Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Antoine LeClaire

By Franc B. Wilkie.

Antoine LeClaire
Antoine LeClaire was born December 15, 1797, at St. Joseph, Michigan.  His father was a Canadian Frenchman, his mother was granddaughter of a Pottowottomie Chief.  At this time the territory of the North-west, out of which half a dozen might States have been formed, was peopled almost solely by the red man, with here and there one of a different race, fearless enough to brave the perils of a frontier life, among the dusky denizens of the wilderness; the father of Antoine Le Claire was one of these.

In 1808, he established a trading post at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, exchanging manufactured articles for various kinds of furs.  In 1809, he engaged more extensively in the business, in connection with John Kinsey, at Chicago, (Fort Dearborn then,) Illinois.  In 1812, though surrounded with the Indian tribes with whom he was trading, and who, through the influence of British emissaries, were generally hostile to the United States, Mr. Le Claire espoused the American cause, engaged actively in the service - was in the contest at Peoria, where, with others, he was taken, prisoner.  The prisoners were confined at Alton, Illinois, but were released during the same year.

About this period, at the solicitation of Gov. Clarke, of Missouri, Antoine LeClaire entered the Government service and was placed at school, that he might acquire a proper knowledge of the English language.  In 1818, he acted as interpreter under Capt. Davenport, at Fort Armstrong; and the same year returned to Peoria, where, in 1820, he married the daughter of the Sac Chief, Acoqua, (the Kettle.)  The same year he was sent to Arkansas, to watch the movements of the Indians in that locality.  He was returned to Fort Armstrong in 1827, and was present as interpreter in 1832 when the treaty was made by which the United States purchased of the Sac and Fox tribes the territory west of the Mississippi River.

In consequence of cholera among the soldiers at Fort Armstrong, the treaty, which would otherwise have been held in the Fort, was transferred to the Iowa shore opposite.  Here the great Chief of the Sacs, Keokuk, made a reserve of a section land, which he donated to Mr. LeClaire's wife, requiring, as an only condition, that Mr. LeClaire should build his house on the section and on the spot then occupied by the marquee of Gen. Scott in making the treaty; which condition he afterward filled to the letter.  The Sacs and Foxes also gave him another section at the head of the Rapids, where LeClaire now stands.  The Pottawatomie, in the treaty of Prairie du Chien, reserved two sections on the Illinois side, which they presented to Mr. LeClaire.  The flourishing town of Moline is situated on this reserve.

The treaty was ratified by Congress the following winter.  In the spring of 1833, Mr. LeClaire erected a small building, or "shanty," in the then Fox village, "Morgan," which had occupied this ground for years previous.  Of the tribe having this as their headquarters, Maquopom was the head warrior and Poweshiek head chief.  In the fall of 1834, the Sac and Fox Indians left here for the Cedar River.

In 1833, Mr. LeClaire was appointed Post Master at Davenport, and also Justice of the Peace, to settle all matters of difference between the whites and Indians.  His jurisdiction extended over all the territory purchased of the Sacs and Foxes West of the Mississippi, from Dubuque, on the North, to Burlington on the South.  The population of Burlington was, at this time, about two hundred, that of Dubuque about two hundred and fifty.

Mr. LeClaire is an accomplished Linguist - speaking some twelve or fourteen Indian dialects, as well as French and English, and was present as Interpreter, among other treaties, at that with the Great and Little Osages at St. Louis, 1825, with the Kansas at St. Louis, 1825, with the Chippewas at Prairie du Chien in 1829, with the Winnebagoes at the same place, in August, same year; at the same place in 1826, with Sacs and Foxes, same place with Winnebagoes in 1832, at Fort Armstrong, held on Iowa side, with Sacs and Foxes at Davenport, with Sacs and Foxes in 1836, at Washinton, with same tribes in 1837, with same tribes at Sac and Fox Agency in Iowa Territory in 1842.

Mr. LeClaire was one of the proprietors of the town of Davenport and is still one of its active business men.  He is possessed of great wealth; has improved the city by a liberal expenditure of a large income, in erecting Churches, and other public buildings, at his immediate expense.  The fine Church of St. Margaret - whose spire reaches from the lofty bluff till it would almost seem to touch the quiet stars, or to mingle with the cloudy glories of a summer's day - was built and furnished by the munificence of Mr. LeClaire.  Everywhere over the fair city of Davenport are scattered improvements, each of which elegantly and appropriately memorializes his generosity.

His progress from the small white house, on the depot grounds, to the palatial brick mansion of the bluffs - his physical increase from the small frame of thirty years ago, to the portly embodiment of Mr. LeClaire of to-day, present a fine type, both of his increase in wealth, and the growth of the city, which he mainly founded.  It is to be regretted that a history of his life, embracing its lesser details, could not have been obtained - as his whole course has been replete with stirring incident, and romantic adventure.  His name, however, will not soon be forgotten - it is inscribed in the national archives, is perpetuated in a thousand forms - in spire and altar, in wall and street - in the city of his adoption, while still more enduringly than all these memorials of parchment, wood-work, and masonry, it is written upon the hearts of all who know him, the fact that he is a - PHILANTHROPIST AND CHRISTIAN.

From Davenport Past & Present, by Franc B. Wilkie.  1858.

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