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Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
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Chapter III.

French grants. — Spanish grants. — Partiality for the lands containing lead ore, or where salines could be found. — The danger from Indians in working the mines and salines. — The probability of many fraudulent claims. — Number of houses in St. Louis at the time of the transfer of the province of Louisiana to the United States. — How the houses were built. — Description of the principal houses and public buildings in the village in 1804. — Baptism of half-breeds and an Indian child. — Morals of the men and women. — The mode of determining disputes. — The customs, habits, and pleasures of the inhabitants. — Names of the chief merchants, traders, and tradesmen at the time of the cession to the United States. — The locality of the residences of the principal inhabitants. — Prices of goods. — Monsieur Tardif, and Cevreuil.

As it has been observed before, we know of no record which gave to Louis St. Ange de Bellerive, authority as commandant of St. Louis, with the power of granting lands to the inhabitants; yet there is scarcely a shadow of doubt but that he was first sent by M. Aubri, who, in the early part of 1765, was commander of the French forces in Louisiana, when M. D'Abbadie was governor of the province of Louisiana, to the post of St. Louis, with the few troops which he had in charge at Fort de Chartres, when that fort was delivered to the English. It was not probably intended at that time that he should exercise any other functions but those usually vested in the commandants of military posts; but, as there was need of some one in the growing town who should have the legal power of apportioning land, it is not only probable, but almost certain, that after the death of M. D'Abbadie, his successor, M. Aubri, delegated the power to M. St. Ange de Bellerive to grant the royal domain. In support of this opinion, we see by the archives a record of an order made by the Supreme Council of Louisiana, transmitted to Lefebre, who was one of the judges in Upper Louisiana, and Labuxière, who was, at that time, the king's solicitor, for the sale of the effects of an absconding debtor, by the name of Legrange, who had property in St. Genevieve. This order to the judge and king's solicitor, after describing to them minutely their powers relative to the disposal of the property, and how and to whom the proceeds should be transmitted at New Orleans, tells them that M. Aubri, the governor, had sent private instructions to M. St. Ange de Bellerive, the commandant of the post of St. Louis, to aid them if necessary in the execution of the process. This shows that the governor of Louisiana recognized the authority of the commandant of St. Louis, and was in the habit of instructing him in his duties.

When Piernas took possession of the post of St. Louis, as the delegated officer of the Spanish crown, he confirmed all of the grants made by St. Ange de Bellerive, which gave a legality to the grants, which were before of equivocal tenure. A surveyor having been appointed immediately that he was inducted into office, whose duty it was to assign the lands to the petitioners, from an order of the lieutenant-governor, there arose a

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system connected with the granting of lands, which made almost impossible the occurrence of conflicting claims.

By the provincial laws, after a grant had been obtained by the lieutenant-governor, the title was not deemed complete until it had been confirmed by the governor of the province at New Orleans; yet so great was the expense, time and difficulty of getting to the capital, that few of the titles were confirmed, and the inhabitants remained perfectly satisfied with the naked grants made by the lieutenant-governors, and sold and conveyed their lands with the same readiness as if the original grants had been sanctioned by the supreme power in New Orleans. Indeed, it would have been impossible for one-half of the inhabitants to have had their titles confirmed by the governor, as they had not the means to go to the capital of the province, more than a thousand miles distant; and the time of going from St. Louis to that place and again returning, occupied the best part of a year. All appeared to feel that the grants, as made by the lieutenant-governors, were all-sufficient; and the decisions, many years afterward, by the commissioners of the United States and the courts, went to show that grants were deemed completely and legally full when proceeding from the lieutenant-governors, even without the sanction of the governor.

