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Captains Of Industry Or Men Of Business Who Did Something Besides Making Money - Captain Pierre Laclede Liguest

1. Preface

2. David Maydole

3. Ichabod Washburn

4. Elihu Burritt

5. Michael Reynolds

6. Major Robert Pike

7. George Graham

8. John Harrison

9. Peter Faneuil

10. Chauncey Jerome

11. Captain Pierre Laclede Liguest

12. Israel Putnam

13. George Flower

14. Edward Coles

15. Peter H. Burnett

16. Gerrit Smith

17. Peter Force

18. John Bromfield

19. Frederick Tudor

20. Myron Holley

21. The Founders Of Lowell

23. John Smedley

24. Richard Cobden

25. Henry Bessemer

26. John Bright

27. Thomas Edward

28. Robert Dick

29. John Duncan

30. James Lackington

31. Horace Greeley's Start

32. James Gordon Bennett

33. Three John Walters

34. George Hope

35. Sir Henry Cole

36. Charles Summers

37. William B. Astor

38. Peter Cooper

39. Paris Duverney

40. Sir Rowland Hill

41. Marie-Antoine Careme

42. Wonderful Walker

43. Sir Christopher Wren

44. Sir John Rennie

45. Sir Moses Montefiore

46. Marquis Of Worcester

47. An Old Dry-goods Merchant's Recollections



The bridge which springs so lightly and so gracefully over the
Mississippi at St. Louis is a truly wonderful structure. It often
happens in this world that the work which is done best conceals the
merit of the worker. All is finished so thoroughly and smoothly, and
fulfills its purpose with so little jar and friction, that the
difficulties overcome by the engineer become almost incredible. No one
would suppose, while looking down upon the three steel arches of this
exquisite bridge, that its foundations are one hundred and twenty feet
below the surface of the water, and that its construction cost nine
millions of dollars and six years of time. Its great height above the
river is also completely concealed by the breadth of its span. The
largest steamboat on the river passes under it at the highest stage of
water, and yet the curve of the arches appears to have been selected
merely for its pictorial effect.

It is indeed a noble and admirable work, an honor to the city and
country, and, above all, to Captain James B. Eads, who designed and
constructed it. The spectator who sees for the first time St. Louis, now
covering as far as the eye can reach the great bend of the river on
which it is built, the shore fringed with steamboats puffing black
smoke, and the city glittering in the morning sun, beholds one of the
most striking and animating spectacles which this continent affords.

Go back one hundred and twenty years. That bend was then covered with
the primeval forest, and the only object upon it which betrayed the hand
of man was a huge green mound, a hundred feet high, that had been thrown
up ages before by some tribe which inhabited the spot before our Indians
had appeared. All that region swarmed with fur-bearing animals, deer,
bear, buffalo, and beaver. It is difficult to see how this continent
ever could have been settled but for the fur trade. It was beaver skin
which enabled the Pilgrim Fathers of New England to hold their own
during the first fifty years of their settlement. It was in quest of
furs that the pioneers pushed westward, and it was by the sale of furs
that the frontier settlers were at first supplied with arms, ammunition,
tools, and salt.

The fur trade also led to the founding of St. Louis. In the year 1763 a
great fleet of heavy batteaux, loaded with the rude merchandise needed
by trappers and Indians, approached the spot on which St. Louis stands.
This fleet had made its way up the Mississippi with enormous difficulty
and toil from New Orleans, and only reached the mouth of the Missouri
at the end of the fourth month. It was commanded by Pierre Laclede
Liguest, the chief partner in a company chartered to trade with the
Indians of the Missouri River. He was a Frenchman, a man of great energy
and executive force, and his company of hunters, trappers, mechanics,
and farmers, were also French.

On his way up the river Captain Liguest had noticed this superb bend of
land, high enough above the water to avoid the floods, and its surface
only undulating enough for the purposes of a settlement. Having reached
the mouth of the Muddy River (as they called the Missouri) in the month
of December, and finding no place there well suited to his purpose, he
dropped down the stream seventeen miles, and drove the prows of his
boats into what is now the Levee of St. Louis. It was too late in the
season to begin a settlement. But he "blazed" the trees to mark the
spot, and he said to a young man of his company, Auguste Chouteau:--

"You will come here as soon as the river is free from ice, and will
cause this place to be cleared, and form a settlement according to the
plan I shall give you."

