Happy 250th Birthday Saint Louis

2014 marks the 250th anniversary of the establishment of Saint Louis, MO by 14 year-old Auguste Chouteau, in advance of the arrival of Pierre Laclede. This frontier trading post near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers was the first of many fur trading posts the Chouteau family would establish in Missouri, South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma and Kansas during its expansion into the fur trade. In 2013 I drove to Portland, Oregon for my son's wedding. I packed two fake cakes and some photo equipment with the intent of visiting Fort Benton, Montana and Fort Pierre, South Dakota, towns established as fur trading posts by members of the Chouteau families. I also visited Choteau, Montana in Teton County, MT and Pierre, SD on that trip.

     Saint Louis, Missouri celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding in 2014.
In 1764,  a fourteen year-old named Auguste Chouteau - an agent and stepson of Pierre Laclede - led a party of thirty men up river from New Orleans to establish a fur trading post on the west bank of the Mississippi River near the confluence of the Missouri River.
     In the summer of 2013 I made a trip West, stopping in some towns in Montana and South Dakota that were either established as trading posts by members of the Chouteau family, or were linked to the Chouteaus by name.  I brought two birthdday cakes decorated for the occassion, with the intention of asking the mayors of these towns to wish Saint Louis a happy birthday. I also met some other folks along the way.
     The Chouteau family was the first family of Saint Louis. Their legacy in the settling of America ranges far beyond the Gateway City. In addition to their operations on the Upper Missouri,  generations of  Chouteaus had fur trading interests throughout Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas, and served as Indian agents with the Osage and other tribes. Their political influence extended from the edge of the Western frontier to the United States Senate.
    
     Mr. Spoon, a historic interpreter at Old Fort Benton in Fort Benton, Montana is dressed as a trading post clerk from the 1840's. Fort Benton was the last trading post opened on the Missouri River by Auguste and Pierre Chouteau Jr. in 1847.
    Pierre Chouteau and partner Bernard Pratt bought out John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company interests on the Missouri River in 1834. The trading post of Fort Benton was named in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, Senator from Missouri.
     Today the town of Fort Benton is the seat of Chouteau County, Montana. Chouteau County's 3,973 square miles is larger than the combined area of Delaware and Rhode Island. The 2010 census tallied 5,813 residents, or about 1.5 per square mile.

For more on historic Fort Benton  http://www.fortbenton.com/museums
     Mayor Jay Dunckel grew up rooting for the Saint Louis Cardinals. He took time out to don his Cardinals hat, step outside in the rain and wish Saint Louis, MO a happy 250th birthday.
     The town of Choteau serves as the seat of Teton County, Montana. The County of Teton emerged from a subdivision of Chouteau County in the late 1800's. Platted in 1883 near the Blackfoot Indian Agency station, the township of Choteau wrestled over the spelling of its name for decades.
     In 1903 a member of the Chouteau family sued to change the spelling of the town from Choteau to the original Chouteau. Incorporation in 1913 put the matter of spelling back in play. The residents  dropped the "u" and the traditional spelling  for the final time.

For more information about Choteau visit  http://www.cityofchoteau-mt.gov
     The Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana send their birthday wishes to Saint Louis on its 250th birthday - which is pretty young -  in geologic time.

For more on the Old Trail Museum   http://oldtrailmuseum.org

     Mayor Sam Tidball of Fort Pierre, South Dakota, wishes Saint Louis a happy 250th birthday from the site of the original Fort Pierre Chouteau.
     The first Europeans to visit these iridescent grasslands on the southern bank of the Upper Missouri River were the expedition led by brothers Francois and Louis-Joseph Verendrye. In 1913 group of children discovered a claim for France engraved on a lead tablet left by the Verendryes in 1743.
     Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery avoided a violent confrontation with a band of Sioux warriors near this spot in 1804. This incident prompted Clark to name the Missouri tributary the "Bad River."
     The original trading post was established near the confluence of the Bad and Missouri Rivers as Fort Teton in 1817.  Later renamed Fort Pierre Chouteau, the commercial operation  received and processed hundreds of thousands of beaver pelts, deer skin and buffalo hide during its decades as a trading post before the US Army bought it in 1855.
 
This historical marker preserves the spot described in 1832 by painter George Catlin as being located "in the centre of one of the Missouri's most beautiful plains, hemmed in by a series of gracefully undulating, grass-covered hills, on all sides...."

Interested in Fort Pierre ?  http://www.fortpierre.com

   Mayor Laurie Gill of Pierre, South Dakota graciously interrupted her busy day to wish Saint Louis a happy 250th birthday when I visited in June, 2013. The only state capital named for a member of the Chouteau family, Pierre began as ferry landing across the river from Fort Pierre Chouteau. A causeway stretches from the Pierre riverfront across a channel of the Missouri to La Framboise Island.

The locals pronounce their city's name "Peer".

To learn more about Pierre, SD, visit:  http://ci.pierre.sd.us
     Mayor Richard Morris of Fort Benton, Montana wishes Saint Louis a happy 250th birthday from the veranda of the historic Grand Union Hotel.
     Fort Benton was established in 1847 by the Chouteau brothers Pierre Cadet and Auguste. Supporters of  Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, the Chouteaus and Benton shared a passion for westward expansion. The brothers named the post in his honor. This was the disembarkation point for steamboat travellers heading west.
     One of Fort Benton's most colorful characters was Eleanor Dumont. Dumont ran a faro snap and dealt blackjack - moving her game from mining camp to boom town across the Old West. By the time she arrived in Fort Benton in the 1860's she sported a fuzzy growth on her upper lip, which earned her the nickname "Madame Mustache." She operated out of a second story room above a joint called "The Jungle" on Front Street, not far from the Grand Union. This block of town was dubbed "the bloodiest block in the West" because of the concentration of saloons, brothels, dance halls and gambling dens.

For more information about Fort Benton, MT:   http://www.fortbenton.com
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