The history of the Creely family is inextricably linked with the town of Kaskaskia, Illinois, and to fully understand the first four generations of the Creelys, one must understand Kaskaskia. This short history is just an introduction, and it is highly recommended that the reader examine the endnotes carefully and read the cited works.
Early Kaskaskia (1703-1719)
When history first records Kaskaskia, it was a new Illinois Indian village whose inhabitants had lived further north. The Indians and Jesuit priests, including Father Jacques Gravier, probably chose the site because of the peninsula was easily defended. On two sides it was surrounded by Mississippi River and on another by the Kaskaskia River,1 which emptied into the Mississippi at the far southwest end of the peninsula.2 Moreover, the fertile land’s nutrients were replenished regularly by the nearby rivers, being located on a floodplain.3 In 1703—the same year that the Indian village was founded—Jesuit missionaries founded a mission in order to preach to the Indians. Kaskaskia at the time was also home to a few French traders who had settled down after marrying native women.4The mission and town were soon prosperous. By 1711 there was a church in Kaskaskia with a bell, a steeple, a baptismal font, and three chapels.5 Visitors to the area also reported three flour mills in the area, two of them horse mills that were the property of the Indians.6 Early written records originating at Kaskaskia come from the hands of the Jesuits that started the mission. The parish register actually starts with the baptism of Pierre Aco, the son Michel Aco and his wife Marie Rouensa,7 on 20 March 1695.8 At the time, though, the mission was located in Pimitoui (25 leagues to the north of the present Kaskaskia site).9 The first event in the register after the mission was moved to Kaskaskia was the baptism of Jean Sakingoara, son of Jean Sakingoara and Marie Susanna, on 19 January 1707.10 Because of a lack of white women in the frontier colony, many early Kaskaskia families were the result of intermarriage between French men and native Illinois/Kaskaskia women. This arrangement would continue well into the 1710’s. By the time Jean Baptiste Creely came to Kaskaskia, though, intermarriage had grown less frequent.11 Kaskaskia and Illinois were originally considered part of Canada, but that changed on 27 September 1717, when it was officially annexed to Louisiana.12 This arrangement made sense, because Illinois was much more accessible from Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River than from Quebec. The first group of civil government officials arrived in the summer of 1718.13
French Period (1719-1763)
A new parish register for Kaskaskia begins with the baptism of Marie Catherine Pottier, daughter of Jean Baptiste Pottier and Marie La Brise, on 18 June 1719.14 The village seemed to have progressed beyond the status of a mission, and the town was seen by its ministers as a full parish.15No population figures or censuses exist from Kaskaskia’s mission period. Indeed, for all of its early history, there is conflicting information about the number of people who actually lived in Illinois during its first years of colonization. Belting says that all the European settlements in Illinois had a combined total of over 700 people in a 1722 census.16 However, a 1726 census shows that Illinois had 502 people: 317 whites (132 men, 63 women, 86 children, and 36 engages), 118 black slaves, and 67 Indians slaves.17 The discrepancy may be due to the different groups that were counted in each census, but I do not know for sure. Specific population numbers for Kaskaskia aren’t available until June 1723. At that time M. Diron d’Artaguiette (the inspector general of Louisiana) counted 64 habitants (farmers who were also usually heads of household), 37 married woman, and 54 children.18 This brings the total to 155 people, but does not count Jesuit priests, engages, coureurs du bois, Indians, or slaves. The number of habitants for Kaskaskia in the 1723 census is approximately half of the total number of white men in the 1722 census. Assuming that the other groups of people were distributed in the same proportions that the white men were (a reasonable assumption, if one examines the numbers of women and children in both censuses), I estimate that there were a total of about 350 people in Kaskaskia in 1723, not counting Jesuits and free Indians.19 A later census in January of 1732 showed that Kaskaskia by itself had 47 habitants, 36 women, 99 children, 62 black slaves, 42 black children, and 64 Indian slaves.20 This is a total of exactly 350 