Lands were only granted upon petition, and the petitioner usually assigned a reason or reasons why the grant should be acceded to; such as, he was a resident at the post, intended to live upon it, had a family of so many children, had rendered the crown some service, or something that would operate as a legal inducement upon the lieutenant-governor. Some of the petitions specified the particular locality where the petitioners wished their lands, and others merely giving the quantity, had the power, if the petition was acquiesced in, to select them where they pleased on the vacant lands of the public domain. Some of the grants had conditions annexed to them; such as the grantees were to make some improvements on the land in a year and a day, or intended to devote it to some specific purpose; and if these conditions were not complied with at the proper time, the lands reverted to the crown. There are some instances of land being granted, and afterward being reannexed to the public domain. This rarely occurred from a non-fulfilment of the conditions of the grant, as it was very easy for the grantee, at any time, to get an extension of time if they wished it — but usually proceeded from the fact that it frequently happened that persons found it to their interest not to conform to the conditions of the grants, from seeing some better locality which possessed greater attractions. They preferred to forfeit their old grants, and endeavored to acquire possession of those lands which they thought were of most value.

Nearly at the close of the Spanish domination, the lands most sought for were those the most richly impregnated with minerals; and all the broken wilds where lead was known to exist in the greatest plenty, were eagerly sought after, and many thousands of acres were frequently granted to one individual, covering immense mineral riches, which being situated at a distance from the rivers, and in the almost impassable solitudes of the mountains, were worked to but small extent, and for the want of the proper means of transportation could not be developed to one tithe of their value. Next to peltry, lead was the chief article of value in St. Louis.

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Salt was also of much importance as an article of consumption and commerce, and consequently the lands on which could be formed salines were in much demand, and soon became severed from the public domain, and were appropriated to individual possession. The lead mines and the salines were extensively worked, and though in so rough and unskilful a manner that it approached to savage awkwardness and ignorance, still considerable profits accrued, and a large portion of the inhabitants were engaged in these pursuits. Whenever a mine or a saline was to be worked, a small party, composed of Frenchmen and Spaniards, and many half-breeds and Indians, degraded by drink, all under the direction of one or two leaders, would start, with but little preparation, to probably a remote point of fifty or a hundred miles from St. Louis, carrying with them some few rough implements with which to work, and armed with their rifles and knives, with a few sacks of ground maize, would take their course through the wilderness, and by a skill made perfect by necessity, without a path or track would arrive at their place of destination, and erecting a shelter of poles, covered with grass and forest leaves, and sometimes partially cemented with clay, would form their mode of action and commence their operations under the direction of a leader, who was the chief personage of the expedition, and to whom the labor of the others was due for a compensation. These parties had to depend solely on themselves for defence, and were often cut off to a man by large marauding parties of savage Indians, who would discover their rendezvous, and by stratagem and force would effect their destruction. The bodies of many brave and manly spirits in this manner have been bereft of their lives by the savages, and left to fester unburied in the wild solitudes in which they had undertaken to lay the first landmarks of civilization. [41]

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The love of gain, though always regarded as an infirmity of human nature, and certainly springing from purely selfish sources, yet, weakness as it is, is a most powerful incentive to human exertion, and is productive of the happiest results. For gain, the enterprising merchant seeks unknown shores and climes pregnant with the breath of death, which in pestilential vapors floats through the atmosphere, and where danger lurks in a thousand other forms incident to the stranger when in a savage land — where the amenities of life are unknown, and where war, rapine, and murder are regarded in the light of virtues by the inhabitants. Gain, more than a love of glory, led to the discovery of the Mississippi River; gain induced the governor of Canada to procure the services of the holy Marquette to seek the upper waters of the great river; gain influenced La Salle to attempt the colonization of the most fertile valley on the globe; and gain

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prompted the discovery of the site and founding of the "Great Metropolis of the West."

Though parties who went to work the distant salines and the mines were continually harassed, and frequently entirely destroyed by the Indians, yet the profits attendant upon the lead and salt business were so seductive, that others, animated by the same motives, were found ready to encounter the same obstacles and dangers. It was probably owing to the dangers that were incidental to working the mines and the salines, that the lieutenant-governors made without hesitation such large grants in the wilds where the lead and salt were to be found. In the neighborhood of St. Louis it was only the wealthy who obtained large grants, as it was thought by the lieutenant-governors that they possessed the most ample means to improve them — at least such was the reason alleged for the extensive grants.

