The Jacob Philipson House is an example of
the old French Colonial homes still standing in Ste. Genevieve. This home
is operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. It is a
one-and-a-half story, side gable, limestone dwelling with a merchant store
and family quarters.
The Amoureux House was built
overlooking Le Grand Champ agricultural fields in 1792. It is a French
Creole vernacular post in construction, one of three in Ste. Genevieve and
only five in the United States. Its cedar log walls are set directly
into the earth, without a foundation.
The Bolduc House was built in 1770 by Louis Bolduc, a
Canadian lead miner, merchant, and planter. The house and its stockade
fence exemplify the vertical log construction favored by the French in this
region. After the great flood of 1783 the house was taken apart, and
reassembled in its present location in 1784. The house is owned by the
Missouri Society of the Colonial Dames of America.
About 20 miles up the river from
Kaskaskia, where Lewis and Clark spent time in late November 1803, was Ste. Genevieve.
President Jefferson mentioned in his
instructions to Meriwether Lewis that the captain could stop
there or Kaskaskia for assistance. Lewis chose Kaskaskia. However, William Clark and his men camped just below the
town on their way to St.
It is generally accepted that
Ste. Genevieve was the first permanent European settlement west of the Mississippi in the Illinois Country. The "Old
Town" of Ste. Genevieve, as it was called, was located on the
Mississippi floodplain on the Missouri side of the river three miles below
the present site of Ste. Genevieve, about 60 miles south of St. Louis. When Clark passed by, there were about 1,000 residents, roughly the same
population as St. Louis.
Ste. Genevieve was an offshoot
of older French communities on the east bank of the Mississippiâ€”Cahokia,
Kaskaskia, Chartes, Prairie du Rocher, and St. Philippe. The first official
documents pertaining to the citizens of Ste. Genevieve were recorded in
Kaskaskia. Even before Ste. Genevieve maintained its own records, it existed
as a distinct village.
French settlers started Ste.
Genevieve after they had become established on the east bank of the
Mississippi, used up much of the farmland there, and felt that the risk from
hostile Indians had subsided somewhat. They named the town after the patron
saint of their French homeland.
The town's economy relied on
farming, livestock, salt springs, lead mines, and peltries. The rich soil,
temperate climate, and broad expanses of alluvial bottomland made the region
perfect for farming. The three main crops were wheat, corn, and tobacco. The
people of New Orleans depended heavily on agricultural
products from the Illinois Country.
Though the people of Ste.
Genevieve were largely French-Canadian, there were many second or third
generation Illinoisans, and this frontier community paid little attention to
the class distinctions of highly structured European society. Not only were
the prestigious families involved in agriculture, they also tackled trade,
lead mining, and salt production. Slaves were used to care for the crops.
The standard residential lot in
both the Old Town and
today's New Town was square. In addition to the main house, the lots also
contained a cow barn, a stable, a henhouse, a corncrib, an orchard, a vegetable
garden, a bake oven, a well, and often slave's quarters. Occasionally, there
would be a freestanding kitchen.
Picket fences were common in
Ste. Genevieve. French-Canadian settlers in the Mississippi Valley did not
fence in their grazing animals. Instead, they fenced the animals out.
People lived in picket lean-tos,
barken shanties, rough log cabins, thatched-roof sheds, and the more familiar
solid houses. Houses in the village were usually rectangular, vertical-log
structures. The spaces between the logs were generally filled with saplings
and noggin made of straw and clay, or stones and mortar. Whitewash was
smeared over the exterior to seal the walls.
The people of Ste. Genevieve
made great use of vegetables. They ate soups, fricassees, gumbos, bison,
deer, squirrels, bears, ducks, geese, beef, pork, domestic fowl, fish,
fruits, and breads.
The parish church was the focal
point of the community for both religious and secular affairs. At the church
door virtually all public auctions were cried and all notices posted.
Sometime between 1752-1755, Andre Deguire dit Larose (I-1340) was
appointed captain of the militia at Ste. Genevieve. The militia of the town
was quite small, but the formal organization of such a body indicates that
the townspeople viewed their community as a permanent and viable affair.
Ste. Genevieve was and is
solidly Roman Catholic.
The New Town, which was
established a mile inland and 25 feet higher than the original Ste.
Genevieve, remains a tourist attraction today. Many of the original homes are