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French settlements and forts in the Illinois Country in 1763, showing U.S. current state boundaries.

The Illinois Country (French: Pays des Illinois) was the name used in the 17th century and afterwards to refer to a legally undefined region without formal boundaries, centered around present day southwest Illinois that was explored and settled by the French beginning in 1673, when Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette explored the Mississippi River, and France claimed the Illinois Country. It is not to be confused with Illinois County, a historical part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. See also Lost counties, cities, and towns of Virginia

Because of the deforestation that resulted from the cutting of much wood for fuel during the 19th-century age of steamboats, the Mississippi River became more shallow and broad, with more severe flooding and lateral changes in its channel in the stretch from St. Louis to the confluence with the Ohio River. As a consequence, many architectural and archeological resources were lost to flooding and destruction of early French colonial villages originally located near the river, such as Kaskaskia, St. Philippe, and Cahokia, Illinois, and old Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

Contents

Location

The region never had clearly defined boundaries. Earlier descriptions tended to be more expansive. The largest scope described it as extending east to the Allegheny Mountains, west to the Rocky Mountains, north up to Peoria and south to the Arkansas Post, where the Arkansas River flowed into the Mississippi River. By another description, it extended from lakes Michigan and Superior to the Ohio and Missouri rivers. A third, from after the British acquired the region, described it as bounded by the Mississippi River on the west, the Illinois River on the north, the Wabash River on the east, and the Ohio River on the south. The region now known as the American Bottom is nearly at the center of all descriptions of the Illinois Country.

Exploration and settlement

Map of Western New France, including the Illinois Country, by Vincenzo Coronelli, 1688.

Initially, the principal European, non-native inhabitants were French fur traders and missionaries, both dealing with Native Americans, particularly the group known as the Kaskaskia. The French were not very successful in encouraging settlement in the isolated area, despite the importation of women to induce permanent settlement. Some number of French convicts were relocated there and became settlers. There were also some German and Spanish immigrants to the region, creating one of the earliest American melting pot cultures.

It was originally governed from French Canada, but by order of King Louis XV on September 27, 1717, the Illinois Country was annexed to the French province of Louisiana, with the northern border being the Illinois River. In 1721, the seventh civil and military district of Louisiana was named Illinois. It included more than half of the present state, as well as the land between the Arkansas River and the line of 43 degrees north latitude, and the country between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. In 1723, the region around the Wabash River was made into a separate district. Around this time, the Illinois Country was sometimes referred to as Upper Louisiana, although this term was also used to describe the land west of the Mississippi River, with Illinois Country referring to land east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio River. The distinction became clearer after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, when Britain acquired the land east of the Mississippi, and Spain acquired Louisiana and the land west of the Mississippi. Many French settlers moved west across the river to escape British control.

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Fort de Chartres

On January 1, 1718, a trade monopoly was granted to John Law and his Company of the West (which was to become the Company of the Indies in 1719). Hoping to make a fortune mining precious metals, the company built a fort to protect its interests. Construction began on Fort de Chartres (in present-day Illinois) in 1718 and was completed in 1720. It was located near Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, which was founded by French-Canadian colonists in 1722, close to the Mississippi River.

The fort was to be the seat of government for the Illinois Country and help to control the aggressive Fox Indians. The fort was named after Louis, duc de Chartres, son of the regent of France. Because of frequent flooding, another fort was built further inland in 1725. By 1731, the Company of the Indies had gone defunct and turned Louisiana and its government back to the king. The garrison at the fort was removed to Kaskaskia, Illinois in 1747, about 18 miles to the south. A new stone fort was planned near the old fort and was described as "nearly complete" in 1754, although construction continued until 1760.

The new stone fort was headquarters for the French Illinois Country for less than 20 years, as it was turned over to the British in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris at the end of the French and Indian War. The British Crown declared almost all the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River from Florida to Newfoundland a Native American territory called the Indian Reserve following the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The government ordered settlers to leave or get a special license to remain. This was to cause many of the French settlers to move to St. Louis, but they also wanted to be ruled by a Catholic government.

The British took control of Fort de Chartres on October 10, 1765 and renamed it Fort Cavendish. The British softened the initial expulsion order and offered the French inhabitants the same rights and privileges enjoyed under French rule. In September, 1768, the British established a Court of Justice, the first court of common law in the Mississippi Valley (the French law system is called civil law).

