Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable- Meet Chicago’s First Resident

Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable, who was a frontier trader and farmer is widely known as the first resident of what is now known as Chicago, Illinois. There is very little definitive information about his past. Some historians believe that he was born free around 1745 in St. Marc, Saint-Dominique (Haiti). His mother was an African slave and his father a French mariner.

DuSable traveled with his father to France, where he received some education. It was through this education and working with his father that he learned several different languages. In 1765, he arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana where he learned the colony had become a Spanish possession. During his voyage to New Orleans, he lost his identification papers as well as sustaining an injury. Because of this, he was almost enslaved.

French Jesuit priest protected him until his health improved. DuSable also married a Pottawatomie Indian woman, Kitihawa who was also called Catherine. They would have two children together. In the early 1780s, he settled with his family on the shore of Lake Michigan in an area that the Indians called Eschikagu, “The place of bad smells”.

He built a home on the north bank of the Chicago River, claiming about 800 acres of land and establishing a thriving trading post which included a mill, smokehouse, workshop, barn, and other smaller buildings. The post became a major supply station for other traders in the Great Lakes region. In 1796, his great-granddaughter became the first child born in what would become Chicago.


Jean-Baptiste-Point DuSable (1745-1818)

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