Jacques Pillippe Clamorgan 1734 - 1814
When St. Louis was in its infancy, black and white fur traders, trappers, adventurers and con men made deals and sold their wares on what is now Laclede's Landing. Clamorgan Alley is named for one of those characters -- Jacques Phillippe Clamorgan. The name of this alley is one of the few historical references to the city of St. Louis dating prior to 1776, the foundation and independence of the United States.
The story begins in 1781 with the arrival of French voyageur Jacques Clamorgan in colonial St. Louis. Clamorgan, whose origins were as murky as his morals, made a fortune in the fur trade and land speculation. Renowned for his charm, he won Spanish land grants totaling nearly 1 million acres in the upper Louisiana Territory. In 1804 he owned an entire block of Laclede's Landing, including two of the origianal sites for both the Raeder Place and the Ironworks Building. Clamorgan was laid to rest in the Old Cathedral in 1814.
Clamorgan's descendants included vivid characters, among them biracial and illegitimate offspring and a succession of slaves with whom he lived openly. Each generation circumvented increasingly difficult racial barriers.
In 1858, Cyprian Clamorgan wrote a brief but immensely readable book entitled The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis. The grandson of Jacques Clamorgan and his mulatto mistress, Ester, he was himself a member of the "colored aristocracy." In a setting where the vast majority of African Americans were slaves, and where those who were free generally lived in abject poverty, Clamorgan's "aristocrats" were exceptional people. Wealthy, educated, and articulate, these men and women occupied a "middle ground." Their material advantages removed them from the mass of African Americans, but their race barred them from membership in white society.