people, but still leaves some groups uncounted (Jesuits, engages, soldiers, and free Indians). An estimate of 400 to 500 people total in Kaskaskia at this date seems reasonable.21 When Jean Baptiste Creely arrived in Kaskaskia in 1729 or 1730, he arrived during a time of change. The first wave of French immigrant men had long ended. Their half-Indian children had grown up and the ratio of single white (or half-white) men to women was much more even than before (although there would always be a shortage of white women).22 Intermarriage between full-blooded Europeans and full-blooded Indians was coming to an end. The second incoming wave of French farmers was ending and by the 1730’s the growth of Kaskaskia’s white population was almost completely due to natural increase.23 This was a drastic change from the mission period, during which population growth was mostly from immigration.24 During this period in Kaskaskia’s history the town started to develop as the bread basket of the Louisiana colony, due to the difficulty of growing wheat in the Mississippi delta area. The town exported many tons of flour annually to the growing cities of the Louisiana colony.25 Jean Baptiste Creely himself delivered one thousand pounds of flour to New Orleans in 1746.26 “The habitant [of Kaskaskia] never fertilized his fields, tilled them carelessly, frequently lost entire crops by flood or drouth [sic], and still produced enough grain year after year to send large quantities down the river to the settlements of lower Louisiana. In seasons when hurricanes destroyed crops in the south, Illinois flour had to feed the whole colony.”27 No wonder Kaskaskia had three mills by 1711 and at least eight when the British arrived in 1767.28 However, the prosperity of Kaskaskia wouldn’t have been possible without the work of slaves, both black and Native American. For modern Americans it is odd to think of Illinois—“The Land of Lincoln”—as an area where slavery was practiced, but the census numbers given above and other records show that slavery was practiced throughout Kaskaskia’s first century. However, slavery was not as widespread in Illinois as it was in the lower Louisiana colony because of the scarcity of slaves.29 Fewer than half of families owned any slaves, and most of those only owned a small number. In Kaskaskia only Antoine Bienvenue and the Jesuits had a large plantation worked by many slaves. The former owned fifty-five (and another ten in nearby Prairie du Rocher) and the latter thirty-four.30 Jean Baptiste Creely himself owned at least one at two different points in his life.31 As the town grew and the labor of slaves was exploited, the habitants’ occupations grew more diverse. The permanent residents of Kaskaskia during its earliest period were mostly farmers and traders. Later masons, blacksmiths, tailors, carpenters, roofers, and other occupations were found in Kaskaskia.32 Many men, though, had more than one occupation at different times in their life, and many engaged in farming in addition to their principle occupation. Jean Baptiste Creely, for example, was a grape grower in 1720,33 a charcoal maker in 1723,34 a cooper in 172735 and 1730,36 and a merchant in 1736.37,38 No history of Kaskaskia could be complete without mentioning the parish church. The church and the Jesuits who were in charge of it were the focal point of village life. Mass was held daily, but Sunday masses were especially well attended. Civic meetings followed Sunday mass, probably to take advantage of the already-assembled citizens.39 The church was probably the largest building in the village, and many land records describe a property through its location relative to the church. Today, all that remains of the church is its bell, cast in the 18th century.40,41 The major life events of every person in Kaskaskia—even slaves—were accompanied by some ritual associated officially or unofficially with the church. Homes were blessed, newborn children baptized, marriages performed, corpses buried, and holidays were celebrated under the auspices of the parish. As with generations of their French ancestors, Kaskaskians’ lives were inescapably intertwined with the Catholic Church, a fact attested to today by the fact that only through the parish records of the Creely family could their relationships and vital facts be discerned. In time, Kaskaskia continued to grow. The 1752 census shows 671 people in the village, although this census is not exhaustive when checked against the parish register.42 A 1763 document shows that there were 180 to 200 habitants at Kaskaskia,43 which might translate to roughly 900 to 1,000 people.
