Jean Baptiste Point de Sable

Chicago, Home in a Contested Space

Jean Baptiste Point de Sable was the first permanent non-Native settler of what is now called Chicago. A free, Haitian-born descendent of an enslaved African mother and a French father, he moved to the area from what is now Peoria in the 1780s. At his new home, he cultivated a farm consisting of 30 head of livestock and nine buildings, including a chicken house and a dairy. By 1790, Point de Sable and his Potawatomie wife, Kitihawa (also known as Catherine), had created a prosperous home on the northern bank of the Chicago River.

Point de Sable constructed his home during the Revolution Era when Chicago was a contested space. He navigated a complicated existence between Native nations and the French, British, and upstart American empires. His kinship through marriage to the Potawatomie made his home a regional hub that welcomed both Native and European traders. Point de Sable likely foresaw the collapse of this cosmopolitan existence as the United States asserted its growing power in the region, and he sold his home in 1800, moving to French territory on the west bank of the Mississippi.


Object label:

Point de Sable Trade Document

A 1796 transaction document showing Point de Sable bartering three packages of cats, six deerskins, and six dozen eggs.

Courtesy of the St. Charles County Historical Society, St. Charles, Missouri

Document Transcription:

Received from J. B. Pellier for account of J.B. Point de Sable – 3 packages cats – 6 skins deer… 6 dozen eggs of Monsieur Pellier for having (pressed) 3 packages in Chicagou 30 June, 1796 For Francois Duequet, John Baptist Gigon

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