History of Missouri's oldest city founded in the 1700s

CJ Coombs

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The Bequette-Ribault House.Andrew Balet, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Bequette-Ribault house

One of the attractions to Sainte (Ste.) Genevieve is the restored Bequette-Ribault house pictured above, also on the National Registry of Historic Places. The house was built in 1808 by Jean-Baptiste Bequette, Sr. When his son died, the property was purchased by a woman named Clarisse, who was "a free woman of color." Thereafter, until 1982, ownership was passed down to her descendants and they all had the last name of Ribault.

Located at 351 St. Mary’s Road, The Bequette-Ribault House lies across from what remains of Le Grand Champ Field from the original French settlement. The two-room house is most noted architecturally by its originally steeply pitched Norman truss roof and “poteaux-en-terre” construction, or “posts-in-the-earth,” referencing its vertical logs built directly into the ground without a foundation. Only five of these “poteaux-en-terre” structures remain in the world, and Ste. Genevieve is home to three such buildings. (Source.)

Ste. Genevieve's early history

Ste. Genevieve was founded in 1735 according to some, while others say it was 1750. It is the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri. The original village was located two miles north of where it sits now chiefly due to needing to be on higher ground after a major flood in 1787.

At one time, it was part of the territory held by France. The French Canadians were the early colonists. The French and Indian war resulted in France turning over its holdings to Spain in 1762 (Treaty of Paris), west of the Mississippi River and which formed Louisiana, also known as New Spain.

Existing history in Ste. Genevieve

The residents of Ste. Genevieve want to preserve the historical value of the town. The historical architecture is significant. The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) documented some of the city's buildings during the 1930s.

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The Bolduc House.Jack Boucher, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pictured above is a house built by Peter Bolduc, a prominent merchant in Ste. Genevieve, in 1740. This house began its restoration in 1956. A historic site survey was performed in 1960 of the area by the National Park Service and it became one of the first designations of a historic site by the National Historic Landmark District. It stands to reason why this community wants to preserve its history.

In 1980, the National Park Service was able to identify the early settlement of Ste. Genevieve along the Mississippi floodplain which was believed to have been lost during flooding. A survey by the Park Service in 1980 identified the location of Ste. Genevieve's early settlement on the Mississippi floodplain, which had long been thought to be lost to floodwaters. This led to some of the older buildings being acquired by the state for the purpose of preservation.

Since January 2017, French Colonial America (FCA) has been proudly operating the historic Centre for French Colonial Life Museum Campus in Ste. Genevieve, MO. Initially owned by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Missouri (NSCDA-MO), the properties were gifted to FCA by NSCDA-MO in early 2020. The campus features four historic French Colonial structures (The Louis Bolduc, Bolduc-LeMeilleur, Beauvais-Linden, and Francois Valle II Houses) as well as the education and exhibits facility, the Centre for French Colonial Life. (Source.)

On March 23, 2018, the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park plan was set in motion and on October 30th, 2020, this park was formally established.

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The Amoureaux House.Photo by Andrew Balet, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The above house known as the Amoureux House was built in 1792 by Jean-Baptiste St. Gemme Beauvais II. In 1852, Benjamin C. Amoureux, an immigrant from France, purchased the property. It now functions as a museum operated by the National Park Service. Few buildings in Ste. Genevieve that are poteaux-en-terre survive.

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The front of the Vital St. Gemme Beavais House.Photo by Andrew Balet, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Common.

The Vital St. Gemme Beauvais House was built by Joseph V. Beauvais in 1785.

This house is made of vertical cedar logs set directly in the ground one of just three surviving palisadoed houses (poteaux en terre). This distinctive creole type was the most widely used in the French period in Ste. Genevieve, a National Historic Landmark district. (Source: Library of Congress.)

Poteaux-en-terre buildings

A timber construction method that was used for French colonial buildings associated with having posts in the ground is called poteaux-en-terre. The pillars or posts were embedded into the ground instead of resting on a foundation.

Chaumette Vineyards & Winery

If you travel through Ste. Genevieve, you might also want to visit the Chaumette Vineyards & Winery where you can plan a get-a-way.

Chaumette Winery has evolved into a premier wine lifestyle destination, including private villas for overnight stays, a pool, full-service restaurant, among more traditional winery amenities. (Source.)

If you have a passion for history, particularly back to the French Colonial Period, you'll be fueled by some of the historical sites in Ste. Genevieve.

Thank you for reading.

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30 years of legal secretarial experience, and a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, my life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO
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