Antoine Ouilmette

Antoine Ouilmette (c. 1760–1841) was a fur trader and early resident of what is now Chicago, Illinois. He was of French Canadian and possibly Native American ancestry. The village of Wilmette, Illinois (phonetic spelling of Ouilmette) is named in his honor.[1]

Early and family life

Chicago in 1812 Andreas
Retrospective map showing how Chicago may have appeared in 1812. Ouilmette's home is shown close to the mouth of the Chicago River (right is north)

Little is known about Ouilmette's background and early life. In 1908, amateur historian Frank Grover wrote that previous claims that Ouilmette was an "Indian chief" were false, and that he was instead a white voyageur of French Canadian ancestry.[2] However, "Ouilamette" was a name associated with the Potawatomi tribe decades before Antoine Ouilmette's birth, and so in 1977 anthropologist James A. Clifton speculated that Antoine Ouilmette was "probably a Métis descendant" of Ouilamette, a Native American who was prominent in the Lake Michigan region beginning in the 1680s.[3] Grover wrote that Ouilmette was born in Lahndrayh, near Montréal, in 1760.[4] Another source says that he was baptized as "Antoine Louis Ouimet", on December 26, 1758 in the parish of Sainte-Rose northwest of Montréal, in what is now the city of Laval, Québec. He was the second son of Louis Ouimet dit Albert and Louise Desjardins dit Charbonnier. It is not known why and when Antoine's family name changed to Ouilmette; also referred to as Ouilmet, Houillamette, Willamette, Wilmette, Wilmot, Wemet.[5]

In 1796 or 1797 he married Archange Marie Chevalier, a French-Potawatomi woman, at Gross Pointe (a site along the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan.[5][6] Her father, Naunongee, was a Potowatomi chief of the Three Fires Confederacy. Her sisters likewise married traders--Sheshi Chevalier married Louis Buisson who traded and farmed near what became Peoria, Illinois, Josette Chevalier married Jean Baptiste Beaubien and Catherine Chevalier married Alexander Robinson who learned the fur trade from Joseph Bailly at St. Joseph, Michigan alongside Beaubien and would later settle on the south branch of the Chicago River.

Antoine and Archange had eight children, four boys and four girls: Joseph, Louis, François, Michael (aka Michell), Elizabeth, Archange, Josette, and Sophia,[6] as well as an adopted daughter, Archange Trombola.[7]


Ouilmette moved to Chicago in July 1790[8] where he built a log cabin on the north side of the main branch of the Chicago River, just to the west of the property of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable[5] and across the river from the future site of Fort Dearborn.[6] After John Kinzie settled in Chicago in 1804, Ouilmette became Kinzie's employee, and later established his own trading post at Gross Pointe.[6]. He later worked for the American Fur Company,[9][6].

Because Archange was Potawatomi, Ouilmette's family did not flee their home during the Battle of Fort Dearborn in 1812, although her father died in the battle.[10][11] After the battle, the Ouilmettes hid Margaret Helm, the wife of a lieutenant (and daughter of former Indian Agent William Wells, and Sergeant William Griffith at their house, protecting them from the Potowatomi that attacked Fort Dearborn.[11]

Ouilmette and his Métis family were friendly with most of the local native American population, so they remained in Chicago in the four years that followed the Battle of Fort Dearborn. During this time, Antoine was the area's only white resident .[12][11]

In addition to fur trading Ouilmette also worked as a farmer (supplying Fort Dearborn with livestock and cordwood).[6] However, his income predominantly came from his work as a guide transporting people and goods across the Chicago Portage.[6]

Ouilmette was a "progressive, energetic man of good business ability for those times, he accumulated considerable property. He had a store in Chicago, and also a fine lot of horses, cattle, sheep and hogs. He also had a farm at Racine, Wisconsin, which he frequently visited while living in Chicago. He also made occasional business trips to Milwaukee and Canada." [13] Ouilmette was "known as a kind, whole souled, generous man of remarkable energy and perseverance, who made friends with everybody, both Indians and whites, and he in turn was universally liked and respected."[14]

In 1829 Antoine Ouilmette was instrumental in persuading local Native Americans to sign the second Treaty of Prairie du Chien. On July 29, 1829, as a condition of that treaty with the U.S., the government awarded 1,280 acres (5.2 km2) of land in present-day Wilmette and Evanston to Ouilmette's wife Archange, fulfilling a condition of a treaty with the Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomie tribes.[6] Elijah M. Haines claimed that the land was given to Ouilmette's wife and children as a reward for Ouilmette's influence in securing the execution of the treaty.[15]

