Joseph Robidoux, the son of Joseph and Catharine Robidoux,
was born in St. Louis, August 10th, 1783. He was the eldest of a
family consisting of six sons and one daughter, to wit: Joseph,
Antoine, Isadore, Francis, Michel and Palagie. Louis, the second
son, lived and died in California, after his removal from St. Louis.
Joseph, Antoine, Isadore and Francis are all buried in St. Joseph.
Joseph, the father of this family, was a Canadian Frenchman, and came from
Montreal, Canada, to St. Louis, where he located shortly after the
settlement of that city by the French.
Being a shrewd business man, and possessing great energy, he
accumulated a fortune. His wealth, his business qualifications, and
his genial dispostion made him many friends among the leading merchants
and influential men of that city. He occupied a large mansion,
located between Walnut and Elm Streets, surrounded with every comfort and
convenience. Here he entertained his friends in a royal style, and
so noted was his hospitality that the First General Assembly of Missouri
did him the honor of holding its first session at his house, on the 7th of
His children attended school at an early age, the
best then to be found in the city of St. Louis, where they remained till
the completion of their scientific and literary courses.
the eldest of the boys, when only eighteen years of age, married Eugenie
Delslille, the daughter of a wealthy gentleman of St. Louis. By this
union they had one child, Joseph E. Robidoux, who is still living near
White Cloud, Kansas, at the advanced age of seventy-two years.
Four years after his marriage, his wife died. After
her death, young Robidoux, then in the twenty third year of his age,
became an extensive traveler, first visiting New Orleans, and different
points on the Lower Mississippi, in search of a favorable location for a
trading post. Finding none that offered the advantages desired by
him on the Mississippi River, he finally located on the present site of
the city of Chicago, where he was plundered and robbed by the Indians, of
his goods and merchandise, within a few days after his arrival
He returned again to St. Louis, and soon thereafter made a
voyage up the Missouri River, in company with one of the partners of the
American Fur Company.
"Blacksnake Hills" had been seen by some of the men
connected with the fur companies, while en route on one of their
expeditions, their attention being attracted hither by not only the
topography of the country, but by the presence of the congregrated tribes
of the Sac, Fox and Iowa Indians, who assembled here en masse at stated
seasons of the preparatory to crossing the river, either on a visit to
other tribes farther west, or for the purpose of hunting.
the Indians here in large numbers, while on their journey at this time,
they debarked, and after looking at the point and its advantages as a
probable future trading post, they proceeded on their way to Council
Bluffs, Iowa, the original place of their destination.
The Bluffs at that time constituted the most important
trading post on the Missouri River, being the headquarters of the Otoe,
Pawnee, Omaha,Punka and other Indian tribes, numbering about forty
thousand. Being favorably impressed with the "Bluffs" as a trading
post, Mr. Robidoux returned to St. Louis and purchased a stock of goods,
which he transported up the Missouri by a keel boat, arriving at the
"Bluffs" in the fall of 1809.
Here he remained for thirteen years,
supplying the Indians with goods and taking in exchange therfore money,
peltries and such other commodities as they had to barter, in the meantime
making occasional visits to St. Louis.
While residing at the
"Bluffs" in 1813 he married Angelique Vandry, another lady of St. Louis,
who died in the City of St. Joseph on the 17th of January, 1857. By
this union they had six sons and one daughter- Faraon, Julius C., Francis
B., Felix, Edmond, Charles and Mrs. S.P. Beauvis, Charles being the
youngest. Of the above named all are dead excepting Edmond and Mrs.
Beauvis, the former residing in St. Joseph and the latter in St.
Readily adapting himself to the havits, manners and customs
of the Indians, and speaking with considerable fluency the dialects of the
tribes by whom he was surrounded, Mr. Robidoux became an expert Indian
trader. The American Fur Company were also in business at the
"Bluffs" and had had a monopoly of the entire Indian trade for some time
previously to Mr. Robidoux' locating there. But a short time,
however, passed after his arrival before he began to divide the trade, and
finally became so popular with the Indians that he controlled a large
portion of this trade, to the great detriment of the Fur Company.
The company, wishing no further opposition from Mr. Robidoux,
finally purchased his stock of goods, giving him fifty per cent on the
original cost, and in addition thereto the sum of one thousand dollars
annually for a period of three years, conditioned that he would leave the
He then returned to St. Louis, where he remained with his family,
and carried on the business of a baker and confectioner, until the
experation of the three years, the time agreed upon between himself and
the Fur Company. Having spent already many years of his life among
the Indians as a fur trader, a business, if not entirely congenial to his
taste, had at least been a profitable one, he concluded to embark once
more in the same pursuit. Not that he really wished-
"for a lodge in some vast wilderness-
contiguity of space,"
but that he might reap therefrom a golden harvest.
