Chapter 2 – The Upper Missouri Outfit and the Merchant Alliance

Jackson County was formed after the Osage, Kansa, and other Indian tribes were removed from Missouri in 1826.  The Town of Independence was created in 1827 when the first town lots were presented for sale.  One third of the initial lots sold were to merchants who worked together to purchase the lands by loans backed by guarantees of other fellow merchants.  Lilburn Boggs and Samuel Owens were early merchant alliance leaders.  Independence was located near the Missouri River at the western boundary of the United States and bordered with various Indian Reservations in the Kansas Territory.  Independence, Jackson County was a key commercial crossroads point to the West.  The Independence merchants purchased goods from the east through the Chouteau family and their allies for sale to traders on the Santa Fe Trail and to traders serving the Indian tribes in the Kansas area and along the Upper Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains.  Expanding the trade westward was the plan supported by Senator Benton and John Astor under the previous vision of President Jefferson.

A near merchant monopoly existed in Missouri through members of the St. Louis Junto and the Independence merchants.  Senator Benton became the Senate Chairman over Indian Affairs and William Clark became the federal Indian Superintendent.  Members of the Chouteau family served as federal Indian agents and operated various trading posts in the region.  After the Indian Relocation Act of 1830 many Indian tribes were relocated to the Kansas and Oklahoma Territories.  Superintendent Clark and the Chouteaus negotiated treaties with the various Indian tribes to include annual federal annuity payments to the tribes in exchange for their former lands.  Senator Benton pushed fellow senators to approve the treaties.  The annual payments to the Indians were spent on purchasing goods and supplies at exorbitant prices from the various Chouteau family trading posts in Kansas and Oklahoma.  In addition, the Chouteaus engaged in fur trade with all the Indian tribes.  Lilburn Boggs, Samuel Owens and the other Independence merchants also worked with Francois Chouteau in Jackson County who oversaw all the Chouteau trade operations in Western Missouri, and the Kansas and Oklahoma Territories to sell goods to the Indian tribes at inflated prices in exchange for their federal annuity funds.

Since 1829 the Chouteau family had sought to control trade on the Upper Mississippi River region.  They hired Mark Aldrich to work for them at Keokuk and Warsaw at the foot of the Des Moines Rapids.  Their friend, Thomas Reddick occupied land at the mouth of the Des Moines Rapids (in the area later known as Montrose and Nauvoo).  The Des Moines Rapids on the Mississippi River caused havoc to steamboat traffic on the Mississippi during low water months each year.  The Chouteaus and others of the St. Louis Junto and their merchant allies sought to control the head and foot of the Rapids to guarantee access to the lead trade coming from Galena Illinois and Dubuque in Iowa Territory.