Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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Manuel Lisa

 

(September 8, 1772 - August 12, 1820)

 

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lisa began his trading career along the Ohio River establishing a fort.

 

Later, in St. Louis, Missouri, Lisa received special treatment because of his Spanish heritage from the Spanish officials (this was prior to the Louisiana Purchase) with licenses to trade with the tribes to the west. He was the first to trade with the Osage.

 

Lisa assembled a boat crew for Lewis and Clark prior to their voyage. Manuel became enamored with the west after hearing stories from Lewis and Clark on their return. With John Colter and keelboat, Lisa forged up the Missouri past the Arikara and Mandan establishing a fort in Montana.

 

Back in St. Louis, Lisa with other partners formed the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company in 1809. A newly formed competing company forced Lisa to move fast establishing posts along the river, but little profit was seen. As the war between Britain and the U.S. began and the Indians became hostile, Lisa once ventured on the Missouri River. Again the profit did not cover the expenses and the Missouri Fur Company was dissolved.

 

Appointed agent for the Omaha Tribe by William Clark, Lisa managed to keep the western tribes out of the War of 1812 and found a wife among a member of the tribe.

 

In 1816, he brought back $35,000 in furs - a tidy sum. He organized a new company which would go bankrupt, form another fur company and dissolve that one. Returning from a trip in 1819, Lisa contracted an aliment which would prove fatal.

 

Although Lisa sounds like a failure, dissolving one fur company after another and never seeming to make any money, he was the first to establish methods which would drive the fur trade industry for years to come. Also, Lisa played a vital role in keeping the western Native American tribes out of the War of 1812.

 

Manuel Lisa is buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org