Joseph Robidoux IV (1783–1868) established the Blacksnake Hills Trading Post that eventually developed as the town of St. Joseph, Missouri. His buildings known as Robidoux Row are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This was a center for his family enterprise of fur trading, which he operated with his five brothers along the Mississippi and especially the Missouri River systems.
Robidoux was the oldest of seven sons of Joseph Robidoux III (born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1748 or 1750-, date of death unknown) and Catherine Rollet (born in Saint Louis, Missouri October 20, 1767, date of death unknown). Joseph Robidoux IV was born in Saint Louis, Mo like six of his seven brothers who survived to adulthood. He was born August 5, 1783. Joseph Robidoux IV was the grandson of Joseph Robidoux (Born in Laprairie, Québec in 1722) and Marie-Anne Leblanc (date and place of birth unknown). He spent most of his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, where his father introduced him and his brothers Francois, Pierre Isidore, Antoine, Louis, and Michael to the fur trade at an early age. (Weber, pp. 36) In 1799, at the age of 16, young Joseph began accompanying fur traders up the Missouri River.
In 1803, Robidoux's father sent him to organize a trading post at Fort Dearborn, the site of present-day Chicago. His early success there irritated other traders, who engaged Indians to harass the young man and eventually drive him from the area. During this time he fell in love with the daughter of the village blacksmith, but he did not give his permission for the marriage because according to him some of the Robidoux's had surrendered their soul to the devil
In 1801, Robidoux's wife of a year, Eugenie Delisle, died. She and Joseph had had twins. The girl died in birth and the son Eugene Joseph Robidoux who use the given name of Joseph became a trader himself.
In 1809, the senior Robidoux established a trading post near the site of present-day North Omaha, Nebraska. He operated his trading post in the Council Bluffs area until 1822, when the American Fur Company bought him out and offered him $1,000 a year not to compete with them. A later post at the North Omaha site was operated by and named for Jean Pierre Cabanné. During the years of the War of 1812, the Robidoux brothers had to pull back their activities to the St. Louis area.
In 1813, the widower Robidoux married Angelique Vaudry, with whom he had six sons and two daughters (Faraon, Julius, Francis, Felix, Edmond, Charles, Messanie and Sylvanie).
Robidoux returned to St. Louis, where he worked as a baker and confectioner. In 1826, he was hired by the American Fur Company to establish a trading post at the Blacksnake Hills (near the site of present-day Saint Joseph, Missouri.) He remained their employee for four years, at the salary of $1,800 a year, before becoming an independent trader. Built prior to 1830, Robidoux's home was located on the northwest corner of 2nd & Jules Streets in Saint Joseph. The first building in the settlement, the house was later removed to Krug Park as a historic attraction.
Robidoux prospered in the years between 1830 and 1843, employing as many as 20 Frenchmen to engage in trade with the Indians to the west of his post. His settlement was illegal at the time. When Missouri entered the union in 1821, the state's western boundary was based on the Kaw River mouth in the Kansas City West Bottoms (approximately 94 degrees 36 minutes West longitude). The land where St. Joseph is now located belonged by treaty to the Ioway Tribe and the combined Sac Tribe and Fox Tribe.
Robidoux was the most spectacular example of several enterprising white settlers who encroached on Indian land. Faced with the possibilities of more encroachment, the tribes in 1836 agreed to sell what is now the northwest corner of Missouri for $7,500 to the federal government in a deal at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was presided over by William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame). The transaction, called the Platte Purchase, added an area almost the combined size of Rhode Island and Delaware to the State of Missouri.
In 1843, Robidoux hired two men, Frederick W. Smith and Simeon Kemper, to design a town for him. Under Kemper's plan the town was to have been called Robidoux, a feature Kemper thought would appeal to the trader. But, Robidoux preferred Smith's plan, as it featured more narrow streets, thus leaving more land for him to sell in the form of lots.
Plans for the town were filed with the clerk of Common Pleas in St. Louis on July 26, 1843. Shortly thereafter, Robidoux began selling lots, with corner lots going for $150.00 and interior lots $100.00.
Saint Joseph prospered quickly in the years after its founding, growing from a population of 800 in 1846 to 8,932 in 1860. Joseph Robidoux remained a prominent citizen. His early trading offices are known as Robidoux Row; the complex is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. He led in many development issues until his death, at the age of 85, in 1868. Present-day Saint Joseph retains the downtown streets which he named for his children and his second wife Angelique.
Joseph Robidoux's son Joseph E. Robidoux was an early fur trader. He later transitioned into operating a trading post along the route of western migrants, operating a major trading post in the area of Scott's Bluff from 1849-1851. Robidoux had a Sioux wife, and the Sioux would often visit his trading post.
- Cabanne's Trading Post
- Roubidoux Creek, a scenic tributary to the Gasconade River in south central Missouri, was named after Robidoux.
- Rabideau, Clyde. The Robidoux's: A breed apart. p. 19.
- Dictionnaire généalogique Des Familles Canadiennes de Cyprien Tanguay. Pp, 605-609: http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/dicoGenealogie/
- Hugh M. Lewis, Robidoux Chronicles: Ethnohistory Of The French-american Fur Trade, Trafford Publishing, 2004, p. 37-38
- Raibdeau, Clyde. The Robidou's: A breed apart.
- Weber, David J. "Louis Robidoux", featured in Trappers of the Far West, Leroy R. Hafen, editor, 1972, Arthur H. Clark Company, reprint University of Nebraska Press, October 1983. ISBN 0-8032-7218-9
- Hugh M. Lewis, Robidoux Chronicles: Ethnohistory of the French-American Fur Trade, Trafford Publishing, 2004