Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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FARIBAULT, John Baptist, pioneer, born in Berthier, Quebec, about 1769; died in Faribault, Minnesota, in 1860. He received his education in the village school, and at the age of seventeen entered a commercial house in Quebec, where he remained five years. In 1796 he became agent of the American company of the northwest, under the presidency of John Jacob Astor. He left Montreal in the spring for the straits of Mackinaw in a canoe, accompanied by nineteen men. After remaining some days at Mackinaw, he engaged a Pottawattomie Indian as a guide, and set out for the residence of General Harrison, governor of the territory of Indiana, at Port Vincent on the Wabash, in order to obtain permission to trade with the Indians in the United States. He nearly perished on the journey through the treachery of his guide, but reached Governor Harrison, who received him kindly and granted the necessary permission. He then returned to the mouth of the Kankakee, where he passed the remainder of the year. He afterward established himself at the port of Des Moines, and engaged in a lucrative trade with the Sakis, Foxes, Iowas and Yankons. Then he proceeded to the Saint Peter, and traded with other Sioux tribes, making also an effort to teach them agriculture.
He married a Indian Girl, by whom he had eight children, and, having prevision of the future greatness of the wild country in which he lived, he had them educated under circumstances of great difficulty. He remained ten years with the Astor Company, and then entered into business for himself, realizing a large fortune, which he lost in the war of 1812. He had embraced the American side in this contest, and, having to go on business to Mackinaw after the siege of the fort that the Americans had erected there, he was made prisoner by the English as a traitor to British interests. He continued for several years to travel over the prairies, and although he was often a prisoner in the hands of the Indians, frequently wounded, and on two or three occasions left for dead, he always escaped. He was the first to cultivate the soil west of the Mississippi and north of the Des Moines, and bought agricultural implements with the purpose of teaching the Indians farming. His influence extended among all the Indian tribes of the vast territory from the Mississippi to the Missouri, and as far as Red river. He also acted as a missionary among them, and built, at his own expense, a Catholic Church during the years 1840'3, the first erected in Minnesota. He spent the last days of his life in Faribault, a City founded by his son Alexander. A County in Minnesota is also named in his honor.
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