Francois Choteau, cholera, Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, French Bottoms
Bérénice Choteau (Bérénice Thérèse Ménard), born in 1801 in Kaskaskia, Il.—the French capital of the West— joined her husband, Francois, in 1821 and settled in the wilderness alongside the Missouri River just north of present-day Kansas City. She became one of the first white settlers in the area and withstood many hardships, including floods and raising nine children alone while her husband trapped furs and traveled around visiting surrounding tribes. Her home on the banks of the river was open to everyone from Indians, Creoles, rugged explorers to trappers. She nurtured and tended to any and every one. She helped to build the first Catholic Church in Kansas City, where present-day Immaculate Conception church stands at 12th and Broadway. When the deadliest outbreak of cholera struck the area, she helped nurse her entire settlement and all the surrounding Indian villages, even using her wedding dress as a means to produce burial shrouds.