The Pryor Times

October 4, 2013

Chouteau Days celebrated Saturday

Staff Writer
Susan Wagoner

PRYOR, OK — The town of Salina is celebrating Chouteau Days this Saturday. The event honors the Chouteau family who traveled from St. Louis, Mo., to establish the first white settlement in Oklahoma by building a fur trading business.

Rene Auguste Chouteau traveled from his native France to a French colony in the Americas called New Orleans. He was just a teenager at the time.

He met and married Marie Therese Bourgeois in 1748. She was raised in a convent in New Orleans and married at the age of 15. A year later, their son, Auguste Rene, was born. Marie left her husband soon after for “alleged cruelties” according to documents.

Betty Lou Thomas, director of the Mayes County Historical Society, said though the couple was split, they did not divorce.

“It was seriously frowned on by the Catholic Church,” Thomas said. “She became involved with Pierre Laclede Liguest and though they maintained separate residences, it is expected that Laclede fathered the remainder of her children, though they all used the name Chouteau.”

A second son, Jean Pierre, was born in 1758, followed by three daughters.

By 1762, Auguste had become involved with the fur trading business owned by Laclede.

A party of men decided to travel up the river to establish a new trading post, which they did. The post became St. Louis.

Auguste was only 14 at the time, but the responsibility of laying out the new post and constructing buildings fell to him. He did well.

His mother, Marie, brother Jean Pierre, and three sisters eventually joined him there. As soon as Jean Pierre matured, he became the partner of his older brother in the business.

When his business partner Pierre Laclede Liguest died, Auguste quickly purchased the fur trading company.

Both brothers had a great business relationship with the Osage Indian tribe. Auguste sent his younger brother Jean Pierre west to find and establish a new trading post. Osage guides accompanied him on the quest.

The group found the perfect place in what is now Salina. A post was established near the banks of a clear water spring branch. Grand River and the Arkansas River were close, making it ideal for the fur trading businessmen.

Salina is known as the oldest permanent white settlement in Oklahoma and Jean Pierre is often referred to as the Father of Oklahoma.

The post was called “La Saline” after the large salt springs located nearby. Jean Pierre’s oldest son, Auguste Pierre Chouteau, eventually took over the post from his father, who lived out his retirement in St. Louis.

While some dispute that Jean Pierre personally established the post that became Salina, descendents of Chouteau say the stories of his involvement have passed down through the generations. However, because documents from that period do not refer to Jean Pierre at all, there will always be questions as to the depth of his involvement.

The Town of Salina will celebrate Chouteau Days with a ton of festivities this weekend. The theme is “Settling on the River – Then and Now.” Activities include an Archery Shoot, Shotgun Shoot, Horseshoe Pitch, BB Shoot, Greased Pig Contest, Barnyard Grab, Kids Costume Contest, Camel and Pony Rides, Outhouse Derby, Food and Craft Vendors, Live Music, Parade and Much More. Games and contests begin at 8 a.m., with the parade at 2 p.m. For information Salina Chamber 918-434-8181 or Gail Fox 918-373-0758.