British Period (1763-1778)
With the Treaty of Paris (1763) and the end of the French and Indian War, France lost all of its North American territory east of the Mississippi River, including Kaskaskia. Belting calls this period “anarchy.”44 The British set up no civil government in the town, and the Proclamation of 1763 prevented new colonists from moving there. The French civil officials were gone, and nobody had the authority to resolve disputes that arose. The people of Illinois had asked the British in 1771 for a form of self-government, similar to what was then in Connecticut, but General Gage rejected it.45 In 1774, Illinois was annexed into Quebec and French common law was recognized. Local officials, though, were appointed by the British Crown, which may have been the cause of some resentment among the people of Illinois.46 Some Kaskaskians moved to Spanish territory across the Mississippi River to new cities like Saint Genevieve and Saint Louis, both in present-day Missouri. The Creely family, though, remained in the city and continued to farm the fertile land.Yet, the town continued to grow. General Thomas Gage—who would later command British forces at the Battles of Lexington and Concord—lists 903 whites and blacks in Kaskaskia in 1767.47 Gage didn’t count Indians, but in 1752 there were only 75 in Kaskaskia,48 which means that there were probably around 1,000 people total in the town, despite the departure of some of its citizens.
"A Plan of Cascaskies," c. 1766, originally published in The Present State of the European Settlements on the Mississippi, by Captain Philip Pittman, 1770.
Click to enlarge.
Territorial Period (1778-1818)
After the Revolutionary War broke out, American General George Rogers Clark undertook the Illinois campaign to capture important British sites in the Ohio River Valley. Among these was Kaskaskia, which he captured without firing a single shot on 4 July 1778.49 The townspeople responded positively to the Americans at first,50 probably in reaction to the neglect they received at the hands of the British. However, tensions started to mount. Colonel John Todd, who was part of the Clark expedition and was appointed to Lieutenant-Commandant of Illinois, threatened the people with military punishment if they refused to sell supplies for the soldiers on credit. His animals also destroyed some of the villagers' crops.51 On 8 November 1779 the town complained to the American magistrates about the burden of feeding the American troops.52 On 4 May 1781 a long list of Kaskaskian men petitioned the governor of Virginia (which claimed and administered what is now Illinois from 1778 until 1787) for redress for wrongs committed by American soldiers.53However, some prominent citizens later signed a court petitioning the Kaskaskia Court to implement certain laws and procedures—including one requiring newcomers to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.54 Conditions worsened, though, when the court was abolished by the new American troop commander, Richard Winston and in March 1783 the citizens petitioned the Virginia Commission, complaining about the court’s abolition and other mistreatment that townspeople had received.55 In 1787 Congress, under the Articles of Confederation, banned slavery in the Northwest Territory (modern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and parts of Wisconsin). Because a significant portion of Kaskaskians were slave owners, more citizens were prompted to leave. The exodus wasn’t immediate—some stayed into the early 1790’s,56 with most migrants going to St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, or Florissant (all in Missouri), in what was at the time Spanish territory. Another possible cause of French exodus from Kaskaskia may have been long-term political anarchy from the British and early American colonial period.57 Political considerations may not have been the only issue driving out French Kaskaskians. Cultural influences were against the French speaking townsfolk. As Americans moved into Kaskaskia in droves,58 the native Kaskaskians found themselves at odds with the newcomers who had a different language,59 religion, civic heritage,60 national identity, holidays,61 and customs.62,63 Whatever the reason, the late 1780's and early 1790's were a time of great change and unrest in Kaskaskia and Illinois, and the Frenchmen probably had very compelling reasons to leave en masse. Before the departure of many of the town’s oldest families, though, a census counted 191 adult French men in 1787.64 This list has many families who were destined to never appear in another surviving Kaskaskia census: Creely, Bienvenue, Delisle, and others. Although this was the highest French population ever in Kaskaskia, the census only tells half the story. A separate list dated 27 August 1787 names 178 adult American men in Illinois (not just Kaskaskia), not counting soldiers. The demographic change in Kaskaskia was sudden, given the fact that the first permanent American settlers arrived in Illinois in 1779.65