As has been observed, most of the grants made by the lieutenant-governors were deemed by the inhabitants sufficiently complete without having them confirmed by the governor at New Orleans; yet, just previous to the actual transfer of Louisiana to the United States, a panic pervaded the inhabitants of St. Louis that their grants, and the transfer of their grants, not confirmed by the supreme executive officer, were worthless, and many hundreds and thousands of acres were sold for almost nothing by those whose titles had not been completely perfected. It is thought that some of the most wealthy and speculative of the inhabitants of St. Louis originated the panic, that they might purchase the claims for a mere trifle. It is certain that the claims were principally purchased by those who were the chief instigators of the panic. It is also certain that many of the claims originating but a short time previous to the transfer, were fraudulent; some of them were so pronounced by the commissioners appointed by the United States some years afterward, and there were many that were fraudulent that were pronounced good, owing to the liberal constructions placed upon claims by the commissioners, who acted upon the liberal and legal principle, that every claim was good unless manifest fraud appeared. However, many of these old claims were subjects of legal litigation, and for many years afforded a fine harvest-field for lawyers, and swelled the dockets in the court-house. Even now, some of them are surrounded by legal trammels, and have run divers times the cycles of the various courts, without any prospect of a termination.

It was during the administration of the last two lieutenant-governors, that the grants of land became much more frequent and extensive. Previous to their time, it was granted in much smaller quantities, and one of the fundamental conditions of procuring the grant was, that the petitioner should be a Catholic. Under the last commandants, though the last condition remained in force on the books, it was not enforced in practice, and the religious creed of the grantees was seldom inquired into, as it was the wish of the Spanish government to allure within its domains as many Anglo-Americans as possible, for the purpose of increasing agricultural products.

At the time of the cession to the United States, St. Louis, according to Major Stoddard, contained one hundred and eighty houses, which were nearly all built of hewn logs, set up on end, and on the square a roof was formed and covered with shingles; on some houses the shingles were

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fastened to the scantling with wooden pegs, owing to the scarcity of nails. Some of the houses of the more wealthy and tasteful inhabitants were built of stone, with a large stone wall encompassing them and the gardens with which they were connected. These houses were of but one story, low pitched, with a porch the full length of the building, and frequently a piazza in the rear. Most of the town was situated on what are now known as Main and Second streets, and the main buildings were the Government House, situated on Main street, corner of Walnut, extending toward the river, and south of the public square known as La Place d'armes; the house of Madame Chouteau, on the square between Main and Second and Chesnut and Market streets; the "Old Chouteau Mansion," being a part of the first house built in St. Louis, and situated on the block between Main and Second, and Market and Walnut streets; and the fort which was called St. Charles, situated between Fourth and Fifth streets, and Walnut and Elm. In this fort the Spanish garrison had their quarters, and it was commenced in the early part of the spring of 1780, as the register in the Catholic church contains an account of the ceremony of "blessing the first stone." The nucleus of the fort was the tower — a stone fortress reared in the shape of a tower — which had numerous port-holes, and was probably built during the administration of Louis St. Ange de Bellerive, and for many years was used as a prison by the American government — the debtors being confined in the apartment above, and the criminals below. At the attack of the Indians in 1780, the tower was the only available fortress; the other defences were in an incomplete state.

Many of the male inhabitants were married to Indian squaws, or lived with them in unseemly relations of intimacy. In the register of the Catholic church we see where eight children of a certain Jean Cardinal and Marianne, his Indian wife, were baptized at once; this same Frenchman was killed by the Indians in their attack upon the town in 1780, as stated in a previous part of this work. There are numerous baptisms of children whose mothers were squaws, and who had become the wives or mistresses of white men. This old and invaluable record book contains also the following baptism, which we have literally translated, and given in full to the reader: —

"In the year 1794, the 13th of April, Peter Joseph Didier, religious Benedictine priest of the congregation of St. Maur, has baptized Therese Victori, of Indian origin, of the nation of the Penis, about five years of age. The godfather has been M. Zenon Trudeau, captain commandant of the appointed regiment of Louisiana, and lieutenant-governor of the western part of Illinois. The godmother, Mary Genevieve de la Marche, religious superior of the Ladies of St. Claire de Tour, who have signed this present with us the day and year above."

