Burnett’s Trading Post, Michigan

Fur Traders

Fur Traders

Burnett’s Trading Post was once located in present-day St. Joseph, Michigan. Active from the 1770s to 1833, it was operated by William Burnett, a French fur trader and American patriot from New Jersey. After the American Revolution, he established the trading post on the west bank of the St. Joseph River, about one and one-half miles upriver from its mouth, between 1775 and 1782. He also established another trading post at the site of Chicago, Illinois, and a third on the Kankakee River.

The first permanent white resident of this area, he married Kaukema in 1872, the daughter of revered Potawatomi Chief Nanaquiba and sister of Topenebee, the principal chief of the Potawatomi Nation. The couple would eventually have seven children.

His nickname was “The Trader,” he was known to the Indians as Waub-Zee or White Swan. Burnett was known to have been a very intelligent, well-spoken, successful businessman with an outstanding personality. He left a mark in history throughout the northeast region and wrote many letters during his expeditions.

His success as a trader brought him into disfavor with the commandant at Fort Michilimackinac, and he was ordered to report to the post. He initially refused, but after being threatened, he agreed to try living at the post for a year. When he refused to stay longer,

Burnett's Trading Post Marker in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Burnett’s Trading Post Marker in St. Joseph, Michigan.

In 1785, the British charged Burnett with “exciting sedition” among the Indians. He was arrested and sent to Montreal and Quebec, but not under guard. He soon managed to escape and returned as soon as possible to St. Joseph to find his property had been almost entirely confiscated by his clerks. He disappeared during the War of 1812, but his son, James, managed the post until 1833.

A historical marker designates the site at the intersection of Langley Avenue and Miller Drive in St. Joseph, Michigan,

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, March 2024.

Also See:

Forts Across the United States

Forts & Presidios Photo Gallery

Soldiers & Officers in American History

Trading Posts of the Fur Trade


Chief Abram Burnett Family
Historic Marker Database
North American Forts
Pottowatimi Cultural Heritage Center