René Auguste Chouteau, a co-founder of the City of St. Louis, died on this day in 1829. Also known as Auguste Chouteau, he was founder of St. Louis and a successful fur trader and a politician. He and his partner had a monopoly for many years of fur trade with the large Osage tribe on the Missouri River. In addition, he had numerous business interests in St. Louis and was well-connected with the various rulers, French, Spanish and American.
Starting in August 1763, Chouteau, Pierre Laclede and some 30 other men traveled upriver from New Orleans to Ste. Genevieve with trade goods. By November, the group arrived at Ste. Genevieve, but Laclede found that the village did not have adequate storage for his goods as it had been settled near the riverbank on bottomland. Laclede “deemed the location insalubrious” for his business.
As a result, Auguste Chouteau landed in what is now St. Louis on February 14, 1764. The next day, February 15, Chouteau directed the men to start clearing and founded the European city of St. Louis. Prior to his arrival, St. Louis was a site long occupied by indigenous tribes, as demonstrated by the numerous massive earthwork mounds left from the Mississippian culture of the 9th-12th century.
After Laclede’s death in 1778, Chouteau took over the business of trading, adding greatly to the family fortunes. He quickly expanded the business to include agricultural properties, and banking, and owned the first grist mill in St. Louis. Chouteau played a significant role in the growth of other, outlying towns, such as St. Charles, Missouri.
Chouteau also remained on good terms with the Spanish government in St. Louis. In 1780, Chouteau played a small role in the Battle of St. Louis, in which the village was defended against a British-led Native American attack. Chouteau negotiated with the Spanish government for greater defense of the city, and for his efforts was commissioned a captain and later a colonel.
Chouteau died February 24, 1829. His remains were interred first at the burial grounds near the Basilica of St. Louis, but were reinterred at Calvary Cemetery.