Not every Frenchman left Kaskaskia, of course. In fact, at least one arrived in 1790. Pierre Menard, a French Canadian, settled in Kaskaskia in 1790. He would later be the first lieutenant governor of Illinois and a prominent citizen until the end of his life.66 However, Menard’s prominence in the civic life of Kaskaskia was an exception to the rule. “By the early 1790s, the newly-arrived American settlers completely dominated the political, economic, and social landscape of the Middle Misssissippi River Valley.”67 One major event from this time period is the arrival of Lewis and Clark in the Kaskaskia area. During the winter of 1803-1804, a dozen men joined their Corps of Discovery—more than had joined at any other place.68 In 1809 Illinois Territory was organized with Kaskaskia as the capital. Kaskaskia had always been the largest settlement in the Illinois Country, so it was a logical for it to be the new state's capital. The brief period (1809-1818) that Kaskaskia was the capital was the height of the town's glory. The first newspaper in the state—The Illinois Herald—was published at Kaskaskia in 1814.69 A branch of the state-backed Bank of Illinois was established in the city.70 Trade exploded, and the presence of the territorial capital brought the best men of early Illinois to the town. Enough people were settling Kaskaskia for the federal government to establish a land office in Kaskaskia in 1814.71
The Kaskaskia church bell, which was rung on 4 July 1778 to celebrate the town's liberation by the Americans from the British.
Early Statehood and Decline (1818-1860)
On 3 December 1818, Illinois was admitted to the Union as the 21st state. The 1820 census of Kaskaskia shows how much thing had changed since 1787.72 The town was larger than ever with a total population of 1,630.73 However, a quick perusal of the last names finds more surnames like Morrison, Reynolds, and Trucky, and far fewer names like Barbeau, Roy, and Depue. Significantly, only 164 of the people in the area were black (compared to 303 in 1767).74Kaskaskia was the first capital of Illinois, but as settlers moved in from the eastern states, the center of population quickly moved away from Kaskaskia, where it had been for a century. Vandalia was the new capital from 1820 to 1839, and when the state capital left, Kaskaskia ceased to be relevant. although the town still had enough notoriety to warrant a visit from Lafayette.77 In the 1850 census (the next year for which there are individual numbers for Kaskaskia),78 there were only 486 people living in the town—the lowest in over a century. In 1860 there were 440.79
Kaskaskia circa 1850, engraving by Hermann Meyer.
Territorial statehouse of Illinois, located in Kaskaskia. Date unknown (mid- or late 19th century). Photo taken from Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (1915), v.1, p. 314.
Further Decline (1860-Present)
Over the course of the mid 19th century the Mississippi River started to flood higher and higher during certain years. Gradually, it started to cut a new channel at the neck of the peninsula on which Kaskaskia sat.80 Finally, on April 18, 1881, the Mississippi altered its course permanently, leaving Old Kaskaskia underwater.81 The peninsula became an island as the old Kaskaskia River channel now overflowed with the banks of the Mississippi waters and the old Mississippi channel dwindled into a long bayou. Ironically, the geographic features that originally made Kaskaskia such an attractive place to settle destroyed the town completely.82
Because the process was gradual over the course of several floods, the families living in the town were able to move their homes before the catastrophe struck. They even had time to relocate almost 4,000 human remains on higher ground on land that is today Fort Kaskaskia State Park.83 Unfortunately, very few of the marked graves are from the town’s French era (and none bear the Creely surname). Likely, the townsfolk rescued their loved ones first and saw the eroded headstones (if there ever were any headstones) of the French settlers as a low priority.
Old Kaskaskia (partially destroyed and flooded) in 1893.
