Illinois Genealogy Trails PRESENTS



From the St. Louis Evening News

The ancient city of Cahokia was a stirring Indian trading post and Jesuit Missionary station, long years before Pain Court or Short Bread, now known as St. Louis, was founded.  In its old age, with eyes half shut, Cahokia reposed dreamily about opposite the present Workhouse, and seems as distant from us geographically, as its ancient fame does historically in point of time. New Orleans seems as near to us of the present generation as Cahokia.  It is curious to reflect at this point of time, that St. Louis once stood in imminent danger of capture from a force led by a Cahokian.

In the year, 1780, Dominique Ducherme, a resident of Cahokia, made an attack on St.Louis with a large party of Indians.  After killing as many as appeased his wrath, he withdrew his warriors and abandoned the massacre.  It is said that anger turned into sorrow when Ducherme and his Indians saw many of their old friends dead.  The cause of Ducherme's attack was retaliation for the capture of his shallop, loaded with goods, on the Missouri river, by a party of Spanish soldiers from St. Louis.

Another curious historical fact is, that people were hung and shot in Cahokia for witchcraft, as late as 1790.  An African slave, named Morean, was hung for this crime on a tree not far south of the village an another, named Emannuel wa shot.  But the halcyon days in which witches and warriors flourished in Cahokia have long since passed away and the "herioc" old Indiana traders and pioneers, such as Joseph Trotier, Julien Dabuque, William Arundel, John Hays, Charles Gratiot and Louis Pencinneau, have long been slumbering in their graves.

Although the great men are gone and its pristine glory departed, yet the venerable old village of Cahokia, in its modern phase, has a respectable appearance, as we were agreeably satisfied on a recent visit.  Taking the ferry boat, early in the morning, we landed at East St. Louis, where, among the great works of art, is shown the Dyke, the backbone of the of this city, upon which toll is collected.  Among the curiosities of natural history is shown a tape worm, 90 feet long, taken from a boy fourteen years old. Our party was reinforced by Faucett of the Herald and Dr. Pococke. the doctors horse had strayed away the night before, and it was reported that a fresh track had been seen about three miles to the southward.  The horse had asserted original instincts, not conquered by early education and the application of the rawhide.

Our route lay along the river bank.  To the left, the American bottom was covered with a luxuriant growth of timber.  Mr. Faucett, our Botanist, informed us that the cotton tree, which is here quite common here, has its highest range north no farther than Alton. A large section of the bottom belongs to the Wiggins' Ferry Company having been obtained from the Cahokians years ago ":for a song," in consideration of which the latter were given a perpetual right to cross the ferry for nothing.

The Dyke erected by the Pittsburg Coal Company, opposite the foot of Chouteau avenue, was completed about fourteen days before, and already steamers and barges were taking on a supply of coal.  The coal mines are in the bluffs, about four miles from the river.  Machine shops and turn-tables are to be erected and it is calculated that quite a village will up near the Dyke.

The direction of the Dyke is oblique with the stream, forming a pocket on the upper side, which diverts the current to the opposite shore, from which it rebounds and insurges with great force against the Illinois shore below the Dyke.The effect of this is to wear away the banks at a rapid rate, and already the river has encroached upon the road.  A strong wind blew from the west as we passed, driving the current with accelerated force, and we actually saw portions of the bank, twenty feet high, tumbling into the river, carrying down tons of earth.  Trees were also upturned by the roots, and their branches formed little islets of green in the water. In one of these land slips our Courier du Bois, "Jenks," went down the embankment headfore-most..  He was for a time buried in a swirl of sand, and nothing could be seen but a pair of bootheels sticking out like the tombstones over an infant's grave.  Jenks, however, soon jerked himself out like Harlequin from a trap door,and rested himself on his ears.

All along the steep sides of the bluff and facing the water, we observed, was pierced with holes, about two inches in diameter.  These holes were found to have been perforated by a species of swallow, and on rapping aginst them with a pole, thousands of these birds forsook their nests and flew across the river.

A walk of six miles brought us to Cahokia creek, high above which stream on the opposite shore stood the venerable looking Court House, with its high peak roof, shingled on four sides, and curving down to the piazza, which surrounded the building. the present mouth of Cahokia creek is some four miles above the old mouth at Cahokia, being filled up by the silt from the Mississippi, and we were obliged to go to this point in order to cross, the bed of the old stream above being filled with water, forming a bayou or "cut-off". The old Court House, which is on Water street, in the olden time rang with the forensic eloquence of such men as Judge Bond, John Rice Jones, Issac Dardinelle, Judge Sims, John DuMoulin, Governor Reynolds, Jean Francis Perry, William Mears and Sam D. Davidson.  The building is now turned into a lager beer house kept by a German named Laubenhoffer, a sculptor by occupation.

On a survey of the village we found but three or four of the old French structures still in existence, among which is the Catholic church and the house occupied by Dr. Illinski, whose hospitality we shared.  The church has an antiquated appearence with the cemetery in the rear, in which the tombstones are quite modern, the wooden crosses designating the graves of the old inhabitants having long since rotted away.  Services were being performed in the old Eglise at the time of our visit.  The first brick house erected by Major Nicholas Jarrot, who arrived in Cahokia in 1794, was also visited.He came poor and acquired an immense fortune in real estate, owning at one time the greatest portion of the Wiggins Ferry Landing.  The house and interior, with beautiful grounds surrounding the mansion, reminded us of Mount Vernon.  Mrs. Jarrot, the venerable relict of the Major, resides in St. Louis, enjoying we learn, a vigorous old age on the shady side of ninety.  Her son, Col. Jarret, is Indian Agent at Fort Laramie.

The balance of the village consists mostly of neatly painted dwellings of modern architecture-giving the place a very comfortable appearance.  The streets exhibit a rank growth of dog fennel or wild cammomile, and the nearest postoffice is at East. St.Louis.  With the exception of a few such antiquated drawbacks on the prosperity of the place, Cahokia makes as good an outside show as many of her more pretentious rivals in Illinois or Missouri.  The village contains about fifty voters, and the draft went heavy with them.

At the billard saloon a human jaw was shown of immense width.  The Doctor went into an anatomical lecture, averring that the jaw of Henry the Sixth was six inches in width, and this could not be it; nor of Pontiac, the great Indian warrior, who was killed in the streets of Cahokia by a Peoria Indian.  The grave of Pontiac is in the outskirts of the town, over which a tombstone was erected by Colonel Clarke in 1778.  We returned to East St.Louis, the Doctor never once having made an inquiry about his horse.

Return To The Main St. Clair Co., Illinois Genealogy Trails Page