Welcome to...
St. Genevieve County, Missouri

County History

A county in the southeastern part of the State, bordering on the Mississippi River for twenty-five miles, and bounded on the north by Jefferson County, northwest by the Mississippi River, southeast by Perry County, and west and southwest by St. Francois County; area, 311,000 acres. The topography of the county is diversified by hills and rolling uplands, some hills rising to an elevation of 500 feet above sea level. The soil in the hilly sections is a red clay loam, plentifully mixed with gravel. In the bottoms and valleys it is a rich alluvial, of inexhaustible fertility.

The county is well watered in the southern part by Saline Creek and branches, in the central by the River Auxvasse and tributaries and the north and south fork of the Gabouri and Fourche a Polite, and in the north River Establishment, Fourche a Dulcas and Isle du Bois, the latter forming part of the northern boundary. In the west, Terre Bleu rises and flows westerly into Big River. All the other streams enter into the Mississippi River. Along the Mississippi and along the head waters of the Auxvasse, Saline and Establishment the land is. remarkably rough and broken. In the western part of the county the country is more level, rising in low hills with few valleys and extensive growths of timber. In the valleys and along the streams wild grasses grow luxuriously, affording excellent pasturage for live stock. The principal cereal crops are wheat, corn and oats.

All kinds of vegetables are grown, and in some sections tobacco and sorghum are cultivated successfully. Fruit-growing is one of the profitable industries. The peculiar character of the soil renders it admirable for the cultivation of grapes, which grow in abundance and are of a superior flavor.

The different kinds of woods in the county are oak, hickory, ash, maple, sycamore, elm, walnut and other less valuable varieties. The western part of the county abounds in luxuriant forests. Only about sixty per cent of the land is under cultivation. The minerals found in the county are lead, copper, iron, granite, marble, kaolin, salt, limestone and sandstone. The most extensive deposits of lead are on Mineral Branch of Saline Creek. This is a disseminated ore, and for more than a century and a half has at different times been profitably mined. Float is found in other parts of the county. About ten miles southwest of Ste. Genevieve are deposits of copper ore. Iron ores, principally brown hematites, exist in considerable quantities in many sections. In the eastern part of the county, south of Ste. Genevieve, are large ledges of white marble, valuable as a material for interior decoration. It has been quarried extensively, as have also granite and sandstone, the latter being of superior quality for building purposes, and large quantities have been shipped to different parts of the United States. The State capitol of Iowa, at Des Moines, is constructed mainly of this stone, as are numerous buildings in St. Louis, as well as the foundations of the Eads bridge. The limestone quarries are apparently inexhaustible, and for more than a century the making of lime, which is shipped in immense quantities from Ste. Genevieve, has been a thriving industry. In a strip from one-half to three-fourths of a mile wide, extending from the head branches of Isle du Bois to the Auxvasse, the formation shows saccharoidal sandstone of great purity. The best exhibition of this is found at what is now known as "White Sand Cave,” eight miles west of Ste. Genevieve, where a stratum twenty-five feet in thickness is exposed. In years past large quantities of this sand were shipped to Pittsburg and other places and used in the manufacture of the purest qualities of glass. In time this natural deposit will be of inestimable value. Early in the history of the county salt-making was a profitable enterprise, but the advent of cheap transportation by boat and rail destroyed that industry.

The section comprising Ste. Genevieve County was about the first part to be explored of the present State of Missouri. In De Soto's account of his explorations in America reference is made to the country of the Copaha Indians. Describing his journey up the Mississippi River, he tells of Indians directing two of his men to a stream where salt was found. From the description given it is quite likely this place was on Saline Creek. No doubt Marquette, La Salle and others in their expeditions visited this section, but in their accounts of their travels no record of their doing so is made. In 1705 a party of French ascended the Mississippi River as far as Missouri, and the accounts of early French exploration tell of one, M. Dutisne, with a number of companions, arriving at Saline River below Ste. Genevieve about 1706. From there they moved west to the Osage, and still later moved about 150 miles further west, where two villages were founded, but only to be deserted after a few years.

The first authentic record of exploration and settlement in what is now Ste. Genevieve County is in the account of the transactions of the "Company of St. Phillip," which was organized in 1719, in France, and of which Phillip Francois Renault, the son of a wealthy iron founder, was the agent and manager. This company was organized for the purpose of gold and silver mining. With 200 miners and mechanics, Renault left France, and at San Domingo augmented his forces by the addition of 500 slaves. With these, the following year he reached a point on the east side of the Mississippi River, about twelve miles above the present town of Ste. Genevieve, where he founded Fort Charles. Expeditions were sent out on the west side of the river to search for valuable minerals. One of Renault's assistants was M. La Motte. He at the head of an exploring party, on one of these expeditions, discovered the lead ores along the branches of Saline Creek and the lead mines that bear his name on St. Francis River. The mines near Potosi were also located. As the ores of the last named place were richer than what were found in Saline Creek, no extensive working of the latter district was pursued. That attempts at development of these mines were made, is evident in the many discoveries of pits and shafts of old1 workings that have long been obscured by great growths of timber and masses of debris.

In 1721 Jesuit missionaries established a college and monastery at Kaskaskia, on the east side of the Mississippi, opposite the site of the present city of Ste. Genevieve, and the same year established the parish of St. Anne de Fort Chartres. From these two places the French crossed the river and about 1735 formed the first settlement in what is now Missouri. They erected cabins on the lowlands about three miles south of the present city of Ste. Genevieve. This settlement was called "Le Vieux Village de Ste. Genevieve." The original District of Ste. Genevieve was bounded on the north by the Meramec, south by Riviere a la Pomme (Apple Creek), east by the Mississippi River, fronting the same for 100 miles. The western boundary was never designated. The same district was re-established by proclamation of October 1, 1804.

The county was reduced to its present limits by legislative act in 1820. In 1804 the population is stated to have been 2,350 whites and 520 slaves. October 1, 1812, Governor Clark issued a proclamation, as required by act of Congress, reorganizing the five districts of Missouri into five counties. June 4th of the same year the first General Assembly of Missouri Territory convened.

The members representing Ste. Genevieve County were George Bullit, Richard S. Thomas and Isaac McCready; the members of the Council chosen from the county were Rev. James Maxwell and John Scott.

In 1765 the transfer of territory east of the river to England resulted in many French subjects from the Illinois territory locating in Ste. Genevieve. Among the early settlers of this period were Pierre Menard, Jacques Boyer, Joseph Maurice, Francois Coleman, Julian Choquet, Jean Baptiste and Joseph Loiselle.

The first post was established in Ste. Genevieve in 1766, and Rocheblave was installed commandant.

The first legal proceeding of which there is record was the marriage contracted by Pierre Roy and Jeanette LaLonde, signed on May 19, 1766, before M. Robinet, who was notary. The first sale recorded was made by Pierre Artifone to Henri Carpentier.

The same year the salt works in Saline Creek and ten negroes and some cattle were sold by John LaGrange to one Blowin. The Spanish assumed control of Upper Louisiana, as the territory was then called, in 1769, and Joseph Labruxiere was appointed judge of the post, and Cabozie became notary. Early the next year Don Francois Valle, pere, was appointed commandant, and held the position until his death, in September, 1783. Don Francisco Cartabona succeeded him, and in turn was succeeded by Henri Peyreoux, who later became commandant of the post of New Madrid.

In 1788 Don Francois Valle became commandant, and continued until his death, March 6, 1804. His successor was his brother, Jean Baptiste Valle, who held the office under Spanish rule only four days, when Captain Amos Stoddard, March 10, 1804, took possession of Upper Louisiana, the control of that territory having been passed to the United States.

In 1804 a probate court was established in Ste. Genevieve. From the earliest settlement of the district to the present time (1900) the seat of justice has been located at Ste. Genevieve. One of the first members of the bar to locate in the county was John Scott, who became noted as statesman and jurist. Two other prominent members of the bar of Ste. Genevieve County were Nathaniel Pope and Thomas T. Crittenden.

From 1805 to 1821 the territorial courts were common pleas, quarter sessions and oyer and terminer, presided over by Nathaniel Cook, Joseph Platte, Amos Bird, Isadore Moore, John Smith, T. St. Gem Beauvois, Jacques Guibourd, Paschal Detchmendy, Jean Baptiste Valle, Thomas Madden, John Hawkins and William James.

