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Before Lewis and Clark


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Table of Contents

Map: Chouteau CountryLaclede-Chouteau Family Tree1. Among a People of Strange Speech2. The First Generation: Pierre Laclede Liguest3. Haughty Children of the Middle Waters4. The Business of St. Louis5. Auguste and Pierre, Greatly Loved and Greatly Feared6. New Rulers, New Ways7. Intrigues and Possibilities8. Enveloped in a Cloud of Miseries9. Dreaming Big--and Stumbling10. The Third Generation11. Auguste and Pierre: Men of Property12. Pierre Jr.: Gentle Creole, Driven Tycoon13. A. P. Chouteau: Star-Crossed Hero14. Francois and Berenice: Together to a New Place15. Pierre Jr.: Position, Advantage, and Perhaps VanityEpilogueNotesAcknowledgmentsIndex

About the Author

Shirley Christian has been a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and the Associated Press and is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Nicaragua: Revolution in the Family.


Before the United States' westward expansion, French settlers dominated a wide swath of territory west of the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Louis and beyond. Pulitzer-winning journalist Christian (Nicaragua: Revolution in the Family) chronicles several generations of one of the major French families occupying this frontier territory in her fast-paced historical portrait. Born into a wealthy family, young Auguste and Pierre Chouteau moved to the town that soon became St. Louis in 1763. Their father, Pierre, one of the town's founders, came to the region from New Orleans as an explorer, but soon prospered as a fur trader. He established a very good relationship with the Osages and other Indian tribes, and he taught his sons to respect them. Auguste and the younger Pierre moved easily among the tribes to trade and sell, feeling as much at home in Indian huts as in their mansions on the Mississippi. They hosted parties for visiting American dignitaries, including Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, whose journeys reaped enormous benefits from their association with the Chouteaus. As Christian points out, the Chouteaus were instrumental in paving a smooth path in the relations between Indians and American settlers. But, as Christian observes, the settlers paid little attention to the cultivation of relationships with the Native Americans and thus encountered more resistance than the Chouteaus ever did. Christian's lively portrait of the Chouteaus opens a window on a little-known portion of early American history. Map. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

With May 14, 2004, marking the 200th anniversary of the start of Lewis and Clark's journey of discovery, the publication of this book is well timed. However, the word "before" in the title is misleading; it actually denotes that the Chouteau family was by 1804 well established in St. Louis after the city's founding by family patriarch Pierre Lacl?de in 1763. Through telling the story of Laclede and the following two generations of his family, Christian, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has created an insightful history of the maturing American frontier during the first half of the 19th century. The Chouteaus were leaders in running the fur trade, mediating between whites and Indians, and in opening the Louisiana territory to settlement. Christian does not romanticize the family, pointing out that they were sharp in business, owned slaves, and helped to displace the Indians. She richly describes both the fur trade and the gradual destruction of the native tribes. The book's two maps are inadequate given the text's wide-ranging geographical content, but Christian's well-written and profusely researched book is an essential purchase for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Christian's lively portrait of the Chouteaus opens a window on a little-known portion of early American history."-Publishers Weekly * Publishers Weekly *
"With illustrations, a helpful genealogical table, map, and more than 40 pages of notes, this is a significant contribution to U.S. history and the famous exploration. . . . Highly recommended."-C. L. Egan, Choice * Choice *
"An inspirational account."-Stanley Trachtenberg, Kansas City Star * Kansas City Star *
"A fine history . . . A useful tonic to a literature suddenly full of books on Lewis and Clark, but with only passing references to those who came before them."-Kirkus * Kirkus *

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