Auguste Chouteau | St. Louis Public Radio

Auguste Chouteau

Archaeologists with the Missouri Department of Transportation work near the Poplar Street Bridge in downtown St. Louis in April.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Archaeologists from the Missouri Department of Transportation believe they have found artifacts and evidence of permanent residences in St. Louis prior to 1764, when the city became a permanent trading post along the Mississippi River.

The discoveries and inferences that archaeologists can derive from them add nuance to the complex story of how St. Louis became an important commerce center in the 18th century – more than a decade prior to United States’ independence and nearly 40 years before the country acquired St. Louis through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau are credited with the founding of St. Louis in 1764.
Wikimedia Commons

The common version of the founding of St. Louis goes something like this: Pierre Laclède was told by the French government to travel from New Orleans and construct a trading post near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in 1763. Bringing along his stepson, Auguste Chouteau, in early 1764, Laclède opened a trading post 18 miles south of the confluence in what would become St. Louis.

Reproduced from Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, comps. and eds., Dictionnaire raisonnée des arts, des sciences, et des métiers, Planches, vol. 1 (1762).

It is often told that St. Louis was founded by French fur traders Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau. However, little is known about how one man, Louis St. Ange de Bellerive, may be the original historical figure responsible for the early origins of the city.

Carl Ekberg and Sharon Person, authors of “St. Louis Rising: The French Regime of Louis St. Ange De Bellerive,” stopped by St. Louis on the Air to provide historical insight that challenges the often told story about the discovery of St. Louis.

Private Collection / courtesy Kodner Gallery

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of St. Louis, the Sheldon Art Galleries has organized a major exhibition depicting the founding of the city and the people involved. Imagining the Founding of St. Louis includes paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture by a variety of noted artists.

Sheldon Art Galleries Director and co-curator of the exhibit Olivia Lahs-Gonzales commented, “Obviously this all happened before the advent of photography so there was no photographer on the boat with the explorers, so it’s really left up to artists to kind of imagine what it was like.”

From the collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

In 1764 Auguste Chouteau made landfall on the banks of the Mississippi River and began construction of the fur-trading post that would become St. Louis. He was just fourteen at the time, and acting at the behest of his mother's lover, Pierre Laclede. Forty years later, as a prominent citizen of the city, he penned an account of the founding in a journal that is still partly preserved today.

(Twitter user @Joule)

UPDATED 4:46 p.m. Dec. 15, 2010:

KSDK is reporting that the fire was in an unoccupied, one-story, brick warehouse near Gratiot and Theresa.

They also report that a cutting torch, perhaps being used for workers to ready the space for a new occupant, is to blame for the blaze.

From earlier:

A large fire has been reported near the Steelcoate building near Chouteau Ave. and Grand Blvd.  We'll keep you updated as we confirm more about this story.