In 1900 Kaskaskia was home to 177 people.84 In 191085 Kaskaskia had 142 people.86 1920 saw a slight increase in population—to 152 people.87 This was the first increase in recorded population since the capital had been moved to Vandalia. Obviously, though, the increase was insignificant. In 1930 there were 100 inhabitants.88 Thereafter, I do not have verifiable population numbers until the 1990 census89 (32 inhabitants)90 and the 2000 census, which showed 9 people.91
Not much remains of Old Kaskaskia today. Norris states that, “. . . approximately 95 percent of what was the largest and best known of all the Illinois Country Villages in the Central Mississippi River Valley was destroyed by the shifting channel of the Mississippi River during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”92 However, an archeological survey in 1988 found evidence that the southern part of the village (as it stood in 1766) may not have been totally inundated. Three sites were excavated, yielding some limestone blocks that may have been a building foundation or wall, and an assortment of household and building fragments.93Kaskaskia has almost finished its slide into oblivion that it begun in the 1820’s when the state capital was moved elsewhere. What the emigrants didn’t take the Mississippi river destroyed between 1881 and 1900. Today Kaskaskia holds few hints of its former glory and importance: the old church bell, the remains of the fort, the Pierre Menard home, a few historical markers, and the relocated cemetery. But to descendents of Jean Baptiste Creely, Kaskaskia is part of our heritage. It was home to this family for generations, and even in the 21st century it is sorely missed.
Modern Kaskaskia on what were the common fields of the French period.
Sources and Notes
1. An 1852 book (Western Portraiture, and Emigrants' Guide: A Description of Wisconsin, by Daniel S. Curtiss and Joseph Parish Thompson) says that an alternate name for the Kaskaskia River was the Okau River. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, v. 2, p. 635, quoting Gazetter [sic] of Illinois, by Peck (1837), p. 263, explains, "Okau (Au Kas, Fr.), a name frequently given to the Kaskaskia River. It appears to have been originally a contraction, using the first syllable for the whole name, and prefixing the article—a practice common among the early settlers and explorers of Illinois." Quoting an "Old Newspaper," Historical Encyclopedia continues, "The Okaw—For the benefit of those who are not acquainted with the history of how the raging Kaskaskia River derived the alias name of Okaw, we submit the following: The name Kaskaskia was never pronounced in full by the early French inhabitants of the American Bottom. They only employed the first syllable to designate it; and this, 'Kas,' by the French rule of orthography or phonetics, became 'Kah.' In conversation they invariably alluded to the town as 'aukas,' pronounced 'oukah;' which was anglicized by the pioneers of English stock from Virginia and Kentucky to 'Okaw;' and the Kaskaskia River is now generally known locally by this perversion of the French abbreviation." Although I doubt that the French Kaskaskians invariably referred to the river as "Kas/Kah," the use of the first syllable as an abbreviation is attested to in the late 1780's (Early Chicago and Illinois, by Edward Gay Mason, p. 309, 311, 312).
2. Map of Old Kaskaskia adapted from an 1875 atlas on display at Fort Kaskaskia State Park. For Gravier's involvement, see Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, v. 1, p. 207.
3. This tendency for flooding is what doomed Kaskaskia in the 19th century. Even today modern Kaskaskia floods regularly. Floods in the 1970’s and 1990’s damaged Kaskaskia Bell State Historic Site. The spring I visited the island had been particularly wet, and evidence of minor flooding was apparent as I passed the bayou that marks the western border of the island. But the benefits of farming the area are obvious. Modern Kaskaskia is almost entirely farmland, probably very fertile. These modern fields are on the same land that held the common fields of Old Kaskaskia.
4. Belting, Natalia Maree. Kaskaskia Under the French Regime. Polyanthos: New Orleans, LA, 1948, p. 10-12.
5. Belting, p. 12.
6. Belting, p. 13.
7. Marie was the daughter of Rouensa, the chief of the Kaskaskia. The marriage was arranged by her father. Her full (and interesting) story is found in Belting, p. 13-15.