After severe flooding in 1772, the British saw little value in maintaining the fort and abandoned it. They moved the military garrison to the fort at Kaskaskia and renamed it Fort Gage.

Other settlements

  • Peoria was at first the southermost part of New France, then the northernmost part of the French Colony of Louisiana, and finally the westernmost part of the newly formed United States. French interests dominated at Peoria for well over a hundred years, from the time the first French explorers came up the Illinois River in 1673 until the first United States settlers began to move into the area around 1815. A small French presence persisted for a time on the east bank of the river, but was gone by about 1846. Today, only faint echoes of French Peoria survive in the street plan of downtown Peoria, and in the name of an occasional street, school, or hotel meeting room: Joliet, Marquette, LaSalle.
  • Kaskaskia, established in 1703, was at first a tiny mission station. It later flourished to become capital of the Illinois Territory, 1809-1818, and the first capital of the state of Illinois, 1818-1820. The French built a fort here in 1721, which was destroyed in 1763 by the British. (The fort was situated above what was then the lower course of the Kaskaskia River, but became the new channel of the Mississippi in 1881.) During the American Revolution, General George Rogers Clark took possession of the village in 1778. The residents rang the church bell in celebration, and it became known as the "liberty bell". (It had been sent in 1741 by King Louis XV.) Flooding and a lateral shift of the river channel in 1881 cut off the old settlement from the mainland of Illinois and destroyed some of the village and its archaeology. Much of the village cemetery was transferred to the higher ground of Fort Kaskaskia State Park across the river. Today visitors can reach the remnants of Kaskaskia only by a bridge and road from the Missouri side. In the Great Flood of 1993, the Mississippi submerged all but a few rooftops and the steeple of the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1843 and moved brick by brick to the new location on Kaskaskia Island about 1893.
  • In 1720, Philip Francois Renault, the Director of Mining Operations for the Company of the West, arrived with about 200 laborers and mechanics and 500 African slaves from Santo Domingo to work the mines. However, the mines yielded only unprofitable coal and lead, providing insufficient revenues for the Company of the West to survive. In 1723, Renault, with his workers and slaves, established the village St. Philippe (on the Bottoms down from the present-day unincorporated community of Renault, Illinois in Monroe County, Illinois.) It was about 3 miles north of Fort de Chartres. This is the first record of African slaves in the region. Some of the French farmers also used slaves for labor, but most families held only a few, if any. The village quickly produced an agricultural surplus, with its goods sold to lower Louisiana, as well as to settlements less successful than those in the Illinois Country, such as Arkansas Post.
  • The original Ste. Genevieve was established around 1750 along the western banks of the Mississippi River. The village consisted mostly farmers and merchants of French-Canadian descent from the settlements on the east side. Despite flooding, the town remained in that location until the great flood of 1785 destroyed much property. The villagers decided to move the entire village to higher ground about two miles north and half a mile back from the river floodplain. The city has retained the most buildings of French Colonial architecture in the US.

Post-colonial period

During the Revolutionary War, General George Rogers Clark took possession of the entire Illinois Country for Virginia. In November of 1778, the Virginia legislature created the county of Illinois comprising all of the lands lying west of the Ohio River to which Virginia had any claim, with Kaskaskia as the county seat. Captain John Todd was named as governor. However, this government was limited to the former French settlements and was rather ineffective.

For their assistance to General Clark in the war, French and Indian residents of Illinois Country were given full citizenship. Under the Northwest Ordinance and many subsequent treaties and acts of Congress, the French and Indian residents of Vincennes and Kaskaskia were granted specific exemptions, as they had declared themselves citizens of Virginia. The term Illinois Country was sometimes used in legislation to refer to these settlements.

Much of the Illinois Country region became an organized territory of the United States with the establishment of the Northwest Territory in 1787.