Making known his intention to the Fur Company, it at once offered him the
post at the mouth of "Roy's Branch," just above the "Blacksnake Hills", at
a salary of eighteen hundred dollars per year year, provided he would in
no wise interfere with the business at the "Bluffs."
proposition he accepted, and having been furnished with a stock of goods,
he landed at the mouth of "Roy's Branch" in the fall of 1826. Shortly
afterward he removed to the mouth of "Blacksnake Creek," where
he continued to work for the Fur Company until 1830, at which time he
purchased their entire interest in the goods then in his possession, and
became the sole proprietor of the post at "Blacksnake Hills."
one living in this, the last half of the nineteenth century, surrounded
with the blessings of civilization, the comforts of home and the
companionship of genial friends, such a venture as that of Mr. Robidoux,
would be fraught with too many dangers, difficulties and privations to be
undertaken single handed and alone. The desert waste, the forest
gloom, and the contiguity of savage Indians, seemed to have possessed,
however, no terrors for the solitary and undaunted Frenchman, who, fifty
two years ago, pitched his tent upon the present town site of St.
Joseph. He came not as a pioneer, conscious of the future populous
and thrifty city, nor as a missionary to minister to the spiritual wants
of the red man, but like thousands of others, before and after him, he
came, seeking new and broader fields of labor, wherein, by honest toil and
industry, he could the more successfully increase his own store and
provide a competency for old age.
What must have been the nature of
his lonely musings during the long and weary years of his isolation from
early friends and associates, it is difficult to imagine. Suffice it
to say, with a fortitude unsurpassed, and a tenacity of porpose which knew
no defeat, he patiently bided his time, never dreaming in the early years
of his voluntary exilement, that he was destined to be the founder of a
populous and prosperous city.
For many years, the solitary log
cabin of Joseph Robidoux was the only evidence of the presence of
civilized man within a radius of fifty miles. Time rolled on.
With every puffing steamer, that ascended the turbid waters of the
Missouri, came the emigrant and the adventurer, seeking homes in the wilds
of the far west. Embryo settlements had been made along the banks of
the great river in Jackson, Clay and other counties.
Missouri, including what was afterwards known as the "Platte Purchase" had
been seen by the emigrant. Favrable reports had been made of its
great beauty, its rich prairies, its fertile valleys, its bountiful supply
of timber, and of its perennial springs and numerous water
A few families from Franklin County, Missouri, consisting
of Thomas and Henry Sollers, Elisha Gladden, Jane Purget and a few others,
ventured hither between 1834 and 1836 and located near the post. One of
these pioneers who came in 1834, was immediately employed by Mr.
The only building that stood upon
the present town site of St. Joseph, at that time, was the log house of
Joseph Robidoux. It occupied the spot where the Occidental Hotel now
stands- on the northwest corner of Jule and Second Streets, and was
building of considerable magnitude. It stood east and west, was a
story and a half high, and contained nine rooms, three of which were above
and six below. A covered porch was built on the south side,
extending the entire length of the building. On the north side was a
shed, divided into three rooms. The west room of this shed was used
by Mr. Robidoux as his sleeping apartment. His store room was the
middle room of the main building , the entrance to which was through a
door at the east end, first passing through an outer room to reach
He had in his employ at the time, fifteen or twenty men who
were French. These men were regulary sent east on mules toward Grand
River, or west beyond the Missouri, for the purpose of trading with the
Indians and bringing in furs.
He owned an old colored servant who
not only possessed a French name [Poulite] but who could speak the French
tongue, having been raised among that nationality in St. Louis. This
old man attended to the culinary affairs at the post.
operated a private ferry just below Francis Street, for crossing the
Indians and those who were in his employ. The crossing generally was
done in canoes, and occasionally in Mackinaw boats. The road leading
from the ferry on the other side of the river led to Highland, Kansas, or
to the Indian Mission, which was established after the removal of the
indians. The roads from the ferry on this side, passed below the
Patee House, and crossed at Agency Ford, where it divided, one branch of
which leading to Liberty, Clay County, and the other in the direction of
The next house log), erected at Blacksnake Hill, was
built in March 1836, and occupied by Thomas Sollers, east of Pinger's
packing house, for Mr. Robidoux, who wished to take up another additional
quarter section of land, for about this period he began to think that
Blacksnake Hills would develop into something greater than a mere trading
post, for the convenience of the non progressive and half civilized
Indian. No other improvements of a special character were made until
the following year. The small colony remained in statu que, enduring
the hardships and privations incident to pioneer life, but looking forward
to the speed dawn of a brighter day.