Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Antoine Robidoux - Santa Fe based Mountain Man and Fur Trader

Antoine Robidoux (22 Sep 1794 – 29 Aug 1860) (my 4th cousin 6x removed) was a Santa Fe NM based fur trapper and trader of French-Canadian descent. He was best known for his exploits in the American Southwest in the first half of the 19th century.

(The following is edited from wikipedia)

Robidoux was born in 1794 in Saint Louis, the fourth of six sons of Joseph Robidoux III, the owner of a Saint Louis-based fur trading company, and his wife Catherine Marie Rollet dit Laderoute. 

Antoine spoke English, French, and Spanish. In his early years he helped his father extend his business westward, and by the 1820s was focused on developing trade routes in the intermountain corridors of what was at the time the Mexican province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México. In the summer of 1824, Antoine may have joined a party led by Etienne Provost that traveled to the Uinta Basin to trade for pelts. 

He eventually established a permanent residence in the capital city of Santa Fe, and in 1828, he took for his common-law wife Carmel Benevides (1812–1888), the daughter of a Spanish captain who was killed fighting the Comanche and subsequently the adopted daughter of the provincial governor.

In 1829, Antoine and his younger brother Louis Robidoux petitioned for and were granted Mexican citizenship, which freed them to trade and settle in Mexican territory without having to worry about expensive tariffs and other international restrictions, as well as near-exclusive license to trap and trade in the Ute country of what is now western Colorado and eastern Utah. 

By 1830, Antoine had become a prominent citizen of Santa Fe in social and economic circles. He was even elected the first non-Mexican alcalde of the ayuntamiento (the municipal council), though his political career was short-lived.

Around the same time, and possibly in partnership with Louis, Antoine established Fort Uncompahgre near the confluence of the Gunnison River (then known as the Río San Xavier) and the Uncompahgre River in west-central Colorado. 

Though the exact date of its completion is unknown, Robidoux's post was arguably the first permanent trading operation west of the continental divide. 

In 1832, Robidoux purchased the Reed Trading Post, a single cabin built by William Reed and Denis Julien four years earlier at the confluence of the Uinta and Whiterocks rivers in northeastern Utah, and rebuilt it much larger as Fort Robidoux, also called Fort Uintah and Fort Winty. The fort was visited by many well-known pioneers and mountain men during its years of operation, including Marcus Whitman, Miles Goodyear, and Kit Carson.

Westwater Canyon inscription

Robidoux spent more than a decade managing both trading posts and exploring the Western interior. He is especially well known for having carved a famous rock inscription on a wall of Utah's Westwater Canyon during this time. Likely ascending a trapper's trail from the canyon's mouth on the Colorado River, Robidoux left the following record of his presence engraved on a sandstone bluff:






The inscription was not again brought to public attention until 1933, when Charles Kelly first photographed it. It has since yielded many interpretations in attempts to more accurately pinpoint the precise dates of Robidoux's operations in the area. The most direct translation from the French reads "Antoine Robidoux passed here 13 November 1837 to establish a trading post at the Green or Wiyté River", but the accuracy of this translation has been a matter of controversy among historians.

Specifically, it has been suggested that the word "Wiyté" was actually intended to read "Winté", and that deterioration has made the appearance of the third letter ambiguous; though the Green and the White are both names for rivers in Utah, "Winté" may instead be a reference to the Uinta River, which was at the time commonly called the "Winty". If this alternative translation is correct, then the inscription appears to suggest that Robidoux had not yet established a trading post on the Uinta River by 1837. This contradicts evidence that he purchased and rebuilt the Reed Trading Post on the Uinta River in 1832, five years earlier.

A simple solution is that the year engraved in the inscription has also been misinterpreted, and that the original message reads "1831" instead of "1837"; this would be a logical fit with the notion that Robidoux may have been searching for a place to establish a new trading post in late 1831, shortly before he eventually did so when he bought the Reed Trading Post. Yet there is evidence that Antoine Robidoux was actually in Missouri selling furs and procuring supplies in November 1831, making it impossible for him to have carved the inscription at that time.

A third solution is that 1837 is actually correct and that Robidoux was, in fact, planning to build a third, unidentified trading post in a new location at the time, which either never materialized or was built and subsequently lost to history.

Later life

Both Fort Uncompahgre and Fort Robidoux were evidently attacked and destroyed by Utes in 1844, just as the fur trade was declining with changes in the European market. These circumstances prompted Robidoux to quickly abandon his fur enterprise and return east to St. Joseph. 

Over the next decade, he worked in various capacities as an emigrant guide and a U.S. Army interpreter. 

In June 1846, Robidoux enlisted as an interpreter with General Stephen W. Kearny's expedition to California during the Mexican–American War.

The Battle of San Pasqual

The Battle of San Pasqual, also spelled San Pascual, was a military encounter that occurred during the Mexican–American War in what is now the San Pasqual Valley community of the city of San Diego, California. The series of military skirmishes ended with both sides claiming victory, and the victor of the battle is still debated.

On December 6 and December 7, 1846, General Stephen W. Kearny's US Army of the West, along with a small detachment of the California Battalion led by a Marine Lieutenant, engaged a small contingent of Californios and their Presidial Lancers Los Galgos (The Greyhounds), led by Major Andrés Pico. After U.S. reinforcements arrived, Kearny's troops were able to reach San Diego.

