DuSable In Detail

Did You Know?


Jean DuSable grew up as a French Canadian emigre…a distant descendant of Frenchman Pierre Dandonneau or the DuSable family with an African slave. Quaife theorizes that DuSable was “base born” as his mother was probably a ‘freed’ Black slave turned demimonde.

Milo M. Quaife
20th Century Scholar


Life In DuSable's Time

After England received, by treaty, total control of the Great Lakes region from France in 1763 Illinois was relegated more or less as an after-thought. The British regarded it as largely unknown and little to no potential of destabilizing the surrounding territory. Neither they or France ever imagined it would ever become an integral militarily strategic portal. British control, understandably, was unfocused and tenuous at best. Thus committed resources were not fully directed into the region when they assumed total control of it. More

French explorers Louis Joliet and Father Marquette first encountered and documented slavery amongst Indians upon their arrival in Illinois during the 17th century. They saw Indian women and children captured from other tribes being used as slaves for other Indians. By 1700 indentured servitude in the east was no longer the preferred labor base in the plantation colonies. It had been supplanted by slavery, mostly brought about by the rising cost of free labor, which had become scarcer, especially after England enacted strict policies against the frequent kidnapping that became so commonplace in seaport towns they controlled. In fact, by the early 1700s Protestant England had assumed total control of the slave trade to the colonies. More

  1. 1. Milo M. Milton Quaife, Checagou 1673 -1835, pages 28-46,  1933
  2. 2. Lawrence J. Cortesi Jean duSable-Father of Chicago, 1972
  3. 3. Shirley Graham, Jean Baptiste Pointe De Sable, 1953
  4. 4. Lorraine Passovoy, Pointe Sable and Chicago, 1982 More




Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable was born around 1745 in Saint-Marc in Saint-Domingue, which is the French version of the Spanish name Santo-Domingo, known as Haiti today. It is believed he was the son of Pointe Dessaible, reportedly a Frenchman from Marseille who was a ravenous buccaneer aboard The Black Sea Gull, It is also believed his mother Suzanne was a young African girl not yet in her teens from the Congo a country located in Central Africa when she was captured and transported to Haiti on the Black Sea Gull.


In 1755 outside of St. Marc harbor, in the town of Port de Paix. When his mother died he traveled back to France with his father. While in France, Jean-Baptiste received a good education. Jean-Baptiste learned how to speak French, Spanish, English, and during his travels he collected fine art and owned several European rare art pieces.


Jean-Baptiste was about twenty, when he and his childhood friend Jacques Clemorgan another Haitian decided to migrate from Haiti to New Orleans. In 1765, the state of New Orleans was under Spanish rule and when Jean-Baptiste arrived he was injured during his voyage and could not find his identification that proved he was a free man.  Jean-Baptiste was almost enslaved by the Spanish, but a French Jesuit priest protected him and cared for him until he was healthy enough to travel.


Jean-Baptiste and his friend Jacques Clemorgan migrated north, up the Mississippi river, later settling in an area near present-day Peoria, Illinois. During their travels, Jean-Baptiste and Jacques Clemorgan met Choctow, a Native American from the Great Lakes. These three men later settled on the shore of Lake Michigan in a marshy area the Indians called Eschikagu, known as “the place of bad smells”, much later to be spelled Chicago. These men built a home and cultivated approximately 30 acres of land on the north bank of the Chicago River. Choctaw taught Jean-Baptiste and Jacques Clemorgan how to set traps to capture small animals for their fur.

1777 - 1778

Jean-Baptiste became well versed in speaking several Native American dialects.  One spring while was trapping for furs with Choctaw, Jean-Baptiste met Chief Pontiac, an important Native American leader.  Chief Pontiac asked Jean-Baptiste to arrange a peace treaty between the Ottawa, Miami, and Illinois tribes. When peace was restored, Jean-Baptiste gained the respect of many Native Americans of the Midwest. 


Jean-Baptiste met Kittihawa the daughter of the Potawatomie Chief Pokagon. He would later marry Kittihawa, in a traditional ceremony under tribal law. Jean-Baptiste maintained excellent relations with the Native Americans, and his property grew from 30 acres to 800 acres of land.  Jean-Baptiste’s home was spacious, with a large stone fireplace, and five rooms off each corner.  The furnishing included paintings, mirrors, and walnut furniture.  His estate consisted of his modest size home including a horse mill, smokehouse, workshop, barn, stables, and huts for employees, along with a fenced garden and orchard, a bake house, dairy and other smaller buildings.


October 19, 1781, the Revolutionary War ended when the British surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia. What started as a fight for the rights of the British people in the thirteen colonies, ended in the creation of the United States of America.


Jean-Baptiste returned to Chicago to reclaim his abandoned property and to reestablish his trading post. His trading business thrived and he lived in peace among Native Americans and white traders traveling through the area.  Jean-Baptiste’s family joined him in 1784, and soon afterwards, the two undertook a second wedding ceremony officiated by a Catholic priest where Kittihawa was given the new name of Catherine. Jean-Baptiste and Kittihawa later would have two children, Jean-Baptiste Jr. and Suzanne.


Jean-Baptiste and Catherine’s grand-daughter became the first child born in what would become Chicago.


Jean-Baptiste’s wife and son died. After their death, he decided on May 7, 1800 to sell all of his property in Chicago to Jean La Lime, a French-Canadian fur trapper from St. Joseph. The sale was recorded in Detroit and witnessed by John Kinzie. Four years later Kinzie would purchase the estate from La Lime.

1800 - 1803 Jean-Baptiste moved with his daughter, Suzanne to St. Louis. Later Suzanne and her husband moved to Canada and Jean-Baptiste lived with his granddaughter. He bought a house on a farm in St. Charles, Missouri, that he deeded to his grandchildren, Eulalie and Michael.
1804 In April 1803, Napoleon sold the approximately 827,000 square mile territory of Louisiana to the United States for $15 million. On November 18, 1803, the Haitian army, led by Jean Jacques Dessalines, devastated the French army at the Battle of Vertières.

January 1, 1804 Jean Jacques Dessalines declared independence, reclaiming the indigenous Taíno name of Haiti ("Land of Mountains") for the new nation. Most of the remaining French colonists fled ahead of the defeated French army, many migrating to Louisiana or Cuba.

1818 August 28, 1818, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable at the age seventy-three died quietly in his sleep and was buried him in an unmarked grave at the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Cemetery in Missouri. His entry in the parish burial register does not mention his origins, parents, or relatives.
1837 The City of Chicago was chartered
1933–1934 At the Century of Progress International Exposition held in Chicago a number of African-American groups campaigned for Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable to be honored at the fair. The campaign was successful and a replica of DuSable's cabin was presented as part of the "background of the history of Chicago."
1936 DuSable High school opens in the historic Bronzeville District in Chicago.
1965 In 1965 a plaza called Pioneer Court was built on the site of Jean Baptiste Point  DuSable's homestead as part of the construction of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of America building.
1968 The Ebony Museum of Negro History established in 1961 was renamed; The DuSable Museum of African American History.
1976 The Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable home site designated as a National Historic Landmark .
2009 The City of Chicago and a private donor erected a large bronze bust of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable at Pioneer Court by Chicago-born sculptor Erik Blome
October, 2010 The Michigan Avenue Bridge in Chicago was renamed DuSable Bridge in honor of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable.
October, 2011 Opening of the Lycée Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable in Saint Marc, Haiti.
November, 2013 Chicago honors its very first settler by naming the street located directly west of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable Way.