Bellevue, the cradle of Nebraska

View of the Missouri from the hills of Bellevue (photo Brad)

For 17th century woodmen who have crisscrossed the Midwest since 1673, the site of Bellevue (which means “fine view” in French) on the western shores of the Missouri River was easily recognizable by the height of its hills sloping upward more than 980 feet (300 meters).

This beautiful natural feature has made Bellevue a landmark for navigation as well as a pleasant rest stop for Nebraska’s early explorers and white settlers. In addition, the place was well known to Native American tribes who occupied Nebraska such as the Ponca, Omaha, Otoe, Pawnee, Osage and Kansa, among others. Bellevue is now part of the Omaha Metropolitain Area near the mouth of the Platte River.

Nebraska remembers …

In 1714 the Frenchman Étienne de Véniart de Bourgmont ascended the Missouri to the mouth of the Platte River, which he named Nebraskier, based on the Otoe’s  pronounced calling of this waterway. Twenty five years later, Pierre-Antoine and Paul Mallet, brothers and French Canadian voyageurs, who were en route to Santa Fe from Kaskaskia, Illinois, in 1739 gave the shallow river its actual name of “Platte”. Platte is the French word for “flat”. The Mallet brothers’ naming corresponds to the Otoe’s meaning of the word Nebraskier, which means “waters at ground level”.

The woodmen, called coureurs des bois in French, are the forgotten ones in the history of Colonial French Louisiana. Through their journeys they established friendships with Native American peoples along the waterways on which they rowed and sang in their birchbark canoes. The Loup River (meaning “wolf” in French), a tributary of the Platte River in the heart of present-day Nebraska State, commemorates their presence in Nebraska. The Cornhusker State does remember.

On the site of Dodge Park in North Omaha (photo Omaha Public Schools)

Jean-Pierre Cabanné, born in Pau in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, a region of France, was a merchant. He migrated to St. Louis at the end of the 18th century. Shortly after his arrival, he built a trading post on the land that is now Dodge Park on the banks of the Missouri River, just a few miles north of Bellevue. The Cabanné post, nicknamed “The French Company”, quickly became successful because of its location. Trading activities were mainly with the members of the Otoe nation who lived in the surroundings.

The Robidoux post near Gering (photo Visit Nebraska)

Joseph Robidoux III was born in Sault-au-Récollet (Quebec Province) of the union of Joseph Robidoux II and Marie-Anne Le Blanc, whose great-grandfather was Abraham Martin, known as the Scotsman, who gave his name to the Plains of Abraham in the heart of Quebec City. Joseph the Third erected a trading post along the North Branch of the Platte River in western Nebraska. On Saturday, September 21, 1782, he married Catherine Marie Rollet. Nine children were born of their union. It is said that the site of Bellevue was well known to him. In 1822, he sold his western Nebraska post to the American Fur Company then owned by John Jacob Astor, allegedly the first millionaire in the history of the United States of America.