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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=:2731344&id=I3411

Julien Dubuque
DUBUQUE, Julien. (St. Pierre les Becquets, Canada, Jan. 10, 1762--western shore of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, Mar. 24, 1810). Julien Dubuque was the youngest of possibly ten children born to Noel-Augustin and Marie (Mailhot) Dubuque. (1) He was well educated in the parish schools and was fluent in English and French. He was also apparently able to play the fiddle and had an interest in culture and the arts.

He worked as a clerk out of Michilimackinac learning the Indian trade. Dubuque, for whom the city in Iowa is named, traveled toward the site of his future home in 1783 after hearing of rich deposits of LEAD in the region. (2) Following the St. Lawrence River through the Great Lakes, he is believed to have journeyed through the Fox River valley and down the Wisconsin River to join his brother Augustin at Prairie du Chien.

Traveling down the Mississippi, Dubuque settled among the MESKWAKIES close to the village of Kettle Chief just south of where the JULIEN DUBUQUE MONUMENT now stands. On September 22, 1788 in Prairie du Chien, Dubuque made an agreement with the Meskwakies under the leadership of Aquoqua to work the lead mines on their land. (3) After obtaining permission to mine, Dubuque brought ten French-Canadians from Prairie du Chien to assist him as boatmen, overseers, smelters and wood choppers. (4) He often used members of the tribe to prospect for new MINING sites and frequently sent halfbreeds or Canadians to do the actual labor.

He was not above using trickery to obtain his goals.

                      The most popular tradition which has come down to us is that on one occasion 
                      when the Indians refused to accede to some demand, he threatened to set 
                      Catfish Creek on fire, and leave their village high and dry. They still denied 
                      him; so one night his associates emptied a barrel of oil—or turpentine—on the 
                      water, above the bend, and when it had floated down to the village, Dubuque 
                      set fire to it. In a few moments the entire creek was apparently in a blaze. 
                      The terrified Indians made haste to concede all Dubuque had asked—and 
                      supposedly by the exercise of his will, the fire went out. (5) 

Feeling less than secure in the legality of his claim, Dubuque petitioned the Spanish governor general, Baron de Cardondolent, in 1796 for a clear title. (6) His claim then stretched approximately twenty-one miles along the river and nine miles inland. (7) The governor granted Dubuque claims to the MINES OF SPAIN with the understanding that no trade could be carried out with the Native Americans of the region without the permission of Andrew Todd, an Irish trader with influence among the Spanish officials. (8) Dubuque was not to be bothered for long by this restriction. Todd died of yellow fever soon after the agreement was signed.

Spanish Medal. Europeans competed for rights to trade with Native Americans; these arrangements were not only profitable, but they helped establish military alliances. Spanish traders, like Giard, were licensed as government agents, and encouraged tribes to shift their trading allegiance by exchanging British medals for those of Charles IV. Photo courtesy: Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, Missouri.
Dubuque's claim may have been helped by the role he played in the rescue of Basil Giard, another of Iowa's earliest settlers. In 1795 although all the lands west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER belonged to Spain, French trappers continued to enter the area. To counter this invasion, Spanish officials in New Orleans considered it a wise plan to have a Spanish trading post opposite Prairie du Chien. In May 1795 Giard, a trader in Prairie du Chien, paddled his canoe to New Orleans to confer with the Spanish governor. In exchange for establishing the this post, Giard was given 5,700 acres around what became McGregor, Iowa. For this Giard had to annually bring his furs to New Orleans. Hostile Native Americans soon recognized the value of the canoes headed south and attacked them. On one occasion in 1795, Giard was rescued by Julien Dubuque. (9)

At the Mines of Spain, Dubuque had cabins constructed for his French Canadian helpers, a smelting furnace, trading post, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. (10)

Dubuque enjoyed considerable fame throughout the Mississippi Valley. James G. Soulard, the son of a prominent citizen of St. Louis, has left perhaps the best description obtainable of Dubuque. Mr. Soulard describes Dubuque, as he appeared in middle life,

         as “a man below the usual stature, of black hair 
         and eyes, wiry and well-built, capable of great 
         endurance, and remarkably courteous and polite, 
         with all the suavity and grace of the typical 
         Frenchman. To the ladies he was always the essence 
         of politeness.” 