The territorial circuit court of St. Genevieve County was established in 1814, and until 1824 Judge Richard S. Thomas presided, and Thomas Oliver was clerk of the court.

The sheriffs of the territorial district from 1804 to 1821 were Israel Dodge and Henry Dodge.

The first execution in Ste. Genevieve District was that of Peter Johnson, for the killing of John Spear, in Big River Township, May 25, 1810. On the 9th of June following he was arraigned before the court of oyer and terminer, found guilty of murder in the first degree, and on the 3rd of August was hanged, the place of execution being on the hill near the academy. The second was the execution of Charles Heath, for the murder of Hugh Jones, in Breton Township, now in Washington County, March 9, 1812.

The first instruction received by the children of Ste. Genevieve County was from the priests of the Jesuit order, and not until the beginning of the century were any regular schools maintained. June 21, 1808, the Governor and judges of Louisiana Territory incorporated the Ste. Genevieve Academy, and a large stone building was erected on the hill overlooking the town and river. This was not wholly finished, and there was no school until 1818, when Bishop Dubourg opened it, with Mann Butler, the historian of Kentucky, as teacher. In 1815 Joseph Hertich, a native of Switzerland, opened a school ten miles south from Ste. Genevieve, called it the "Asylum," and successfully conducted it for twenty-five years.

In a description of the town of Ste. Genevieve (1810), H. M. Brackenridge wrote: "There are two schools in the town, one French and the other English." In 1854 Firmin A. Rozier remodeled and improved the old academy building and opened a school, which became a flourishing institution. The war of 1861 caused it to be closed, and it has not been reopened. The building underwent further remodeling and became the residence of General Rozier.

In 1837 the Sisters of Loretto established a school, "Our Lady of Mount Carmel," in the building known as the Detchmendy house. It was successfully conducted as a school for girls until 1858, when the Sisters of St. Joseph opened their St. Francis de Sales Academy. At first the school was in a frame building. In 1872 their present building, a large four story brick structure, was completed.

Not until 1846 was the first board of common school directors elected. The members were Ichabod Sargeant, Francis C. Rozier, Eugene Guibourd, Felix Valle and Eloy S. Le Compte. Ten years later a school was opened.

In 1860 a building was erected and was used up to 1874, when it was made into a school for colored children.

The school population of the county in 1899, according to the report of the superintendent of instruction, was 3,535, of which 1,051 were white males and 905 white females, and 147 colored of both sexes. There were fifty-nine school districts in the county, and sixty-one teachers were employed, five of whom were colored. The total value of school property is estimated at $27,000.

Spiritual wants of the early settlers of Ste. Genevieve were ministered to by the Jesuits, as up to the first of the century there were few residents professing other than the Catholic faith. Services were held at the homes of members until the first church in Upper Louisiana was built in the old town of Ste. Genevieve some years previous to the settlement of the new town in 1787. It was a large wooden structure, and in 1794 was moved to the present city of Ste. Genevieve. It was abandoned in 1835.

In 1831 the old rock church was completed under the direction of Rev. X. Dahman, who was a cavalry officer in the army of Napoleon the Great. The church was consecrated by Bishop Rosati, of St. Louis, November 22, 1837. July 17, 1841, a bolt of lightning struck the gable end of the church, passed along the ceiling of the sacristy, striking the frame of a picture of Ste. Genevieve, thence to the altar, where it destroyed much of the gilding, the bolt then passing to the ground. John Doyle, who was praying before the altar at the time, was stunned by the bolt. A large brick church, the largest in southeast Missouri, now stands on the site of the old rock church. It was consecrated September 29, 1880, by Bishop Ryan.

The first priests to become residents of the district were three Jesuit missionaries, Father P. F. Watrin, J. B. Salveneuve and J. Lamorinie, who stationed themselves in Ste. Genevieve in 1760 and commenced religious instructions to the inhabitants.

The first Protestant minister to visit Ste. Genevieve was Rev. Thomas Johnson, a Baptist missionary who had been working among the Indians of Georgia. He had relations at Cape Girardeau, whom he visited in 1798. He performed the first Protestant baptism west of the Mississippi. Under the then existing laws no Protestant church could be organized.

