Embracing an Account of the Settlement
and Early Progress - Compiled and Published by Mr. Henry A. Ford in
Transcribed by Nancy Piper
History of Illinois 1690-1825
The discoveries in the Mississippi Valley were speedily followed by settlements in Illinois. As early as 1690, and possibly before, Kaskaskia and Cahokia were founded by French traders and Jesuit missionaries. The claim of precedence is generally awarded to the former, then known as the "Village of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin."
There is no evidence that the fort near Peoria was occupied after its abandonment in 1680; otherwise that city might be regarded as the oldest settlement in Illinois, or west of the Allegheny mountains. It is said that a mission was established near the ruins of Fort Creve Coeur, soon after the settlements in the south of the State. La Salle's lieutenant, Tonti, remained a few years at Fort St. Louis on Buffalo Rock, where a small colony of Frenchmen settled before the close of the century.
Kaskaskia was made the capital of the Illinois country, and thirty years afterwards a Jesuit college and monastery were founded there. The entire West was under the government of Canada, and subject to the French crown.
In 1699, Lemoine D'Iberville, a distinguished Canadian officer, was appointed Governor of Louisiana, and Illinois was thenceforth included in that territory. D'Iberville ascended the Mississippi some distance, with a view of planting colonies along its banks; but, failing in this, he turned back and built a fort on the Bay of Biloxi, between the Mississippi and Mobile rivers.
The next year another was erected in the marshes about the mouth of the Great River, and the vast valley of the West was again formally sworn in to Louis, King of France.* A line of fortified posts now existed between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Gulf of Mexico.+
On the death of D'Iberville in 1708, M. D'Artaguette was sent out as commissary of Louisiana, who assumed the government, and pushed colonization forward with spirit and energy.
*Western Annals, p. 53.
+Illinois as it is, p. 19
The King of France was involved in pecuniary difficulties at this time by the frequent wars in which he had been engaged; and finding Louisiana an expensive burden, in 1712 he made a grant of it, including the Illinois country, to M. Antoine Crozat, a man of great wealth and ability, who nevertheless utterly failed in his schemes for mining and trading, losing great sums of money, and at the end of five years he relinquished his grant to the Crown. None of his operations appear to have been carried on as far north as Illinois.
In 1717, The Mississippi Company, or Company of the West, came into being, under the auspices of the notorious John Law, a Scotchman by birth, and a gambling adventurer. Obtaining the confidence of the French Regent, he had the Company organized for the further colonization and trade of Louisiana. The amount of stock was fixed at 200,000 shares of 500 livres each.
Enormous monopolies and privileges were secured; a charter was granted to Law and his associates, conferring sovereignty over the whole territory upon them; and the wildest expectations were entertained. In 1720, Philip Francis Renault, an agent of the Company, arrived in Illinois with two hundred miners and emigrants, and five hundred slaves from St. Domingo, to work imaginary gold and silver mines.
Founding the village of St. Phillips a few miles above Kaskaskia, he commenced his search for mines of the precious metals in various parts of Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky, which of course proved unsuccessful, though large quantities of lead were smelted and shipped to France. His project eventually failed, but many of the emigrants and slaves remained in Illinois.
About the same time, M. De Boisbriant was sent by the Directors of the Company, with a small military force, to erect a fortification in the vicinity of Kaskaskia. It was built at a ruinous expense, and named Fort Chartres. Under the English domination it was rebuilt and occupied for many years.
In the year 1720, the Mississippi bubble burst, and the Company's stock became worthless. The charter, however, was not surrendered until 1732, when Louisiana again reverted to the Crown.
Upon the bankruptcy of Law, the territory was divided into nine cantons, of which Illinois formed one.* New Orleans had been founded, and the young colony had gained strength to be almost independent of the mother country. In Illinois the culture of wheat began to assume some importance; and a considerable trade in furs and agricultural products was maintained with Lower Louisiana. When the charter was surrendered, it is estimated that the territory contained 5,000 French inhabitants, and half that number of negroes. By the middle of the 17th century, the settlements in Illinois had increased largely, as may be gathered from a letter written by Vivier, a missionary among the Illinois, dated six leagues from Fort Chartres, June 8th, 1750.
