Inebriation, adultery, and furs in colonial St. Louis

Aren’t you curious about the earliest history of St. Louis? Did you know that Lafayette Park is what remains of the original grazing commons in St. Louis? Did you know that St. Louis was basically a fur trading outpost of New Orleans, sometimes Spanish, sometimes French before the Louisiana Purchase in 1804 cemented its American identity? Did you know our founding family was Pierre de LaClède along with someone else’s wife, Marie Thérése Bourgeois Chouteau, who married René Chouteau on 20 September 1748, when she was only 15? René went back to France and abandoned her in New Orleans about four years after their marriage, so she made do, ultimately having four children with Pierre de LaClède, though they were still ostensibly credited to her lawful husband.

St. Louisans were a lazy, drunken bunch, some might say. For this was a fur trading outpost and people did not want to do the drudgery of farming. There are lots of other interesting stories about our earliest days. But to find out the rest you are going to have to read Patricia Cleary‘s wonderful book, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil: a history of colonial St. Louis. I could hardly put it down, here on winter nights in my new home town.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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