In 1805 Rev. David Green, a Virginian, settled among some former parishioners on the Tywappity bottoms, and until his death in 1809 preached in the different settlements in the Cape Girardeau and Ste. Genevieve districts.

In 1820 Elder Wingate established a church in New Tennessee, Ste. Genevieve County, and called it Hepzibah Church. The first Methodist preacher who delivered a sermon there was Rev. Joseph Oglesby at the home of Mrs. Sarah Murphy, in 1804. The records of the Methodist Episcopal Church show that at a conference held in 1814 the Saline circuit was formed to include the country between Apple Creek and the Meramec.

In this circuit were about 150 members. The first minister assigned to the circuit was Jesse Haile. In 1839 Samuel S. Colburn was appointed resident minister at Ste. Genevieve. At this time there were not half a dozen church buildings in southeast Missouri, and meetings were held principally in the homes of the members. The Christian Church was organized at New Tennessee about half a century ago. The German Lutheran Evangelical Church at Ste. Genevieve was incorporated May n, 1867. Among the petitioners for the charter were Christian Lucke, Henry Wilder, August Wilder, Charles Weiss, Philip Medart, F. C. Festner, William Mavoss and F. A. Klein. September 5, 1875, a commodious brick church was dedicated. The Ste. Genevieve church of late years has not sustained a resident pastor.

The first military organization of Ste. Genevieve district was formed in 1780 by Sylvio Francisco Cartabona, a Spanish officer, by order of Don Ferdinand Leyba, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Louisiana, and consisted of a company of sixty men, who were placed under command of Captain Charles Valle. They were enlisted to assist in the defense of St. Louis, then threatened with attack by the English and Indians. During the War of 1812 a company was raised in Ste. Genevieve by Captain Henry Dodge.

In 1846 the South Missouri Guards, 115 in number, were organized and commanded by Captain Firmin A. Rozier. They were recruited for service in California, but were stationed at Fort Leavenworth, finding it impracticable to cross the plains. Another company was organized during the Mexican War by Captain Thomas M. Horine, and was placed under Colonel Sterling Price, at Santa Fe. Ste. Genevieve County, during the Civil War, furnished a number of soldiers to the Federal Army.

Prominent among them were Joseph Bogy, Captain Gustave St. Gem and Colonel Felix St. James, of the Thirteenth Regiment, Missouri Infantry, who was fatally wounded in the battle of Shiloh, and who was buried at Ste. Genevieve. Captain William Cousins and Robert Holmes each raised a company of men in Ste. Genevieve County and served in the Confederate Army. On the night of August 15, 1861, the town of Ste. Genevieve was invaded by a battalion of Zouaves under Major John McDonald, who seized the bank and took possession of the town. Next day he demanded of Firmin A. Rozier, who was in charge of the bank, which was a branch of the Merchants' Bank of St. Louis, the funds it contained. The money was turned over under protest on condition that Mr. Rozier be allowed to accompany the battalion to St. Louis. Arriving at St. Louis, General Rozier called on General Fremont, who soon after gave an order to General Howe for the funds in the hands of Major McDonald, which were turned over to President Robert Campbell, of the Merchants' Bank.

Agriculture has always been the chief pursuit of Ste. Genevieve County. According to the report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1898, the surplus products shipped from the county were: Cattle, 1,159 head; hogs, 31,771 head; sheep, 4,647 head; horses and mules, 71 head; wheat, 4,122 bushels, flour, 5,470,480 pounds; ship stuff, 1,691,443 pounds; clover seed, 25,470 pounds; timothy seed, 4,985 pounds; lumber, 133,000 feet; lime, 11,743 barrels; wool, 1,372 pounds; poultry, 36,502 pounds; eggs, 13,140 dozen; butter, 7,762 pounds; game and fish, 7,659 pounds; tallow, 4,280 pounds; hides and pelts, 9,786; fresh fruit, 2,820 pounds; vegetables, 3,720 pounds; onions, 4,422 bushels; nuts, 1,925 pounds. Other articles exported were hay, cooperage, stone, dressed meats, vinegar,, furs, feathers and popcorn.

Ste. Genevieve County is divided into five townships, named respectively;
Ste. Genevieve;

In 1899 the assessed value of real estate and town lots was $1,430,986; estimated full value, $2,861,972; assessed value of personal property, $531,133; estimated full value, $1,062,266. There are about eight miles of railroad in the county, the Chester & Ste. Genevieve, from Ste. Genevieve to St. Marys, completed in July, 1899. The population of the county in 1900 was 10,359.