This baptismal record not only shows the honor bestowed upon the Indian child by the high standing of its godfather and godmother, but gives us undoubted evidence that St. Louis was visited by some of the religious refugees of high quality in France, who were compelled, during the stormy period of the Revolution, to forsake their monasteries, and take shelter in foreign countries. The godmother in the aforesaid baptism was one high in authority in one branch of her creed, and doubtless received the homage incidental to her rank while at St. Louis.

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When the Spanish domination ceased, there was but one church in St. Louis, and that was of the Catholic persuasion. This church was built at the closing of the French domination in 1780, and which we have described in the first chapter of the work. There were many of the inhabitants, it is true, of different sects, yet they had carefully concealed their religious proclivities, and had no place of worship, as the Catholic creed alone was tolerated under the Spanish government.

During the French and Spanish dominations, the higher order of crimes were very rare in St. Louis, and though there was rather a liberality in their morals, yet there were none of those demoniac outbursts of human passions, which often appal us under other governments and in a more advanced stage of civilization. There were no instances of assassination, and but one of manslaughter — a soldier killing one of his comrades at the garrison — and even larcenies were unknown. The most immoral features that were reprehensible in the early inhabitants were their liaisons. These were looked upon in a charitable manner, nor affected to any degree the social standing of the party. This is only applicable to the male sex; the standard of virtue in the female sex was as high as at the present time; and though the man could deviate with impunity from a chaste life, yet the woman who did not preserve sacred her vestal and marital relations, was at once socially ostracized. In the archives we find where a man and wife jointly made a will, professing toward each other the most endearing relations, and requesting their executors to let the graves of both be as near as possible after death, as significant of the loving union that had always subsisted during life. In the next clause, the husband goes on to say that he bequeathed "five thousand livres to Marie, his illegitimate daughter." If a husband strayed from the connubial orbit for other attractions, he was forgiven, on the score of human infirmity.

Among the inhabitants, the most cordial relations subsisted: enmity was rare among them, and a brotherly feeling appeared to unite them in a family. There was seldom any legal litigation, for it was a custom among the inhabitants, in almost all cases, where there was a difference of opinion which would lead to legal controversy, for the parties to submit to arbitration, and in this reasonable way end a dispute, which, if it once became involved in the meshes of the law, would have been protracted with expense, and kept the parties in continual torture until determined; all the time attended with a thousand vexations, and increasing the unfriendly relations.

The inhabitants of St. Louis, during the French and Spanish dominations, though cut off by the remote position of their town from the enjoyment of what are termed the luxuries of life, were nevertheless, probably, the happiest people in the world. The little village was too small for society to form itself into clans, each with their array of vanity and paltry ambition, but the whole village was on a level in the social scale, and the inhabitants would gather around each other's firesides, like one family, undisturbed by the trivial niceties of etiquette, conscious that the glance and the voice which welcomed them took their warmth and their tone from hearts that were throbbing with the most friendly emotions. They were not an industrious people; they occupied themselves only sufficiently to procure a bare comfortable subsistence, and then,

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during the afternoons and evenings, there were continual interchanges of visits.

The French are proverbial for their good humor, their gayety, and that innate philosophy which prompts them, at all times, to be as happy as possible, under all circumstances. The inhabitants of St. Louis possessed all of these national characteristics in their greatest degree, somewhat increased from their isolated position, which had a tendency to draw them closer together, and the total absence of all adventitious modes of pleasure, and their perfect dependence upon each other in that respect for enjoyment. During the summer afternoon they could be seen in groups beneath the shade of some tree, or perhaps sitting upon the bluff banks of the river, when the hill above the town had intercepted the rays of the sun, before his descent in the waves and coral reefs of ocean; or perhaps some, more venturesome, would glide with the suppleness of youth and spirit down the bluff banks, and would seat themselves on the rocks which at that time, at low-water mark, rose prominently from the bed of the "Father of Waters," along the shore, laughing at their own antics and activity, and exciting the attention, and contributing to the enjoyment of their friends, who were spectators of their exploits. Some of the old would gather frequently together on the long piazzas, which were frequently in both front and rear of the one-story dwellings of the wealthier of the inhabitants — and in a universal conversation, in which all played their part, and all enjoyed; and permitting not for a moment any care or subject to intrude, which would damp the warm and genial feelings always prevalent in their social circles.

