dusableThe first settler in Chicago was Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable. He was born in 1745 in Santa Domingo, Haiti, to a French mariner and a mother who was a slave from Congo. His father provided him with education, and he worked as a seaman for his father’s ships.

Before settling in Chicago, records show that Du Sable was in the Louisiana Territory in the 1760s, then moved to St. Louis. Ten years later he established an exchange post along the river in what today is Chicago.

Du Sable was an explorer in the Northwest Territory of United States and spoke fluent French, Spanish and English. When English colonists came to Chicago, Du Sable was the main supply station for them. He was known to be handsome, have exquisite taste and even built his home from French imported wood. Fellow explorers said he had a feather bed, couch and mirrors.

In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, Du Sable was jailed by the British on charges of being a French spy. In 1800, he sold his trading post for $1,200 and moved to Saint Charles, Missouri, because he felt the British were going to apprehend him again.

On Aug. 28, 1818 – the same year Illinois became a state – Du Sable died at the age of 73. He was not credited with being Chicago’s first settler until the 20th century. Today, a school, a museum, a park and bridge are named in his honor.

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