Lucien Fontenelle

October 9, 1800 - c. 1839

Fontenelle, Lucien, fur trader (Oct. 9, 1800-c. 1839). Born near New Orleans he reached St. Louis about 1816 and three years later was a trader among the Omahas and neighboring Indians, remaining in and about river posts like Bellevue, Nebraska, until 1827 when he first went to the Rocky Mountains with Pilcher, Drips, Vanderburgh and others. He worked for one fur organization or another until 1828 when he became affiliated with the American Fur Company. In 1830-1831 he wintered in Cache Valley, skirmishing with Blackfeet or Snakes occasionally. He weathered differences with Hudson's Bay Company people, continued his trading and returned periodically to Fort Union or Bellevue. By 1834 he, Fitzpatrick, Bridger and Milton Sublette had formed a partnership with Fort Laramie as their base. Fontenelle returned to Missouri and brought back the American Fur Company caravan of 1835, accompanied by Dr. Marcus Whitman, a physician and missionary who attended Fontenelle when he contracted cholera. Fontenelle continued his career as a major Rocky Mountain trader, though alcohol and personal problems gradually got the better of him; the report that he committed suicide is not accurate. He died at Bellevue, Nebraska, attended by Father De Smet, and was buried on bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. Fontenelle was an attractive man, and one of the most important traders during the heyday and early decline of the Rocky Mountain fur enterprise, but he was ever controversial, in his own and later times.


Hiram Martin Chittenden, A History of the American Fur Trade. Standford, Calif., Academic Reprints, 1954; Bernard DeVoto, Across the Wide Missouri. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1947; Clifford M. Drury, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and the Opening of Old Oregon, Glendale, Calif., Arthur H. Clark Co., 1973.