Francois Valle and His World: Upper Louisiana Before Lewis and Clark

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In François Vallé and His World, Carl Ekberg provides a fascinating biography of François Vallé (1716-1783), placing him within the context of his place and time. Vallé, who was born in Beauport, Canada, immigrated to Upper Louisiana (the Illinois Country) as a penniless common laborer sometime during the early 1740s. Engaged in agriculture, lead mining, and the Indian trade, he ultimately became the wealthiest and most powerful individual in Upper Louisiana, although he never learned to read or write.

Ekberg focuses on Upper Louisiana in colonial times, long before Lewis and Clark arrived in the Mississippi River valley and before American sovereignty had reached the eastern bank of the Mississippi. He vividly captures the ambience of life in the eighteenth-century frontier agricultural society that Vallé inhabited, shedding new light on the French and Spanish colonial regimes in Louisiana and on the Mississippi River frontier before the Americans arrived.

Based entirely on primary source documents—wills and testaments, parish registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials, and Spanish administrative correspondence—found in archives ranging from St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve to New Orleans and Seville, François Vallé and His World traces not only the life of François Vallé and the lives of his immediate family members, but also the lives of his slaves. In doing so, it provides a portrait of Missouri’s very first black families, something that has never before been attempted. Ekberg also analyzes how the illiterate Vallé became the richest person in all of Upper Louisiana, and how he rose in the sociopolitical hierarchy to become an important servant of the Spanish monarchy.

François Vallé and His World provides a useful corrective to the fallacious notion that Missouri’s history began with the arrival of Lewis and Clark at the turn of the nineteenth century. Anyone with an interest in colonial history or the history of the Mississippi River valley will find this book of great value.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This valuable study will at long last rescue the Vallés from the shadows of the better-known Chouteaus of St. Louis and bring Ste. Genevieve's preeminent French Creole family the recognition it rightly deserves. François Vallé's story is remarkable. This book is characterized by a richness of detail that carries the reader into another time and place."—William E. Foley
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826214188
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Series: Missouri Biography Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl J. Ekberg is Professor Emeritus of History at Illinois State University. He is the author of several books, including French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times and Colonial Ste. Genevieve: An Adventure on the Mississippi Frontier. He resides in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

The Missouri Biography Series, edited by William E. Foley

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Table of Contents

Illustrations x
Maps and Plans, Tables, and Genealogical Charts xi
Preface xiii
Introduction 1
1. Beginnings 20
2. The Old Town of Ste. Genevieve 44
3. Ascent to Power 93
4. The Valle Household 117
5. Missouri's Original Black Families 158
6. Pillar of the Spanish Regime 203
7. Wealth, Death, and Eternity 240
Conclusion 283
Appendix 297
Index 301
Valle coat of arms
Title page of Spanish census, 1766 49
Eighteenth-century parish church 85
Governor Alejandro O'Reilly 103
Officers in Ste. Genevieve militia, 1780 106
Francois Valle's official titles 107
Slave baptismal record 176
Slave marriage record 189
Receipt for Spanish payroll 207
A Spanish piece-of-eight 208
Lieutenant Governor Francisco Cruzat 210
Governor Bernardo de Galvez 235
Signatures on 1776 Valle will 252
Black walnut armoire 265
Valle sterling silver candlesticks 270
Eighteenth-century household implements 272
Maps and Plans
Eastern North America, circa 1770 38
Philip Pittman's Plan of Kaskaskia, 1766 59
Center of Old Town of Ste. Genevieve, 1780 62
1. 1766 Spanish Census of Ste. Genevieve 50
2. 1772 Spanish Census of Ste. Genevieve 54
3. 1779 Spanish Census of Ste. Genevieve 55
4. Origins of the Men in Ste. Genevieve's Militia 57
5. Occupations of the Men in Ste. Genevieve's Militia 58
6. Parish Fees in the Illinois Country 86
Genealogical Charts
1. Partial Valle Genealogy 122
2. Valle Slave Couples and Their Children 169
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