Mr. Soulard remembered that on the occasion of one of Dubuque’s visits, a ball was given in his honor, attended by all the prominent people of the place. "At one point of the festivities, M. Dubuque took a violin from one of the performers and executed a dance to the strains of his own music, which was considered a great accomplishment and was received with tremendous applause." (11)

Dubuque enjoyed the acquaintance of many of the era's most influential people. Meriwether LEWIS, in writing to William Clark prior to leaving on their exploration to the Pacific Ocean, asked Clark to pay his respects to Dubuque. As governor of the Louisiana Territory, Lewis included the name of Dubuque among those the American government could trust in the region. The federal government showed this trust in 1808 when Dubuque was appointed Indian agent at Prairie du Chien. Ill-health, however, forced him to give up this position after two months. While in St. Louis, Dubuque entered into business dealings with Auguste CHOUTEAU.

These bars of lead bear the seal of Julien Dubuque--a single mark on one side and two marks on the reverse. The rough casting suggests the molten lead was cast in molds roughly hewn from logs. The white color is caused by oxidation.
Dubuque was a shrewd businessman. From business records it is known that Dubuque annually sold hundreds of thousands of pounds of lead at five cents per pound.

In addition to the estimated $20,000 annual income from lead mining, Dubuque also had income from agriculture and the FUR TRADE. In 1805 Dubuque was visited by the then-ill Zebulon Montgomery PIKE. Told that there were no horses available to ride to the mines, Pike was forced to ask ten questions about Dubuque's production of lead. He received only the most elusive answers. (12)

Dubuque was deeply in financial debt to Auguste Chouteau. On October 20, 1804 Dubuque sold Chouteau nearly one-half of his land to settle his indebtedness. It has been estimated that Dubuque's entire land claim amounted to more than 73,000 acres. The settlement agreement provided that after Dubuque's death, the remainder of his interest in the lands would pass to Chouteau or his heirs. (13) Chouteau sent his nephew, Pierre Chouteau for whom the capital of South Dakota was later named, north to oversee the finances while Dubuque continued his mining, trading and farming. (14) Chouteau was also able to persuade his friend Governor William Henry Harrison to add a clause to a treaty negotiated with the SAUK AND FOX and Meskawakies. The treaty recognized that the west bank of the Mississippi belonged to these tribes. The clause stated, however, that the treaty did not affect Spanish land grants in the area.

The question of the ownership of Dubuque's land was not settled until seven years after his death in CHOUTEAU v. MOLONY, a landmark case argued before the United States Supreme Court by Platt SMITH. This, however, has not stopped distant relatives from filing claims over the years. (15)

In 1897 the Dubuque Herald reported on one such inquiry.

