The Chatillon Family

Henri Chatillon

AMERICAN LEGEND, WESTERN TRAILBLAZER

House Timeline 1849-1855

Born September 29, 1813 Died December 6, 1876 – Chatillon, a native of Carondolet, became and American legend after acting as a guide for historian Francis Parkman, Jr.  He is immortalized in Parkman’s 1849 best seller, “The Oregon Trail”, as a “true-hearted friend” with a “keen perception of character.”

Henri Chatillon is equated in the minds of many Americans with the image of the gentleman pioneer, a hero combining the manners of a man well-born with the enterprise and courage of a true explorer. Chatillon achieved this notoriety in The Oregon Trail, the famous book by Francis Parkman describing his personal experience during a trip through western America:

When we were at St. Louis, several gentlemen of the Fur Company had kindly offered to procure for us a hunter and guide suited for our purposes, and coming one afternoon to the office, we found there a tall and exceedingly well-dressed man, with a face so open and frank that it attracted our notice at once…His age was about thirty, he was six’ feet high, and very powerfully and gracefully molded. The prairies had been his school; he could neither read nor write, but he had a natural refinement and delicacy of mind, such as is rare even in women. Henry had not the restless energy of an Anglo-American. He was content to take things as he found them; and his chief fault arose from an excess of easy generosity not conducive to thriving in the world. Yet it was commonly remarked of him, that whatever he might choose to do with what belonged to him self the property of others was always safe in his hands. His bravery was as much celebrated in the mountains as his skill in hunting; but it is characteristic of him that in a country where the rifle is the chief arbiter between man and man, he was very seldom involved in quarrels. He was proof of what unaided nature will sometimes do. I have never, in the city or in the wilderness met a better man than my true-hearted friend, Henry Chatillon. (Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail.) Chatillon lived in Carondelet, a French town five miles south of St. Louis.

Henri was the grandson of Clement Del or de Treget, a French military officer who founded Carondelet in 1771 at which time it was officially separated from the St. Louis commons. There was contact between the two towns; the trappers and mountain men of Carondelet, did most of their business with the Laclede-Chouteau operation in St. Louis. Chatillon was one of these men from Carondelet, and it was his St. Louis contacts who provided him with his introduction to Parkman.

Herman Melville in his review of the “Oregon Trail” said of Chatillon:

as gallant a man…as ever shot buffalo. For this Henri Chatillon we feel a fresh and unbounded love. He belongs to the class of men, of who Kit Carson is the model; a class, unique, and not to be transcended in interest by any personages introduced to us by Scott…May his good rifle never miss fire; and where he roves through the prairies, may the buffalo ever abound.

Chatillon’s first wife was a Sioux named Bear Robe, the daughter of the powerful Oglala Sioux Chief Bull Bear.  Bear Robe never came to St. Louis to stay with Chatillon. She died while Chatillon was traveling with Parkman in 1846.

In October 1848, Chatillon married wealthy widow, Odile Delor Lux, who also was his cousin.  Prior to the marriage, Lux had purchased 21 acres of land in the City Commons area of St Louis at $26 per acres.  Chatillon built a four room brick farmhouse on five of those acres in 1849, which formed the original portion of the Mansion.

The house was a simple, two storied brick structure with four rooms. According to one source, it had a one-slope roof which was a very common feature of early domestic architecture throughout the St. Louis area. However, in looking at an overlapping elevation, the house does not display this feature.

The Chatillion’s sold three acres of land in 1850 and in 1855, they sold the remaining land, including the house, to Nicholas DeMenil and Eugene Miltenberger.

Henri died on December 6, 1873 and is buried Mount Olive Cemetery at in Lemay, MO.