Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Old French Trading Post

Toured the private historic site Fort LaCharrette with its proprietor, architectural historian Wheelock Crosby Brown, who showed me around the oldest horizontal-log cabin west of the Mississippi and the fur-trading post founded in 1762 by Frenchman Joseph Chadron and his Osage Indian wife. Lewis and Clark visited Fort LaCharrette, the last white settlement on their way west, in 1804. Brown, a specialist in historic restorations, saved the buildings from ruin and lovingly restored or rebuilt every inch with original materials or as close as he could get. The cabin, trading post and authentic outbuildings perch on a bluff high above the Missouri River near Washington, Mo., and Brown (the bearded guy; degree from Stanford) flies there the old French flag and the 17-star American flag of Lewis and Clark's time. He gives tours, by appointment, to groups or to individuals such as myself. I got to sit in an 18th-century chair hollowed out of a log and upholstered with a blanket, and listen as Brown described the Chadrons' business and home lives. The fireplaces work.

Brown explained that Fort LaCharrette wasn't a military fort. Back then, anyplace people could run for safety and shelter was called a fort. A "charrette" is a wooden wagon (pictured) of the kind that Joseph Chadron filled with furs he bought or bartered from white and Indian trappers, and took down the bluff to a boat and to St. Louis to resell.

Things to remember: "Osage" is from the French "Aux sage," meaning "wise ones." "Missouri" is from the Siouxan, "Ouimisourite," meaning "men of long canoes." Here's another article about Fort LaCharrette.

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