The Life and Times of Marcellin St. Vrain

Title-HistoryMarcellinStVrainThe family of Madame Domitille Josepha Dumont Danzin de Beaufort and Marquis Pierre Charles De Hault De Lassus De Luziere left France during the Revolution and came to North American in 1790. Their family was ancient nobility from the town of Bouchaine, Hainaut, Flanders in Northern France. [Link:] Pierre Charles had been a Knight of the Military order, the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of St. Michael, and had papers from the King of France himself, King Louis VXI, stating that he did not have to prove his noble birth. Through out his life he preferred the title’ M. de Luziere’. A rather large collection of his personal papers from both France and early Missouri and Louisiana are in possession of the Missouri Historical Society Archives. Josepha and Pierre had four children together, Charles, Camille, Jacques and Odille.

Marcellin St. Vrain was the youngest child of Marie Felicite Chauvet Dubreuil and Jacques Marcellin Ceran de Hault de Lassus de Saint Vrain who were wed 30 Apr 1796. Jacques had served in the Navy before the Revolution in France, commander of the war ship ‘La Fleche’ translating to ‘The Arrow’. He joined his family in North America in about 1794 and wed shortly there after. Felicite and Jacques had 10 children, including their second child, Ceran St. Vrain and US Agent Felix St. Vrain who was killed in the St. Vrain Massacre. Jacques established a home at Spanish Pond, about 12 miles north of the old Bellefontaine Fort and thrived there. He had a great many investments and land claims that had difficulties including a lead mine and a Brewery which was destroyed by fire in 1812.

Marcellin St. Vrain

Marcellin St. Vrain

Marcellin was born 14 Oct 1815 (Some sources note his day of birth as the 17th) outside of Spanish Lake, Missouri, and was only 2 and a half years of age upon the death of his Father. He was educated at St. Louis University entering about 1830, and immediately after graduating, in about 1835, went into his older brother Ceran’s trading business at Bent’s Old Fort in Arkansas. He took naturally to the life of at the Fort and became efficient in trapping, trading and being a wagon master. He was a very charismatic man with skills in hunting, riding and horse racing and entertaining those he kept company with. He had a reputation as a womanizer and was known as a drinker, but had a gentlemanly manner that encouraged people to speak of his courtesy, kindness and hospitality. At 5’6” he weight about 115 pounds and had black eyes and hair. He spoke several languages and had engaging manners but had a mercurial disposition.  Marcellin’s life is shrouded in dramatic tales and family lore, each of his children’s lines knowing different variations of tales that are often unproven yet are repeatedly told because of oral tradition and simply not knowing if they are possibly true.

By 1837 Marcellin commanded a company train, and was put in charge of St. Vrain’s Fort while it was still being built. By 1840 he had married a 13 year old Ogalalla Souix girl named Royal (Some accounts named her Spotted Fawn, or Red Cedar) although commonly called ‘Red’. She was the sister of Chief Red Cloud and bore Marcellin three children in their time at Fort St. Vrain. He also had a second wife known as ‘Big Pawenee Woman’ with whom he had two children during his time at Bent’s Fort, but no information is known about who they were, or where they ended up beyond that they headed towards Pueblo. Marcellin and Royal Red’s children were Felix, born 17 Jun 1842, Charles, born 17 Oct 1844 and Mary Louise, born 9 Mar 1848.

Royal was possibly a twin, both sisters having been purchased, as was their custom, by the exchange of horses between her kin and Marcellin. Most probably this marriage occurred to strengthen relations with the people Marcellin traded with.  Unproven family lore suggests that Royal was Marcellin’s favourite wife, and that her twin killed herself in jealousy by hanging herself from a cottonwood tree outside the Fort.

A secondary story has long circulated based on the account of Chief Friday.  He stated St. Vrain (Marcellin) had originally had a woman and child or children within the Fort during it’s prime, and that the Arapaho people discovered that this woman was an enemy of theirs. While the St. Vrain was trading and away from the Fort, a war party entered the Fort and slayed the woman and child. The Arapaho considered justice served, with no thought to their actions being an aggression against the St. Vrain.  Upon the St. Vrain’s return he discovered his dead family, and plotted his revenge.
In a mass invitation, the St. Vrain brought all Natives into the Fort for a feast. Upon the people’s arrival, he lit pre-oiled fires and with the strength of 75 men, shot dead or burned all who were involved in the deaths of his family, and all of their families.  The bodies were put in the well, burned or buried, and that night Fort St. Vrain was abandoned. When the few who had escaped returned to the Fort for revenge they found it abandoned. Chief Friday’s family was among the dead, and he removed their remains to another burial location.

