lake shore drive

Who is Jean Baptiste Point DuSable? Council Votes to Rename LSD for Pioneer

In late May, amid the debate over whether to rename Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office unveiled a massive plan to honor his legacy in a variety of ways.

The Chicago City Council on Friday passed an ordinance to change the name of Outer Lake Shore Drive to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive.

DuSable, a prominent fur trader, is the namesake for an African American history museum in Washington Park, a bridge over the Chicago River and a high school in Bronzeville, but what accomplishments is he known for?

The pioneer, Chicago's Black founder, established the first permanent settlement at the mouth of the Chicago River in 1779, according to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

Born in 1745 in Haiti, DuSable was a "large, handsome, intelligent and well-liked trader" whose mother was a slave, according to the Friends of the Chicago Portage, which promotes the Chicago Portage National Historic Site.

An independent entrepreneur, DuSable "laid the foundation for the future development of Chicago" and made what was a marsh, an "unpromising spot in the wilderness, a frontier commercial center," a National Register of Historic Places inventory form stated.

Land records show that as early as 1773, DuSable settled in Peoria and Old Peoria, Illinois, where he cultivated land, built a home and maintained two farms for approximately a decade, while also running trading posts elsewhere.

At some point during the late 1700s, he moved north and began working for fur trader William Burnett at his post near present-day Michigan, City, Indiana. However, shortly after his arrival, DuSable was arrested by the British who suspected him of giving aid to the Americans, the Friends of the Chicago Portage said.

He was held prisoner on Mackinaw Island until the commander put him to work managing his lumber farm near Detroit. DuSable was released in 1779 and moved to Chicago where he established a trading post that gathered a small community, according to research.

The experienced fur trader eventually expanded his business to include a bakery, smokehouse and even a horsemill, a Lake Forest College research website stated. In 1800, DuSable sold the trading post, which at that point, consisted of numerous buildings, more than one hundred livestock and elaborate furnishings, documents explained.

The iconic settler purchased land in St. Charles County, Missouri, in 1805. In 1813, when DuSable was believed to have been ill, he conveyed a lot and house in the city, along with his other property, to a neighbor, Eulalia Barada, according to the National Park Service.

DuSable died on Aug. 28, 1818 and was buried at St. Charles Borromeo Church in St. Charles.

In late May, amid the debate over whether to rename Lake Shore Drive after DuSable, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office unveiled a massive new plan to honor his legacy in a variety of ways.

According to Lightfoot’s office, the plan involves three sites that will be developed into new projects, and will also involve the establishment of an annual DuSable Festival, which would take place every August and highlight the importance of both his legacy, as well as the Potawatomi nation, which inhabited the Chicago area prior to DuSable’s arrival.

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