Lisa, Mary Manuel (1782–1869)

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Lisa, Mary Manuel (1782–1869)

American wife of one of earliest Spanish fur-trading entrepeneurs. Born Mary Hempstead on October 25, 1782, in New London, Connecticut; died on September 3, 1869; daughter of Stephen Hempstead and Mary Lewis Hempstead; married John Keeny (a sea captain), on June 2, 1806 (died 1810); married Manuel Lisa, in 1818 (died, August 12, 1820); children: (first marriage) one son.

Born in New London, Connecticut, on October 25, 1782, Mary Manuel Lisa was the daughter of Stephen Hempstead and Mary Lewis Hempstead . She married a widowed sea captain, John Keeny, on June 2, 1806. He died four years later, and in 1811 she moved with her parents to St. Louis. There, on August 5, 1818, she married Manuel Lisa, explorer, fur trader and head of the Missouri Fur Company. She accompanied him on a trading expedition up the Missouri River as far as Council Bluffs, making her perhaps the first white woman to visit that region. Her husband died on August 12, 1820, widowing Mary once again. She received part of his estate, the remainder going to her stepchildren, and acted as executor of her late husband's business affairs. The partners in the Missouri Fur Company, however, pulled in different directions, and the business did not prosper. She sold part of her interest in 1822 and never received much income from Lisa's investment. Around 1860, she moved to Galena, Illinois, and spent the remainder of her life there. In both St. Louis and Galena, she was a leading figure in Protestant circles, and participated in the founding of the first Presbyterian congregation in Missouri. Mary Manuel Lisa died on September 3, 1869.


Oglesby, Richard Edward. Manuel Lisa and the Opening of the Missouri Fur Trade. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963.

Smith, Ambrose C. Memorials of the Life and Character of Mary Manuel Lisa. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott, 1870.

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah