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Very early mention of Chicago in archive relating to French and American foundations of Illinois, St. Louis, and Kansas City
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Genl Mr Johnson and myself rode up from the foot of the Rapids, yesterday to this place. we have had no news from the Troops on Rock River for some days, they were all well when heard from. report from Chicoga says that the hostile Indians, are all trying to get across the Missippi again, the last that was heard from them they were high up on Rock River.

(George Kennerly, during the Black Hawk War, June 10, 1832)

This reference to “Chicoga” is rare this early. From 1825 to 1831, Chicago was a hamlet of about 100 residents in Peoria County. In 1831, Cook County was organized. The next year, many white settlers in northern Illinois fled to Chicago to avoid Black Hawk’s forces. By 1833, when Chicago was organized as a town (a year after this letter), it still only had about 350 residents.

Even earlier letters in the archive, by fur trader, St. Louis pioneer, and first lieutenant governor of Illinois Pierre Menard, and by three of his daughters, and son-in-law George Kennerly, offer glimpses into a pioneering bilingual community. The Menard, Gratiot, Chouteau, and other French creole families founded St. Louis, Kansas City, and additional cities in the Mississippi and Missouri River valleys.

The archive starts with an 1815 power of attorney signed by George Kennerly, with the very rare signature of pioneer fur trader Charles Gratiot who certifies it. Includes the first letter in English written by Alzire Menard, to her soon-to-be-husband George Kennerly. This archive illuminates several facets of American Westward Expansion. It ends with a poignant letter of Amadee Menard, celebrating her 23rd birthday, and contemplating whether she would live to see her 24th birthday: “It is ever thus with those who are young and possess buoyant spirits. Time will soon tell what fortune has in store for me…” Unfortunately, Amadee died ten months later.

[WESTWARD EXPANSION]. 11 Handwritten Documents, 1815-1843, centering around George H. Kennerly and his wife Alzire Menard Kennerly, daughter of pioneer fur-trader Pierre Menard. Four are written in French. 21 pp., most approximately 8 x 10 in. Documents have expected toning. A few have some tears on folds and holes with small text loss.

Inventory #25331       Price: $9,500

1. GEORGE H. KENNERLY. Autograph Document Signed, Power of Attorney Appointment to James Kennerly, May 24, 1815, St. Louis, Missouri, with CHARLES GRATIOT, Autograph Endorsement Signed, also May 24, 1815. Attested to by Julius deMan and J Delaumay(?):

Know all men by these presents that I George H. Kennerly of the town of St Louis…do make...James Kennerly of the town of St Louis, My True and Lawfull Attorney, for me, and in my name, and for my own proper use & benefit, to ask, demand, sue for, recover & receive of and from all & every persons or persons, all such sum, or sums of money…

[Certification, in Gratiot’s hand:] “Before me One of the Justices of Peace, has appeared Mr Geo. H. Kennerly, who has acknowledged that the above was his Signature and Seal / Done at St Louis, Comte of the Same in the Missoury Territory this 24th day of May in the year of our Lord 1815 / Ch Gratiot

George H. Kennerly (1790-1867) was born in Virginia and moved with his brother James Kennerly in 1813 to St. Louis, where he became a trader and merchant. He served as a lieutenant in the War of 1812, and carried the American flag and terms of surrender to the British when a small group of Americans of the 7th U.S. Infantry surrendered on July 20, 1814. They had defended the fort at Prairie du Chien at the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers, when they were besieged by a much larger British and Native American force. In 1816, Kennerly engaged in a duel with Henry S. Geyer, in which Kennerly was wounded in the knee; they afterward became good friends. In 1828, Kennerly became postmaster of Jefferson Barracks. Late that year, he commanded an expedition with representatives of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek to explore land in modern Oklahoma for resettlement. During the Mexican War, he served as an Assistant Quartermaster. His sister Harriet Kennerly (1788-1831) married William Clark (1770-1838) of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame in 1821.

Charles Gratiot (1752-1817) was born in Switzerland as a descendant of the Huguenots. He migrated to Montreal to work with an uncle in the fur trade. In 1777, he moved to the Illinois country and opened a store in Cahokia. He became an influential trader, providing supplies to George Rogers Clark’s Illinois campaign in 1778 and 1779. In 1781, he moved to St. Louis, where he married Victoire Chouteau, with whom he had thirteen children. After the Revolutionary War, he went to Virginia to seek reimbursement for the supplies he gave Clark’s men. He received land grants in Kentucky as payment. In 1795, Gratiot hosted William Clark in St. Louis and also assisted Meriwether Lewis as a translator with the Spanish governor. In 1804, Gratiot served as an official witness to the transfer of Upper Louisiana to the United States. He served as a judge of the court of common pleas, a justice of the peace, and clerk of the board of land commissioners in St. Louis.

