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Trading a Keel Boat for Lead, Whiskey and Linen in St. Genevieve, Upper Louisiana Territory

An unusual manuscript document recording a wonderful transaction involving a trade of whiskey and linen for a Mississippi keel boat. The document is from Sainte Genevieve, then in Upper Louisiana Territory - or the Illinois Country - and now in the present-day state of Missouri.

During the first two decades of the 19th century, Sainte Genevieve, situated in Upper Louisiana Territory, was a pivotal hub for commerce and trade along the Mississippi River. The town, one of the oldest European settlements west of the Mississippi, played a vital role in connecting burgeoning western territories with eastern markets. The local economy thrived primarily on agriculture, with the fertile lands producing a bounty of crops, notably grain and tobacco. This produce, along with other goods, was then transported via the Mississippi, making the river essential to Sainte Genevieve's economic vitality. As a nexus of cultural and economic exchange, the town drew traders, settlers, and entrepreneurs seeking opportunities in the expanding American frontier.

Ste. Genevieve would eventually raise sufficient grain to send several tons of flour annually to Lower Louisiana and New Orleans. This would become essential to the survival of the southern colonies, which did not grow sufficient grain on their own. Shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, Frederick Bates, the secretary of Louisiana Territory, after the Louisiana Purchase, noted Ste. Genevieve was "the most wealthy village in Louisiana [Territory]."

Here follows a transcription of the document:

Memorandum of an agrument entered into this ninth day of April Eighteen hundred and twelve between Abner McCourtnay on the one part and Hubbard & Hertich of the other part both now residents of the Town of Saint Genevieve and Territory of Upper Louisana towithnesseth that the said McCourtnay has this day sold unto sd. Hubbard & Hertich one keel Boat supposed to contain sixteen Ton Burden for Three hundred Dollars to be paid to him the Sd. Courtnay in manner and time hereafter expressed and the sd. McCourtnay includes in the Sale of the Boat all the Oars, poles and ropes appertaining to her and now on board of her and the sd. McCourtnay warrants and defends the said Boat and title thereof to the sd. Hubbard & Hertich against himself his heirs and all persons whatsoever, and the said McCourtnay has further sold unto the Sd Hubbard & Hertich his [s---?] for eighteen Dollars and Seventy five cents.

The said Hubbard & Hertich  on their part engage to pay unto the said McCourtnay withing three weeks from this date the sd. three hundred dollars in Three Thousand pounds of Lead equal to one Hundred and fifty Dollars and Two hundred Gallons of merchantable whiskey equal to one hundred and fifty Dollars and fifty yards of [Cintry] Fold Linen or Three hundred and sixty five pounds of Lead equal to eighteen Collars and Seventy five cents all deliverable at sd. Hubbard and Hertich's Store and its is expressly understood that the last payt. is to be made in the course of the ensuing summer at the option of said Hubbard and Hurtich.

In witness whereof both parties have hereunto set their hands & seals the day and year first written above.


 [Agus?] Watkins

Abner McCourtnay

Hubbard & Hertich

Joseph Hertich came to America from Switzerland in 1796 at the age of 20, with his mother, a brother and a sister. The party landed in Baltimore, where the mother died. The family then settled in Danville, Kentucky, where Hertich was a teacher. In 1810, Hertich removed to Ste. Genevieve, bringing by pack train a stock of merchandise.  At Ste. Genevieve he engaged in merchandising, which he continued until 1815, when he retired from active business and opened a school called the “Asylum” near Ste. Genevieve. It became a prosperous and well known institution, for from it graduated some of Missouri’s most prominent citizens, including Senator Lewis Vital Bogy of Missouri, Senator Augustus C. Dodge of Iowa, and afterward minister to Spain, General George W. Jones, of Iowa and B.J. Hall.  In 1815 Mr. Joseph Hertich married Miss Marcelite de Villars, a daughter of the then French governor of Louisiana. She was a native of the city of New Orleans, born in 1782. The couple had six children, Joseph Paul Clara A. (wife of Augustus C. Dodge), Charles S., Louis Villars, Henry and Marcelite.

McCourtnay is probably Joseph McCourtney, who first came to New Madrid with Colonel Joseph Morgan in about 1795.


Such early original manuscript documents relating to Mississippi River keel boats are rare in the market.

Condition Description
Bifolium. 2 pages of manuscript text. Integral blank page intact. Old fold marks, with expert unobtrusive repairs to folds. Else very good. Docketed: "Agreement between Abner McCourtnay & H & Hertich."