Ste. Genevieve: 1700’s

Le vieux village de Ste. Genevieve



  • Telephone exchange: 883-xxxx
  • Zip code: 63670
  • Township: Ste. Genevieve
  • Population: 4,476


Our Namesake: Ste. Genevieve
           "For our
knowledge of St Genevieve we depend upon a Life which purports to have
been written by a contemporary shortly after her death. Its
authenticity, denied by some authorities, is defended by others. The
layman may accept it at least provisionally. She certainly lived in
Paris during the latter part of the fifth century, when the city was
conquered by the Franks; and by her holiness, austerity, constant
prayer, and miracles, as well as by the beneficent influence she
exercised over the Frankish rulers, won the veneration of the
Parisians, becoming after her death the patroness of their city.



        "Born at Nanterre, a village close to
Paris, she was dedicated to God at the early age of seven by St
Germanus of Auxerre. At the age of fifteen she received the
‘virgin’s veil’ from the bishop of Paris. She soon became a center
of controversy because of the miracles and predictions attributed to
her, but the friendship and esteem shown her by St Germanus put an
end to a campaign of calumny. When Paris was blockaded by Childeric,
she led a convoy of boats provisioning the city. Her exhortations,
supported by a miraculous supply of wine to the workmen, secured the
erection of a basilica over the tomb of St Denis; and her prayers
saved Paris from Attila’s hordes. She died about 500, in favor with
Clovis, the first Christian king of the Franks. A magnificent
basilica rose over her shrine. Her life and character remind us in
many respects of St. Joan a thousand years later." 
the Catholic Information Network,

Pre-History – in a nutshell:

        The first group of people to live in
the Ste. Genevieve area (known) was the Mississippi Indian Tribe. 
It is believed that they initially settled somewhere between Ste.
Genevieve and St. Louis and then spread out in all directions, over
a very large area.  There have been several artifacts, burial
mounds, and temple mounds, found near Ste. Genevieve that prove this
culture lived here.  The mound that still exists today, about 2
miles south of Ste. Genevieve city, is pictured below. 
Unfortunately, this Mississippi Indian Tribe died out before the
first settles came to Ste. Genevieve.  It is said that they had
extensive contact with the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, who
not only brought with him many European diseases (to which Indians
had no immunity), but he wasn’t exactly a very nice guy (as we’ve
all learned in our history classes).  (Some believe De Soto
traveled to the Ste. Genevieve area, while others believe that some
of the Mississippi tribe met him further South, then returned home.)


The Founders:
        Ste. Genevieve was settled by
Frenchman from Canada who had first settled in Kaskaskia, ILL, then
moved across the river to what is now Ste. Genevieve.  In
Lucille Basler’s book (see below), she gives three reasons for why
they may have moved across the river:

  • To be in French Territory [remember, at this time, this area
    West of the Mississippi River was owned by France; it would later
    belong to Spain – acq. 1763, then to France again (1800), until it
    was bought by the United States (1803)]
  • For better access to the salt near the Saline
  • For a shipping port for lead, etc. (It would have been brought
    from further West to the river, then shipped down-river to New

The Founding:

        Even through Ste.
Genevieve had no official founding date and grew very slowly over
its first years, it is the oldest settlement West of the Mississippi
River.  "Tradition" has it that Ste. Genevieve was founded in
1735.  However, others believe that Ste. Genevieve was formally
settled in 1725, or even as early as 1723.

        Those that accept the 1723 date, take
the facts that Philip Francois Renault, a wealthy Paris banker, was,
for the Royal Company of the Indies, made director-general of mining
operations, and arrived in Kaskaskia in 1723.  He, believed to
have developed the lead mines of Washington County by 1725, then
headed a bit West to oversee the mining operations.  So it
makes sense to many that the men who manned the boats, instead of
living for months on the boats on the river, would have made a
little settlement on shore, since they were so close: Ste.
        Either way, Ste. Genevieve was
certainly in operation by 1735.
        Location, location location: "By
the careful superposition of early river charts and land plats, the
writer has demonstrated that the first Ste. Genevieve lay in the
bottom lands directly across from old Kaskaskia."6

