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Your Link to the Past

Bruguier, Theophile

brugier1.jpgTheophile Bruguier was the first white settler on land that would become Sioux City. He was born on August 31, 1813 in a small town near Montreal, Canada and was educated to become a lawyer. Soon after he had begun to practice law, Bruguier became engaged to a young French girl, Marie. Just before the marriage, she became very ill with cholera and died. A grieving Bruguier left Canada to begin a rugged life as a fur trader/interpreter with the American Fur Company in St. Louis. He was sent to Fort Pierre, Dakota Territory, arriving there January 1, 1836. Bruguier could speak English and French, and he quickly learned the Dakota language of the Sioux Indians.
 

Bruguier worked for the American Fur Company and later as an independent fur-trader, buying furs from the Sioux Indians and selling them to small fur companies. Often he traveled along the Missouri River. In his work, he met and developed a friendship with a Yankton Sioux Indian tribe led by Chief War Eagle. Bruguier dwelt among the tribe, learning their customs and earning their respect. His friendship and knowledge of the Sioux people helped ease the tensions between the white settlers and the Indians on many occasions. Bruguier later married two of War Eagle's daughters, Flaming Cloud and Dawn. With these wives he had thirteen children.

According to legend, Theophile Bruguier told his friend War Eagle about a dream he had of land where two rivers joined together near a high bluff. War Eagle told him that he knew of just such land near the mouth of the Sioux River on the Missouri. So in 1849, Bruguier decided to settle down and establish a farm and trading post on the land of his dream. His farm included several log cabins and many teepees used by members of War Eagle and his family.

Bruguier claimed the land from the mouth of the Big Sioux River east along the Missouri River to near the Floyd River. In 1852 he sold part of this land, from Perry Creek east to the Floyd River, to Joseph Leonais.

At about this time, Bruguier encouraged James A Jackson, a fur trade outfitter, to come to this area from Council Bluffs (then Kanesville) to start a trading post. Jackson, in turn, convinced his father-in-law, Dr. John Cook, of the area's potential as a future city. Cook was the government surveyor who would later establish the little town of Sioux City, staking out its lots and streets.

As Sioux City grew, Bruguier continued in the trade business, also serving as an Indian commissioner and a wagon freighter. He was one of the 17 people who cast their votes in the first election in Woodbury County in August 1853. He was even appointed Clerk of Courts, but never served his post and was replaced after a year.

A prominent early Sioux Cityan, J.C. Hoskins, described Bruguier as a man of medium height, quick action, athletic build and splendid physique. He had black hair and a full black beard. Others credited him with courage, wit and great physical and mental strength. He was usually armed and ready for combat should the need arise.

After the death of his wives in the late 1850s, Bruguier traveled to St. Louis on business and met Victoria Turnott, a widow. He married her in the 1860s and brought her back to Sioux City. With his new wife, he settled on 500 acres that he owned in the Salix area, raising crops and livestock. He was reportedly well known and liked in the Salix area during his later years.

Bruguier died of pneumonia on February 18, 1896. He was buried in the Catholic Parish Cemetery north of Salix. In 1926, his body was re-interred on the bluff of War Eagle Park, near the graves of War Eagle and his first two wives.

 
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