8. Kaskaskia Parish Register.
9. Belting, p. 14.
10. Kaskaskia Parish Register.
11. The names of the baptized children’s parents in the early part of the Kaskaskia Parish Register grow more French as time passes. See also Belting, p. 15-16.
12. Belting, p. 16.
13. Belting, p. 17. Further details about the government in Illinois and Kaskaskia during the French period can be found in Belting, p. 17-22.
14. Kaskaskia Parish Register.
15. Belting, p. 21.
16. Belting, p. 13.
17. Maduell, Charles R., Jr. The Census Tables for the French Colony of Louisiana from 1699 Through 1732. Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, MD, 1972, p. 50-60.
18. Belting, p. 13.
19. Norris, F. Terry estimates 400 inhabitants in total. I arrived at my estimate independently. Norris, F. Terry. The Illinois Country—Lost and Found: Assessment of the Archaeological Remains of French Settlements in the Central Mississippi River Valley, 1703-1763. Doctoral dissertation presented to Saint Louis University, 1997, p. 47.
20. Maduell, p. 150-153. Belting, p. 38 gives slightly different statistics for this census: 159 men, 39 women, and 190 children. However, the numbers are confusing in their presentation because she later lists 87 legitimate children and 14 bastard children—obvious not enough to account for the full 190.
21. However, a 1734 map gives the population of Kaskaskia as 200, as cited in Belting, p. 39. Could this only refer to white adults? Does it count soldiers or priests? Hence, the confusing nature of guessing the population of colonial Kaskaskia.
22. Norris, F. Terry, p. 20.
23. Belting, p. 38.
24. The Kaskaskia Parish Register only records 32 baptisms during the mission period (1703-1719). In a society with much higher infant mortality than what we know today in the United States, the 64 habitants, 37 women, and 54 children in Kaskaskia in 1723 could have only been possible with a significant amount of immigration.
25. Belting, p. 56 cites as one of her many examples the spring of 1748, during which Kaskaskians sent 800,000 pounds of flour to lower Louisiana. This is one of many examples in Belting, p. 54-56. Clearly, it wasn’t hard for a town of several hundred people to feed the entire colony in a prosperous year.
26. Louisiana Historical Quarterly, volume 15, no. 3, p. 532, 537. The Jean Baptiste Creely referred to here is the progenitor of the entire family.
27. Belting, p. 54.
28. Belting, p. 13, 40.
29. Belting, p. 59.
30. Ekberg, Carl J. French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times. University of Illinois Press: Urbana, IL, 2000, p. 152-153.
31. Louisiana Historical Quarterly, volume 15, no. 3, p. 532, 537.
32. Belting, p. 60-63.
33. Conrad, Glenn R. The First Families of Louisiana. Claitor’s Publishing Division, 1970, volume 1, p. 107.
34. Conrad, v. 1, p. 220.
35. Archdiocese of New Orleans Sacramental Records, v. 1, p. 59.
36. Raymond Hammes manuscripts, II, 127.
37. Louisiana Historical Quarterly, volume 15, no. 3, p. 532, 537.
38. Please note that he arrived in Kaskaskia in 1729 or 1730, so his earlier occupations reflect his work in France and lower Louisiana, respectively.
39. Belting, p. 21. For an example of official business being conducted on Sunday after mass, see Kaskaskia Manuscripts (translated), 1714-1816, #497. This is the record of the auction of the estate of Jean Baptiste Creely, son of the original progenitor of the family.
40. The bell is called “The Liberty Bell of the West,” because it was rung on July 4, 1778, when the Americans captured the town from the British. Like its Philadelphia counterpart, the bell today is cracked and cannot be rung.
41. Belting, p. 27 says that the altar stone, two reliquaries, the altar, six candlesticks, two small statues of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary, and a large painting of the Immaculate Conception survive (as of her writing in 1948), but I do not know where these are. When I visited Kaskaskia island, the 1891 church was closed and I was unable to find out if these artifacts are still in the Kaskaskia area.
