We get a lot of questions about our name. It’s long, has too many vowels, and “sounding it out” doesn’t always work when attempting to pronounce it. So, we thought we’d clear it all up once and for all and let you know everything about Fontenelle and why we chose it as our namesake.
First, Fontenelle Supply Co. has nothing to do with the Fontanelle of early human anatomy; the appropriate term for the soft-spot on an infants head. Instead, we got our inspiration from the one and only Lucien Fontenelle.
Lucien was born in 1800 to a wealthy French family near modern day New Orleans. He was lucky enough to have been educated, and by the time he was 19 had accepted a job with the largest employer in the Midwest, The Missouri Fur Company. Fur was a booming business in those days; apparently beaver hats in 1820 were the equivalent of todays raw denim. The business had brought Lucien up from New Orleans to St. Loius, and eventually, to a small outpost along the Missouri River in 1822 near what would eventually become the town of Bellevue Nebraska.
Fontenelle’s Trading Post served as an immensely important economic center of territorial Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. Overland travelers seeking gold or land out West had a place now to stock up on wares for their journeys. Native Americans could trade deer and beaver pelts for horses, blankets, or ammunition. In fact, Lucien Fontenelle became so engaged in activities of the local Omaha tribe that he actually married Chief Big Elk’s daughter, Bright Sun. Years later, their son Logan Fontenelle would serve as a primary player in mediating the land cessation agreements between the Omaha tribe and the federal government of the United States.
Due to the their prominence in the Midwest, multiple states and municipalities have honored the Fontenelle legacy by naming towns, parks, forests, and streets after them. Fontanelle, Iowa is named for Logan and his activities in the area, same with Fontanelle, Nebraska. First among all those, however, is Fontenelle Forest just outside of Omaha, and that is where we enter the story.
We all fell in love with camping and the outdoors at an early age, and during our Omaha years, our favorite getaway was Fontenelle Forest. So when we were trying to find a name for our growing outdoor tool and leather business, Fontenelle Supply Co. was a no brainer, and when we opened the shop in Des Moines, we intentionally designed the space to feel like a modern version of Fontenelle’s Trading Post. Supplies for the Modern Frontier. That’s what we offer, and that’s our story.