Condition

Some loss at the edges, toning.

 

 

2a. JULIE CABANNE. Autograph Letter Signed, to Alzire Menard, February 7, 1823, St. Louis, Missouri, in French. Julie explains that her cousin has only been able to send two small flannel bonnets because they are so expensive, and that she cannot get any of the seeds Alzire had wanted.

Julie Antoinette Cabanne (1809-1836) was the daughter of Julie Gratiot Cabanne (1782-1852), the oldest child of Charles Gratiot and Victoire Chouteau Gratiot, and Jean Pierre Cabanne (1773-1841), a merchant born in France. Julie Antoinette Cabanne married James Wilkinson Kingsbury (1801-1853), and they had three children between 1832 and 1835.

 

2b. [on the verso of the above letter]

VIRGINIE LABEDIE. Autograph Letter Signed, to Alzire Menard, [February 7, 1823, St. Louis], in French. In contrast to Julie’s pragmatic letter, Virginie rhapsodizes about the winter season: “We have spent a very gay winter we have the most brilliant balls that are still given here  all the Ladies comport themselves with the greatest elegance  the Officers are very likable and most gallant.

Virginie Labadie (c. 1808-1828) was a member of one of St. Louis’s founding families. In June 1827, she married Joseph-Aimé Syre (1799-1854), and they had one child before her death.

 

 

3. ALZIRE MENARD. Autograph Letter Signed to George H. Kennerly, August 5, 1825, St. Louis, Missouri. Telling George that her father has agreed to allow their marriage, assuring him of her love, and noting that this is the first letter she has written in English!

Complete Transcript

                                    St Louis August 5th 1825

            I would not write to you before as I wished to give you my father’s answers; I just received it at this moment. he gives his approbation to our union. With [?] joy I received it But it was very soon repressed by the t[h]ought of your absence. It is out of my power to taste of aney pleasure that I can not enjoy with you. The letters wich you wrote me and in which you express so well your tenderness and esteem towards me is a great consolation to me. For I feel very well that on both your love and esteem depends my happiness. You posess my whole confidance. It is in you that I have placed all the prospects of my future happiness. Of my love you can not have any doubt for I have given you proofs enough of my inviolable attachment. My only desire is to see you returned and I will be perfectly satisfied as I hope you shall always share the same sentiments towards me.

            I spent the greater part of my time with Mrs. Clark. She is coming to take me home with him. I shall then begin to prepare myself. Mrs. Maxwell has been in St Louis she wished very much to see you. Mrs Chouteau is going up the river. I am in hopes that you shall stop there as you pass. I will write you again before you return. I shall address my letter to Mrs Chouteau and I shall mark to you the day which tgather appoints for our…

            I would have written to you before but I find such difficulty in expressing my feelings towards you in writing in a different language that it almost discourages me. you must remember that this is the first letter in English that I have written in my life so you must excuse me.

            I shall await your arrival with all the impatience of true love try to make of our absence as short as possible. Adieu believe in my sincerest attachment s. Yours t[h]rough life.

                                                            Alzire Menard

Modeste Alzire Menard Kennerly (1802-1886) was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, to Pierre Menard and Thérèse Godin dit Tourangeau. She married George H. Kennerly on December 27, 1825. They had ten children between 1827 and 1843. Three of their sons fought in the Confederate army. She died at Carondelet, Missouri.

Condition

Old tape repairs. (to be re-done by professional conservator).

 

 

4. JULIE CABANNE. Autograph Letter Signed to Alzire Menard Kennerly, March 8, 1827, St. Louis, Missouri; in French. 4 pp. including address panel:

You are not more impatient to see the arrival of spring than me. With what pleasure will I see you again after such a long absence.... I am happy to see that you have something to distract you. I really want to go to the theater; Mama told me that it was very pretty. I see that Charles told you about my story involving my cousin and Mr. Lebruin. I’ll be obliged to take one of the two.... One must hope that one day I will have other suitors.... Marguerite Edouar is going to marry her cousin Mr. Lane; it will be [the union] of two imbeciles.... There were very few balls this winter. There were only two that were good but it would be much better to have balls costing 300 gerudes more frequently than to have two costing 700-800. There was one on February 29 that was really awful....

