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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

CARDINAL, Jean Marie

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Jean Marie Cardinell window. Photo courtesy: Jean Marie Cardinell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revoution

CARDINAL, Jean Marie. (Unknown--St. Louis, MO, May, 1780). Jean Marie was a hunter, trapper, trader, and miner of the lead on the west bank of the Mississippi River in present-day Dubuque County, Iowa. He traveled in what became southern Illinois and Missouri and married a Pawnee woman. To fulfill his religious obligations, he brought his Indian wife to the newly erected church in St. Louis to have his marriage blessed and to his children baptized. (1) They moved to the area of Prairie du Chien around 1750. He is believed to be the first white man to permanently reside on Iowa land by 1754. (2)

In 1763 France lost all of its lands east of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER to England as a result of the French and Indian War. The same year, Cardinal and his partner Tibot were hired as guides by Abraham Lansing and his son. In an argument, possibly over furs, Cardinal and Tibot killed the two Lansings. (3)

Fearing the English would punish him, Cardinal fled Prairie du Chien with his family and crossed the Mississippi into Spanish territory. He established himself in St. Louis by 1765. In 1776 and 1777 land grants were made out to him in the St. Charles district which covered nearly the entire present state of Iowa. Cardinal is believed to have lived in the area of Dubuque between 1763 and 1780. Julien DUBUQUE found roads constructed and mines open when he later came to the site. One of Dubuque's laborers told of Cardinal working the mines. (4)

In the early spring of 1780 Cardinal was one of the miners who escaped British troops under the leadership of Lt. Alexander Kay who attacked the Dubuque-area mines. (5) The British intended to capture "rebels," turn the Native Americans in the area against the Americans, and attack Spanish settlements. (6)

Cardinal escaped the British attack at the Fox Village along CATFISH CREEK on May 2, 1780, raced down the river to St. Louis in time to give warning. He joined twenty-nine regular troops and 281 villagers that formed the forces of liberty that defeated the 1,500 British and Indian forces on May 26, 1780. He died from wounds suffered in that attack. (7) Jean Marie Cardinal is the only known Iowa resident to give his life to the cause of American independence. There is a memorial window to Jean Marie at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines, Iowa. (8)

Cardinal was buried in an unmarked grave. This area is now associated with Cardinal Spring and Cardinal Avenue near Fairground Park in St. Louis. (9)

On July 24, 1976 the JEAN MARIE CARDINAL COMMEMORATIVE CANOE VOYAGE was held to recreate the event.

Cardinal memorial.

On May 14, 2022 the members of the Iowa Society, NATIONAL SOCIETY OF THE SONS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION unveiled a memorial to Cardinal. It took the form of an educational sign posted along the Riverwalk in Dubuque. Among those in attendance were members of the Jean Marie Cardinell Chapter of the DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. This group was organized November 4, 1941, under Mrs. Hazel Wheeler Whitmore, regent. There was a need at that time for a chapter that met to accommodate the working woman, so two meetings were held in the evening and two on Saturday. By 2022 Saturday was the regular meeting day.



1. "Jean Marie Cardinell Chapter History," Online: http://www.isdar.org/chapters/jeanmariecardinell/history.html

2. "The Story of Jean Marie Cardinal," The Des Moines Register, Sept. 17, 1934

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Petersen, William J. The Palimpsest, Vol. XII, January to December, 1931, pps, 414-420

6. "Jean Cardinal Was the First Iowa Patriot," Telegraph Herald, August 14, 1938, p. 29. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=tttBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3akMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3881,5481097&dq=lock+and+dam+dubuque&hl=en

7. Ibid.

8. St. Ambrose Cathedral, Des Moines, Iowa, Online: http://www.saintambrosecathedral.org/east-side-window-2/

9. Schake, Lowell. La Charrette: A History of the Village Gateway to the American Frontier, Lincoln, NB: Universe, 2003, p. 18