* The Great West p. 18
"We have here", he says, "whites, negroes, and Indians, to say nothing of cross-breeds. There are five French villages and three villages of the natives within a space of twenty-one leagues, situated between the Mississippi and another river called the Karkadiad (Kaskaskia). In the five French villages are perhaps eleven hundred whites, three hundred blacks, and some sixty red slaves or savages. The three Illinois towns do not containe more than eight hundred souls, all told."
But far the greater part of the Mississippi Valley was still a wilderness, at the outbreak of war between France and England. Though as yet there was no English settlement west of the Alleghanies, a claim was preferred against France to a large portion of the valley of the Ohio. Encroachments made by British traders upon French territory were resisted, and Fort Du Quesne was built on the site of Pittsburg, to check their inroads and defend the right of possession. Difficulties multiplied, and hostilities soon began.
In 1755 occurred the defeat of Braddock on the fatal banks of the Monongahela, which was not succeeded by equal good fortune on the side of the French. The war was pursued with varying success, under the reduction of Fort Du Quesne gave Great Britain the key to the West. Quebec and Louisburg were taken in 1759, and the French power on the American continent was forever broken. On the 10th of February, 1760, a treaty was signed at Paris, whereby France ceded to England Nova Scotia, Canada and its dependencies, and the whole of Louisiana east of the Mississippi. Two years after, Capt. Stirling, of the British army, arrived and took formal possession of Illinois.
The State at this time contained a white population of about three thousand, residing along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The oldest towns were the largest - Kaskaskia containing about 100 families and Cahokia about 50. There were several small villages in their vicinity, and a considerable settlement had clustered about Fort Chartres. A French village stood where Peoria is now located; and there were probably trading-posts and missionary stations at Chicago and elsewhere in the State.
Soon after the war of the Revolution began, one of the daring spirits of Kentucky, Colonel (afterwards General) George Rogers Clarke, formed a plan for an enterprise against the Illinois settlements, and the capture of the forts on the Mississippi. He obtained an order for the undertaking from Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, and set out for Kaskaskia on the 12th of February, 1778, with only four companies of soldiers.
The wilderness between the Ohio river and the French villages was traversed with considerable difficulty; but after an arduous march, his little band reached Kaskakia, which they surrounded. Feigning great sternness, he ordered the inhabitants to remain within doors, posted guards in the streets, and during the night caused his troops to patrol the town with the most hideous outcries and Indian yells.
By these means the simple inhabitants were deceived, the fort and town taken without bloodshed, and the British garrison made prisoners of war. Cahokia surrendered on the approach of a detachment of Clarke's men, without firing a gun; and the whole of Illinois was thus easily and quickly annexed to the American Republic. This was the first war between civilized nations which had been carried into this State. Col. Clarke left garrisons at the captured posts, and departed to seek new conquests elsewhere.
The conquered country was comprised within the Commonwealth of Virginia. In October of the same year, the House of Burgesses created the County of Illinois, to include all citizens "who are already settled, or shall hereafter settle, on the western side of the Ohio." John Todd, Esq., of Kentucky, was appointed Lieutenant Colonel and Civil Commandant of the county.
After the recognition of American independence, the western lands were claimed by Virginia, New York and other States. In order to reconcile conflicting claims and secure harmony, the country now covered by Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, was ceded by the several States to the Federal Government.
Out of this Congress by an Ordinance passed July 13th, 1787, formed the "North-west Territory," and Gen. Arthur St. Clair, a Revolutionary officer of some distinction, was appointed Governor. He came to Kaskaskia in 1790, and organized the county of St. Clair, the first in Illinois. Randolph county was organized five years afterwards, from the southern section of St. Clair.
Emigration from the States had now begun to set in slowly. The first settlements of Americans was made in 1781, near Bellefontaine, in Monroe county, by a small company from Western Virginia, who were soon joined by others. They were much annoyed by the Kickapoos and other predatory tribes, and were obliged to live for the most part in "stations" or block-house forts, built for their protection. Settlers were frequently picked off by the Indians, and the scattered inhabitants lived in a state of almost continual alarm. Many Indian troubles in the west were fermented by the British in Canada and along the frontiers.
