Perspectives on the Fur Trade

Document 2: Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable

Source: John C. Luttig, “Jean Baptiste Point du Sable,” Journal of a Fur Trading Expedition on the Upper Missouri, 1812-1813 (St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society, 1920), 92-97, 153-154.


Friday the 13th [November] Papin and 1 Man went to the Village, to try to get the Rees to make a great Hunt for us. Mr. M. L. promised 20 Loads Powder & Ball for each Cow the Buffaloe being very near and plenty. Charbonneau returned in the afternoon from the Bigbellies and four of their head Men with him, the Chief Cheveux Loup and 3 others, some Rees and a Chajenne Chief (Papilliar) arrived in the Evening with the news the Chajenne were close by and came to trade, traded 2 Beaver.

Saturday the 14th, cloudy and cold, Papin returned with tidings that the Rees were preparing to make war on us. Baptist Provost and Garrow had told them many Lies and roused the Chiefs and Nation against us, which proved to be fact, we found this Day 6 of our Horses stolen, 2 Rees arrived to sound us if we were inclined for War, the Chajenne Chief went to the Village.

Sunday the 15th This Morning, Immel, Papin and Charbonneau left this for the Village, with the Bigbellies and 3 Rees, to see into the Misconduct of those fellows and try to settle amicable, the Rees which remained at fort, seemed tranquil and content, we stopt all Work cleared the fort, and prepared for Defence in Case of Necessity, sent Pierre Chaine & Pointsable [see appendix] to the Camp [of] Langue de Buche, to hear some news of the stolen horses.

Monday the 16, last Night Pierre Chaine returned and informed that the horses had been stolen by the Rees, by the Order of Garrow and were at the hunting Camp of Grey Eye, Langue de Buche arrived this Morning with 8 Men going to the Village he promised to deliver the horses in three Days, and requested Mr M. L. to be tranquil, Matters would be settled, traded some Meat and I white Bear Skin of them at 4 P M. our Deputies returned with the Bigbellies accompanied by Goshe and Plume d’aigle, Garrow and many other Rees, to arrange the Difficulties which had arisen, all was thrown on the Shoulders of Baptist Provost.

Thursday the 17th fine weather, clear and warm, held Council and finished with Peace, two of our horses were brought in this Morning, finished the Enclosure of the fort.

Wednesday the 18, fine weather, and tranquility restored the Bigbellies requested a trader and being promised one, left this for their Village, as also the Rees very well satisfied, another horse was brought in, Pierre Chaine and 2 Men went over the River hunting, Buffaloe and Elk in Sight.

Thursday the 19th clear and warm little Ice in the River at four oclock in the after noon hung the great Door of the Entrance of the fort, which ceremony was saluted by 7 Guns – and 3 rounds of Musquetry, made the Tour around the Fort and Baptized the same MANUEL in the Evening a good Supper and a cheerful glass of Whisky was given to the Men, and a Dance at which all the Ladies then in fort attended, concluded the Day, Garrow brought his family to fort again and traded of the Rees a horse which had been stolen of the Company last year by the Sioux.

Friday the 2oth, clear and cold, had a Deer Killed nothing remarkable.

Saturday the 21, cloudy Morning, cleared up at noon Immel & Papin went to the hunting Camp of Grey Eye, to get if possible the remainder of the stolen Horses. Legross came to the Fort with Baptist Provost to explain his Conduct and be taken in favor again. Provost was not permitted to enter, they blamed Garrow for all the Mischief which had been done, but went off without Success, Immel returned with only our Running Mare the other 2 horses they the Indians had sent to the Village loaden with Meat, the horses returned were all ruined and their Backs very soar, the Chajenne Chief returned from the Village.

Sunday the 22d Morning clear and moderate, the Chajenne Chief went to his Village, in the Evening our hunters came to fort, they had Killed only 1 Cow and 1 Deer and found very few Buffaloe, evening cold.

Monday the 23d Snow in the Morning, having been informed, the Saunie, Sioux, had arrived with about 150 Lodges at the Rees, Charbonneau and Garrow set off for the Ree Village, to Know if they the Sioux had any thing to trade. Mr. M. L. Immel and Chain went to a band of Chajennes which were camped about 5 Miles above the fort, 143 with the same intention but returned shortly afterwards, having met with one Chief and 2 Partizans coming to pay us a Visit, and inform themselves how we traded, cleared up at noon pretty cold, wind North, plenty Ice in the River, this Day crossed our horses to the other Side.