Early Living:
        When Ste. Genevieve first began, the
people settled on le grand champe, or what I call, the big
field along the Mississippi river, stretching about 1 mile. 
Each house faced the river with a long narrow field behind it, some
have said that they were about 400 feet wide and 2 miles deep. 
Most houses were of the typical French or Canadian design, made with
vertical logs, steep roofs, long open porches (galleries), French
windows, at least one extra large doorway (into the house), 8 foot
ceilings, and surrounded with tall stockade fences.
        The people of Ste. Genevieve
generally dressed in coarse linen and moccasins, the men wearing
their hair long and pulled back and wearing a blanket coat with
cape; both men and women wearing blue bandanas over their heads.
        According to my source #5 (below),
the first settlers were: Jean Baptiste Valle Sr., Joseph Loiselle,
Jean Baptiste Maurice, Francois Coleman, Jaques Boyer, Henri
Maurice, Parfait Dufour, Joseph Bequette, Jean Baptiste Thomure,
Joseph Goverau, Louis Boisduc, Jean Baptiste St. Gemme, Laurent
Gaboury, Jean Beauvais, B.N. Janis, J.B.T. Pratte, "and others."

"Firsts" of Ste. Genevieve:

  • 1751 – first public sale of land recorded
  • 1752 – the "principal citizen" was Baptiste LaRose
  • 1759 – first church built (finished) – more on this later
  • 1759 – first recorded marriage (Andre de Guire to Marie La
  • 1760 – first recorded Catholic baptism
  • 1769 – recorded census: 600 people (both white/black)
  • 1780-1785 – FLOOD!!

The first church
        Provisions for the first church,
L’années des Grandes Eaux
made in 1752 by French Jesuits, but it was not finished until 1759. 
The church was a log structure called the "Church of St.
Joachim" (named for the father of Mary the mother of Jesus). 
The church also had a cemetery next to it; unfortunately, it was
washed away in the flood.  The first baptism was held in on Feb
24, 1760, performed by Jesuit missionary P. F. Watrin.  From
the time the church celebrated its first mass until 1764, they were
served by priests appointed by the Bishop of Quebec.  Father
Meurin, who pledged allegiance to Spain (when they gained control of
the area, 1763), was the last Jesuit at the church, all others were
chased out.  However, a price was later put on Father Meurin’s
head when he contacted the Bishop of Quebec for help (assistants). 
So the Ste. Genevieve parishioners helped him to escape to Illinois
in 1768.  The church was without a priest until 1769 when
Father Gibault served until 1773 and his successor was Father

        Father Hilaire made history in that
he demanded that all the parishioners tithe more than they were
currently doing.  (They were used to giving a very small
amount), and forbidding the parishioners to see priests across the
Mississippi, and by not instructing the children or delivering
sermons.  So they complained to St. Louis (and outright
demanded to his face that he leave) and Father Hilaire was replaced
with a returning Father Gibault.  Father Gibault then stayed
until Ste. Genevieve was destroyed by the flood (he then went to New
Madrid in 1793 and stayed there until his death in 1802).
        This church remained in use until
1794, but in 1778, a new church was already under construction;
tradition has it that the first church was actually moved –
literally – to the new town site.  It was probably also
extensively repaired and enlarged.

First Military Actions

        At an early
period, being in the year 1780, known as "L’Aunee du Coup" (the year
of the blow), the inhabitants of "Le Vieux Village de Ste.
Genevieve" were called upon to defend St. Louis, which was
threatened to be attacked by the English and different tribes of
[150th…. Ste. Genevieve – below]
        A man named Sylvio
Francisco Cartabona then went to Ste. Genevieve and raised a militia
company of 60 men, that was under the command of Captain Charles
Valle.  The company headed to St. Louis by keel boat.

