Historical Towns USA- Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
Ste. Genevieve is the first permanent settlement on the Western bank of the Mississippi River. It was founded in the 18th century by immigrants from Arcadia and migrants from Illinois Territory. Census records state that Ste. Genevieve was permanently settled by 1752 with some accounts placing the settlement there as early as 1722. On the other side of the river was Fort de Chartres about five miles northeast and Kaskaskia, the capitol of Illinois Territory, was five miles southeast. The village was named after a French saint from the 5th century. In 449, Genevieve led an expedition to relieve the citizens of Paris during a siege, and in 451 the force of her prayers turned away Attila the Hun from the gates of Paris.
After the French defeat in the French and Indian War, the French ceded its land east of the Mississippi to the British. The British in turn declared all the ceded land to be an Indian reserve. The settlers had to leave or get British permission to stray. French citizens from Fort de Chartres and Kaskaskia flocked to Ste. Genevieve. What they didn’t know was the French had secretly ceded Louisiana to Spain in the Treaty of Fountainebleau. However, the Spanish kept French officials in power and ruled with a light hand. The only major change was to move the capital of Upper Louisiana from Fort de Chartres to St. Louis, 50 miles north. The residents of Ste. Genevieve were able to keep their French language, culture and architecture intact.
Ste. Genevieve had a prime position between Quebec and New Orleans, so it became the halfway point on the trip down the river. The land around the town was used for wheat cultivation, which fed the growing town of New Orleans. In the 1770s, there were raids from the Osage and Missouri tribes, but mostly the ties between the settlers and the Native Americans were strong due to the fur trade. After the American victory in the Revolutionary War, some Native tribes moved across the river. The Peoria and the Shawnee both established villages south of Ste. Genevieve. These new settlements as well as Ste. Genevieve itself were attacked by the Big Osage tribe. Pierre and Auguste Chouteau were sent by the Spanish governor from St. Louis to establish trade relations with Osage, and they established a fort near by. The town grew rich and by 1807 was considered the richest town in Louisiana territory.
In 1785, Ste. Genevieve was nearly wiped out by a great flood of the Mississippi. The town was moved from its original location on the floodplain two miles north and a half a mile inland. The oldest building was built in 1792 and is the Louis Bolduc House, and like many of the older buildings are poteaux sur solle or “posts-on-a-sill”. This is the name for a style of timber framing where relatively closely spaced posts rest on a timber sill. Another style used was poteaux en terre or “posts-in-the-ground” style. This is where the walls made of upright wooden posts do not support the floor. The floor is supported by separate stone pillars. Only five poteaux en terre survive in America, and three of them are in Ste. Genevieve.
After the Louisiana purchase in 1804, German settlers came to Ste. Genevieve and began mixing with the French settlers. However, Ste. Genevieve retained its unique French culture and is a popular tourist destination today.
Sources available on request