Thursday, November 21, 2019

Joseph Robidoux and our ever deepening web of fur traders


The following is edited from wikipedia and my family tree…

Joseph Robidoux IV (1783–1868), Founder, established the Blacksnake Hills Trading Post that eventually developed as the town of St. Joseph, Missouri.

His buildings known as Robidoux Row are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This was a center for his family enterprise of fur trading, which he operated with his five brothers along the Mississippi and especially the Missouri River systems.


Robidoux was the oldest of the six sons of Joseph Robidoux III (born in Sault-au-Recollet, Montreal,12 February 1750-, date of death unknown) and Catherine Rollet (born in Saint Louis, Missouri October 20, 1767, died in 1868). Joseph Robidoux IV was born in Saint Louis, Mo like six of his seven brothers who survived to adulthood. 

He was born August 5, 1783. Joseph Robidoux IV was the grandson of Joseph Robidoux (Born in Laprairie, Québec in 1722) and Marie-Anne Leblanc (date and place of birth unknown). He spent most of his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, where his father introduced him and his brothers Francois, Pierre Isidore, Antoine, Louis, and Michael to the fur trade at an early age. (Weber, pp. 36) 

In 1799, at the age of 16, young Joseph began accompanying fur traders up the Missouri River.



In 1803, Robidoux's father sent him to organize a trading post at Fort Dearborn, the site of present-day Chicago. His early success there annoyed other traders, who engaged Indians to harass the young man and eventually drive him from the area. During this time he fell in love with the daughter of the village blacksmith, but he did not give his permission for the marriage because according to him some of the Robidoux's had surrendered their soul to the devil

In 1805, Joseph's wife of four years, Eugenie Delisle, died. She and Joseph had had two children, a daughter, Messanie, who preceded her mother in death, and a son, Joseph F. Robidoux, who use the given name of Joseph became a trader himself.

In 1809, the senior Robidoux established a trading post near the site of present-day North Omaha, Nebraska. He operated his trading post in the Council Bluffs area until 1822, when the American Fur Company bought him out and offered him $1,000 a year not to compete with them. A later post at the North Omaha site was operated by and named for Jean Pierre Cabanné. 

During the years of the War of 1812, the Robidoux brothers had to pull back their activities to the St. Louis area.

In 1813, the widower Robidoux married Angélique Vaudry, with whom he had six sons and one daughter (Faraon, Julius, Francis, Felix, Edmond, Charles, and Sylvanie).

Robidoux returned to St. Louis, where he worked as a baker and confectioner. In 1826, he was hired by the American Fur Company to establish a trading post at the Blacksnake Hills (near the site of present-day Saint Joseph, Missouri.) He remained their employee for four years, at the salary of $1,800 a year, before becoming an independent trader. Built prior to 1830, Robidoux's home was located on the northwest corner of 2nd & Jules Streets in Saint Joseph. The first building in the settlement, the house was later removed to Krug Park as a historic attraction.

Robidoux prospered in the years between 1830 and 1843, employing as many as 20 Frenchmen to engage in trade with the Native Americans to the west of his post. When Missouri entered the union in 1821, the state's western boundary was based on the Kaw River mouth in the Kansas City West Bottoms (approximately 94 degrees 36 minutes West longitude). The land where St. Joseph is now located belonged by treaty to the Ioway Tribe and the combined Sac Tribe and Fox Tribe. Robidoux was a licensed trader and legally allowed to be in the area as a trader.

Robidoux was the most spectacular example of several enterprising white settlers who encroached on Indian land. Faced with the possibilities of more encroachment, the tribes in 1836 agreed to sell what is now the northwest corner of Missouri for $7,500 to the federal government in a deal at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was presided over by William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame). The transaction, called the Platte Purchase, added an area almost the combined size of Rhode Island and Delaware to the State of Missouri.

During this era, one of his slaves, Jeffrey Deroine, sued for his freedom, claiming abuse by Robidoux. Deroine lost the case, but his friends later purchased his freedom, and Deroine rose to prominence for his skills as a trader and linguist, becoming a well-known U.S. Government translator and diplomat.

In 1843, Robidoux hired two men, Frederick W. Smith and Simeon Kemper, to design a town for him. Under Kemper's plan the town was to have been called Robidoux, a feature Kemper thought would appeal to the trader. But, Robidoux preferred Smith's plan, as it featured more narrow streets, thus leaving more land for him to sell in the form of lots.

Plans for the town were filed with the clerk of Common Pleas in St. Louis on July 26, 1843. Shortly thereafter, Robidoux began selling lots, with corner lots going for $150.00 and interior lots $100.00.

Saint Joseph prospered quickly in the years after its founding, growing from a population of 800 in 1846 to 8,932 in 1860. Joseph Robidoux remained a prominent citizen. His early trading offices are known as Robidoux Row; the complex is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. He led in many development issues until his death, at the age of 85, in 1868. Present-day Saint Joseph retains the downtown streets which he named for his children and his second wife Angelique.


Robidoux was an early fur trader. He later transitioned into operating a trading post along the route of western migrants, operating a major trading post in the area of Scott's Bluff from 1849–1851. 

