The North American Frontiersmen



Staff Writer

Smoke Signals

JAN/FEB 2011


Manuel Lisa 1772-1820

Category: Frontier Life

Death Date: August 12, 1820

Years in Nebraska: ?

State of Nebraska contribution: Established fur-trading post in present-day Nebraska, sub-agent for Indian tribes along the Missouri National contribution: President of the Missouri Fur Company of St Louis, assisted Yellowstone Expedition of 1819.

Manuel Lisa is called Nebraska's first white settler. Born in Cuba, Lisa came to Louisiana with his parents and then to St. Louis in the late 1790s. He came up the Missouri in 1807 to start a furtrading venture. Lisa built the first Ft. Lisa (also called Fort Manuel or Manuel's Fort) on the Big Horn River in Montana. When he returned to St. Louis he helped organize the St. Louis Fur company in 1809 and became one of its directors. In 1812 the company was reorganized and became known as the Missouri Fur Company of St. Louis and Lisa became its president.

Lisa had to abandon Ft. Lisa during the War of 1812 because of pressure from the British and the Indians. The Minnesota Sioux, Yanktonai, and some Upper Missouri Indians fought alongside of the British in the Northwest. >From 1814 through 1817 Lisa was the sub-agent for all of the Indian tribes along the Missouri River north of Kansas. 


.. He helped prevent some of the Teton tribes from becoming British allies. Lisa spent 1813 to 1815 at Ft. Lisa and when he returned to St. Louis he brought forty-three chiefs together to negotiate treaties with the United States Government. Lisa established the second Ft. Lisa, north of present-day Omaha in 1812, and it became one of the most important fur trading posts in what is now Nebraska. It controlled the fur trade of the Omaha, Oto, and Pawnee. As head of the Missouri Fur Co. of St. Louis Lisa again extended the fur trade into the Northwest from Ft. Lisa on the Missouri after the War of 1812.

Because Lisa spent most of the winters at Ft. Lisa, he became known as Nebraska's first white settler. He returned to St. Louis each spring. He became one of the incorporators of the Bank of St. Louis in 1813. In 1818 he married Mary Hampstead Keeney of St Louis. She probably was the first white woman to live in Nebraska. She spent the winters of 1819 and 1820 at Ft. Lisa. In 1819 Lisa assisted the Yellowstone Expedition which had established its headquarters near Lisa's trading post. Lisa returned to St. Louis and died there on August 12, l820.

* Manuel Lisa and other furtraders generally were helpful to the Indians. They brought trade goods, blankets and other supplies, but also brought whiskey, which caused many problems. Lisa saw himself as the Indian's benefactor, not as an exploiter. He wrote in 1817 to William Clark that he had distributed garden seeds to the Indians, including seeds of pumpkin, beans, turnips, and potatoes; that he had loaned them traps and had arranged for blacksmithing to be done for them.






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