What do we mean when we talk about "French Colonial America" in this region?
More than forty years before the people of the British Colonies on the east coast of North America declared their independence, another group of colonists were settling on the western bank of the Mississippi River in what is now the state of Missouri. The town established by these people -- families with names such as Bolduc, Valle, Pratte, and Rozier -- became known as Ste. Genevieve (after the patron saint of Paris).
These people were primarily of French descent, coming from France, Canada, and other French-held territories such as the Illinois Country on the eastern side of the great river, Lower Louisiana and New Orleans, and the island of St. Domingue. Even as other nations claimed ownership of the region -- first Spain and then the United States -- the people here retained their own sense of identity and developed their own unique "Creole" traditions and way of life.
The distinctive creole culture that developed here drew on traditions from other places and peoples, including Native Americans and Africans. Today, you can visit and explore a community that has retained much of that unique cultural identity, illustrated by the extensive collection of historic 18th and early 19th century structures that have survived in Ste. Genevieve. An important representative group of these structures -- organized as the campus of The Centre for French Colonial Life -- has been preserved by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Missouri and is now managed and made accessible to the public by French Colonial America.
We invite you to visit us in Ste. Genevieve -- we are located about an hour south of St. Louis -- and enjoy discovering the stories of the people who created a distinct way of life on the frontier.