Thursday the 24th clear and very cold, Garrow & C. returned from the Sioux, with News that they had nothing to trade but Meat; the Chajennes went to their Camp, and promised to come to trade with what they had, five Rees arrived at fort.

***

JEAN BAPTISTE POINT DU SABLE, a French-West-Indian mulatto, reputed to be the first settler of Chicago; having had a trading-house and residence on the bank of the Chicago River, where Pine Street now ends, prior to 1779. According to Mrs. John H. Kinzie, whose husband purchased the house built by Point du Sable, he was a native of San Domingo. N. Matson, in his French and Indian Wars of Illinois says he was a runaway slave from Lexington, Kentucky. Point du Sable on June 14, 1809, in making an affidavit at St. Charles as to some Indian depredations on the Illinois River, designated himself “Baptiste Pointe Sable, a free mulatto man.”

Point du Sable’s chief occupation seems to have been that of a trader who wandered from place to place in the customary manner, and fortunately left a record now and then. In 1779 he was in Chicago, and in the summer of that same year he was established on the River Chemin, later known as Trail Creek, probably on the site of Michigan City, Indiana. It was at this place that he was arrested by Lieut. Bennett, who had been sent by Arent S. De Peyster of the British Army to forestall an anticipated attack on Mackinac by George Rogers Clark. Point du Sable’s arrest seems to have been due to his seeming attachment to the American cause, although at the time he was in the employ of a British trader named Durand, who had undertaken to guide a British war party to the Illinois country to co-operate with Bennett. In his petition for a grant of land from the United States Government, presented in 1783, Point du Sable satisfied the Commissioners that he was a citizen of the United States. He stated that as early as 1780 he had resided at Peoria with his family and had improved a farm of thirty acres between the Old Fort and the new settlements of Peoria. In 1790 he was again in Chicago and probably intermittently for five or six years. In this same year, on October 4, Susanne, the natural daughter of Point du Sable and an Indian woman, married Jean Baptiste Pelletier at Cahokia, and on October 7, 1799, a child born of this union was baptized in the Old Cathedral at St. Louis. The entry states that Pelletier’s spouse, Susanne Point Sable, was “Habit a Chicagou” In 1796 he appeared at Mackinac. The next record of him is as a witness or juror on September 29, 1802, in the St. Clair County, Illinois (then Indiana Territory), Court of Common Pleas.

The first positive record I have found of Point du Sable’s residence in Missouri is in 1805, when he purchased some land in St. Charles County from a negro named Rondin. The records show, from this time on until June, 1813, several transfers of property in the city and county of St. Charles which were made jointly by Jean Baptiste Point Sable and “Baptiste Pointsable,” as the names were usually written to distinguish father and son.

In June, 1813, as “Jean Baptiste Point de Sabre,” he conveyed a lot and house in the city of St. Charles, together with all of his other property of various kinds, to Eulalia Barada, wife of Michael Derais. He was probably ill at the time, as the consideration mentioned was her promise to care for him in his illness and to bury him in the Catholic Cemetery at St. Charles. The names appearing on the records, “Point du Sable,” “Point Sable,” and “Point Sabre,” are only variations of Point du Sable; the title to the property involved in each case being traceable to the same man. It is an interesting fact that Point du Sable always signed simply with his initials, ” J. B. P. S.,” as shown in the cut above.

The son, Baptiste Point du Sable, Jr., died sometime prior to February 17, 1814, as letters of administration were then granted at St. Charles, Missouri, on his estate to Henry Hight. No heirs were then given and no files in the case are to be found in the Probate Court. In July, 1814, Hight was removed and letters were granted to Jean Baptiste Pointsable, Sr., but there are no files in that case. In September, 1814, “J. B. P. S., alias John B. Pointsable,” applied to the court to take the benefit of the acts of the Territory concerning insolvent debtors, and to be released from imprisonment.

Whether it was the early Chicago settler, or the son, who was on this expedition, it is difficult to determine absolutely.