Jean Baptiste
Point Du Sable
by artist Raoul Yarin

It is unclear whether Estevanico lived happily with the native people of Arizona or New Mexico or died at their hands. The story of a fur traper namned Du Sable leaves no doubt that this handsome black frenchman marrried into and remained a good friend of the Illinois Indians.

He also maneuvered with the skill of an experienced diplomat as Illinois slipped from French to British to U.S. control. His personal charm and diplomacy kept him from being jailed as and enemy agent and won him powerful white and Indian allies.

There are gaps in his early life. Du Sable was born somewhere in the Caribbean in 1745 to a French sailor father and an African slave women. Sent to Paris for an education, he ended up in the Illinois Territory in 1779. With him came twenty-three French art treasures and a desire to become a fur trapper.

As a Frenchman in a land recently taken by the British, Du Sable fell under suspicion. On July 4, 1779, a British officer complained he "was much in the interest of the French" and Du Sable was arrested for "treasonable intercourse with the enemy." He managed to escape only to be arrested again. This time he so impressed British Governer Patrick Sinclair that Du Sable was released and for five years placed in charge of a settlement on the St. Charles River.

Du Sable had no difficulty in persuading local Indians he was a friend. It took much longer for white Chicagoans to recognize that Du Sable was their city's founder.

Du Sable entered the fur trading business and married a Potawatomi women named Catherine . Their friends included a host of people, among them Chief Pontiac and Daniel Boone.

One can only wonder what rough frontiersmen and Indians thought when they first entered the Du Sable home and saw its dislay of French works of art. the couple also purchased and developed some eight hundred acresof land in Peoria, but Chicagowas their great love and they lived there for sixteen years.

trading post became prosperous and the Du Sables soon had son and a daughter. Centrally located, their store and home attracted many trappers and swelled to include a forty by twenty-foot log cabin, a bakehouse, a diary, a smoke house, a poultry housel; a workshop, a barn, and a mill. Du Sable made a living as a trader, but was also a miller, a cooper, and a farmer.

The Du Sables became devout Catholics and in 1798 were formally married in a church ceremony. They were delighted when, two years later, their daughter married another Frenchman in a Catholic ceremony.

Jean and Catherine , although doing well, sold off twenty one of his French paintings, perhaps to finance his next career move. He announced his candidacy for chief of a local Indian Nation at Mackinac, but he lost the election.

As the couple grew older they decided to sell their Chicago home and move in with their daughter's new family in St. Charles, Missouri. For the property and houses alone, they received $1200, and they also sold thirty head of cattle, thirty-eight pigs, two mules, and many chickens.

Catherine died in 1800, the founder of Chicago began to worry about his future. He did not want to die penniless or to be buried in any but a Catholic cemetary.
Though, in 1814 he did have to file bankruptcy papers, he was laid to rest four years later in St. Charles Borromero Roman Catholic Cemetary.

Picture and text taken from:
Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage
by William Loren Katz
Norbert Rilleiux
Rose Nicaud
Marie Laveau
Jelly Roll Morton
Andre Cailloux

Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable
Founder of Chicago, Ill.