The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Chicago's Second Settler Came From Detroit And Lived Large On Michigan Ave.

By Justin Breen | April 14, 2017 5:33am | Updated on April 14, 2017 6:03am
 Beaubien house landmark plaque at Chicago Cultural Center
Beaubien house landmark plaque at Chicago Cultural Center
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Justin Breen

DOWNTOWN — Most people know Chicago's first settler was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable.

But do you know who was Chicago's second non-indigenous resident?

That notoriety — or lack thereof — belongs to Jean Baptiste Beaubien, an agent for the American Fur Company. Beaubien, who was born in Detroit in 1787, first came to Chicago in 1804.

He left after the battle of Fort Dearborn in 1812, when dozens of settlers — but also 15 Potawatomi Indians — were killed, according to the book, "Rising Up From Indian Country: The Battle Of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago," published by the University of Chicago Press.

He returned around 1817, according to Joy Bivins of the Chicago History Museum.

Two hundred years ago, he also built what the City of Chicago described as a "mansion" for him and his wife, Josette La FramBoise, and the couple lived there until 1845. The mansion sat on land that later became the Chicago Public Library (which is now the Chicago Cultural Center). A plaque erected in 1937 by the Chicago Historical Society attached to the building notes Beaubien's mansion had been at the site, which was then the lakefront.

Bivins said it's unclear what year Beaubien built the mansion. She said calling it a "mansion" is a bit misleading because it was "probably similar to the other structures in the area at the time." That includes Fort Dearborn, which would have been just north of Beaubien's home. Du Sable's former home, where he lived from 1779 to 1800, was also nearby on the northern bank of the Chicago River near the lakefront.

 Jean Baptiste Beaubien and a sketch of Chicago from 1831 (his
Jean Baptiste Beaubien and a sketch of Chicago from 1831 (his "mansion" is possibly on the far left of the sketch).
View Full Caption
Chicago History Museum

Beaubien "would have been one of a handful of non-Native people in the area that were not military personnel," Bivins said.

In 1825, the first elections were held at Beaubien's home, according to "Rising Up From Indian Country." Thirty-five men voted in a general election the following year, and later voters went to his house to vote for U.S. presidents, congressmen, judges and sheriffs, the book says.

Beaubien, turns out, was the wealthiest man in the city in 1825, with a tax valuation of $1,000. In 1933, he received $3,000 through a treaty that dealt with resettling the Potawotami but also covered their debts to the American Fur Company.

Even so, Bivins said Beaubien isn't as well known as his younger brother Mark, who ran the Sauganash Hotel.

According to the Chicago History Museum's research center, there's no proof of what the Beaubien home looked like because all sketches of the area were done several decades after the fact, and researchers have never seen a contemporary image. Beaubien's home would have been south of an area called Wolf Point, which is where the Chicago River's main stem meets its north and south branches.

Beaubien died in 1863 in Naperville and is buried in DuPage County's oldest cemetery. Beaubien Elementary, 5025 N. Laramie Ave. on the Northwest Side, is named after him.