Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Biography

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable

founder of Chicago
Born: c. 1750
Birthplace: St. Marc, Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti)

Du Sable had a French father and an African-born slave mother. He was educated (possibly in France) and may have worked as a sailor. He had become a fur and grain trader in the Great Lakes region by the late 1770s, establishing a base at the site of what is now Chicago. In 1779 the British questioned Du Sable about his relations with the French. However, the British ultimately sent Du Sable to represent British trading interests with Indians around the St. Clair River, northeast of present-day Detroit.

Du Sable returned to his post at present-day Chicago in 1784, erecting several buildings at what gradually became a major trading center. Du Sable was a jack-of-all-trades, working as a carpenter, cooper, miller, and distiller. He was married to a Potawatomi Indian woman named Catherine, or Kittihawa, with whom he had two children, and he became increasingly involved in the affairs of the Potawatomi tribe. But in 1800 he failed in his effort to become Potawatomi chief, and he sold his property for what was then the enormous sum of $1,200, and moved to St. Charles, Mo., where he worked as a farmer and trader. In 1912 the city of Chicago placed a marker in his memory at the corner of Kinzie and Pine streets. In 1987 a commemorative stamp was issued to honor Du Sable.

Died: 8/28/1818