During the 19th century, steamboat travel flourished on the Mississippi River, which was good for the economy of St. Louis and other towns, but it led to deforestation along the river. Adverse environmental effects resulted, including more severe flooding as the river became broader and more shallow, lateral changes in the channel, instability of banks, and loss of towns due to flooding or channel changes. Much of archeological importance was lost in the flooding and destruction of French colonial towns such as Kaskaskia, St. Philippe, and Cahokia, Illinois, and old Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Alvord, Clarence W. and Sutton, Robert M., The Illinois Country, 1673-1818, ISBN 0-252-01337-9
  • Belting, Natalia Maree, Kaskaskia under the French Regime by ISBN 0-8093-2536-5
  • Brackenridge, Henri Marie, Recollections of Persons and Places in the West (Google Books)
  • Ekberg, Carl J., Colonial Ste. Genevieve: An Adventure on the Mississippi Frontier, Tucson, AZ: Patrice Press, 1996, ISBN 1-880397-14-5
  • Ekberg, Carl J., Francois Vallé and His World: Upper Louisiana Before Lewis and Clark, Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2002.
  • Ekberg, Carl J., Stealing Indian Women: Native Slavery in the Illinois Country, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
  • Ekberg, Carl J., Francois Valle and His World: Upper Louisiana before Lewis & Clark, Tucson, AZ: Patrice Press, 2006
  • Ekberg, Carl J., French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times, Tucson, AZ: Patrice Press, ISBN 0-252-06924-2

External links


Genealogy

Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

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French settlements and forts in the Illinois Country in 1763, showing U.S. current state boundaries.

The Illinois Country (French: Pays des Illinois) was the name used in the 17th century and afterwards to refer to an undefined region centered around present day southwest Illinois that was explored and settled by the French beginning in 1673, when Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette explored the Mississippi River, and France claimed the Illinois Country.

Contents

Location

The region never had clearly defined boundaries. Earlier descriptions tended to be more expansive. The largest scope described it as extending east to the Allegheny Mountains, west to the Rocky Mountains, north up to Peoria and south to the Arkansas Post where the Arkansas River flowed into the Mississippi River. By another description, it extended from lakes Michigan and Superior to the Ohio and Missouri rivers. A third, from after the British acquired the region, described it as bounded by the Mississippi River on the west, the Illinois River on the north, the Wabash River on the east, and the Ohio River on the south. The region now known as the American Bottom is very nearly at the center of all descriptions of the Illinois Country.

Exploration and settlement

Initially, the principal white inhabitants were French traders and missionaries, both dealing with Native Americans, particularly the group known as the Kaskaskia. The French were not very successful in encouraging settlement in the area, despite the importation of women to induce permanent settlement. Some number of French convicts were relocated there and became settlers. There were also some German and Spanish immigrants to the region, creating one of the earliest American melting pot cultures.

It was originally governed from French Canada, but by order of King Louis XV on September 27, 1717, the Illinois Country was annexed to the French province of Louisiana, with the northern border being the Illinois River. In 1721, the seventh civil and military district of Louisiana was named Illinois, and it included more than half of the present state, as well as the land between the Arkansas River and the line of 43 degree north latitude, and the country between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. In 1723, the region around the Wabash River was made into a separate district. Around this time, the Illinois Country was sometimes referred to as Upper Louisiana, although this term was also used to describe the land west of the Mississippi River, with Illinois Country referring to land east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio Rivers. The distinction became clearer after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, when Britain acquired the land east of the Mississippi and Spain acquired Louisiana and land west of the Mississippi.

Fort de Chartres

On January 1, 1718, a trade monopoly was granted to John Law and his Company of the West (which was to become the Company of the Indies in 1719). Hoping to make a fortune mining precious metals, the company built a fort to protect its interests. Construction began on Fort de Chartres in 1718 and was completed in 1720. It was located near Prairie du Rocher, close to the Mississippi River.

This fort was to be the seat of government for the Illinois Country and help to control the aggressive Fox Indians. The fort was named after Louis duc de Chartres, son of the regent of France. Because of frequent flooding, another fort was built further inland in 1725. By 1731, the Company of the Indies had gone defunct and turned Louisiana and its government back to the king. The garrison at the fort was removed to Kaskaskia in 1747, about 18 miles to the south. A new stone fort was planned near the old fort and was described as "nearly complete" in 1754, although construction continued until 1760.

The new stone fort was headquarters for the French Illinois Country for less than 20 years, as it was turned over to the British in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris at the end of the French and Indian War. Almost all of the land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River from Florida to Newfoundland became a Native American territory called the Indian Reserve following the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Settlers were ordered to leave or get a special license to remain. This was to cause many of the French settlers to move to St. Louis.

The British took control of Fort de Chartres on October 10, 1765 and renamed it Fort Cavendish. The British softened the initial expulsion order and offered the French inhabitants the same rights and privileges enjoyed under French rule. In September, 1768, the British established a Court of Justice, the first court of common law in the Mississippi valley (the French law system is called civil law).

