Near St. Peter in Nicollet County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Fur Trader Louis Provencalle
Because of its importance as a river crossing, Traverse des Sioux was a major distribution point for the fur trade.
As early as the 1770s, the Dakota were trading here for guns, blankets, and kettles. One prominent local trader was the French-Canadian Louis Provencalle, who worked here from 1826 until about 1848. Provencalle, his Dakota wife, and their four children lived in a cabin near this site. Their cabin (sketched here after the family had abandoned it) was used as a dining room, kitchen, and warehouse during the July 1851 treaty negotiations.
Provencalle was good at arithmetic but could not read or write. He kept track of his credits and debits with a system of pictograms. Each person or type of trade good had a specific mark or figure. According to the missionary Samuel Pond, "This mode of keeping accounts had one advantage over the others, in that the Indians could easily learn to read this picture writing and see for themselves how their accounts stood." For example, the curved-horn figure on the bottom of this page from one of Provencalle's credit books stands for a decorated
Traverse des Sioux
Erected by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Native Americans • Settlements & Settlers • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Minnesota Historical Society series list. A significant historical month for this entry is July 1851.
Location. 44° 21.161′ N, 93° 57.09′ W. Marker is near St. Peter, Minnesota, in Nicollet County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of North Minnesota Avenue (U.S. 169) and Dodd Avenue (State Highway 22), on the right when traveling north. Marker is along an interpretive trail that is adjacent to the Nicollet County Historical Society Treaty Site History Center. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1851 North Minnesota Avenue, Saint Peter MN 56082, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Rush for Land (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux (about 400 feet away); Ministering to the Dakota (about 600 feet away); Ecakensdonyapi (about 700 feet away); Exploring the River Valley (about 700 feet away); Archaeology Land-Seas (approx. 0.2 miles away); "Only a Memory Now" (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Peter.
More about this marker. captions:
• Frank B. Mayer, Old Trading House, 1851. Courtesy Newberry Library
• Indian trade ledgers, 1836–1848
Also see . . .
1. Traverse des Sioux. Minnesota Historical Society website entry:
"For thousands of years, Traverse des Sioux was a crossroads and meeting place.... Traverse des Sioux soon grew up around the site with more than 70 buildings, including five taverns, two hotels and several churches. In 1856, however, nearby St. Peter was chosen as the county seat and by the late 1860s, nothing was left of the once-booming town of Traverse des Sioux." (Submitted on August 11, 2014.)
2. Louis Provençalle, Fur Trader. Minnesota Historical Society. "Louis Provençalle died, according to [Henry H.] Sibley, at Mendota in 1850. His old cabin, however, still stood at Traverse des Sioux in 1851, when the artist, Frank B. Mayer, visited that place and made sketches of it." (Submitted on August 11, 2014.)
Credits. This page was last revised on July 14, 2023. It was originally submitted on August 11, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 539 times since then and 51 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on August 11, 2014, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.