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A Chouteau / Clark Family Tree

​ After the Louisiana purchase, St. Louis became a focal point of the US fur trade, military presence, and treaty making. The fur trade was run by the powerful Chouteau family, who had founded St. Louis in the 1760s and survived multiple colonialist regime changes. When William Clark became the Superintendent of Indian Affairs – in charge of granting fur trade licenses west of the Mississippi – the Chouteaus went into business with him and extended their family network to include Clark and his relatives. The treaty signers in the Chouteau and Clark families are pictured below.

Another powerful family that included Michigan Territorial Governor Lewis Cass is described separately on this website. It should be noted, however, that these two extensive families were related by marriage, forming one vast family network that included nearly 100 treaty signers.

The Era of Big Speculators

William Clark rose to prominence as co-leader (with Merriwether Lewis) of the famous Corps of Discovery. His older brother, George Rogers Clark, was the leader of US forces on the western front in the Revolution. George signed some of the earliest US-indian treaties; William signed more treaties than any other US signer. Their sisters married prominent fur traders and politicians, and William Clark incorporated their children (his nephews) into the St. Louis Treaty-making machine.


​Clark’s brothers-in-law, sons, step-son, and step-daughter’s husband were also prolific treaty signers, and played prominent roles in US Indian affairs in the west. One example of the affect of these family relations is that a Clark nephew, John O’Fallon, became the richest man in St. Louis.

Pierre Chouteau

Pierre Chouteau, raised among the Osage to advance his family’s fur trade interests, became the first US Indian Agent west of the Mississippi. He and his family would continue to cast a long shadow on US-Indian relations for generations. The Chouteaus co-founded the St. Louis Fur Company in 1808. Their partners included William Clark and Illinois Lt. Governor Pierre Menard, who was related to both the Chouteaus and the Clarks.


Among the many Chouteau relatives involved in the Chouteau business empire, Pierre’s son, Pierre “Cadet” Choutreau Jr., assumed a controlling interest, directing profits along family lines and diversifying family holdings into real estate, railroads, and other enterprises. Cadet’s daughter married his business associate, Indian agent John F. A. Sanford, an owner of Dred Scott.

Victoire Chouteau

Pierre’s sister Victoire married Charles Gratiot, the main financial backer of George Rogers Clark’s military expeditions in the Revolution. Their son Henry became a prominent lead miner. He married into the Hempstead family, which included Missouri’s first US Representative, William Hempstead, and another Chouteau fur trading partner, Manuel Lisa. Charles and Victoire’s daughter Emily married her cousin Pierre Chouteau, Jr.

Manuel Lisa, partner in the St. Louis Fur company, married into the powerful Chouteau/Clark kinship group. Before that marriage, however, he also started a family with Mitain, the daughter of powerful Umoho (Omaha) chief Big Elk. Big Elk’s family illustrates the complexities of kinship ties that animated the fur trade and US-Indian relations.


Big Elk navigated a world in upheaval: colonialist regime change as the US reached the Missouri River; devastating epidemics; and constant warfare with the Seven Council Fires (Sioux). He did this in part by building relationships with US fur traders and neighboring Indigenous nations. Mitain’s sister married trader Lucien Fontenelle. One of their sons was a US treaty signer, while another represented the Omaha at treaties. Another fur trader, Joseph Laflesche, and his Ponca wife, were the parents of Estamahza, who was adopted by Big Elk and became the last hereditary chief of the Omaha.


Estamahza was married to the daughter of an Iowa woman and John Gale, a US soldier and doctor who signed 13 treaties.​

Chouteau Sisters

Two other Chouteau sisters also married prominent fur traders. US treaty signers included Marie Louise’s son and Pelagie’s son-in-law. Pelagie’s granddaughter married Lewis Bogy, the US Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Auguste Chouteau

In 1764, at the age of 14, ​Auguste Chouteau co-founded the city of St. Louis with his stepfather. Auguste was a partner of William Clark in politics and commerce, running the fur trade business while Clark handed out the business licenses, and negotiating scores of trade agreements and land cessions with Indigenous nations. Auguste also engaged his sons and in-laws in the treaty-making process. His sons-in-law the Paul brothers (from a slave owning family that fled Haiti during a slave revolt), and his grandson Gabriel Rene Paul, were interpreters at dozens of treaties. Gabriel Rene Paul married Mary Ann Whistler, uniting two large treaty-making families.