After severe flooding in 1772, the British saw little value in maintaining the fort and abandoned it. They moved the military garrison to the fort at Kaskaskia and renamed it Fort Gage.

Other Settlements

  • Peoria was at first the southermost part of New France, then the northernmost part of the French Colony of Louisiana, and finally the westernmost part of the newly formed United States. French interests were dominant at Peoria for well over a hundred years, from the time the first French explorers came up the Illinois River in 1673 until the first United States settlers began to move into the area around 1815. A small French presence persisted for a time on the east bank of the river, but was gone by about 1846. Today, only faint echoes of French Peoria survive in the street plan of downtown Peoria, and in the name of an occasional street, school, or hotel meeting room: Joliet, Marquette, LaSalle.
  • In 1675, Jacques Marquette founded a mission at the Great Village of the Illinois, near present Utica, which was destroyed by Iroquois in 1680.
  • Fort Vincennes, later known as St. Vinennes and eventually Vincennes, was established in 1732. It was renamed Fort Sackville after being captured by the British. George Rogers Clark renamed it Fort Patrick Henry, for the Governor of Virginia. Although part of the original expansive Illinois Country, as part of the Northwest Territory it was the seat of a separate county.
  • Cahokia, established in 1699 by French missionaries from Quebec was the one of the earliest permanent settlements in the region and became one of the most populous of the northern towns. In 1787, it was made the seat of St. Clair County in the Northwest Territory. In 1801, William Henry Harrison, then governor of Indiana Territory, enlarged St. Clair County to administer a vast area extending to the Canadian border. By 1814, the county had been reduced to the size of the present St. Clair County when the county seat shift away from Cahokia to Belleville. On April 20, 1769, the great Indian leader, Chief Pontiac came to an ignominious end in Cahokia, murdered by a chief of the Peoria.
  • Kaskaskia, established in 1703, was at first a tiny mission station, and later flourished to become capital of the Illinois Territory, 1809-1818, and the first capital of the state of Illinois, 1818-1820. The French built a fort here in 1721, which was destroyed in 1763 by the British. (The fort lay across what was then the lower course of the Kaskaskia River and now the new course of the Mississippi.) During the American Revolution, General George Rogers Clark took possession of the village in 1778. Flooding in the 19th century destroyed the old settlement. Much of the village cemetery was transferred to the higher ground of Fort Kaskaskia State Park across the river.
  • In 1720, Philippe de Renault, the Director of Mining Operations for the Company of the West, arrived with about 200 laborers and mechanics and 500 negro slaves for working the mines. However, the mines yielded only unprofitable coal and lead, leading to the failure of the Company of the West. In 1723, Renault, with his workers and slaves, established the village St. Philippe (near the present day unincorporated community of Renault, Illinois in Monroe County) about 3 miles north of Fort de Chartres. This is the first record of African slaves in the region.
  • The French built Fort Massac in 1757 near the present Metropolis.
  • Fort Orleans was established in 1723 along the Missouri River near Brunswick.

Post-colonial period

During the Revolutionary War, General George Rogers Clark took possession of the entire Illinois Country for Virginia. In November of 1779, the Virginia legislature created the county of Illinois comprising all of the lands lying west of the Ohio River to which Virginia had any claim, with Kaskaskia as the county seat. Captain John Todd was named as governor. However, this government was limited to the former French settlements and was rather ineffective.

For their assistance to General Clark in the war, French and Indian residents of Illinois Country were given full citizenship. Under the Northwest Ordinance and many subsequent treaties and acts of Congress, the French and Indian residents of Vincennes and Kaskaskia were granted specific exemptions, as they had declared themselves citizens of Virginia. The term Illinois Country was sometimes used in legislation to refer to these settlements.

Much of the Illinois Country region became an organized territory of the United States with the establishment of the Northwest Territory in 1787.

See also

References

Bibliography

  • French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times by Carl J. Ekberg ISBN 0-252-06924-2
  • Kaskaskia under the French Regime by Natalia Maree Belting ISBN 0-8093-2536-5
  • The Illinois Country, 1673-1818 by Clarence W. Alvord and Robert M. Sutton ISBN 0-252-01337-9


This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Illinois Country. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

This article uses material from the "Illinois Country" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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