What you asked about Mr. Kingsbury: I can assure you that he only comes to the house as a friend, although it is common enough to say that if a gentleman calls twice that he wants to get married. I know him very little but I believe that he is an excellent young man. I esteem him very much.... Your mother-in-law spent some time here, she saw all your family. I went out to play cards with your father. He is always so fresh, he hasn’t aged at all. He told me that he was going to write you with pleasure.

The past two Sundays, Mr. Saugnee delivered two admirable sermons on balls that have had much effect, because at present we only dance on Wednesdays.... Madame Amtronague brought down an officer recently arrived from philadelphie. He has been made very rich. He is the most insupportable man that I ever saw. He always dances with his spurs on, and he has torn multiple people to shreds while leaping....

Three years later, on May 25, 1830, Julie Cabanne married her “house friend” James W. Kingsbury. Mr. Saugnee may refer to Father Edmond Saulnier (1798-1864), who lived in St. Louis from 1818 to 1842. He became quasi-Pastor of the Cathedral in 1824, preaching in both French and English.

 

 

5. PIERRE MENARD. Autograph Letter Signed to Alzire Menard Kennerly, March 9, 1827, St. Louis, Missouri; in French, 3 pp. on one leaf, plus autograph address page:

Menard “had much pleasure in learning that M. Kennerly was happily returned from his voyage in the upper Missauri” but surprised and disturbed that “Peter had left without an agent for les peorea [Peoria, Illinois].” Menard informs his daughter of letters he has received, from whom, and in what language they were written. “If I can write in English I will write to Mr. Kennerly,” he promises. Her half-brother Louis (1819-1870) had received special mention in English grammar and geography during the recent Christmas exams, but worried that he would not be able to write his sister “in good English.” Half-brothers Saucir (1817-1832) and Cyprien (1819-1870) were reading well and also starting to write, possibly in both French and English.

Pierre adds one phrase in English. “Ainsi qua Mr. Kennerly Dans une dernier de fransais il disaist quil avait apri que le Pere Peter etait maries et que si setait vrais - That the next turn would be home.” [“Thus that Mr. Kennerly, in his last letter written in French, said that he had learned that Peter’s father had gotten married and that if it was true, that the next turn would be home.”]

Pierre Menard (1766-1844) was born near Montreal, the son of a French soldier, and joined a fur trading expedition to the Illinois Country at about age fifteen. By 1791, he had established his own trading business in Kaskaskia. He made a fortune supplying Americans and Europeans with beaver hats and other pelts. In 1792, he married Thérèse Godin dit Tourangeau (1773-1804), with whom he had four children. Two years after her death, Menard married Angélique Saucier (1783-1839), with whom he had eight more children. Menard served in the Indiana Territorial Legislature from 1803 to 1809 and as president of the Illinois Territorial Council from 1812-1818. The area was inhabited by French settlers as part of New France and Upper Louisiana, and included a significant French-speaking population when it became a state in 1818. He was asked to be the state’s first governor, which he turned down due to his lack of English fluency, but did serve as the first Lieutenant Governor. Menard left office and returned to his business interests in 1822.

 

 

6. BERENICE MENARD CHOUTEAU. Autograph Letter Signed to Alzire Menard Kennerly, March 11, 1827, St. Louis, Missouri: in French, 2 pp.:

I received your letters by Mr. Sanford [in which] you asked me to have purchased all that you asked for…however Mr. Sanford wasn’t able to carry all of it. I have something here that I found that I will send to you at the earliest opportunity. You told me to buy things at Mr. Prates’s. He reserved for you…19½ piastres of flannel that he will bring you. I did it for mine also. I am afraid however that you will not find it to your taste. I wasn’t able to enter the store itself but I got all the table cloths that I wanted.

you must [become a mother] however…your George loves children and I know that he greatly wants to have some. You will know the happiness of being a mother when you see the father embracing and caressing the child. Far from feeling degraded, you will feel honored to see him who you love so content to be a father.... I wrote you as soon as I could about the birth of my handsome son because I think that it is the desire of George I wish courage to him and to you my dear sister....

Berenice informed Alzire that she had recently had a baby, Louis-Sylvestre Chouteau (1827-1829), her fourth of nine children, and encouraged Alzire to have a baby. By coincidence, Alzire Kennerly had her first child, Elizabeth Clark Kennerly (1827-1910), the day after Berenice wrote this letter.

Berenice Therese Menard Chouteau (1801-1888) was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, the daughter of Pierre Menard and Thérèse Godin dit Tourangeau Menard. In 1819, Berenice married Francois Gesseau Chouteau (1797-1838), the son of a prominent fur trader. They made their home on the Missouri River near the future site of St. Joseph, Missouri. After living there for two years, they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where they established a trading post. After her husband’s death, she managed his retail and real estate holdings. She was actively involved in the community and donated generously to Kansas City’s Roman Catholic Church. Berenice Chouteau, “the soul of the colony,” outlived all of their nine children.

 

 

7. GEORGE H. KENNERLY. Autograph Letter Signed, to Alzire Menard Kennerly, October 27, 1828, Franklin, [Missouri]. 1 p.:

I arrived here yesterday evening and have gotten the whole of my party together, and will leave in an hour from this on the Trip. Every thing appears to goo [sic] on as well as I could expect. I am looking forward with anxiety to the time I shall again meet my dear wife & little children, and you may rest assured I will make my stay as short as possible, compatible with the duties which I have to perform.... Kiss my dear children for me, and be assured of the warmest love & affection of your Husband. (in haste) G H Kennerly

On the advice of General William Clark, Superintendent of Indian Affairs at St. Louis, Captain George H. Kennerly commanded the second (of two) authorized expeditions in 1828 into the areas of Kansas and Oklahoma to scout possible locations for Native American settlement. Kennerly and Isaac McCoy left St. Louis on October 22, a few days after the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek delegations that accompanied them. Their Creek interpreter died of the measles shortly after the beginning of the trip. They joined the Native American delegations at Franklin. The expedition, consisting of 41 persons, traveled up the Missouri River to the mouth of the Kansas River (modern Kansas City), then south to the Neosho River, Fort Gibson, and as far as the mouth of the Canadian River, where it joins the Arkansas River. They returned to St. Louis on December 24. Kennerly submitted a report on February 4, 1829, in which he wrote, “There is a sufficient quantity of well timbered and watered land on the Arkansas and its tributaries for the whole of the southern Indians, if a proper distribution be made.”

The expedition is now named after Isaac McCoy (1784-1846), a Baptist missionary among the Pottawatomie and Ottawa in Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri. McCoy was strong advocate of the removal of Native Americans to west of the Mississippi River, theoretically to avoid corruption and exploitation by white Americans. McCoy led two Congressionally authorized expeditions in 1828 into the areas of Kansas and Oklahoma to scout possible locations for Native American resettlement. McCoy traveled on to Washington, D.C. On January 29, 1829, he submitted a report to Secretary of War Peter Buell Porter (1773-1844).

 

 

8. GEORGE H. KENNERLY. Autograph Letter Signed to Alzire Menard Kennerly, March 12, 1829, Washington, D.C. 2 pp. plus integral address leaf:

I have not as yet been enabled to get my business accomplished with the Secretary of War [John Henry Eaton] .... The crowd around him is so great and the multiplicity of business so extensive that it is almost impossible for him to transact any business at all, - however I think I shall be enabled to leave this place, for Philadelphia by the day after tomorrow, and then nothing shall impied my progress home to the bosom of my dear family.... I think that I am in a fare way of getting back the whole of the sutling at Jefferson Barracks, and if I succide, I shall make purchases of goods to that object. Genl Smith, Capt Rogers, and Sanford left here yesterday morning. Sanford will wait for me in Baltimore and accompany me out to St Louis. I shall overtake Genl Smith in Philadelphia. I know not why it is, but I am low spirited and feel a great uneasiness of mind, for fear that something is going on rong at home, as no person writes to me. I realy feel as if I had been forgotten by the world, and now particularly by those whose happiness occupies my every thought… I rest in hopes that I shall receive letters in Philadelphia.

13th in the morning.

I shall in one hour from this time visit the secretary of war, by appointment, when I expect to have all my business accomplished. Then my dear girl, for home with a light, and a merry heart, what would I give to be at home with my two little children on my knees, and my dear wife whom I love above anything on Earth… Your devoted husband. G H Kennerly

The business with the Secretary of War clearly had to do with Kennerly’s recent expedition. John Henry Eaton (1790-1856) served as Andrew Jackson’s first Secretary of War from March 9, 1829 to June 18, 1831. His wife Peggy became the focus of the Petticoat affair, when other cabinet members’ wives refused to socialize with the Eatons.

 

 

9. GEORGE H. KENNERLY. Autograph Letter Signed to Alzire Menard Kennerly, March 19, 1829, Washington, D.C. 2½ pp. plus integral address leaf:

I find that it will be impossible to accomplish my business here, under five, or six Days. I have therefore arrainged it in such a manner as will enable me to leave here tomorrow morning for Philadelphia. Mr McCoy has not settled the accounts of our expedition. I therefore could not get any money for my trip. I have put it in such a train, as to have deposited in the Bank at this place to my credit the amount of my account, near four Thousand Dollars, which I can draw for, when in Philadelphia. The Secty of War has not as yet had time from the great press of business to act on my application for the whole of the sutling at Jefferson Barracks. I however have not much doubt, but that I will get it.... There is a Rumer that there is to be great turning-out of offices, which I believe will take place.... I cannot find out wheather Hunt will be turned out of the post office, if he is I am an applicant for the place. If I had chosed to have done so I could have had him turned out, as several of the warm friends of Genl Jackson from Tenessee offered to go with me to the president, and insisted on it, but I would not go.

Kennerly was the first postmaster of Jefferson Barracks from 1828 to at least 1831. Wilson P. Hunt (1783-1842) served as postmaster of St. Louis from 1822 to 1840. Jefferson Barracks, about ten miles South of St. Louis, was opened in 1826. It is the oldest operating U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River.

 

 

10. GEORGE H. KENNERLY. Autograph Letter Signed to Alzire Menard Kennerly, June 10, 1832, Ottowaye, Mouth Fox River [Ottawa, Illinois]. 1 p. plus integral address leaf:

I wrote you two days sinse … the Carroline, there has nothing transpired since worth marking, accept that the Genl Mr Johnson and myself rode up from the foot of the Rapids, yesterday to this place. we have had no news from the Troops on Rock River for some days, they were all well when heard from. report from Chicoga says that the hostile Indians, are all trying to get across the Missippi again, the last that was heard from them they were high up on Rock River. Kiss my dear children for me, and be assured of the warmest affections of your G H Kennerly

Kennerly served as sutler for the 6th U.S. Infantry at Jefferson Barracks and likely accompanied them to northern Illinois during the brief Black Hawk War. In April, 1832, Black Hawk crossed from Iowa Territory into Illinois, planning to resettle on tribal land that had been ceded to the U.S. in the disputed 1804 Treaty of St. Louis. American officials became convinced (likely incorrectly) that the “British Band” was hostile, and mobilized a frontier militia which opened fire on an Indian delegation on May 14. Black Hawk responded by attacking and beating the militia at the Battle of Stillman’s Run. While U.S. troops were pursuing Black Hawk, other Native American groups raided forts and settlements that had been left largely unprotected.

Two weeks before this letter, Captain Abraham Lincoln had been in Ottawa. His company was mustered out of service, but Lincoln re-enlisted as a private for twenty days of additional service. Lincoln left Ottawa on June 6, three days before Kennerly’s arrival there.

On July 21, the militia overtook and defeated the British Band at the Battle of Wisconsin Heights. On August 2, at the Battle of Bad Axe, most of Black Hawk’s remaining warriors were killed or captured. Though Black Hawk and other leaders escaped, they later surrendered and were imprisoned for a year. The war furthered support for the policy of the “removal” of Native American tribes to west of the Mississippi River.

 

 

11. AMADEE MENARD. Autograph Letter Signed to Eliza ? , November 12, 1843, Kaskaskia, Illinois. 2 pp.:

I cannot tell you how many reflections your letter has caused me to make. Besides, I half suspect you intended to hoax me. I know you love a joke too well, to consider the consequences it might bring on the jokee. I will tell you, however, that upon the whole I was certainly delighted with your letter.

Today was my birthday, and as that is an event which comes but once a year, I indulged in much wholesome reflection.... I thought whether I should ever live to see my birthday again, of the changes that one more year would bring about, of the friends I might lose in that time, of the situation I might be placed in before I could complete my 24th year!... It is ever thus with those who are young and possess buoyant spirits. Time will soon tell what fortune has in store for me…

Amedee Menard (1820-1844) was Pierre Menard’s daughter by his second wife Angelique Saucier. She died at 23 years old, in Peoria, Illinois in September 1844. Her father lived to 77.

Kaskaskia was the home of the first Illinois General Assembly, before the capital was moved to Vandalia in 1820.

 

12. With an additional letter to “Friend Julia”. Brimfield, April 12.


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