 1764, young Chouteau directed thirty workers who cleared the forest and laid out the first streets of St. Louis. This remote outpost was the headquarters of the company that would eventually handle nearly all the furs collected from the basins of the Missouri, Platte, Osage, and Arkansas rivers.

In 1768 Chouteau became a full partner with Laclede and after the latter’s death in 1778, head of the firm. His negotiating skills with tribal chiefs, Eastern businessmen, and French, British, and American officials enabled him to become one of the richest men in the West. As St. Louis grew, he served in a variety of political and civic capacities. His influence among Indian leaders led the U.S. government to appoint him in 1815 as a treaty negotiator with the Sioux, Iowa, Sauk, and Fox nations (see AJ-149). He died in 1829.

Document Note

According to his son Gabriel, for twenty years Auguste Chouteau kept a diary that was accidentally destroyed by fire in the nineteenth century. This fragment is not part of the diary but rather the first draft of a separate account apparently written shortly after 1800, perhaps using the diary as source material. When he died in 1829, the inventory of Chouteau’s estate mentioned “a bundle” of papers, presumably including the manuscript of this document. It was given to the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association in 1857, and is today at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The original manuscript and a description of his surviving papers can be seen at http://www.umsl.edu/mercantile/mguides/directory/SLMA-022/slma-022.html

Other Internet and Reference Sources

For other early St. Louis documents, see AJ-088, AJ-100a, AJ-148, and AJ-149.

The history and importance of Chouteau’s fragment is discussed in detail in John Francis McDermott’s The Early Histories of St. Louis (St. Louis: St. Louis Historical Documents Foundation, 1952). Chouteau’s career is analyzed in the article “Constructing the House of Chouteau: Saint Louis” by Jay Gitlin which is available online at http://www.umsl.edu/mercantile/mguides/directory/SLMA-022/slma-022.html.

The early history of the city is told by the St. Louis Planning Commission at http://stlouis.missouri.org/heritage/History69/index.html#intro. This site also contains a bibliography of St. Louis history and a chronology of significant events in the growth of the city. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has created a site with a map that includes an 1804 census of property owners and sizes, styles and materials of houses in the town http://www.nps.gov/jeff/LewisClark2/Circa1804/StLouis/StLouis.htm

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