Kaskaskia, Illinois: Wikis


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Country United States
State Illinois
County Randolph
Coordinates 37°55′17″N 89°54′59″W / 37.92139°N 89.91639°W / 37.92139; -89.91639
Density 83.0 /sq mi (32 /km2)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 62233
Area code 618
Location of Kaskaskia within Illinois
Location of Kaskaskia within Illinois
Wikimedia Commons: Kaskaskia, Illinois

Kaskaskia is a village in Randolph County, Illinois, United States. In the 2000 census the population was 9, making it the smallest incorporated community in the State of Illinois in terms of population. A major French colonial town of the Illinois Country, its peak population was about 7,000, when it was a regional center and Illinois' first state capital, before the capital was moved to Vandalia in 1820.

Most of the town was destroyed in April 1881 by flooding, as the Mississippi River shifted eastward to a new channel, taking over the lower 10 miles of the Kaskaskia River. These were the results of deforestation of the river banks during the 19th century, due to the need for wood fuel to feed the steamboat traffic. The river now passes east rather than west of the town. The state boundary line, however, remained in its original location. Kaskaskia, essentially an island, is one of the few portions of Illinois west of the Mississippi and can only be reached from Missouri. A bridge crosses the old riverbed, a creek or bayou that periodically is full of water.



Kaskaskia state house

The town was named after the Native American name for the Kaskaskia River. At first situated on a favorable peninsula, the town was cut off and mostly destroyed by repeated flooding and a channel change by the Mississippi River.

The site of Kaskaskia near the river was first a Native American village, inhabited by varying indigenous peoples for thousands of years.

In 1703 French Jesuit missionaries established a mission with the goal of converting the indigenous people to Catholicism, and the congregation built its first stone church in 1714. The village also was used by the French as a post in the fur trade. King Louis XV sent a bell to Kaskaskia in 1741 for its church, one of several constructed there.[1] During the years of French rule, Kaskaskia and the other agricultural settlements in the Illinois Country were important for supplying lower Louisiana, especially New Orleans, with wheat and corn. Farmers shipped tons of flour south over the years, as those staple crops could not be grown in Louisiana's climate.

In 1733 the French built Fort Kaskaskia near this site. It was destroyed by the British in 1763 during the French and Indian War, which they won. Rather than live under British rule after France ceded the territory east of the river, many French-speaking people from Kaskaskia and other colonial towns moved west of the Mississippi to Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis, and other areas.

The city fell to George Rogers Clark in 1778 during the American Revolution. The parish rang the church bell in celebration, which has since been called the "liberty bell". It is housed in a brick building shrine near the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The brick church was built in 1843 in the squared-off French style.[2]

As a center of the regional economy, Kaskaskia served as the capital of Illinois Territory from 1809 until statehood was gained in 1818, and then until 1820. Its peak population was about 7,000 before the capital moved in 1820 to Vandalia. Although introduction of steamboats on the Mississippi River stimulated the economies of river towns in the 19th century, their use also had devastating environmental effects. Deforestation of the banks followed steamboat crews' regular cutting of trees to feed the engine fires. River banks became unstable and collapsed into the water. From St. Louis to the confluence of the Ohio River, the Mississippi became wider and more shallow, with more severe flooding. Much of Kaskaskia and other French colonial towns has been lost.[3] Following the Great Flood of 1844, Kaskaskia relocated to the south. The original location of Kaskaskia became an island, surrounded by the Mississippi River. The flood of 1881 destroyed all remnants of the original town and the Mississippi shifted into the channel of the Kaskaskia River, passing east instead of west of the town. Parts of the town were rebuilt in the new area.

As the Mississippi continued to flow through its new bed, earth was deposited so that the village became physically attached to the west bank of the river, which primarily lies within the boundaries of the state of Missouri. The old channel has become a bayou and is regularly flooded, however. In 1893 the people of the town moved and rebuilt the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Kaskaskia Island.[4]

By 1950 only 112 people lived in Kaskaskia. By 1970 the population had fallen to 79, and it continued its precipitous decline to only 33 in 1980. The town was submerged under nine feet of water by the Great Flood of 1993, which reached the roofs of the buildings. By 2000, with a mere nine residents, Kaskaskia was almost a ghost town and the smallest incorporated community in the State of Illinois.


Topo map of Kaskaskia

Kaskaskia is located at 37°55′17″N 89°54′59″W / 37.921395°N 89.916467°W / 37.921395; -89.916467.[5] According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total land area of 0.2809 km² (0.1085 sq mi, or 69.41 acres). None of the area is covered with water. However, the village comprises only a small part of Randolph County's land west of the Mississippi, known by the United States Census Bureau as Kaskaskia precinct, which includes the village. Kaskaskia precinct has a land area of 62.255 km² (24.037 sq mi) and a 2000 census population of 36 persons. In 1993 the Mississippi River almost completely flooded the island.


1993 flooding of Kaskaskia.

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 9 people, 4 households, and 3 families residing in the village. The population density was 83.0 people per square mile (31.6/km²). There were 5 housing units at an average density of 46.1/sq mi (17.6/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 77.78% White, 11.11% Pacific Islander, 11.11% from other races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 22.22% of the population.

Catholic Immaculate Conception Church in Kaskaskia.

There were four households out of which none had children under the age of 18 living with them, two were married couples living together, one had a female householder with no husband present, and one was a non-family. One household was made up of individuals and one had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.67.

In the village the population was spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 11.1% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 33.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females there were 28.6 males. For every five females age 18 and over, there were two males.

Notable People from Kaskaskia


  1. ^ "Vistors' Guide: Immaculate Conception Church", Great River Road, accessed 9 Nov 2009
  2. ^ "Vistors' Guide: Immaculate Conception Church", Great River Road, accessed 9 Nov 2009
  3. ^ F. Terry Norris, "Where Did the Villages Go? Steamboats, Deforestation, and Archaeological Loss in the Mississippi Valley", in Common Fields: an environmental history of St. Louis, Andrew Hurley, ed., St. Louis, MO: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1997, pp. 73-89
  4. ^ "Vistors' Guide: Immaculate Conception Church", Great River Road, accessed 9 Nov 2009
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/gazette.html. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  • Kaskaskia state house photo source: Irwin F. Mather, The Making of Illinois, copyright 1900, Chicago, IL: A. Flanagan Co.

External links

News from Randolph County



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