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Augustin Brazeau

Augustin Brazeau, my 3rd great grandfather, was born in American territory just after the American Revolution. His father, Louis Brazeau, was born a citizen of France in Kaskaskia (now in Illinois). In 1763, the territory was ceded to Great Britain until it was captured by George Rogers Clark during the American Revolution. Unhappy with the American leadership in remote Kaskaskia, Augustin's father, Louis Brazeau, moved his young family to Spanish territory on the western side of the Mississippi River in about 1790. This made them officially citizens of Spain, at least until 1800 when the western territory passed into French hands again.

You would think the mostly French men and women in St. Louis would have celebrated this news, but, sadly, none of them even knew they were again citizens of France until after the Louisiana Purchase.

Once the Americans began to arrive in St. Louis, the French citizens found themselves the victims of land speculators unfamiliar with and unwilling to learn about the French and Spanish system of land ownership. Many of the original settlers had their land surveyed, only to lose it anyway in the years that followed. Many instances described in the American State Papers provide details of the original owners not being allowed to keep all of their land, if they got to keep it at all.

Augustin, who was just 20 years old in 1784, had his property surveyed by Antoine Soulard in 1804. Many of Soulard's original surveys have been digitized and are available on the Missouri Digital Heritage website. I think it says he owned 800 arpents, which is a lot of land for such a young man to own. If anyone interprets this differently, please let me know!

On a side note, Antoine Soulard's name, or at least his surname, is still known today in St. Louis. Many of us have visited Soulard Market, a local farmers' market, and there is a nice neighborhood here known as Soulard. I suspect most St. Louisans know very little about Antoine Soulard, though. It's sad how easily history is forgotten.

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