Who Is The Founder Of Chicago?

A statue of du Sable in Chicago. Editorial credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com.

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable is considered to be the first resident of Chicago. Very little is known about du Sable's life before the 1770s. In 1779, British officials arrested him in his home in today’s Michigan city, and charged with collaborating with the Americans during the revolutionary war. The lieutenant-governor employed him to work on a settlement in what is today’s St. Clair, Michigan. In 1779 he moved and settled along the Chicago river along the shore of Lake Michigan. Du Sable established a large and prosperous settlement that would grow into the modern Chicago city. In 1800, he sold his property in Chicago and settled in present-day St. Charles, Missouri where he lived until his death in 1818.


Very little is known about du Sable before the 1770s. His year of birth, parents, and siblings are unknown but historical sources document that he was African. Historian Juliette Kinzie document that Point du Sable was an immigrant from St Domingo in what is present-day Haiti although she never met him. Some historians dismissed this claim as fiction with Milton Quifer claiming that he was of French-Canadian and African origin. A poem by British commander stationed at Fort Michilimackinac documents that Point du Sable Was “an educated and handsome negro”. The evidence suggesting that he was from Haiti was unmatched and it became the widely accepted account.

Founded Chicago

In 1779, British officials arrested him in his home in today’s Michigan city, Indiana, after he was suspected of being an American sympathizer during the revolutionary war. In 1779 he moved and settled along the Chicago River where he established a trading post. A journal entry by Hugh Heward in May 1790 documents that he made a pit stop at Pointe du Sable’s residence where he traded his canoe and bought food. In 1800 du Sable sold his estate to Jean La Lime and moved to Missouri.

Legacy And Honors

The city of Chicago recognizes Jean Baptiste Point du Sable as its founder. In 1965 the Pioneer Court plaza was built on what was his homestead. The site where his house stood was declared a National Historic Landmark. In 2009 a private citizen and the city contracted a Chicago-born sculptor to design a bronze bust of the founder. Several other facilities in the city are named after him including the DuSable Bridge, De Saible Street, The DuSable Museum of African American History, DuSable High School, and DuSable Park.


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