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A.P. Choteau Shows Up

May 8, 2002

Historian's Notes

Auguste Chouteau was the Sam Walton of early-day Oklahoma history. The family established a strong trading empire in Missouri and opened branch operations around what is today Chouteau, Oklahoma. Trading western goods for furs, the Chouteau clan and their employees provided, for better or worse, a bridge between Native Americans and the inevitable inundation of Euro-Americans. Most residents of Oklahoma think of whites entering the state first in the land runs, so I thought that it was important to show that established communities of foreigners resided in Oklahoma long, long before then. There are numerous places to find out more on the Chouteau family. Any of the standard Oklahoma history textbooks will have information on the Chouteaus. For the Almanac I used the following two sources.

Resources

Chronicles of Oklahoma Summer 1947

Fly, Shelby M. The Saga of the Chouteaus of Oklahoma: French Footprints in the Valley Grand. Norman, OK: Levite of Apache, 1988.

Almanac Transcript

A.P. Chouteau shows up on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I'm your host Steven Knoche Kite.

Most of you are aware that European nations early on revealed a special interest in the area that is today Oklahoma. Of all of the Spanish and French traders trampling through the area, it has been written that one of the most significant of influences that directed the destiny of the Grand River Valley was the name of Chouteau.

The Chouteau family, led by Auguste Chouteau, began as traders in the interior of the country in the mid to late-1700s. The Chouteau trading empire continued on into the 1800s, led in part by a son of Auguste, one A.P. Chouteau. A.P. Chouteau entered West Point at the age of 18 supposedly rising to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army. On a trading trip to Colorado, Chouteau and his party was arrested by the Spanish and jailed in Santa Fe. The negative experience in Spanish territory led the entrepreneur to relocate his efforts closer to the Chouteau home base of southwest Missouri.

A.P. Chouteau began operating a trading post on the east bank of the Grand River near a well-known salt spring heavily utilized by members of the Osage Tribe. Chouteau's trading post became a very successful venture, and Chouteau and the Osage developed a close working relationship. The Osage helped to protect the post from various enemies and Chouteau helped the Native Americans in their negotiations with the U.S. government. The outpost, dubbed "The Saline," due to its proximity to the salt spring, grew to be a veritable institution in the area visited by most travelers in the region. Charles Joseph Latrobe in his journal entitled The Rambler in North America, described The Saline Trading Post as follows:

"...it is situated on the romantic bank of the Neosho about fifty miles north of Ft. Gibson. . . . the property of the Colonel's whose welcome home amid a crowd of Negroes, Indians of diverse tribes and both sexes, dogs, pigs, cats, turkeys, horses and ducks all looking fat and happy, was an extremely amusing sight."

Colonel A.P. Chouteau continued in his multiple roles of business leader and advocate for the Osage for several decades, revered by whites and Native Americans alike. Today the towns of Chouteau, named for A.P. Chouteau, and Salina, named for its closeness to The Saline Trading Post, stand as reminders of early day European influence in the region. It was on May 9th of 1786 that family and friends gathered to celebrate the birth of the young business leader and Osage advocate-to-be, A.P. Chouteau.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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