  Inquiries from alleged relatives of Julien Dubuque regarding his 
  estate here are so frequent little attention is given them. A few 
   days ago, however, one came that has attracted attention, not 
          because of any new phrase it contained or any semblance of validity 
          of the writer's claim, but because of the copy of an instrument sent 
          with it. This instrument is the deed from Julien Dubuque to Auguste 
          Chouteau, dated Oct. 20, 1804. This is the first time people in Dubuque 
          have seen this deed and the Herald believes at this time it will be 
          read with interest.
          Those who read the translation by John I. Mullany in the Herald two weeks ago will remember reference was 
          then made to the deed. It conveyed to Chouteau a half interest in Dubuque's possessions and the remainder 
          at his death.
          Several weeks ago a firm of attorneys received a letter from a prominent law firm in New York asking for 
          information regarding Dubuque's estate, their client being an alleged lineal descendant of Auguste 
          Chouteau. The local firm answered that Dubuque left no estate and there was no grounds on which to base 
          a claim.
          The New York attorneys very evidently thought different and a few days ago a large package was received 
          from them. It contained a translation from the identical magazine. "Canadians of the West," from which 
          Mr. Mullany made his translation of the life of Julien Dubuque and a copy of the deed. The New York 
          attorneys very evidently thought they had established a clear case.
          The deed itself shuts off all claimants as relatives of Julien Dubuque because by it Dubuque deeded away 
          all his rights and interests, at his death, to Chouteau. The supreme court in the United states decided 
          against the Chouteaus so that it is apparent there can be no valid claim by relatives or assignees of 
          either. The local attorneys returned the documents and referred the New York lawyers to the decision. In 
          the Chouteau case. Mr. John I. Mullany learned of the correspondence and obtained a copy of the deed which 
          is as follows: 

                 Concession of the Location of the City of Dubuque.
                 Be it known, that we, Julien Dubuque, mineralogist, residing at the mines of Spain, 
                 actually in the city of St. Louis, Ill., of one part; Augustus Chouteau, merchant, 
                 located in the city aforesaid, city of St. Louis of the other part, have agreed of 
                 our own movement and will, in the presence of witnesses named here below, upon what 
                 follows, to-wit:
                 That I, Julien Dubuque, by these presents, recognize and confess to have today sold, 
                 ceded and relinquished now and forever, and promise to guarantee against all trouble, 
                 debts, dowery, mortgages, evictions, substitutions and other impediments whatever, to 
                 Augustus Chouteau, the aforesaid merchant, who, for the present time accepts and 
                 acquires for him, his heirs and assigns, to-wit; a land containing 72,324 French acres 
                 in width to be taken from the south of a concession obtained by me, aforesaid Dubuque, 
                 from the Baron of Carondlet, as it is specified by the decree of the latter dated in 
                 New Orleans on the 10th of November, 1796, placed at the base of the request presented 
                 to me by the aforesaid Baron of Carondlet, of the which the aforesaid request and 
                 degrees have been registered in the office of Mr. Antoin (Anthony) Soulard,surveyor 
                 of the Territory of Louisiana; the aforesaid concession containing about seven leagues 
                 (twenty-one miles) abreast of the Mississippi, by three leagues (nine miles) deep, 
                 commencing from the hill on the top of the little river Maquanquitys*in the place where 
                 it joins the Mississippi river to the hill Meyquaninonque,+ in the place where it also 
                 falls into to the aforesaid Mississippi; the 72,824 acres of land sold by me, aforesaid 
                 Dubuque, to the aforesaid Augustus Chouteau, will be limited and taken, commencing from 
                 the south part of my aforesaid concession on the hill Meyquaninonque, three leagues deep 
                 and going up the river on the north side to the completion of the aforesaid 72,324 French 
                 acres of land above mentioned and sold; I reserve to myself; by this same indenture the 
                 exact quantity of the 42 French acres deep, in the same place of my aforesaid establish-
                 ment; as the same quantity of 42 French acres abreast by 84 French acres of depth would 
                 be lacking to complete the 72,324 French acres sold me as above mentioned, to the 
                 aforesaid Augustus Chouteau, I, the aforesaid Dubuque, oblige myself by these presents 
                 to cause to be delivered the aforesaid 42 French acres by 84 French acres of depth in 
                 another part of my aforesaid concession, which aforesaid 42 French acres will face the 
                 Mississippi and the 84 French acres will be in depth.
                 We, the aforesaid Dubuque and Chouteau, agree of our own will and accord to have each one 
                 in particular, full and entire enjoyment of the aforesaid 72,324 French acres of land 
                 aforesaid mentioned, as well as for the mines as for the cultivation of the aforesaid lands, 
                 sold as stated above, by me, Dubuque, and acquired by me, the aforesaid Chouteau, except 
                 that I, the aforesaid Dubuque, will have the enjoyment of it during my life, obliging me 
                 neither to sell, transport, alienate the aforesaid privileges to anyone, whatsoever, under 
                 the pain of annullity to the aforesaid lands sold by me, as above mentioned and in behalf 
                 of the aforesaid right of exploitation of the mines and cultivation of the land, to me 
                 granted by the aforesaid Chouteau for and during my life. The works, furnaces, buildings, 
                 improvements, etc., done by me on the aforesaid land will remain to the aforesaid Chouteau 
                 after the aforesaid terms mentioned above of my life, so that the aforesaid Chouteau, his 
                 heirs, and assigns, may take full and peaceful possession of it and enjoy it as things 
                 belonging to him after my death.
                 This present sale done by me, Dubuque, for the price and sum of $10,848 and 60 sols, which 
                 by the present writing, I recognize to have received cash from the hands of the aforesaid 
                 Augustus Chouteau, and of which by these presents, I gave him full and entire receipt and 
                 discharge shown on account of the said payment that the aforesaid Chouteau enters in full 
                 and peaceful possession of the aforesaid land from today and enjoys the right of it, he, 
                 his heirs and assigns, as things belonging to him. Diverting myself of the aforesaid 
                 quantity of 72,324 French acres of land mentioned aforesaid, on account of the aforesaid 
                 payment of the sum of $10,848 and 60 sols, received by me from the hands of the aforesaid 
                 Chouteau and my heirs, executors, or administrators shall not in any way recall all that 
                 is above mentioned and stipulated; for thus has it been understood and agreed, therein 
                 obliging, renouncing, etc.
                 Written and passed in the city of St. Louis of Ill., on the 20th day of October, the year 
                 1804, on the 29th of American Independence.
                 In witness whereof we, the aforesaid Dubuque and Chouteau, have signed the present papers 
                 in the presence of Messrs. M. P. Leduc, clerk; B. Pratte and M. G. Moro and have impressed 
                 our seal the day and year as above. The words "reciprocally, and of the 23d and 24th lines 
                 being erased and annulled."

