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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Dec 25, 2023

The Louisiana Purchase created havoc for some property owners, certainly for women and person’s of color. People were suddenly forced to prove rightful ownership of property, when before that, property ownership was parsed out in informal verbal agreements, etc. One free woman of color, found a way to live out her life in her house, well supplied by a white man who thought he was getting the better of her. Just press play to hear the whole story. ———

Click on search links to explore episodes with related content: Katie Moon, Women's History, Black History, Housing, ------


Podcast Transcript: I’m Katie Moon, Exhibits Manager at the Missouri Historical Society, and here’s history on 88.1 KDHX. ———

What was life really like for women in early St. Louis? So often, the history that we learn skips over the daily patterns of life and jumps from big moment to big moment. For me, the most fascinating aspect of history is discovering how those big moments played out in the lives of everyday people, particularly women. ———

When Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory from the French in 1803, the transition created nothing less than chaos for some St. Louis property owners—especially women. In the early days of the city, much of the land was parceled out through informal verbal agreements, but all of a sudden, landowners needed to prove that they rightfully owned their property. ———

Unfortunately Marie LaBastille, a free woman of color, lost an entire block of land at the center of St. Louis because she didn’t have written documentation of ownership. However, she did maintain a hold on her house, which sat on nearly half an acre of land in a prime spot at Third and Walnut. As the city grew, her property became more valuable, and her neighbor, John Beaufils pestered her for years about selling it to him. In 1812, she finally relented. ———

But that’s where Marie’s story gets even more interesting. Instead of simply selling the property to Beaufils, Marie deeded him the house and land but required that he provide her with certain supplies every year and allow to her to live there rent-free until her death. According to that deed, which is in the Missouri Historical Society Archives, Beaufils agreed to give her, every single year: 20 pounds of coffee, 25 pounds of sugar, 300 pounds of flour, 80 pounds of pork, 20 pounds of beef, and 25 loads of firewood. ———

He clearly thought that he was getting the better end of the deal, expecting that the aging Marie would pass away within a year or two. He was horribly wrong. Marie lived for 14 years, living rent free and having her needs met by her greedy neighbor. ———

Of course the Louisiana Purchase was a significant moment in St. Louis history, but for me, the related story of Marie LaBastille is the one that puts a smile on my face and answers some of my questions about what life was like for women in early St. Louis. ———

Here’s history is a joint production of the Missouri Historical Society and KDHX. I’m Katie Moon and this is 88.1 KDHX St. Louis