Visitors to the historic Bauvais-Amoureux House in Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park usually marvel over its unique French colonial architecture – it is one of only five surviving poteaux-en-terre (meaning post-in-ground) houses in North America. But while the 1792 structure is truly unique, even more fascinating is the story of one of its owners, Madame Pélagie Amoureux.
Pélagie was an African American woman born in 1805 and enslaved by the Bauvais-Vitale family. She married Benjamin Amoureux, a white man, in 1830. Interracial marriage was not legal in Missouri at the time, so they traveled to Illinois to marry before returning to Ste. Genevieve. Their first son, Felix, was born in 1831 and was also enslaved by the Bauvais-Vitale family until he and his mother were freed in 1832. Pélagie and Benjamin were not allowed to live in the same house even while married, so Benjamin purchased a house for Pélagie from the family of Jean Baptiste Bauvais in the 1850’s, which they then renamed the Amoureux house. The couple had five children over the course of their marriage and were finally allowed to live together as a family in the Amoureux house in the 1860’s.
Over the course of her life, Pélagie was not afraid to stand up for herself, despite being both African American and a woman. On three separate occasions, she sued people who threatened or harmed her. While the courts did not side with her in any of the cases, she still did what she could to stand up for her rights. Pélagie died in 1890. Her children and their descendants continued to live in the Amoureux house until 1963. After changing owners a handful of times, the Bauvais-Amoureux house was donated to the National Park Service in 2019 as the first official property of Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park.
The park staff is committed to bringing to light the story of Pelagie and other overlooked figures from the town’s history. We encourage you to take a ranger-led tour of the Bauvais-Amoureux when you visit the park.