From Bedous to Saint Louis
Pierre Laclède grew up in Bedous and finished his life in Saint Louis, but what happened to these two cities after the death of this great man?
Bedous, at the heart of a well-preserved valley in the French Pyrenees…
During Pierre Laclède’s upbringing in Bedous, the population of the village was approximately one thousand, made up mainly of farmers and cattle breeders. There were also some merchants, as the village is located on the road to the Somport pass, one of the most traveled roads between Béarn and Spain. The road has been used for trade since ancient times, and later by pilgrims eager to reach Santiago de Compostela.
Bedous experienced its highest population in the mid 19th century. At that time, the population topped 1,300 inhabitants, mainly farmers, since the surrounding land was intensively farmed during this period.
Nowadays, in the early 21st century, a little more than 500 people live in Bedous, at the heart of the unspoilt Aspe valley. Agriculture is still thriving with numerous farms producing their own cheese. Crafts and trade are also part of the valley’s life: the traditional market takes place every Thursday in Bedous
The mountain pasture of Banasse
Bedous also incorporates the mountain pastures at high altitude where sheep, cows and horses are allowed to graze freely in summer.
The Banasse mountain pastures in the High Aspe Valley, and those of Ourdinse, which also belong to Bedous, are famous Pyrenean hiking spots.
The Bedous market
Although the town economy is mainly focused on services (the school, the “College d’Aspe” (the Aspe valley Intermediate School), banks, post office, multi-discipline health & medical center, the National Park, the Tourist Information Office, the “Gendarmerie” (Police station), the Public Revenue office, multi-service center, etc) multiple associations also promote the cultural, social and sporting activities of Bedous and the Valley. The Thursday market is of considerable importance. Taking place on the main square of the village, it serves as a forum for social interaction, which, even today, is important for the people of Bedous and of the Valley as well as for the many tourists that visit during the summer time.
Saint Louis has grown a lot in the meantime!
No doubt that Pierre Laclède, pioneer and founder of Saint Louis, would be surprised to see what “his city” has turned into. Maybe he would not recognize it? Only its location, at the confluence between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers has not changed since 1764, unlike the rest.
Saint Louis joined the United States in 1803, after France had ceded it. At that time, the city’s population was approximately 1,000. In late 19th century, Saint Louis was one of the largest and most powerful cities in the United States with a population of more than 160,000 inhabitants, several renowned companies and some of the most famous people in the United States.
In the 20th century, Saint Louis underwent rapid industrialization. The expansion of the automobile industry helped the suburbs to spread out. Middle classes then began to leave the city. As a result, the city lost half of its population between the years 1950 and 2000.
In the early 21st century, the city boasts approx. 360,000 inhabitants and its metropolitan area nearly 3 million. Today, it is still home to some automobile production factories, as well as a powerful pharmaceutical and medical industry sector.