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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
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html


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Pierre Chouteau.

PIERRE CHOUTEAU was born on the 19th of January, 1789. His father, after whom he was named, and of whom we have already given the reader some account as being an Indian trader, was seldom domesticated with his family, being called, by the nature of his vocation, far in the remote wilds through which the Upper Mississippi and wild Missouri flow. His mother, Pelagie Kiersereau, had the whole charge of the children; and the first visitation of childish grief which young Pierre experienced was when, at the age of four years, he lost this estimable parent. After the death of his mother he was taken by his aunt, Madame Dahetre, who lived in a little one-story house, at the corner of Washington Avenue and Main. (At that time Washington Avenue had no name, and Main street was called, La rue principale).

There were, in the early days of St. Louis, two French teachers who taught all of the children of the little village. They were known as Madame Rigache, and Jean Baptiste Trudeau; and to them Pierre Chouteau owed the first rudiments of education. However, from the very first, his nature rebelled against confined and sedentary habits; and while a young boy, he would listen with rapture to the adventures of the hunters and trappers, who, at that time, made up a large portion of the population of St. Louis, and often besought his father to let him go to the trading posts established on the Missouri. This repeated solicitation was at length gratified; for his father, having given up his trade with the Indians at the change of government, he consented in 1807 to young Pierre making his first essay as a trader, which was at that time a kind of knight-errantry to which all the ambitious French youth aspired.

Panting with the pressure of youthful hopes, Pierre Chouteau left St.

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Louis in August, 1807, with two boats laden with goods suitable for the Indian trade in that region. As is always the case in youthful perspective, not more than one-half of his hopes were realized. The expedition did not produce the Potosi of wealth which he had before figured up would be the result; and on the whole was but a meagre compensation for the hardships he encountered in his first experience in the fur-trade; for he wintered upon the Osage, and that year the winter was of unusual severity.

In early spring he returned to St. Louis, and then, at the solicitation of Dubuque, the well-known pioneer miner and trader of Iowa, went up to the trading post bearing his name, and on the site of which is now a flourishing city, and became connected with the fur trade of the Upper Mississippi. After the death of Dubuque, he came back to St. Louis, and in 1819 formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Berthold, in the Indian trade and general merchandizing business; and the store was kept in the second brick house that was built in St. Louis, and located on Main street, between Market and Chestnut streets.

The firm of Berthold and Chouteau soon became extensively known, and their boats and trading posts were familiar to the numerous tribes of Indians who dwelt upon the Missouri and its tributaries. Berthold remained in the store, and to Pierre Chonteau was confided the trade with the Indians. After the boats were dispatched a few days, he would start upon horseback and take the road leading from St. Louis toward what now is Manchester, and which, after some miles from the city, became a small Indian path, in many places scarcely perceptible. After leaving the settlements he had to content himself with Indian comforts in his business pilgrimage. Some bread and dried buffalo meat which he carried in a wallet attached to his saddle, served as his sustenance on his journey. At night, he would tether his horse that it might graze at pleasure, and wrapping himself in a blanket, would lie upon the earth with his feet toward the fire which he usually kindled, according to the fashion of the Indians. Frequently in these wild solitudes he would come across small encampments of Indians, and would often accept their invitations to a feast; and, strange to say, there was never an insult offered him, nor any attempt made to interrupt his journeys. This originated in a great measure from a perfect knowledge of the Indian character, and a disposition at all times to conciliate their regard rather than excite their prejudice. [77]

After the dissolution of the firm of Berthold & Chouteau, Pierre Chouteau became connected in business with other prominent Indian traders, among whom were General Bernard Pratte, and Jean P. Cabanné. It is a fact deserving of record that, in these associations, so total was the confidence of each partner in the other, that there were no written terms of copartnership, and never any difficulty in the final adjustment of the books.

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In 1827, Pierre Chouteau became associated with Mr. Astor, and the American Fur Company, then in its palmy days, was principally under his management. At this time the boats ascended the Missouri only as far as the Bluffs, and the goods were then taken and transferred in packs to horses, and carried in that manner to the regions of the Crows and Blackfeet at a vast expense. Pierre Chouteau, after being familiar with the currents of the Missouri for many years, resolved to pass what was thought to be the Ultima Thule of its navigation. In 1831, he ascended in boats to Fort Pierre, which feat having accomplished successfully, in the following year — 1832, the wild Indians living about the mouths of the Yellowstone, first saw, in awe and surprise, a steamboat in their midst. In 1834, he purchased Mr. Astor's interest in the western branch of the company, and in 1836 was established the present firm of Pierre Chouteau, Jun., & Co., which, since that time, may be said to have monopolized all of the fur-trade of the Missouri and Upper Mississippi rivers. Mr. Chouteau is also now engaged extensively in the iron business.

June 15th, 1813, Pierre Chouteau married his cousin, Emilie Gratiot, daughter of Charles Gratiot, and has two children, both living — his son, Charles Chouteau, being associated in business with him. He is now in the evening of an active and well-spent life, possessing a reputation pure from calumny, and enjoying the respect of all classes of citizens. He was one of the framers of the constitution in 1820, and has been of much utility to the general government in assisting in treaties with the far and distant tribes of Indians. He has been the largest fur-trader west of the Alleghany Mountains. At one period his trading area extended over an immense country. It embraced the whole country watered by the Upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and by the Osage, the Kansas, the Platte, and the St. Peters; he frequently having in his employ seven hundred men, some of them at immense salaries. To his pilots up the Missouri river he often gave seven hundred dollars per month, so as to secure the services of the most skilful; and to this circumstance may be attributed the fact that in all of the dangerous navigation incident to his business, he has never met with any serious losses.

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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
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html
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