Robidoux was the oldest of the six sons of Joseph Robidoux III (born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1748 or 1750-, date of death unknown) and Catherine Rollet (born in Saint Louis, Missouri October 20, 1767, date of death unknown). Joseph Robidoux IV was born in Saint Louis, Mo like six of his seven brothers who survived to adulthood. He was born August 5, 1783. Joseph Robidoux IV was the grandson of Joseph Robidoux (Born in Laprairie, Québec in 1722) and Marie-Anne Leblanc (date and place of birth unknown). He spent most of his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, where his father introduced him and his brothers Francois, Pierre Isidore, Antoine, Louis, and Michael to the fur trade at an early age. (Weber, pp. 36) In 1799, at the age of 16, young Joseph began accompanying fur traders up the Missouri River.
In 1803, Robidoux's father sent him to organize a trading post at Fort Dearborn, the site of present-day Chicago. His early success there annoyed other traders, who engaged Indians to harass the young man and eventually drive him from the area. During this time he fell in love with the daughter of the village blacksmith, but he did not give his permission for the marriage because according to him some of the Robidoux's had surrendered their soul to the devil
In 1801, Robidoux's wife of a year, Eugenie Delisle, died. She and Joseph had had twins. The girl died in birth and the son Eugene Joseph Robidoux who use the given name of Joseph became a trader himself.
In 1809, the senior Robidoux established a trading post near the site of present-day North Omaha, Nebraska. He operated his trading post in the Council Bluffs area until 1822, when the American Fur Company bought him out and offered him $1,000 a year not to compete with them. A later post at the North Omaha site was operated by and named for Jean Pierre Cabanné. During the years of the War of 1812, the Robidoux brothers had to pull back their activities to the St. Louis area.
In 1813, the widower Robidoux married Angélique Vaudry, with whom he had six sons and two daughters (Faraon, Julius, Francis, Felix, Edmond, Charles, Messanie and Sylvanie).
Robidoux returned to St. Louis, where he worked as a baker and confectioner. In 1826, he was hired by the American Fur Company to establish a trading post at the Blacksnake Hills (near the site of present-day Saint Joseph, Missouri.) He remained their employee for four years, at the salary of $1,800 a year, before becoming an independent trader. Built prior to 1830, Robidoux's home was located on the northwest corner of 2nd & Jules Streets in Saint Joseph. The first building in the settlement, the house was later removed to Krug Park as a historic attraction.
Robidoux prospered in the years between 1830 and 1843, employing as many as 20 Frenchmen to engage in trade with the Native Americans to the west of his post. When Missouri entered the union in 1821, the state's western boundary was based on the Kaw River mouth in the Kansas City West Bottoms (approximately 94 degrees 36 minutes West longitude). The land where St. Joseph is now located belonged by treaty to the Ioway Tribe and the combined Sac Tribe and Fox Tribe. Robidoux was a licensed trader and legally allowed to be in the area as a trader.
Robidoux was the most spectacular example of several enterprising white settlers who encroached on Indian land. Faced with the possibilities of more encroachment, the tribes in 1836 agreed to sell what is now the northwest corner of Missouri for $7,500 to the federal government in a deal at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was presided over by William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame). The transaction, called the Platte Purchase, added an area almost the combined size of Rhode Island and Delaware to the State of Missouri.
During this era, one of his slaves, Jeffrey Deroine, sued for his freedom, claiming abuse by Robidoux. Deroine lost the case, but his friends later purchased his freedom, and Deroine rose to prominence for his skills as a trader and linguist, becoming a well-known U.S. Government translator and diplomat.
In 1843, Robidoux hired two men, Frederick W. Smith and Simeon Kemper, to design a town for him. Under Kemper's plan the town was to have been called Robidoux, a feature Kemper thought would appeal to the trader. But, Robidoux preferred Smith's plan, as it featured more narrow streets, thus leaving more land for him to sell in the form of lots.
Plans for the town were filed with the clerk of Common Pleas in St. Louis on July 26, 1843. Shortly thereafter, Robidoux began selling lots, with corner lots going for $150.00 and interior lots $100.00.
Saint Joseph prospered quickly in the years after its founding, growing from a population of 800 in 1846 to 8,932 in 1860. Joseph Robidoux remained a prominent citizen. His early trading offices are known as Robidoux Row; the complex is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. He led in many development issues until his death, at the age of 85, in 1868. Present-day Saint Joseph retains the downtown streets which he named for his children and his second wife Angelique.
Robidoux was an early fur trader. He later transitioned into operating a trading post along the route of western migrants, operating a major trading post in the area of Scott's Bluff from 1849–1851. Robidoux had an Indian wife, probably Shoshone, whose tribe would often visit his trading post. His daughter, Mary, married the Ioway chief Francis White Cloud and therefore Robidoux was grandfather to James White Cloud and Jefferson White Cloud, would also be named Ioway chiefs.
Joseph was married three times. His first wife was Eugenie DeLisle (1704–1805). Joseph and Eugenie had two children:Messanie (died early)
Joseph (b. 1802)
Joseph’s second wife was unknown, but was said to be Native American. The couple had one child:Mary Many Days (1805–1884).
Joseph’s third wife was Angélique Vaudry, great-granddaughter of Jean-Baptiste Chevalier, one of the early founders of Fort Michilimackinac. Joseph and Angélique had six children that lived to adulthood:Julius (1814–1844)
Antoine (Faraon) (3 March 1816 – 1840)
François (b.25 February 1818)
Felix (5 May 1820 -1873)
Marie-Agnés (10 March 1807 – 1900)
Charles (10 July 1831 – 1851).
Joseph had two illegitimate children with Angeline Caroline Jones. Joseph Henry Robidoux Papst born in St. Joseph, MI in 1853 and Madora Rubidoux Papst born in 1855.
Joseph died on 27 May 1868, and was buried at the Calvary Cemetery in St. Joseph. His body was relocated to the Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1908 after the original cemetery was abandoned. Sadly, he did not die a rich man, having a penchant for gambling like his brothers.
Roubidoux is the namesake of Roubidoux Creek, a stream in Missouri.