Shortly after this Ouilmette and his family moved to a cabin on this reservation. Ouilmette was also involved with the Treaty of Chicago (1833) negotiations. This treaty not only provided provisions for Chief Robinson and Billy Caldwell, Ouilmette's children, and others but it secured $800 for Ouilmette.[16] Like Alexander Robinson, Billy Caldwell, and several of the Beaubiens, Ouilmette was Roman Catholic. In April 1833, he and they (and others), petitioned the Bishop of the diocese of Missouri, located in St. Louis, asking for permission to establish the first Catholic church in Chicago. Received on 16 April, the petition was granted the next day.[17]

In the late 1830s Ouilmette accused Joseph Fountain of Evanston and others of trespassing and illegally harvesting timber from the Ouilmette family's reservation. Ouilmette lost the suit and paid a large bill in court costs. Fountain's lawyer sent the sheriff to confiscate and sell two "fine Indian ponies" belonging to Ouilmette, "which were his special pride." Shortly after this, the Ouilmette family decided to leave.[6][18] In 1838, the Ouilmette family moved to Council Bluffs, where many Potawatomi had previously relocated.[6] He died at Council Bluffs, Iowa on 1 December 1841.[5]


  1. ^ Stewart, Adam H. "Wilmette, IL". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  2. ^ Grover, Antoine Ouilmette, pp. 4–5
  3. ^ James A. Clifton, The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture 1665–1965 (Lawrence, Kansas: The Regents Press of Kansas, 1977, ISBN 0-7006-0155-4) p. 231.
  4. ^ Grover Antoine Ouilmette, p. 4
  5. ^ a b c d "Ouilmette, Antoine Louis". Early Chicago. Early Chicago, Inc. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Schultz, Rime Lunin; Hast, Adele, eds. (2001). Women Building Chicago 1790-1990. Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 653–54. ISBN 978-0-253-33852-5.
  7. ^ George D. Bushnell. Wilmettee: A History. (Wilmette, Illinois: Wilmette Bicentennial Commission, 1976), 6.
  8. ^ Letter from Antoine Ouilmette to John H. Kinzie dated June 1, 1839, reproduced in Blanchard, Rufus (1898). Discovery and Conquests of the Northwest, with the History of Chicago (volume 1). R. Blanchard and Company. p. 574. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
  9. ^ Currey, Josiah Seymour (1912). Chicago: its history and its builders. Volume II. Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 314.
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c Shea, Robert (1987). From No Man's Land, To Plaza del Lago. 919 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL. 60611: American References Publishing Corporation. p. 15.
  12. ^ Grover, Antoine Ouilmette, pp. 7–8
  13. ^ Grover, Antoine Ouilmette, pp. 25
  14. ^ Grover, Antoine Ouilmette, pp. 25.
  15. ^ Grover, Antoine Ouilmette, pp.14.
  16. ^ Grover, Antoine Ouilmette, pp. 16.
  17. ^ Grover, Antoine Ouilmette, pp.9
  18. ^ Grover, Antoine Ouilmette. and Bushnell, Wilmette: a history, pp. 13.
  • Grover, Frank R. (1908). Antoine Ouilmette. Evanston Historical Society. Retrieved September 7, 2010.
Alexander Robinson (chief)

Alexander Robinson (1789 – April 22, 1872) (also known as Che-che-pin-quay or The Squinter), was a British-Ottawa chief born on Mackinac Island who became a fur trader and ultimately settled near what later became Chicago. Multilingual in Odawa, Potawatomi, Ojibwa (or Chippewa), English and French, Robinson also helped evacuate survivors of the Fort Dearborn Massacre in 1812. In 1816, Robinson was a translator for native peoples during the Treaty of St. Louis. He became a Potawatomi chief in 1829 and in that year and in 1833, he and fellow Metis Billy Caldwell negotiated treaties on behalf of the United Nations of Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi with the United States. Although Robinson helped lead native Americans across the Mississippi River in 1835, unlike Caldwell, Robinson returned to the Chicago area by 1840 and lived as a respected citizen in western Cook County until his death decades later.

Battle of Fort Dearborn

The Battle of Fort Dearborn (sometimes Fort Dearborn Massacre) was an engagement between United States troops and Potawatomi Native Americans that occurred on August 15, 1812, near Fort Dearborn in what is now Chicago, Illinois (then an undeveloped part of the Illinois Territory). The battle, which occurred during the War of 1812, immediately followed the evacuation of the fort as ordered by the commander of the United States Army of the Northwest, William Hull. The battle lasted about 15 minutes and resulted in a complete victory for the Native Americans. After the battle, Fort Dearborn was burned down. Some of the soldiers and settlers who had been taken captive were later ransomed.

Following the battle, the federal government became convinced that all Indians had to be removed from the territory and the vicinity of any settlements, as settlers continued to migrate to the area. The fort was rebuilt in 1816.

