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People & Events: Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (1745?-1818)

DuSable (in color) Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was the first settler of Chicago. He was also the city's first black resident.

As a free black man, Point du Sable is believed to have been born most likely in Haiti sometime before 1750. His biography is sketchy, pieced together from the rare instances when he had to deal with the British or American governments.

From 1768 or so, Point du Sable operated as an engagé, a fur trader with an official license from the British government. In the early years of the United States, Point du Sable was managing a trading post in Indiana. The area was officially Indian-owned (he was a tenant) and Point du Sable was harassed by both British and American troops who passed through the Midwest.

'Chicago in 1779 (Then called Eschikago) showing the cabin of Jean Baptiste Point de Saible (colored) The first permanet settler'. Raoul Varin 1930 Published by A. Ackerman Sons By 1788 he had established a farm in Chicago and lived there with his wife, Catherine, a son and a daughter. In the years that the family lived there, they provided some stability to an area that was primarily frequented by peripatetic traders. With the end of the Revolutionary War, Point du Sable's farm prospered. People as far away as the East coast knew Point du Sable as the only source of farmed produce in the area.

Suzanne Point du Sable, Jean Baptiste and Catherine's daughter, was married in 1790 and bore a daughter, Eulalie, in 1796. Her brother, Jean Baptiste Jr., worked as a trader on the Missouri River. He died in 1814.

Point du Sable left Chicago in 1800, selling his property to a neighbor. His wife did not sign the bill of sale, and may have been deceased at the time. Point moved to St. Charles in Spanish Louisiana. His business deals did not go well, and was declared insolvent in the territory in 1813. At the end of his life, Point du Sable was destitute and depended on the goodwill of a neighbor, possibly a lover, for his housekeeping.

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable died on August 28, 1818.

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