Promissory note: May 18, 1798 "good for 100 livres...which I will pay to the order of St. Benois...for value received...for arrears." Source: Kenneth W. Rendell, http://www.historical-autographs.com/explorers.aspx
Despite his business successes, Dubuque was almost constantly in debt from 1803 until his death. A generous man, Dubuque supported many people who worked at his mines. He also lived in an unusually fashionable manner for life on the frontier of those years. Dubuque enjoyed the services of Patrice Roy and Josette Anyette as servants. At the time of his death, an inventory of his possessions included expensive household items and fifty-eight books including eight volumes of political science and the works of Montesquieu.

The question of Dubuque's marital status continues to be unresolved. In personal letters, Dubuque referred to a "Madam Dubuque." He is believed to have married POTOSA, the daughter of Chief PEOSTA. The fact that no mention of a wife was made during the settling of his estate has been used to suggest a wife, if one existed, was a Native American who may have simply gone back to her tribe.

Bundles of furs were identified by a tag carrying a seal of the owner. This is a bundle seal used Julien Dubuque. Note the similarity of the seal with the manner in which Dubuque wrote his name.
In the last years of his life, Dubuque often suffered from severe illness. Twice his death was reported by Native Americans. (17) It is believed he died of pneumonia. On the day of his funeral, legends state that a sorrowful procession carried his body to his grave. Celebrated chiefs were said to have argued for the honor of carrying his remains. All of this, of course, was verbally reported including the story that a lamp was kept burning on his grave for many years. It is known that fifteen years after his death, a cedar cross was placed on the site by some French-Canadians. (18)