The fleet fell down the river to the nearest French settlement, Fort de
Chartres. Captain Liguest said to the commander of this fort on

"I have found a situation where I intend to establish a settlement which
in the future will become one of the most beautiful cities in America."

These are not imaginary words. Auguste Chouteau, who was selected to
form the settlement, kept a diary, part of which is now preserved in the
Mercantile Library at St. Louis, and in it this saying of Captain
Liguest is recorded. So, the next spring he dispatched young Chouteau
with a select body of thirty mechanics and hunters to the site of the
proposed settlement.

"You will go," said he, "and disembark at the place where we marked the
trees. You will begin to clear the place and build a large shed to
contain the provisions and tools and some little cabins to lodge the

On the fifteenth of February, 1764, the party arrived, and the next
morning began to build their shed. Liguest named the settlement St.
Louis, in honor of the patron saint of the royal house of France--Louis
XV. being then upon the throne. All went well with the settlement, and
it soon became the seat of the fur trade for an immense region of
country, extending gradually from the Mississippi to the Rocky

The French lived more peacefully with the Indians than any other people
who assisted to settle this continent, and the reason appears to have
been that they became almost Indian themselves. They built their huts in
the wigwam fashion, with poles stuck in the ground. They imitated the
ways and customs of the Indians, both in living and in hunting. They
went on hunting expeditions with Indians, wore the same garments, and
learned to live on meat only, as Indian hunting parties generally did.
But the circumstance which most endeared the French to the Indians was
their marrying the daughters of the chiefs, which made the Indians
regard them as belonging to their tribe. Besides this, they accommodated
themselves to the Indian character, and learned how to please them. A
St. Louis fur trader, who was living a few years ago in the ninetieth
year of his age, used to speak of the ease with which an influential
chief could be conciliated.

"I could always," said he, "make the principal chief of a tribe my
friend by a piece of vermilion, a pocket looking-glass, some
flashy-looking beads, and a knife. These things made him a puppet in my

Even if a valuable horse had been stolen, a chief, whose friendship had
been won in this manner, would continue to scold the tribe until the
horse was brought back. The Indians, too, were delighted with the
Frenchman's fiddle, his dancing, his gayety of manner, and even with the
bright pageantry of his religion. It was when the settlement was six
years old that the inhabitants of St. Louis, a very few hundreds in
number, gathered to take part in the consecration of a little church,
made very much like the great council wigwam of the Indians, the logs
being placed upright, and the interstices filled with mortar. This
church stood near the river, almost on the very site of the present
cathedral. Mass was said, and the Te Deum was chanted. At the first
laying out of the village, Captain Liguest set apart the whole block as
a site for the church, and it remains church property to this day.

It is evident from Chouteau's diary that Pierre Laclede Liguest, though
he had able and energetic assistants, was the soul of the enterprise,
and the real founder of St. Louis. He was one of that stock of Frenchmen
who put the imprint of their nation, never to be effaced, upon the map
of North America--a kind of Frenchman unspeakably different from those
who figured in the comic opera and the masquerade ball of the late
corrupt and effeminating empire. He was a genial and generous man, who
rewarded his followers bountifully, and took the lead in every service
of difficulty and danger. While on a visit to New Orleans he died of one
of the diseases of the country, and was buried on the shore near the
mouth of the Arkansas River.

His executor and chief assistant, Auguste Chouteau, born at New Orleans
in 1739, lived one hundred years, not dying till 1839. There are many
people in St. Louis who remember him. A very remarkable coincidence was,
that his brother, Pierre Chouteau, born in New Orleans in 1749, died in
St. Louis in 1849, having also lived just one hundred years. Both of
these brothers were identified with St. Louis from the beginning, where
they lived in affluence and honor for seventy years, and where their
descendants still reside.

The growth of St. Louis was long retarded by the narrowness and tyranny
of the Spanish government, to which the French ceded the country about
the time when St. Louis was settled. But in 1804 it was transferred to
the United States, and from that time its progress has been rapid and
almost uninterrupted. When President Jefferson's agent took possession,
there was no post-office, no ferry over the river, no newspaper, no
hotel, no Protestant church, and no school. Nor could any one hold land
who was not a Catholic. Instantly, and as a matter of course, all
restricting laws were swept away; and before two years had passed there
was a ferry, a post-office, a newspaper, a Protestant church, a hotel,
and two schools, one French and one English.

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