No archaeological evidence of a well, fire or this massacre has been uncovered to this date.

Son of Red and Marcellin, Felix St. Vrain would eventually join the Confederate Army, Company ‘A’ 2nd Missouri Infantry, and see many battles, including the Battle of Iuka, the Battle of Corinth and finally Vicksburg where they surrendered in 4 Jul 1863. The troup was immediately paroled and merged with the 6th Missiouri Infantry where they continued to see action until Felix was captured as a Prisoner or War. Felix died, and from all our research suggests, was memorialized at Finns Point National Cemetery [FindAGrave: Find A Grave Memorial# 2537841] despite the records suggesting he fought for the Union.

In 1845, St. Vrain Fort was closed by the Bent & St. Vrain company, but Marcellin continued to use the fort until 1848 when he returned to St. Louis. Marcellin’s return to city life was cited in two different stories, although it wouldn’t be a stretch to see how the incidents might be connected. The first story was that he had a wrestling match with a native boy and accidentally killed him, and William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain advised him to leave until the matter had ‘quieted down’, as most did not seem to consider it an accident. The second story was that Marcellin fell mentally ill and Ceran paid his expenses in a St. Louis Sanitarium. It was noted in Alexander Barclay’s records that on 1 Mar 1848 that he had started from Bent’s Fort in the company of William Bent and that Marcellin St. Vrain had been sick in his Dearborn. Several sources state that Red awaited Marcellin’s return for her, but without her knowledge he had met and married a woman in St. Louis. In 1853 Marcellin returned to New Mexico to retrieve his sons, whom he raised in St. Louis, and parted ways with Red. Red remarried to William A. Bransford, an assistant to Colonel Ceran St. Vrain, who had been financially responsible for his brother’s wife until she remarried. Maria Louisa ‘Mary’ did visit her father at his farm in Ralls County in 1866.

Marcellin married Elizabeth Jane Murphy on 26 Jun 1849 in Florissant, Missouri. Elizabeth Jane was the daughter of Theresa Carrico and James Murphy who had originally came from Kentucky and settled in Missouri as wealthy farmers. Marcellin held a farm near by his inlaws property in St. Louis, but eventually settled in Jasper, Ralls, Missouri before 1860 and lived there until his death. He had the first Flour Mill of Ralls County built and continued to operate it until his death.

Children born to Elizabeth Jane Murphy and Marcellin St. Vrain were Isadora, born 21 Nov 1851. Theresa Emma born 4 Jul 1854, William Eugene born 7 Mar 1856. Maria Felicite born 10 Mar 1858, Sarah Helen born Apr 1860 who died in 1862. Celeste born 15 Apr 1863, Leona born 31 Aug 1865, Paul Augustus born 16 Mar 1868 and twins James Marcellin and Elizabeth Zelena born 6 Jun 1871 after the death of Marcellin.

Marcellin died 4 Mar 1871 in an act that is noted by several sources as Suicide.

Link to Marcellin St. Vrain in our Family Tree


Annals of St. Louis in its Early Days under the French and Spanish Dominations – Frederic L. Billon (Online)

French Fur Traders & Voyageurs in the American West – LeRoy R. Hafen with an introduction by Janet Lecompte, Marcellin St. Vrain written by Harvey L. Carter of Colorado College, Colorado Springs

Old Families of Louisiana – George Campbell Huchet de Kernion, Charles Patton Dimitry and Stanley Clisby Arthur



Missouri History Museum Website:
The St. Vrain Fort Website:
‘The Many Lives of Red St. Vrain Bransford’ by Priscilla Shannon Gutiérrez
Additional Genealogical Source: Abi Westwood:
Additional Genealogical Source: Alice Kelly:
Find A Grave
Find A Grave Memorial# 73551844
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