Antoine Janis, French Trader, Trapper and Peacemaker
Coming to the west a generation too late to join in with the original fur trappers, Antoine Janis, a big hearted creole-Frenchman, figures prominently in history of the Cache la Poudre valley.
Born in 1822 to a French trapper, also named Antoine, and his wife in St. Charles, Missouri, he was drawn to the west, as were his father and brothers. Working as a trader with the Oglala Sioux for the American Fur Company at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, he married a young Sioux maiden from the Red Cloud family. They remained devoted to each other for life, raising a large family.
Returning to his home after a trip to New Mexico in 1844, Janis was overcome with emotion when he came upon a sparkling stream emerging from the foothills of the Rockies, with buffalo quietly grazing in the valley. He declared that this river, earlier named the Cache la Poudre by his own father almost 10 years previously, was the "loveliest spot on earth." He vowed to return with his family.
Antoine continued to work as a trader out of Fort Laramie, shifting to the Upper Platte Agency as the official interpreter in 1855. In the fall of 1854, he was the official guide for the army's expedition against the Mormons. Meanwhile, Antoine continued to keep his eye on the Poudre during seasonal trading rendezvous with the Indians.
When the cry of "gold" was heard from Colorado prospectors in 1858, Antoine saw his opportunity. Hastening down to the Poudre with his family and 150 lodges of Arapahos, Antoine staked out a 160 acre claim on the north bank of the Poudre, and began to trade with the prospectors. In the spring of 1859, he was instrumental in organizing the first settlement in the valley, and became the first to file a homestead when the government opened up the newly surveyed land to settlers.
Antoine Janis remained in the Poudre Valley, farming his land with irrigated water from the river, with occasional trips as a guide and interpreter to military posts in the west. He was also called upon to aid in treaty negotiations with the Indians at the North Platte Agency. He returned with his family to the Sioux Reservation at Pine Ridge in 1878, dying there just before the Wounded Knee affair in 1890.
Antoine's old cabin was later moved and restored, and is now on display at the Fort Collins Pioneer Museum at Library Park.
Antoine Janis Cabin in Fort Collins, Colorado
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