ON THIS DATE in 1764, fourteen-year-old Rene Auguste Chouteau directed 30 men to begin clearing land for a location that would become the city of St. Louis. Choteau’s stepfather, Pierre Laclède, had scouted the place, located 677 miles north of New Orleans on the Mississippi River, and pronounced it an ideal spot for a fur trading post. He placed Chouteau in charge of a crew that cut timber and built cabins on the site.
Initially a French holding named for the patron saint of King Louis XV, St. Louis became U.S. property with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. By 1900, it was the most populous city west of Chicago.
Chouteau’s business savvy fueled the rapid growth of St. Louis. He became a full fur-trading partner with his stepfather in 1768, and took full control of the business when Laclède died in 1778. Chouteau established friendly relations with the Osage and other Indian tribes and negotiated effectively with French, British, and American interests, which aided in the city’s growth.