        Upon arriving in St. Louis, the
company realized that the lieutenant governor of St. Louis was "in
bad faith toward them and the town of St. Louis."  So the Ste.
Genevieve men were stuck "between a rock and a hard place" as they
say, without ammunition, and supposing to follow orders of this
corrupt man.  However, the men of Ste. Genevieve acquired three
kegs of powder from an elderly woman in the town.  By this
time, Captain Charles Valle had decided that they would not follow
any orders from the lieutenant governor, while still defending St.
Louis.  The details of this are quite sketchy, but after the

attack on St. Louis failed, the Ste. Genevieve company returned

Flood!!  I’anée
des grandes eaux
– the year of the great water

        The Mississippi River, "The Father of
Waters," notorious for its uprisings, (as many of us will remember
1993), showed its power to the first settlers of Ste. Genevieve in
the years between 1778 and 1785.  In 1778, the Mississippi
began to cut in more quickly and the house of Joseph Couture was the
first to slide into the river.  The citizens did not seem to be
too alarmed; they thought it was a strange incident, but did not
think it would happen again.  But in 1784, a few citizens did
"abandon ship" and head for higher ground, slowly certain families
moved to what is now Ste. Genevieve.  Then, quickly in 1785,
the flood hit – covering everything in sight.  Chimneys alone
stuck up out of the waters, it is said that boats were tied to the
chimneys.  Finally, when the waters went down, the citizens
(finding that only houses with stone foundations were left and also
seeing that Kaskaskia was now an island) met at the house of
Francois Valle II to discuss the issue.  The citizens [most of
them] wisely decided to move further away from the river, up hill,
settling between the forks of the Gabouri.  Others stayed where
they were for the time being.  Those that left, moved what they
could and started anew with what they couldn’t.  In 1787, the
distinction was made clear between old Ste. Genevieve and the new
village, then known as Petites Cotes

(or "little slopes"),
when 13 people of the new town petitioned to have their fields
separated from the fields of those in old Ste. Genevieve.  The
full move to the new town was not completed until around 1796, the
church having been moved in 1794; leaving only a few huts, inhabited
by traders.

        Many citizens jokingly called the
village Misère, meaning misery
(maybe this is where we get Missouri, hahaha, just kidding). 
This is, however, illustrated on the following map, 1765-1772
(however, that would also show that Ste. Genevieve was called Misère
before the first flood).


This map is the upper-left corner of a map of the Mississippi River.  One can see the Mines of la Mote, where Renault did his mining.  I’m not sure exactly where this
is today, although I’ve been told it may be the St. Francois Co
mines.  I’m guessing that this is the same map done by a Thomas
Hutchins around 1771, at that time, he noted that there were "208
French and 80 Negroes" in Ste. Genevieve.  In 1779, the
population was 945.

Other populations @ various times:6

1772: 691
1773: 676
1795: 839
1796: 773

to Lucille Basler in her book Ste. Genevieve Mother of the West,
the original city limits of Ste. Genevieve (present day location)
stretched North and South from the North Gabouri Creek to the South
Gabouri Creek and West from 5th Street to St. Mary Road in the East.


1. General Knowledge

2. A Tour of Old Ste Genevieve, by Lucille Basler, 1975;
published by Wehmeyer Printing Co, Inc, Ste. Genevieve, MO

3. The Master Plan for Restoration of Ste. Genevieve, MO;
Economic Development Administration Technical Service Project, U.S.
Department of Commerce, Allied Engineers & Architects, 1966

4. The Story of Old Ste. Genevieve: An Account of An Old French
Town in Upper Louisiana, Its People and Their Homes; by Gregory M.
Franzwa, 1987 (4th ed), The Patrice Press, St. Louis, MO

5. 150th Celebration of
the Founding of Ste. Genevieve; Address of Hon. Firmin A. Rozier,
Historian and Orator.  Delivered at the City of Ste. Genevieve. 
July 21, 1883.  Published by G.A. Pierrot, St. Louis, MO.

6. Early Ste. Genevieve and its Architecture, Charles E.
Peterson; Reprinted from The Missouri Historical Review Vol XXXV No
2, January 1941

7. Church of Ste. Genevieve; Msgr James Holland (pastor at
printing), Wehmeyer Printing Co, Inc, Ste. Genevieve, MO

8. The District of Ste. Genevieve, 1725-1980; Lucille Basler

9. Ste. Genevieve: Mother of the West, 1725; Lucille Basler, 1978

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *