Economic Stratification and Authority Figures During the Founding of St. Louis Essay

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Mari McGinnis
ACC US History
The Economic Stratification and Authority Figures during the Founding of St. Louis
Founding St. Louis examines the relationships between the people of this region as it changed from the long-time home of the Osage, and other native people they would have interacted with, into a place where people with very different backgrounds, customs, values, and views on life had to learn to work together and get along for progress to be made. In blending such different people, with different priorities, languages and customs, some things worked and some didn’t. There were some similarities in these societies coming together, in terms of social structures and the roles of men and women, but very different priorities. Is this right or wrong? Is this good or bad? Such questions were asked and the answers would be different. It is remarkable that the blending took place with as little strife and violence as occurred.
One of the main themes in the book Founding St. Louis was the economic stratification of the city. Economic stratification is the way that the social classes are set up in the economic system of a community. It seems that there were two main economic classes in the very beginning of St. Louis history: the colonists and the Native Americans. The colonists established themselves as a higher class than the Native Americans, but they still got along. There weren’t too many colonists, so there wasn’t a distinct high and middle class. The divide between the colonists and the Native Americans isn’t too large, but it is still enough to distinguish the two classes. Though they got along well, the Native Americans still were lower. They had to listen to what the leaders, such as Laclede, said and some became slaves to the white colonists.
When the French people first went to the St. Louis area to be fur traders, they established themselves as a higher economic class than the Osage Indians who lived there (19). This was the first instance of economic stratification in the St. Louis area. Even though the French colonists were higher up than the Native Americans, they were very nice to them and treated them well (20). When Laclede came to that area later, he noticed how well the colonists and Indians got along (75). The Native Americans helped a lot with the creation of St. Louis. They knew the land very well because they were great hunters and fur-producers. Not many people in other areas of the territory got help from the Native Americans that were nearby. Laclede himself even got help from them to build his own house (116). The Osage tribe did a lot for St. Louis, and without their help our city wouldn’t be at all the same (108). The colonists who resided in St. Louis really relied on the Osages for their skills in the land around them (116). The colonists made sure that when they were growing their crops, they didn’t invade the Osages’ space. This really helped keep their relationship good, unlike some other colonist groups who took all the land they could get, which caused other Native Americans to fight back.
In the early 1770’s of St. Louis, there weren’t distinct classes among the Europeans who settled there. There was a little class of wealthy people, but otherwise there weren’t really groups, “the population was ‘so mixed up that one cannot tell who is a farmer and who is a merchant” (116). Most of the time, it didn’t matter how rich you were or whose family you were in, it just mattered if you got there first (116). Those who were among the first settlers had a lot of clout and social standing. It mattered less how much money you had, it mattered more how resourceful you were in doing things first and creating something successful. The economy was mostly based on their trade with the Native Americans and agriculture, so there weren’t professions like banking or law or medicine to go into. They traded a lot of fur, which got them a lot of money, but it