42. Belting, p. 39, says, “The next detailed census was taken on Macarty’s orders in 1752. It can easily be proved incomplete.” The census numbers are shown on the same page. The number of white children under the age of 12 is not given. I do not know what other groups might have been uncounted, but black and Indians were definitely counted. Like all the Kaskaskia censuses, this one underestimates the population, which I would guess to be about 700 to 900.
43. Belting, p. 39.
44. Belting, p. 8.
45. "Illinois," in The Encyclopaedia Britannica,11th edition (1910), v. XIV, p. 309.
46. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, v. 1, p. 250, states that one-third of the French settlers in Kaskaskia left the town during the British period. However, this is an impossibly high proportion if the town continued to grow and very few new settlers were arriving. Natural increase alone would not compensate for such a large exodus.
47. Belting, p. 40. This is the pre-1800 number that probably most closely reflects the actual population at the time.
48. Belting, p. 39.
49. Display at Fort Kaskaskia State Park. See also Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, v. 1, p. 251-252.
50. See note 37.
51. Boggess, Arthur Clinton. The Settlement of Illinois, 1778-1830, p. 20-22. Things got worse after Todd left. The remaining American soldiers "ruled with a rod of iron and took cattle, flour, wood, and other necessaries, without payment" (p. 22).
52. Alvord, Clarence Walworth. Kaskaskia Records, 1778-1790. Illinois State Historical Library: Springfield, IL, 1909, p. 136-139. Two Creely men were among those who signed the petition.
53. Alvord, p. 233-240.
54. Alvord, p. 284-291.
55. Alvord, p. 340-344.
56. Jean Baptiste Creely (1758-1833), the grandson of the original Jean Baptiste Creely, didn’t leave until 1790 or 1791.
57. "In effect, there was neither law nor order in the 'Illinois Country' for the seven years from 1783 to 1790," Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, v. 1, p. 252. A local government in the Kaskaskia area wouldn't be established until March 5, 1790, when St. Clair County (which Randolph county would eventually be formed from) was created. The governor of St. Clair County, General Arthur St. Clair (the county's namesake) "found the inhabitants generally in a deplorable condition, neglected by the Government, the courts of justice practically abolished and many citizens sadly in need of the obligations due them from the Government for supplies furnished to Colonel Clark twelve years before" (p. 254).
58. In the Raymond Hammes manuscripts, which summarize property sales and other legal transactions, French names dominate through the 1780’s. By the turn of the nineteenth century, though, English names appear in the vast majority of records.
59. The Kaskaskians asked (probably in vein) for all official business to be conducted in French. They even sent their petitions to the English-speaking government in French (although, probably out of necessity instead of arrogance). See Alvord, p. 284-291.
60. The system of local government described in Belting, p. 21. Among the peculiarities of Kaskaskian government were the position of syndic (a combined mayor and magistrate office), suffrage for widows, and meetings on Sundays.
61. Belting, p. 68, lists the holidays and feast days that Kaskaskians likely celebrated. Of the twenty-seven holidays, only two to five would have likely been celebrated by their Protestant neighbors.
62. Belting, p. 68, says, “The Illinois habitant was a gay soul; he seemed shockingly carefree to later, self-righteous puritans from the American colonies. He danced on Sunday after mass, was passionately attached to faro and half a dozen other card games, and played billiard at all hours. He gossiped long over a friendly pipe and a congenial mug of brandy in the half-dusk of his porch or in the noisy tavern. And every conceivable occasion he celebrated with religious rituals and pagan ceremonies.”
63. See Belting, p. 68-77 for an excellent depiction of French Kaskaskian culture.
64. Alvord, p. 414-419, 421-423. Using previous censuses as a guide, I would guess that this translates into 1,000 to 1,200 people. The census did not count priests, blacks, or Indians. It seems to have been a census intended only for the French populace.
