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Name:    Vasquez, Benito
Category:  Demographics (immigration, etc.)
Description:    Benito Vasquez was one of the early prominent merchants in St. Louis in the 1700s. A successful trader who had close ties to the Spanish lieutenant governor, Vasquez helped finance an expedition in 1773, led by Pierre Laclede, that succeeded in ending British encroachments on the Missouri fur trade and also caused the Little Osage and Missouri tribes to discontinue their harassment of St. Louis settlers and traders.

Vasquez became one of the major shippers of goods between St. Louis and New Orleans. He was also considered one of St. Louis’ "merchant elite." When the first Catholic church was built in St Louis, Vasquez helped finance it and was one of the leading members of its congregation. In 1780, he was appointed lieutenant of the militia formed in anticipation of a British attack on the village. The British and their Native American allies did attack, on May 25-26, 1780, but the garrison and its cannon drove them off.

Vasquez decided to ally himself with Jacques Clamorgan and other merchants in the ill-fated Missouri Company of the 1790s. Formed to bring order and greater profits to the fur trading business, the Missouri Company was plagued by a lack of furs, competition form the British, and attacks by Native American tribes. Virtually all of its partners lost their investments, plunging many of them into financial ruin.

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