Robidoux had an Indian wife, probably Shoshone, whose tribe would often visit his trading post. His daughter, Mary, married the Ioway chief Francis White Cloud and therefore Robidoux was grandfather to James White Cloud and Jefferson White Cloud, who would also be named Ioway chiefs.

Joseph was married three times. His first wife was Eugenie DeLisle (1704–1805). Joseph and Eugenie had two children:
• Messanie (died early)
• Joseph (b. 1802)

Joseph’s second wife was unknown, but was said to be Native American. The couple had one child:
• Mary Many Days (1805–1884).

Joseph’s third wife was Angélique Vaudry, great-granddaughter of Jean-Baptiste Chevalier, one of the early founders of Fort Michilimackinac. Joseph and Angélique had six children that lived to adulthood:
• Julius (1814–1844)
• Antoine (Faraon) (3 March 1816 – 1840)
• François (b.25 February 1818)
• Felix (5 May 1820 -1873)
• Marie-Agnés (10 March 1807 – 1900)
• Charles (10 July 1831 – 1851).

Joseph had two illegitimate children with Angeline Caroline Jones. Joseph Henry Robidoux Papst born in St. Joseph, MI in 1853 and Madora Rubidoux Papst born in 1855.

Joseph died on 27 May 1868, and was buried at the Calvary Cemetery in St. Joseph. His body was relocated to the Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1908 after the original cemetery was abandoned. Sadly, he did not die a rich man, having a penchant for gambling like his brothers.

Roubidoux is the namesake of Roubidoux Creek, a stream in Missouri.

Joseph Henry Robidoux IV 1783-1868 -- my 4th cousin 6x removed

Joseph Marie Robidoux III 1750-1809 -- Father of Joseph Henry Robidoux IV founder of St. Joseph, Missouri

Joseph Robidou II 1722-1771 -- Father of Joseph Marie Robidoux III

Joseph Robidou 1701-1778 -- Father of Joseph Robidou II

Guillaume (William) Robidou 1675-1754 -- Father of Joseph Robidou

Andre Robidou dit L’Espagnol 1643-1678 (my 9th great grandfather) -- Father of Guillaume (William) Robidou

Jeanne Robidoux 1673-1736 -- Daughter of Andre Robidou dit L’Espagnol

Marie Anne Lemieux 1706-1777 -- Daughter of Jeanne Robidoux

Marie Josephe Poupart 1725-1799 -- Daughter of Marie Anne Lemieux

Pierre Barette dit Courville 1748-1794 -- Son of Marie Josephe Poupart

Marie Angelique Baret (Barette) dit Courville 1779-1815 -- Daughter of Pierre Barette dit Courville

Marie Emélie (Mary) Meunier Lagassé (Lagace) 1808-1883 -- Daughter of Marie Angelique Baret (Barette) dit Courville

Lucy Passino (Pinsonneau) 1836-1917 -- Daughter of Marie Emélie (Mary) Meunier Lagassé (Lagace) -- my 2nd great grandmother


Six sons Joseph Robidoux III and Catherine Rollet were all famous fur traders and explorers:

• Antoine Robidoux, 4th cousin 6x removed, Trader Santa Fe NM: had a trading post in southwest Colorado and was at the Uinta river in Utah in 1837. He also worked around Taos, NM and Santa Fe.

• Francois Robidoux, 4th cousin 6x removed, early California explorer: trapped and traded in Indian villages, attended business in St. Louis, and traded on the northern plains of Kansas and on the Yellowstone.

• Joseph Robidoux IV, 4th cousin 6x removed, St Joseph Founder: became the most well known of these as he was the eldest and took over his father's fur business. This business took the Robidoux brothers far into the lands to the west. In 1826 Joseph established a trading post at the site of St. Joseph Missouri. In 1843 he platted a town out at this site and named it "St. Joseph".

• Louis Robidoux, 4th cousin 6x removed, Riverside CA Founder: began trading over the Santa Fe Trail as early as 1822. He settled in Santa Fe about 1824. Here he married Guadalupe Garcia. He built a couple of flour mills in Santa Fe. In 1844 he moved to California (near Riverside) and operated the Rubidoux mills in the community of Rubidoux. The mill was discontinued in 1862.

• Michel Robidoux, 4th cousin 6x removed, Trader at Fort Laramie: worked as a trapper in the Gila River region in New Mexico and Arizona and to Ft. Laramie in Wyoming in the 1830s.

• Pierre-Isidore Robidoux, 4th cousin 6x removed, Trader Nebraska Territory: traded on the plains of northern Kansas and upon the Yellowstone river and in Santa Fe. He headed wagon caravans along the Platte River to where the north and south Platte joined, and along the north Platte to Ft. Laramie.


  1. Visiting an on-line history discussion about Saint Joseph, it was mentioned that Joseph (the 4th), gave the name for that City in tribute for his (or his Fathers) patron Saint. Is there any article that says that? Thanks in advance.

  2. I checked my files and all I could find was...

    "Joseph Robidoux IV, 4th cousin 6x removed, St Joseph Founder: became the most well known of these as he was the eldest and took over his father's fur business. This business took the Robidoux brothers far into the lands to the west. In 1826 Joseph established a trading post at the site of St. Joseph Missouri. In 1843 he platted a town out at this site and named it "St. Joseph"."

    Be careful because there is some confusion over the different Josephs and how they are named.

    Good luck in your quest.