“Stand looking west at the Gateway Arch and the St. Louis skyline. Today this is a major city and a metropolitan area of almost two million. Go back four hundred years. There sat a wooded hillside and little or no sign of human life. What is the story behind such a transformation?” -Frederick A. Hodes, from his book, Beyond the Frontier: A History of St. Louis to 1821
In mid-February of 1764, several boats landed upon the muddy bank of what would become the St. Louis Levee. They carried a crew of thirty men; most notable among them was Auguste Chouteau Jr. Fourteen years old at the time, Chouteau was the leader of the small group, and had been tasked by his employer (later, his father-in-law), Pierre Laclède, to establish a settlement upon the location. Laclède was a French-born merchant with some military experience and formal education. He and a partner in New Orleans formed Maxent, Laclède, and Company to control trade with the Native American tribes in the upper Louisiana Territory, so a settlement within the region appeared a strategic move. Little did either conceive upon how large their northern outpost would grow.