Among those in the battle were the 26 Mounted Rifle Company, and our relative Antoine Robidoux...

26 Mounted Rifle Company, commanded by Acting-Captain (Sgt.) Samual Gibson (later commanded company B of 26th Arkansas Infantry Regiment) and longtime Kit Carson and John Fremont associate, Acting-Lieutenant Alexander Godey: including Antoine Robidoux(interpreter), Philip Crosthwaite, Beatitude Patitoux, William (Col. Owl) Henry Russel, Daniel Sexton, Franklin Sears, Thomas Burgess, Jean Neutral, Private Henry Booker.

Antoine was severely wounded (he had received three lance wounds in the back) at the Battle of San Pasqual in December and later applied for a government pension.

Robidoux died in 1860 in St. Joseph, Missouri, at the age of 65.

1860 Obituary from St. Joseph, Missouri Gazette

Here’s a good tale about Antoine from The State Historical Society of Colorado. VOL. VII. Denver. Colorado, July, 1930. No. 4. “Antoine Robidoux, Kingpin in the Colorado River. Fur Trade, 1824-1844”

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.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Seeking My Last Best Place

My view of early Montana... a painting by Charles M Russell,
When White Men Turn Red

I’ve had a love affair with Montana for over 70 years.

My first visit to ‘Big Sky Country’ was in 1950 when my folks went to visit mom’s aunt and uncle near Kalispell.

I have deep roots in Montana…

My 2nd great-grandparents, John Galway Brown and Lucy (Pinsonneau) Brown, settled their about 1900.

My great-grandparents, Abraham Lincoln Brown and Neva (Plympton) Brown homesteaded in Creston about 1905.

My grandparents, Frank and Lydia, married and homesteaded in Kalispell in 1912.

Mom was born in Kalispell in 1914.

Leaving California

I am a native Californian, and until just recently I’ve always loved my home.

Sadly, during the past couple of decades, California has become a politically hostile environment for me.

I no longer feel safe living here.

The political LEFT has embraced illegal immigration, all-but destroyed the 2nd amendment, and has allowed homelessness and crime to run rampant in our cities.

Hit and run automobile deaths, gang shootings, and homeless caused disease is breaking news daily on local television.

Incidents of homeless people attacking citizens is out of control, and it is dangerous to go to any major public event.

My Montana Association

I’m a long time student of Montana history. For the past fifty years I’ve collected and read everything I could find by authors including: James Willard Schultz, Frank Bird Linderman, Charles Marion Russell, Will James, B.M. Bower, Con Price, Teddy Blue Abbott, Granville Stuart, Will James and Ivan Doig.

I’ve become a huge fan of Charles Marion Russell’s cowboy, Indian and mountain man art. It was his art that inspired me to spend more than a decade as a Western folk artist.

In addition, my study of family genealogy has led me to discover ancestors and relatives with a fur trade connection between Montana and French-Canada.

Finely, in 1995, I bought a Montana born and raised horse in Cody, Wyoming. I brought him to California in 1996, and ’Sunup’ lived with me until his death in 2013.

Montana Discoveries

For seven decades I’ve visited ‘Big Sky Country’ in an effort to learn more about its history. 

I’ve studied her cowboys, her Native Americans, her gold rush, and her fur trade.

I’ve visited her capitol, her museums, her monuments and Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks numerous times.

I even floated on a 150 mile solo canoe trip down the upper Missouri River.

Changes this year (2019)

We are now in our late 70s, and change seems to be happening at warp-speed.

We’ve been an equestrian family for the past 25 years, but sadly my wife’s horse died in June, so I sent my horse to live with a friend in Missoula in August. Horses should not live alone and we were too old to buy another horse for a companion.

What We’re Looking For

Being realistic, native Californians probably wouldn’t fare well in the cold winters of Montana, so we are looking for a summer home.

What would be ideal for us is a rustic feeling cabin, close to shopping and medical help, but in a forest setting with beautiful Montana scenery. 

Not too old because the last thing I need is a ‘home improvement job.’ 

One or Two bedrooms, probably less than 1000 square feet, and absolutely must be single story.

Being near water for trout fishing and canoeing would be a bonus.

Someplace near Lolo, Montana would be perfect.

Who knows, if I’m alive in another ten years, maybe what I end up with could be ‘My Last Best Place’ to live and die.

Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions.

More Memories of Old Montana

Grandma at Cayuse Prairie school, 1907

Granddad's record elk, c. 1912

Aunt Stella and her class in a log cabin school, c. 1911

Granddad (left) and brother Len deer hunting, c. 1912

My grandparents Kalispell homestead #1, c. 1914

My grandparents Kalispell homestead #2, c. 1914

Granddad hauling firewood, c. 1915

Frank and Len in Montana Militia, c. 1916

Granddad (left) logging with a sled, c. 1916

Mom and sister Hazel in Creston, c. 1926

Yours truly with the biggest fish at Strawberry Lake, 1950

A stump ranch - the richest folks I ever knew

Hangin' out with Lon and Dale in Kalispell, 1950

Ridin' with mom and dad in Kalispell, 1950

Thanks for the memories