Upon his death, Dubuque was buried by his Native American friends on a bluff high above CATFISH CREEK overlooking the Mississippi River. His grave was covered with a wooden and stone shelter complete with a gable roof and open window through which Native Americans believed the soul of the departed could leave. It was reported in an article published in 1945 that James LANGWORTHY discovered the body when he returned to this area in 1833. According to the report, Langworthy found the body in a cabin near the river with a "pipe thrust between his teeth and his body adorned and surrounded by the various implements after the usual manner of Indian burials. (19) At the apex of the cabin was a wooden cross made by white friends. The stone building was still intact in 1845. (20)


In 1967 a document in Julien Dubuque's handwriting was added to the rare volume and documents collection in the Wahlert Library at LORAS COLLEGE. The note read: (21)

         I, Julien Dubuque, recognizing owing to Messers. Faither (H or et)
         Bre' Brisebois and Coponier the sum of 6288.15 pounds (Sols) in
         money or pelts payable to Makinas guaranteeing that next August the
         pelts will be there totaling before their departure from this post.
         Done in good faith at Prairie du Chien the 30th of October, 1809.
                                               Julien Dubuque

A recurrent question has been whether Dubuque left a will. In 1891 a relative in France wrote the following letter to Iowa Governor Boies: (22)

                                               Paris, June 25, 1891
          Monsieur Le Gouverneur:  I have the honor to beg you to 
          have the goodness to let me know if my grand-uncle
          Monsieur Jean Pierre Dubuque, who has founded the city
          of Dubuque, where he managed [the] County Bank, has
          left a will or any other document in favor of his family.
          I should wish to know what attorney or what magistrate
          fixed his last affairs and what would be about the fortune
          he left.
          M. Dubuque was born in Amance, Upper Saone, France, and it
          would seem that one of his nephews, Gabriel Dubuque [a]
          French priest, went to join him and assisted him in his
          last moments.
          Not knowing anything further I cannot give you any more
          details. This is the reason why I would be very grateful
          if you would honor me with an answer that could give me
          all the information that I take the liberty of asking from
          you.  In expecting it I beg of you, Monsieur Gouverneur,
          to receive my most respectful salutations.
                                 Germain Denis
          True Francois Henry, an pre St. Gervais, Sein
          To M, le Gouverneur de l'Etat d'Iowa (Etats Unis)

Although there was an inventory of Dubuque's property in his home, there was no mention of a will.

For many years it was believed that Julien Dubuque was the first white settler in the future state of Iowa. In 1929 documentary proof that this was probably not the case was announced by Edgar R. Harlan, curator of the State Historical Society of Iowa. According to records, Basil Giard, the man Dubuque later rescued, arrived several years before Dubuque.

Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
The physical appearance of Julien Dubuque has continued to intrigue historians. (23) In 2012, members of the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY and curators at the National Mississippi River Museum asked forensic artist Karen T. Taylor to create a facial reconstruction based on the skull of Julien Dubuque. In the late 1800s, excellent photographs were made of Dubuque's skull prior to reburial. Although Dubuque's actual skull now lies buried under many feet of concrete, Taylor was able to use the multiple 1887 photographs, along with historic and anthropological inputs to create a reasonable depiction of his appearance in life. The facial reconstruction images are on display the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. (24)
Although Julien Dubuque's likeness has held little commercial value, this c. 1917 Early Settler Cigar box provides an exception.

The spelling of Dubuque was settled in 1950 with the visit of Guy Francois Dubuc, a great, great, grand nephew of Julien. Rt. Rev. Mathias M. HOFFMAN, a respected historian, had stated that Dubuque was a common variation in Canada. The name could have been spelled Dubuque, DuBuque, or Dubuc. Guy Dubuc brought with him a copy of the church register from St. Pierre les Becquets, Julien Dubuque's birthplace. The community is located on the St. Lawrence River about one hundred miles northeast of Montreal. The document, signed by J. Hingan, read:

           On January 10, 1762, was baptized by our 
           priest of St. Pierre, Julien Dubuc, born 
           today of the legal marriage of Augustin 
           and Marie Mailhot. Witnesses were Amant 
           Guilhaut and and Marie Angelique Tessier 
           who have signed that they do not know how 
           to sign their names. (25)





