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Joseph Robidoux, circa 1860
Joseph Robidoux III (1783 – 1868) established the Blacksnake Hills Trading Post that eventually became St. Joseph, Missouri.


Robidoux was one of seven sons of Joseph Robidoux II and Catherine Rollet, six of whom survived to adulthood. He spent most of his childhood in St. Louis, Missourimarker, where his father introduced him and his brothers Francois, 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 was accompanying fur traders up the Missouri Rivermarker.



In 1803, Robidoux's father sent him to organize a trading post at Fort Dearborn, Illinois, site of present-day Chicagomarker. His early success there irritated other traders, who engaged Indians to harass Joseph and eventually drive him from the area.

In 1805, Robidoux'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.

In 1809, Robidoux established a trading post near the site of present-day North Omaha, Nebraska. In 1813, he married Angelique Vaudry, with whom he had six sons and a daughter (Faraon, Julius, Francis, Felix, Edmond, Charles and Sylvanie). Robidoux remained 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.


Robidoux returned to St. Louis, where he lived 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, Missouri. The first building in Saint Joseph, it was later removed to Krug Park.

Robidoux prospered in the years between 1830 and 1843, employing as many as twenty Frenchmen to engage in trade with the Indians to the west of his post. His settlement was illegal at the time. When Missouri entered the union in 1821, the state's western boundary was based on the Kaw Rivermarker mouth in the Kansas City West Bottomsmarker (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 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, Kansasmarker that 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 Islandmarker and Delawaremarker to the State of Missouri.


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 Robidoux. However, Robidoux found Smith's plan more appealing as it would feature much narrower streets, thus leaving more land for Joseph 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, Joseph 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 and led in many development issues until his death, at the age of 85, in 1868. In present day Saint Joseph, the main downtown streets were named for his children and his second wife, Angelique.

See also


  • Weber, David J. "Louis Robidoux", featured in "Trappers of the Far West", Leroy R. Hafen, editor, 1972, Arthur H. Clark Company, reprint University of Nebraska Press, October 1983. ISBN 0-8032-7218-9

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