Though education was limited — and indeed so meagre even among the very few who made any pretension to book information — still the little village had its romance and its music, its traditionary narratives, and the poetry of feeling which wakes in the heart of youth when touched by the powerful talisman of love. The lover would woo his mistress in the plain language of truth, and in humble attire, and, without the aid of guitar and verse, would enjoy in sober sweetness the brief scenes of courtship; and when the holy father would make them one, and gave them his blessing, they would retire to their humble cabins and commence their new life with as much prospect of happiness as though wealth and intelligence had been their lot.

Dancing was the favorite amusement of the inhabitants, and they frequently had their social meetings. At whosoever's house the meeting was going to be, all of the neighbors would contribute something to the feast which would be spread out for the occasion. Some would contribute sugar, some coffee (there was no tea at that time), some chickens, some one thing and some another, all what they had to spare, and in this manner made up the banquet. It was almost impossible, during the infancy of St. Louis, during the French domination, for but a few — and very few — of the inhabitants to have such a sufficiency of the necessaries of life as would enable them to entertain at their own expense any great number of their friends, and hence the custom which necessity originated of a general contribution for furnishing the repast whenever there was to be a social gathering. The only music was the violin, and the dances chiefly in vogue were minuets and the various kinds of quadrille. Madame Ortes informs us that waltzes were then entirely unknown, and not until late

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during the Spanish domination did she ever see one; the first one who introduced it into St. Louis was Mr. René Paul, a respectable trader and merchant of St. Louis, and who frequently, when the country was ceded to the United States, officiated as interpreter for the officers of government when treating with the Indians, as frequent intercourse had made him familiar with their language. The French love society and conviviality, and consequently these festive scenes were frequent.

As St. Louis grew in years, the inhabitants grew in wealth, and most of them had the comforts of life in profusion, and soon could supply their houses with all that was necessary to entertain their friends, and then these general contributions ceased at their festive gatherings.

A few years after the Spanish domination commenced, though the gatherings were as frequent as ever, yet general contribution at these entertainments had altogether ceased, and the expense was borne exclusively by the individuals at whose houses the parties were held.

The customs and habits of the people of St. Louis after the transfer from the French to the Spanish government, underwent no change, except in some few immaterial respects, produced by the operation of new laws; for, but few Spanish families immigrated to the country, and those few were mostly connected with French families, and adopted their peculiar modes of life.

During the Spanish domination, whenever there was an entertainment, it was a municipal rule that a sentinel should be upon the spot, whose province it was to conduct to the calaboose any who raised any disturbance by gratifying belligerent propensities, or from too deeply imbibing of spirituous potations behaved in so noisy a manner as annoyed the company. At these banquets, the greatest deference was paid to the aged, and care was taken that they should be seated at the first table, when, from the number of guests invited, it was impossible for them all to be seated at one time.

At the time of the transfer of the province of Louisiana to the United States, there was but one baker in the town, by the name of Le Clerc, who baked for the garrison, and who lived in Main street, between what is now known as Elm and Walnut. There were three blacksmiths: Delosier, who resided in Main street, near Morgan; Rencontre, who lived in Main, near Carr; and Valois, who resided in Main, near Elm, and did the work for the government. There was but one physician, who was Dr. Saugrain, who practised many years after the possession of the American government, and who lived on Second street, and owned the property now occupied as the People's Garden.