The population, in 1790, did not much exceed 2000 white persons, and ten years after was only about 3000.* Congress, however, finding efficient government of so wide an extent of country as the North-west Territory extremely difficult, resolved to set off the whole of it west of the present State of Ohio, and constitute it "Indiana Territory." This was done on the 7th of May, 1800, the act to take effect of the 4th of July following.
Gen. Wm. H. Harrison, then a delegate in Congress, was appointed Governor. During this year he negotiated a number of treaties fro the cession of Indian lands in Illinois; and in November obtained from the Sacs and Foxes the immense tract of country bounded by the Mississippi, Illinois, Fox and Wisconsin rivers, comprehending about fifty millions of acres.+
In 1805, Indiana Territory passed to the second grade of territorial government, as provided for in its organic act and became entitled to a Legislature. It met at Vincennes, the seat of government.
Illinois continued to increase in population. In 1805 it contained four to five thousand whites; five years afterwards the census returned a population of 12,282. Feb. 9th, 1809, Illinois Territory was created, and Ninian Edwards, of Kentucky, appointed its first Governor. In 1812, by vote of the people, the Territory advanced to the second grade of government, and elected a Legislative Assembly of five Councillors and seven Representatives, which met in Kaskaskia on the 25th of November. The counties of Madison, Gallatin, Pope, and Johnson were erected this year, by proclamation of the Governor.
*Large numbers of French left Illinois under the English and American governments, and crossed over into Missouri. Hence the less number of population than appears in the estimate for 1763, given on page. 19.
+This was the treaty afterwards resisted by Black Hawk.
The last war with Great Britain brought many sufferings and terrors to the settlers of Illinois, as the Indians were generally enlisted in behalf of Britain. A horrible massacre occurred at Chicago on the 15th of August, 1812. A small United States fort was located there, in command of Capt. Heald, who received orders from Gen. Hull to evacuate it. He did so, and set out with the garrison for Fort Wayne. At a little distance from the fort they were attacked by an overwhelming force of Indians, and two-thirds of the number slain. In revenge for this and other outrages Gens. Hopkins and Edwards marched troops against the Indians on the Illinois and Wabash rivers, destroyed their villages and laid waste their fields.
In January, 1818, the territorial Legislature petitioned Congress for the admission of Illinois into the Union. The population was nearly 45,000; though there was not a white inhabitant on the waters of the Sangamon, and very few north of Bond county. Fifteen counties had been organized. In April the petition was granted, and the State admitted in December. A Constitution was formed the same year; Shadrach Bond elected Governor, and Ninian Edwards and Jesse B. Thomas United States Senators. John McLean was then Representative in Congress. The first Legislature assembled on the first Monday of October in Kaskaskia, whence the seat of government was transferred to Vandalia in 1819.
A code of statute law was passed at the session of 1818-19, mostly made up from the statutes of Kentucky and Virginia, in which code occurs the famous act concerning negroes and mulattoes, re-enacting all the severe and stringent laws to be found in a Slave State.* A State Bank was created in 1821, based wholly upon the credit of the State, with branches in several places. It issued a large amount of paper, which rapidly depreciated in value.
In 1822, Gov. Bond was succeeded by Edward Coles, who was elected over three other candidates as an opponent to slavery. This was now the leading issue in Illinois politics, following the agitation of the great "Missouri question;" and elections were fiercely contested. A powerful effort was made to procure an amendment to the Constitution, making Illinois a Slave State; and the "Border Ruffian" Legislature of 1822-23, by a series of outrageous acts, succeeded in passing a resolution recommending a Convention for that purpose. The people, however, at the August election in 1824, rejected the proposition by two thousand majority.
The Legislature of 1824-25 re-organized the judiciary, creating a Supreme Court, and set off a number of counties - among them the county of Putnam.
*Ford's Hist. Of Illinois, p. 33.