Ste. Genevieve.—A city of the fourth class, situated on the bank of the Mississippi River, sixty miles south of St. Louis. It is the judicial seat of the county and has the distinction of being the oldest settled town in the State. Its first settlers were French colonists who removed from Kaskaskia and Fort Chartres, on the east side of the Mississippi. The exact time of settlement has not been accurately recorded, authorities differing as to the time, but the best evidence fixes the date at 1735. The first settlement was on the lowland, about three miles southeast of the present city. The place was called "Le Vieux Village de Ste. Genevieve." At that time the territory about was occupied by bands of Osage and Peoria Indians, the latter quite friendly toward the whites. The Peorias lived in huts constructed of logs, hunted and fished, and traded their furs to the French. Their villages near by were maintained until about 1804, when they were moved farther west.

The early settlers cultivated the soil and traded with the Indians. Some of them followed mining and hunting. They lived in peace and contentment. The fertile land produced bountiful crops, the river and streams plenty of fish and the forests abundant game. From 1735 to 1755 Ste. Genevieve was the only shipping point for the settled sections of country for a radius of fifty miles. Rough furnaces had been built for the reduction of lead ores on Saline Creek, Mine la Motte and near what is now Potosi, and the ingots of lead were packed on the backs of horses to Ste. Genevieve and then shipped by river to New Orleans. Prominent among the early settlers of the town was Jean Baptiste Valle, Sr., who was the father of the last commandant of the post of Ste. Genevieve. Another early settler was Laurent Gabouri. One of the oldest, if not the oldest document in existence relating to the old town, bears date of December, 1754, and is the record of a transfer of a lot of the Gabouri estate to Jean Baptiste St. Gem. This document is in possession of the Menard family, descendants of St. Gem, and is the only authentic written record of the fact that Ste. Genevieve existed at that early date.

In 1785 an overflow of the Mississippi River inundated much of the old town, and its inhabitants moved to the highlands at the junction of the north and south forks of Gabouri Creek, about three miles northwest, and from that time dates the founding of the present city of Ste. Genevieve. The population of the village was increased in 1787 by many residents of Kaskaskia, Illinois, who had been driven from their homes by the inundation, moving to the other side of the river. A few years later the village was considerably enlarged by addition of the settlers of the town of New Bourbon, who abandoned the place they had founded two miles to the south. By the residents of Kaskaskia and Fort Chartres on the east side of the river, Ste. Genevieve was called for many Vol. V—28 years "Misere" (starvation). The town has witnessed the successive changes of French, Spanish and American rule.

The first court was established and officers appointed May 16, 1766. December 31, 1769, the Spaniards took possession of Upper Louisiana at Ste. Genevieve, and Joseph Labruxiere, in the name of Spain, assumed the functions of judge. Other commandants of the post of Ste. Genevieve were Don Francois Valle, Sr., Don Francois Cartabona, Henri Peyroux, Don Francois Valle, Jr., and his brother, Jean Baptiste Valle. The last named was also judge of all civil and criminal matters. Criminals guilty of any crime, as a caution and warning to others were exhibited each Sunday in the Catholic Church to the gaze of all present. The remains of the elder Valle were buried under his pew in the old Catholic Church in Ste. Genevieve.

By order of August 10, 1804, Governor Delassus instructed Commandant Valle to deliver to the Spanish government all correspondence of the Spaniards that had no relation to suits, deeds, grants of land, individual fortunes and interests of the inhabitants, and an inventory of all papers delivered to the United States, to return all correspondence of a public nature belonging to Spain according to stipulations between France and the United States; also four cannon at Ste. Genevieve. Compliance with this order deprived the historian of valuable data.

The first baptism in "Le Vieux Village de Ste. Genevieve" was on February 24, 1760, by a Jesuit missionary, P. F. Watrin, and the first marriage ceremony was performed by Father J. L. Meurin, October 30, 1764, the contracting parties being Marck Constantino and Susan Henn Constantino had for eight years previously resided with a tribe of Indians. The woman was a native of Pennsylvania, and five years before had been made a prisoner by the tribe, had lived with Constantino and by him had had two children. After their marriage they regained liberty.