Chicago River

The Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals with a combined length of 156 miles (251 km) that runs through the city of Chicago, including its center (the Chicago Loop). Though not especially long, the river is notable because it is one of the reasons for Chicago's geographic importance: the related Chicago Portage is a link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

The River is also noteworthy for its natural and human-engineered history. In 1887, the Illinois General Assembly decided to reverse the flow of the Chicago River through civil engineering by taking water from Lake Michigan and discharging it into the Mississippi River watershed, partly in response to concerns created by an extreme weather event in 1885 that threatened the city's water supply. In 1889, the Illinois General Assembly created the Chicago Sanitary District (now The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District) to replace the Illinois and Michigan Canal with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a much larger waterway, because the former had become inadequate to serve the city's increasing sewage and commercial navigation needs. Completed by 1900, the project reversed the flow of the Main Stem and South Branch of the Chicago River by using a series of canal locks and increasing the flow from Lake Michigan into the river, causing the river to empty into the new Canal instead. In 1999, the system was named a 'Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium' by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).The river is represented on the Municipal Flag of Chicago by two horizontal blue stripes. Its three branches serve as the inspiration for the Municipal Device, a three-branched, Y-shaped symbol that is found on many buildings and other structures throughout Chicago.

Fort Dearborn

Fort Dearborn was a United States fort built in 1803 beside the Chicago River, in what is now Chicago, Illinois. It was constructed by troops under Captain John Whistler and named in honor of Henry Dearborn, then United States Secretary of War. The original fort was destroyed following the Battle of Fort Dearborn during the War of 1812, and a second fort was reconstructed on the same site in 1816. By 1837, the fort had been de-commissioned. Parts of the fort were lost to both the widening of the Chicago River in 1855, and a fire in 1857. The last vestiges of Fort Dearborn were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The site of the fort is now a Chicago Landmark, located in the Michigan–Wacker Historic District.

Golf, Illinois

Golf is a village in Cook County, Illinois, United States, incorporated in 1928. As of the 2010 census, the village had a population of 500. The community is primarily residential, and has a dedicated police department, post office, and Metra train stop.

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (also spelled Point de Sable, Point au Sable, Point Sable, Pointe DuSable; before 1750 – August 28, 1818) is regarded as the first permanent non-Indigenous settler of what later became Chicago, Illinois, and is recognized as the "Founder of Chicago". A school, museum, harbor, park, and bridge have been named in his honor. The site where he settled near the mouth of the Chicago River around the 1780s is identified as a National Historic Landmark, now located in Pioneer Court.

Point du Sable was of African descent but little else is known of his life prior to the 1770s. During his career, the areas where he settled and traded around the Great Lakes and in the Illinois Country changed hands several times among France, Britain, Spain and the new United States. Described as handsome and well educated, Point du Sable married a Native American woman, Kitiwaha, and they had two children. In 1779, during the American Revolutionary War, he was arrested by the British military on suspicion of being an American sympathizer. In the early 1780s he worked for the British lieutenant-governor of Michilimackinac on an estate at what is now the city of St. Clair, Michigan.

Point du Sable is first recorded as living at the mouth of the Chicago River in a trader's journal of early 1790. He established an extensive and prosperous trading settlement in what later became the city of Chicago. He sold his Chicago River property in 1800 and moved to St. Charles, now in Missouri, where he was licensed to run a Missouri River ferry. Point du Sable's successful role in developing the Chicago River settlement was little recognized until the mid-20th century.

List of people from Wilmette, Illinois

The following list includes notable people who were born or have lived in Wilmette, Illinois. For a similar list organized alphabetically by last name, see the category page People from Wilmette, Illinois.

List of places named after people in the United States

This is a list of places in the United States which are named after people. The etymology is generally referenced in the article about the person or the place name.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Cook County, Illinois

This is a list of the 128 National Register of Historic Places listings in Cook County, Illinois outside Chicago and Evanston. Separate lists are provided for the 61 listed properties and historic districts in Evanston and the more than 350 listed properties and districts in Chicago. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Historic District extends through the West Side of Chicago, DuPage County and Will County to Lockport.

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted April 12, 2019.

Wilmette, Illinois

Wilmette is a village in New Trier Township, Cook County, Illinois, United States. Bordering Lake Michigan, it is located 14 miles (23 km) north of Chicago's downtown district (4 mi or 6 km from Chicago's northern border) and had a population at the 2010 census of 27,087. In 2007, Wilmette was ranked as the seventh best place to raise children in the U.S., according to Business Week.

In 2015, Wilmette was ranked the best place to live in the state of Illinois based on a variety of factors including its low unemployment rate, median income, low housing vacancy rate, high education expenditures per student, low crime, and short commute times. Wilmette is home to 2 of Illinois' 17 elementary schools (Romona Elementary, St. Joseph School) to be awarded the 2017 National Blue Ribbon award.

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