There were but two little French taverns in the town, one kept by Yostic, and the other by Landreville, chiefly to accommodate the couriers des bois (hunters) and the voyageurs (boatmen) of the Mississippi. These little taverns, visited by the brave, daring, and reckless men who lived three-fourths of the time remote from civilization, in the wild solitudes of the forest and rivers, and in constant intercourse with the savages, were the very nurseries of legendary narratives, where the hunters, the trappers and the boatmen, all mingling together under the genial excitement of convivial influences, would relate perilous adventures, hair-breadth escapes; death of comrades and families by the tomahawk, starvation, and at the fire-stake; murder by the pirates of the Grand Tower and

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Cottonwood Creek; captivity in the wilderness and the cave, and protracted sufferings in the most agonizing forms incident to humanity. There is no record of these wild narratives, which could have been preserved for future times, had there been a historian, who by the embalming power of genius would have preserved them in an imperishable shape for posterity. Both of these taverns stood upon the corners of Main and Locust streets.

The principal merchants and traders, at the time of the cession to the United States, were, Auguste Chouteau, who resided in Main street, between Market and Walnut; Pierre Chouteau, who resided on the corner of Main and Washington Avenue, and had the whole square encircled with a stone wall — he had an orchard of choice fruit, and his house and store were in one building — the store being the first story and the family residence the second; Manuel Lisa lived on Second street, corner of Spruce — a part of the building is now occupied as a boarding-house; Labbadie & Sarpy, in Main, between Pine and Chesnut; Roubidou lived at the corner of Elm and Main — a part of the house is still standing; and Jaques Clamorgan, corner of Green and Main — the foundry of Gaty, McCune & Co. stands on part of what was his property. The Debreuil family occupied a whole square on Second street, between Pine and Chestnut.

It would be too tedious thus to locate the residences of each one of the merchants and traders, and we will content ourselves by giving the names of some of the remaining merchants and principal inhabitants. They were as follows: — Hortez, Pratte, Gratiot, Tayon, Lecompt, Papin, Cabanne, Alvarez, Lebaume and Soulard.

It must not be understood by the reader, that a merchant at that time approximated at all in his business relations to the merchant of to-day. A place occupying but a few feet square would contain all of their goods; and indeed, during the period of the first growth of St. Louis, a merchant kept all of his goods in a chest or box, which was opened whenever a purchaser would appear. Sugar, coffee, gunpowder, blankets, paint, spice, salt, knives, hatchets, guns, kitchen-ware, hunting-shirts, and every variety of coarse dry goods, were stored together.

Owing to the tediousness of navigation, the prices demanded for all articles of importation were enormous. Sugar and coffee were each two dollars per pound, and every thing else in proportion. Tea was almost unknown until the advent of the United States government. Articles now regarded as indispensable to human existence, and occupying a low position in the scale of human comfort, were then esteemed the greatest luxuries, and so expensive as to be enjoyed only on state occasions, and then with parsimony; yet the inhabitants were happy. Their isolated position, their few wants, their removal from temptation always lurking amid the elegancies and flowering attractions of civilization, the simplicity of their life — all conduced to serenity of mind, which is so redolent of happy thoughts and so favorable to the growth of the finest sympathies. When they met at their balls, there was no ambition to excel in the display of costume and other butterfly follies incident to the summer of civilization — having no intrinsic value and deceiving by a specious attraction.

In speaking of the balls, it is necessary to take a passing glance at the musicians, who, with their instruments, contributed so much to the enjoyment

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of the inhabitants. The chief one was an old man with white hair, a droll expression of countenance, and dry humor. He was scarcely five feet in height, and almost as thick. He was called Monsieur Tardif, and at this distant day there is no means of ascertaining his patronymic. He was known usually by his soubriquet, and this name — which was given to him from his slowness of motion over space — had more notoriety than any other in the village. At every ball, seated by his side was another musician, in the person of a darky of the real African hue, but from his long, gaunt, fallow-deer appearance, was called Chevreuil. They were the perfect antipodes of each other, and have been the origin of many a jest among the happy people of the village.

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Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
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