From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
In the Weston Chronicle last week is an account of General Lafayette's visit to Missouri 105 years ago.
The general arrived on the morning of April 29, 1825, aboard the steamer Natchez, which had been met the night before, at a point a short distance down the river by a deputation of notable persons, who attended the distinguished visitor to the city. On his stepping on shore he was welcomed by repeated cheers.
The Mayor (Dr. William Carr Lane) made an address, to which the General replied. He then got into a carriage in company with the mayor, Stephen Hempstead, a Revolutionary soldier, and August Chouteau, and was escorted to the house prepared for his reception by a company of Light Horsemen and a crowd of citizens.
The carriage was an open barouche drawn by four white horses, jointly loaned for the occasion by Judge James H. Peck and Major Thomas Biddle, and the reception was held at the "handsomest and costliest house in the city," the residence of Pierre Chouteau. Lafayette stood on the spacious balcony with uncovered head, and the multitude gathered in the court below, filed up the imposing staircase, proud to receive a touch of the hand of the great guest as they passed him in line. A touching scene then occurred. an old man, stooping and white-haired, made his feeble way to Lafayette. he was deeply agitated and tears were in his eyes. His face lighted up as he halted before the general, and he made an effort to straighten his bent form into military erectness; with an expression of pardonable pride he gave the oldtime military salute of the private soldier to his commanding officer, 'Mon General,' he said, 'I am Alexandre Bellisime; I came over from France with you. I fought under you in the Revolution.'" Whereupon the stately old general, in a voice filled with emotion, said: "I remember you well. I am glad to see you again, old comrade," and threw his arms about the pathetic figure and embraced him warmly.
It was this gentleness to the weak, possibly, which has made General Lafayette beloved down through the years. At the time of his visit to St. Louis that city was the center of a thriving fur trade, and had 5,000 inhabitants. The problem of paying the expenses of entertaining their distinguished visitor was a big one for the prominent citizens of St. Louis. But the amount proved to be only $37, which was quickly "raised."