Curse on Kaskaskia
Loss of First Capital of Illinois was Prophesied by an Indian
(Jonesboro Gazette, Jonesboro, Illinois, 2 Mar 1901,
Transcribed and Submitted by Darrel Dexter)
The fact that Kaskaskia has practically ceased to exist after having had a career which has woven about the name some of the most important and interesting history of the West is being given prominence in the magazines and press of the country.
In every event of this kind superstition enters to a greater or less degree and somebody has recently delved into the realms of superstition and imagination and brought forth the following interesting story intending to show that the passing of Kaskaskia is the result of a curse pronounced upon the village over a century ago.
As the story goes, Jean Bernard came to this country from France in 1689, bringing with him his wife and 10-year-old daughter Marie. The family settled in Kaskaskia where Bernard established a merchandise business. The Frenchman soon became one of the prosperous and influential men of the town. Marie grew to be a beautiful woman, much courted by the most eligible young men of the new country. She was in no hurry to accept any of them, and her fame as a belle spread from Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.
A young chief of the Kaskaskia tribe of Indians having become converted to Christianity, after several years of study under the tutelage of the Jesuits, built himself a house in Kaskaskia, and was taken into partnership in one of the trading houses there. He was prosperous, handsome and well educated, and was soon received into the homes of the white settlers. One night at a ball he happened to meet Marie Bernard.
The girl was at once fascinated by the tall, fine-looking Indian, who fell in love with her at first sight and made no secret of his admiration. But Bernard soon noticed the attachment and forbade his daughter from communicating with the young Indian. To be sure that there would be no more meetings, Bernard used his influence to prevent the chief from attending any of the social entertainments given in Kaskaskia.
But love always finds a way, and the young couple managed to see each other despite all the precautions of the girlís father. But Bernard became aware of these meetings, and again took means to prevent them. He was a man of wealth and influence, and he had the Indian forced out of his partnership in the trading company.
The Indian left Kaskaskia, and for almost a year nothing was heard from him. Bernard thought that his daughter had forgotten her love, for she appeared gay and careless and accepted the apparent pleasure the attentions of a young Frenchman. One night when a large ball at Kaskaskia was at its height, Marie Bernard disappeared.
Those who searched for Marie discovered that the young chief of the Kaskaskians had been seen that evening in town, and the conclusion was at once reached that the girl had eloped with him. Bernard at once organized a party to go in pursuit of the fugitives. As there was a heavy snow on the ground their trail was easily discovered and followed. The Indian and Marie had crept away on foot, and as the pursuers were supplied with fast horses, the young lovers were captured after a dayís chase, about forty miles from Kaskaskia. Their destination had been the French settlement of St. Louis, where the Indian had provided a home for his wife.
The Indian surrendered without resistance, and the posse started on the journey back to Kaskaskia. Most of the men who composed Bernardís party wanted to kill the Indian instantly, but Bernard would not allow it, for, he said, they should leave him to deal with his daughterís love.
When the party reached Kaskaskia, the girl was placed in a convent there. Then Bernard took the Indian to the bank of the Mississippi, and binding him tightly to a log, turned him adrift in the river. As the helpless Indian floated away to his death he raised his eyes to heaven and cursed Bernard, who, he declared, would die a violent death. The Indianís last words were a prophesy that within 200 years the waters which were then bearing him away would sweep from the earth every vestige of the town, so that only the name would remain.
The unhappy girl died in the convent. Bernard was killed in 1712 in a duel. The last of Kaskaskiaís soil will soon have been swallowed by the turbid waters, and the superstitious declare that the Indianís curse has had something to do with the passing of the once flourishing town. On dark stormy nights the ghost of the Indian is said to appear. The specter with strong arms bound and face upturned floats slowly on the river where the stream sweeps by the vanishing city in which Marie Bernard once lived, and in which she died mourning the red man whom she loved.
(Jonesboro Gazette, Jonesboro, Illinois, 2 Mar 1901, Transcribed and Submitted by Darrel Dexter)