In 1808 the town of Ste. Genevieve was incorporated and its boundaries defined by the court of quarter sessions and included the town of New Bourbon. In 1800 the town was the most important in the territory. Goods were brought to Ste. Genevieve in keelboats from New Orleans and from Pittsburg. It was a usual thing in those days to make trips on horseback to Philadelphia to purchase supplies. In 1810 the place contained twenty stores.

Among the leading citizens of the town in 1820 were Charles Gregoire, Joseph Pratte, Jacob Phillipson, Joseph Bogy, Julian and Edward Depestre, L. and J. B. Valle, Vital St. Gem, John Scott. William Shannon, Aaron Elliott, and Ferdinand J. Rozier. The last named came to Ste. Genevieve about 1812 and was accompanied by the great naturalist, Audubon. The many prominent Rozier families of Missouri are his descendants.

The first steamboat to land in Ste. Genevieve was the "General Pike," August 1, 1817, commanded by Captain Jacob Reed. The second boat was the "Constitution" (later blown up), which landed the following September.

The earliest sketch of the town was written in 1810 by H. M. Brackenridge. In it he said: "There are six mercantile stores, and in the course of the present year about $150,000 worth of merchandise and produce has been brought to it for sale. It is a rising town. A greater number of buildings have been erected here than in St. Louis.

There are two brick yards." Of the people he wrote: "There are a number of wealthy and respectable families, and the society, as in those villages generally, is pleasant and agreeable." He also mentioned that there were at that time no mechanics in the town. In 1821 a description of the town of Ste. Genevieve was written as follows: "The houses are generally one story high, frame or log, but all whitewashed, which gives the town quite a lively appearance. Many of the new houses, however, are built of brick and are large and commodious. It has a chapel, courthouse and jail."

The first newspaper established in the county was the "Correspondent and Record," issued in 1822 by Thomas Foley. In 1833 the "State Gazette" was started by William Baker; the "Missouri Democrat" a few years later by P. G. Ferguson; the "Pioneer," in 1849, by Conconnon & Lindsay; the "Creole," in 1850, by Charles H. Rozier; the "Independent," in 1854, by Rozier; the "Missouri Gazette," in 1859, by E. K. Eaton; the "Plain Dealer" by O. D. Harris, 1860, which was suppressed a year later by the provost marshal; the "Representative," by Holleck & Bro., 1865; "News and Advertiser," 1868, by G. M. Lette; the "Freie Presse and Freie Blatter," by Frank Kline, in 1872. The press of the city is now represented by the "Fair Play," established by S. Henry Smith, in 1872, and now published by H. J. Janis; the "Herald," published in German and English, established in 1882, and now published by Joseph A. Ernst, its founder; and the "News," established in 1900 by Stuart M. Woods.

There are a number of business concerns in the city, including a bank, a flouring mill, two lime manufactories, tobacco and cigar factories, a brewery, two hotels and about fifty other business places, consisting of stores in different lines of trade and shops. Population, 1899 (estimated), 2,000.

Ste. Genevieve Plank Road.—In 1851 there was completed a plank road, forty two miles in length, from Ste. Genevieve to Iron Mountain. This was in use for a number of years, and over it iron ore and other products of the country were hauled for shipment by river boats from Ste. Genevieve until the Iron Mountain Railroad was built. The road cost more than $200,000.
[Source:  Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume 5: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Pg. 434; Transcribed and submitted by Andrea Stawski Pack]

Old St. Genevieve, Fort Chartres, and Kaskaskia
It is a remarkable fact, that the first four permanent settlements in the Great West, on the banks of the "Father of Waters", have been completely destroyed and swept away by the floods of this monarch of rivers; and strange it is to say, that of Fort Chartres, Kaskaskia, "Le Vieux village de Ste. Genevieve" and New Madrid nothing is left of them. Their old landmarks and monuments, even many of the tombs and graves of the pioneers have been carried away by the floods: and like the immortal De Soto's remains, have been swept into the great waters of the gulf, buried forever as is often the fate of the founders of nations and empires.
[Source: Rozier's History of the Early Settlement of the Mississippi Valley, By: Firmin A. Rozier, St Louis, G. A. Pierrot & Sons, Printers, 1890; pg 134. Transcribed by: Debora C. Reese]

