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The Fontenelle and Cabanné Trading Posts: The History and Archeology of Two Missouri River Sites, 1822-1838.


Lead bale seal imageLead seals were twisted over knots securing a bundle of trade goods. Seals could not prevent theft but revealed any attempt at tampering with the goods. This seal from the Fontenelle site probably came from England with a bale of woolen goods.

From 1822 to 1838 two civilian enclaves, the Fontenelle and Cabanné trading posts, clung to the bank of the Missouri River in today's eastern Nebraska. Fontenelle's Post, or Bellevue, adjacent to the present city of the same name, was founded by the Missouri Fur Company, while its rival to the north was established by Berthold, Chouteau, and Pratte, commonly known as The French Company. The story of the posts is the story of the fur trade in eastern Nebraska as these and other companies competed for trade with the Oto, Missouri, Omaha, and Pawnee. It is also the story of entrepreneurs, such as Lucien Fontenelle and John Pierre Cabanné, who were to leave their mark on the Missouri River fur trade and on Nebraska history. Although the trade in the region declined by the mid-1830s, Fontenelle's Post gained new life as headquarters for the Upper Missouri Indian Agency.

Physical evidence of the posts soon disappeared following their abandonment in 1838-39. By the twentieth century, the sites themselves had been encroached upon by agriculture, railroad construction, and growth of the Omaha-Bellevue metropolitan area. Although portions of the Cabanné site were lost to development, the Fontenelle site's location within the Fontenelle Forest natural area insured its preservation. In the early 1970s the Nebraska State Historical Society, with the cooperation of the Fontenelle Forest Association, Omaha's Western Heritage Museum, and the Youth Conservation Corps, carried out systematic archeological investigations of the sites under the direction of Richard E. Jensen, author of this volume, who is now senior research anthropologist in the Society's Research and Publications Division.

In addition to the excavation and artifact reports, the volume includes detailed histories of the posts presented within the context of the fur trade in eastern Nebraska. Appendixes by John R. Bozell, Michael A. Pfieffer, and Trisha Nelson, respectively, provide analysis of animal bone at the two sites, and of clay tobacco pipes and mollusk remains at the Fontenelle site.

Publication of the report was supported by the William B. Webster Memorial Publishing Fund established at the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation by John W. and Nancy Webster.

Richard E. Jensen,
Nebraska State Historical Society


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