Joseph Robidoux (1783 to 1868)
The Start of Robidoux's Life
Joseph Robidoux III was born in 1783, the son of Joseph Robidoux II and Catherine Rollet. He spent most of his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, where his father introduced him to the fur trade at an early age. In 1799, at the age of 16, young Joseph was already accompanying fur traders up the Missouri River.
In 1803, Joseph's father sent him to organize a trading post at Fort Dearborn, Illinois, site of present day Chicago. His early success there irritated other traders, who engaged Indians to harass Joseph and eventually drive him from the area.
In 1805, Joseph's wife of four years, Eugenie Delisle, died. She and Joseph had two children, a daughter, Messanie, who preceded her mother in death, and a son, Joseph F. Robidoux.
Continuing the Trade
In 1809, Joseph established a trading post near the site of present day Council Bluffs, Iowa. In 1813, he married Angelique Vaudry, with whom he had six sons and a daughter: Faraon, Julius, Francis, Felix, Edmond, Charles and Sylvanie.
Joseph 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.
Joseph returned to St. Louis, where he lived a tame life 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 St. Joseph, Missouri.) He remained their employee for four years, at the salary of $1,800 a year, before becoming an independent trader.
Joseph 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.
In 1843, Joseph engaged 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 Joseph Robidoux. However, Joseph 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 and interior lots $100.
St. 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.