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Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society

Truman Stacey

"Notable Men and Women of SWLA" is result of work compiled by SLHA member Truman Stacey.

A native of Texas,Truman Stacey served in the U.S. Army in World War II, earned bachelor and master degrees from the University of Detroit, and worked on a number of newspapers before serving as editor-in-chief of the Lake Charles American Press from 1961 to 1982, when he became chief information officer for the Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles. 

Stacey wrote the series of articles here to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase. These articles appear in numerous newspapers across the state, including the DeQuincy News, the Cameron Pilot, the Teche News, the Welsh Citizen, the American Press, the Ville Platte News, and the Hammond Star.

He is a past president of Southwest Louisiana Historical Association.

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Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent

A Frenchmen from Longy in France was destined to become one of the richest men in the colony of Louisiana through his business acumen and his military service.

Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent, born in France in 1724, migrated to Louisiana as a young man and settled in New Orleans. About five years later he married a young Creole widow, Elizabeth La Roche, who brought him a dowry of 5,000 Spanish pesos (a peso at the time having a purchasing power of between $15 and $20 in 2003 currency).

With his dowry St. Maxent was able to open a business firm which furnished supplies to Indian traders in the colony. These traders ranged through the colony along the rivers from the Red to the Missouri, trading pelts from the native tribes in the fall and winter. In the spring they would load their furs on flatboats and float down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where they sold their furs and bought the supplies and trade goods they needed for the next season. St. Maxent prospered in this business.

When the Seven Years War broke out between France and England, the Louisiana governor, Billouart de Kerlerec, organized companies of militia to protect the colony against Indian attacks, and St. Maxent was named a colonel of militia.

After the war, the governor rewarded St. Maxent for his military service and his political support by granting him the exclusive right to trade with the native tribes along the Missouri River, certainly one of the choicest plums of the fur trade.

To exploit this new opportunity St. Maxent formed a new trading company, the first St. Maxent Laclede Co.

Pierre Laclede Linguest had sailed from Bordeaux in 1753 for Louisiana and when the Seven Years War broke out had offered his services to the governor. During the war he became an officer on St. Maxent¹s staff, and he was the man St. Maxent chose to set up his trade on the Missouri River. LaClede was made a junior partner in the business, and sent upriver to establish a post on the Missouri where furs could be brought from the traders there and stored for later shipment to New Orleans. Laclede built his post near the confluence of the Missouri, Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, and the post eventually developed into the City of St. Louis.

This venture proved to be immensely profitable and St. Maxent's fortune grew. In fact, it grew enough that he was able to gain a grant of a 50-square mile plot of land at a site called Chef Menteur, east of New Orleans.

At about this juncture it became known that the King of France had deeded Louisiana to his cousin, the King of Spain, to prevent the English from taking it at the end of the Seven Years War.

There followed the termination of French rule, the rebellion against the first Spanish governor, and the arrival of Don Alejandro O'Reilly with his Spanish troops.

St. Maxent made it known early during this period that he supported the Spanish cause, and he had no reason to regret the decision. When O'Reilly had restored order in the colony, he appointed St. Maxent to command the white militia of the colony and made him the colony¹s Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with instructions to keep the tribes friendly. This meant that all goods to be distributed to the Indians had to be purchased through St. Maxent.
St. Maxent¹s affairs were to have a number of ups and downs as his relations with various governors proved fortunate or unfortunate, but he was still a power in the colony at his death on August 9, 1794, at the age of 70. As remarkable as his financial and military career was, however, one must not overlook the remarkable careers of his daughters. The eldest, Marie Elizabeth de St. Maxent married Luis de Unzaga y Amezaga, who succeeded Alejando O'Reilly as the governor of Louisiana. She accompanied him during his later career when he was successively Captain-General of Venezuela (1777-1782), Captain General of Cuba (1782-1785), and Lieutenant General of Galicia (1782-1785). She survived his death in July of 1793.

Marie Felicite de St. Maxent married Bernardo de Galvez, the striking young Spanish governor of Louisiana. She was a great favorite of the populace, and the civic parishes of East and West Feliciana were named in her favor. She followed her husband to Cuba when he was made Captain-General, and to Mexico in 1785 when he became the Viceroy of New Spain, the ruler of all Spanish possessions in North America and the Caribbean. When her husband was raised to the peerage, she became a Spanish countess. In Mexico she was hailed as the Vice-Reine. After Galvez's sudden death in 1786 she moved to Madrid where she was an ornament of the royal court until her death in 1800.

Victorie de St. Maxent married Juan Antonio de Riano y Barcena, a Spanish officer who served with Galvez in the American Revolution and accompanied Galvez to Mexico where he was Intendant in both Guanajuato and Valladolid. When the first Mexican revolt against Spain broke out in 1810, Riano was killed while serving with the Spanish forces.

Antoionette Marie Anne Joseph de Notre Dame de Mont Carmel married Manuel de Flon, Conde de Cadena, who also served in the American Revolution and who accompanied Galvez to Cuba and then to Mexico. He became Intendant at Puebla in 1786, and was commander of the Brigade of Puebla when the Mexican revolt broke out. He led his troops well in a number of battles, but was killed on January 17, 1811, during the Battle of Puente de Calderon. His widow inherited his vast holdings in Puebla.

Gilbert Antoine de St. Maxent proved to be equally successful as a merchant, a soldier and a father.