Ste. Genevieve (Ste-Geneviève with French spelling) is a city in and the county seat of Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, United States.  Founded by French-Canadian colonists, it was the first organized European settlement west of the Mississippi River in present-day Missouri.
Founded around 1735 by French habitants and migrants from settlements in the Illinois Country just east of the Mississippi River, Ste. Geneviève is the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri. It was named for the patron saint of Paris. While most residents were of French-Canadian descent, many of the founding families had been in the Illinois Country for two or three generations. It is one of the oldest colonial settlements west of the Mississippi River. It was located in an area encompassed by the pre-Louisiana Purchase territory known as New France, Illinois Country, or the Upper Louisiana territory. Traditional accounts suggested a founding of 1735 or so, but the historian Carl Ekberg has documented a more likely founding about 1750. The population to the east of the river needed more land, the soils in the older villages had become exhausted, and lessening of pressure from hostile Native Americans made settlement possible.

Prior to the French settlers, indigenous peoples known as the Mississippian culture and earlier cultures had been living in the region for more than a thousand years. At the time of settlement, however, no Indian tribe lived nearby on the west bank. Jacques-Nicolas Bellin's map of 1755, the first to show Ste. Genevieve in the Illinois Country, showed the Kaskaskia natives on the east side of the river, but no Indian village on the west side within 100 miles of Ste. Genevieve. Hunting and war parties did enter the area from the north and west. The region had been relatively abandoned by 1500, likely due to environmental exhaustion, after the peak of Mississippian-culture civilization at Cahokia.

At the time of its founding, Ste. Genevieve was the last of a triad of French settlements in this area of the mid-Mississippi Valley region. About five miles northeast of Ste. Genevieve on the east side of the river was Fort de Chartres (in the Illinois Country); it stood as the official capital of the area. Kaskaskia, which became Illinois’ first capital upon statehood, was located about five miles southeast. Prairie du Rocher and Cahokia, Illinois were also early local French colonial settlements on the east side of the river.

In 1762 with the Treaty of Fontainebleau, France secretly ceded the area of the west bank to Spain, which formed Louisiana (New Spain). The Spanish moved the capital of Upper Louisiana from Fort de Chartres fifty miles upriver to St. Louis, Missouri. Although under Spanish control for more than 40 years, Ste. Genevieve retained its French language, customs and character.

In 1763, the French ceded the land east of the Mississippi to Great Britain in the Treaty of Paris that ended Europe's Seven Years' War, known in the United States as the French and Indian War. French-speaking people from Canada and settlers east of the Mississippi flocked to Ste. Genevieve after George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763. This transformed all of the captured French land between the Mississippi and the Appalachian Mountains, except Quebec, into an Indian Reserve. The king required settlers to leave or get British permission to stay.

During the 1770s, Little Osage and Missouri tribes repeatedly raided Ste. Genevieve to steal settlers' horses. The fur trade, marriage of French men with Native American women, and other commercial dealings created many ties between Native Americans and the French. During the 1780s, Shawnee and Delaware migrated to the west side of the Mississippi following American victory in its Revolutionary War. The tribes established villages south of Ste. Genevieve. The Peoria also moved near Ste. Genevieve in the 1780s but had a peaceful relationship with the village. It was not until the 1790s that the Big Osage pressed the settlement harder; they conducted repeated raids and killed some settlers. In addition, they attacked the Peoria and Shawnee.

While at one point Spanish administrators wanted to attack the Big Osage, there were not sufficient French settlers to recruit for a militia to do so. The Big Osage had 1250 men in their village, and lived in the prairie. In 1794 Carondelet, the Spanish governor at New Orleans, appointed the Chouteau brothers of St. Louis to have exclusive trading privileges with the Big Osage. They built a fort and trading post on the Osage River in Big Osage territory. While the natives did not entirely cease their raids on Ste. Genevieve, commercial diplomacy eased some relations.
[Source: Wikipedia. Submitted by Barb Z.]


Return to

St. Genevieve County


Genealogy Trails

Copyright © Genealogy Trails
All data on this website is Copyright by Genealogy Trails with full rights reserved for original submitters.