1. Hudson, David; Bergman, Marvin; Horton, Loren. The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2008, p. 139

2. Ibid.

3. Hudson, p. 139

4. Houlette, William. Iowa: The Pioneer Heritage. Des Moines: Wallace-Homestead Book Company, 1970, p. 206

5. "Iowa: Its History and Foremost Citizens-Julien Dubuque," Iowa History Project. http://iagenweb.org/history/IHFC/IHFCBk1Pt1Chp1-2Bio.htm

6. "The City of Dubuque," Southern Sentinel, October 10, 1849, p. 1. Online: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88064476/1849-10-10/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1849&index=0&rows=20&words=Dubuque&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1849&proxtext=dubuque&y=10&x=8&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

7. Hudson, p. 139

8. "Iowa: Its History and Foremost Citizens-Julien Dubuque," http://iagenweb.org/history/IHFC/IHFCBk1Pt1Chp1-2Bio.htm

9. Hudson, p. 139

10. "Julien Dubuque Rescued Trapper," Telegraph Herald, Feb. 2, 1927, p. 5. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=pXFFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mbwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5167,34772&dq=julien+dubuque&hl=en

11. Moeller, Hubert L. "Dubuque, Iowa's First Landowner," The Des Moines Register, Sept. 18, 1933

12. "Major Zebulon Pike Tries to Interview Julien Dubuque, 1805," http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=906

Map Maker: Phillippe Marie Vandermaelen, Brussels, 1825, hand colored. Along the green line (Mississippi River) below the red line and near the yellow line an be seen "Maison de Msr. Dubuque's which translates: House of Mr. Dubuque. Photo Courtesy: Barry Rudeman/Barry Lawrence Rudenman Antique Maps Inc. 7463 Girard Avenue, LaJolla, CA http://www.RareMaps.com and a local contributor
13. Houlette, William. Iowa: The Pioneer Heritage, Des Moines: Wallace-Homestead Book Company, 1970, p. 207

14. Evans, Mary Ellen. "Under Five Flags: Julien Dubuque, Miner of the Mines of Spain," Telegraph Herald, May 27, 1938, p. 14. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WfhBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=SqoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4819,3120828&dq=mining+dubuque&hl=en

15. Ibid.

16. "DEED OF DUBUQUE," The Dubuque Daily Herald, October 17, 1897, p. 5 (Courtesy of the Telegraph Herald, William Hammel, Paul Hemmer, and Darryl Mozena)

17. Bourbeau, Bud. "Body Interred in Bluff in Tribal Dignity, Honor," Telegraph Herald, August 16, 1958, p. 28

18. Ibid.

19. "Old Mansion is Doomed," Telegraph-Herald, March 25, 1945, p. 3

20. "New 'Heirs' to Julien Dubuque Fortune Appear," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, Feb. 19, 1935, p. 12. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=MdZBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9KkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6237,2114839&dq=julien+dubuque&hl=en

21. "Plans Ready for Julien Dubuque Park," Telegraph Herald, Feb. 7, 1963, p. 28. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Y49FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=5bwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3194,4156713&dq=julien+dubuque&hl=en

22. "A Julien Dubuque Document," Telegraph Herald, Oct. 2, 1967, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=cwdRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=xsAMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4360,272280&dq=julien+dubuque&hl=en

23. "Claim Julien Dubuque Wasn't First White Settler in Iowa," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, Mar. 24, 1929, p. 29. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=44lFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=sbwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5535,6884750&dq=julien+dubuque&hl=en

24. "Picture of Julien Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, Aug. 11,, 1907, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=vetCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=56sMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3382,1364695&dq=julien+dubuque&hl=en

25. "Dubuc Visits Dubuque of His Kinsman Julien," Telegraph Herald, March 23, 1950, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19500323&printsec=frontpage&hl=en