Louis Pettell of Fort Dearborn.
One of the first settlers of Chicago was a French Canadian trader named Louis Pettell. Louis and his family resided in a small cabin near the fork in the river not far from Fort Dearborn. Others who lived in the area in 1803 included Antoine Ouillemette, Le Mai, and several dozen military personnel at the fort. With the United States doubling its size that year by way of the Louisiana Purchase the area became an important outpost on the Western-most frontier of the growing nation.
Louis was described by Captain Whistler in Allan Eckert's Gateway to Empire as "a short, sallow man". He was at times employed by John Kinzie who sold goods and liquor, but for the most part was a trapper and kept a small garden. His wife was said to be Indian and French. They had at least one child, a son named Michael.
The Illinois Territory was identified in 1809 and by 1812 there were about 15 families living outside the fort. While ownership of the land passed between the British, French and Americans, the band of Potawatomi who lived in the area began to assert their right to the land. With the onset of the War of 1812, the British enlisted the native population to support their cause with promises to stop the flow of American settlers.
To better defend the settlement, a militia was formed. It consisted of over 50 soldiers and 12 or so settlers, including Louis Pettell and his son Michael. As tension escalated the commander of the fort, Captain Heald, promised the Potawatomi firearms, liquor and ammunition in return for safe passage for the residents to evacuate to Détroit, but according to some accounts he reneged on at least a portion of the goods he was to leave. The militia loaded nine women and 18 children into wagons for the journey. Details of the short battle vary, but the Indians attacked with an overwhelming force of 500 and all 12 members of the militia defending the wagons, including Louis and his son, were killed along with two women, 12 children and about half the soldiers. The rest were taken prisoners and those who survived were later ransomed. Several settlers, including Kinzie, escaped with their lives.
No other children of Louis were named in the historical accounts of Fort Dearborn. Lacking a church in the Chicago area, families travelled downriver to seek a priest. Records found in the Illinois Catholic Historical Review cite a marriage for Domitille Pettelle of Chicagow and Jean Evangelist Sicard of Quebec at the church of St. Francis of Assisi, Portage de Sioux, Missouri on July 27, 1819 . It does not name her parents.
Deaths and baptisms in Catholic records in St. Louis, Missouri exist for members of the Calvé and Petel families– perhaps a connection to the family of Pierre Petel and Rose Calvé through their son Louis?