65. The list of American men was made at Kaskaskia, though there is no way to know how many of the men in the list actually lived there. Some may have been at the nearby American settlement of Bellefontaine. The first non-soldier Americans arrived in 1779: Shadrick Bond, David Guise, Laton White, and Josiah Ryan (Alvord, p. 421). None seemed to have had families. In 1787, though, Frenchmen (along with their slaves and priests) probably still outnumbered Americans. I imagine that a higher proportion of French men were married than American men were, and the French likely held more slaves (even though many of the early American settlers came from slave-holding areas like Virginia and Kentucky). My haphazard guess is that there were between 400 and 800 Americans in late 1787.
66. The Pierre Menard home at the base of Fort Kaskaskia State Park is today a museum. His grave is on the grounds of the state park on top of the hill, just slightly north of the old fort site.
67. Norris, p. 235-236. Norris continues, “At the end of the eighteenth century, even the Mississippi River floodplain upon which the Illinois Country villages were located became known as the American Bottom.”
68. Display at Fort Kaskaskia State Park.
69. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, v. 1, p. 396. Another paper would be established in Kaskaskia in 1819 (v. 2, p. 577).
70. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, v. 2, p. 503.
71. Boggess, p. 80-81, 103.
72. I have not found any censuses of Kaskaskia from 1800 or 1810. I do not know whether this is because none were taken or because they’ve been lost.
73. 1820 Federal Census of Kaskaskia Township. I suspect, that this number is actually smaller than what the town's population was during the 1810's. Is it unreasonable to guess that Kaskaskia had 2,000 or even 2,500 people when it was the state capital?
74. Belting, p. 40.
75. 1825 Randolph County Census. The 677 people are divided into 99 households.
76. The 1830 Randolph County Census has 64 households.
77. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, v. 1, p. 325. Lafayette would stay at the home of John Edgar, mentioned elsewhere in these notes as one of the earliest English-speaking settlers in Kaskaskia.
78. The 1830 and 1840 federal censuses exist for all of Randolph County, but they do not show which residents are in Kaskaskia and which live elsewhere in the county.
79. 1860 Federal Census of Kaskaskia Township.
80. Map of Old Kaskaskia adapted from an 1875 atlas on display at Fort Kaskaskia State Park.
81. Norris, p. 194. See also Belting, p. 8.
82. Norris contends that the obliteration of Kaskaskia was not a wholly natural event and attributes the cause of the frequent nineteenth century floods to the large scale deforestation of the Mississippi riverbanks. I do not have the expertise to judge his assertion, but his evidence (p. 237-239) is compelling.
83. Display at Fort Kaskaskia State Park.
84. Hodder, Frank Heywood, in Pittman, Captain Philip. The Present State of the European Settlements on the Mississippi, p. 84.
85. The 1870 census numbers for Randolph County do not list people by individual towns. The 1880 and 1900 censuses have Kaskaskia Precinct, but this is not the same as the town itself. The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire.
86. 1910 Federal Census of Kaskaskia Village.
87. 1920 Federal Census of Kaskaskia Village.
88. 1930 Federal Census of Kaskaskia Village.
89. Wikipedia does say that in 1950 the town had 112 people. In 1970 it had 70 people. Finally, in 1980 it had 33 people. However, this information was not sourced at the time of this writing (summer 2008).
90. Kilborn, Peter T. “Mississippi Floods Drain Life from River Towns,” The New York Times. 12 August 2002: page A15.
91. 2000 census Kaskaskia Village Fact Sheet; Kilborn, p. A15.
92. Norris, p. 200-201.
93. Norris, p. 196-200. Norris labels the three sites as A, B, and C. A is today a cultivated field that contained limestone rubble, remains of window glass, two had-forged nails, and “two faience plate sherds” [sic]. B is today an eroded part of the riverbank containing twelve meters of limestone blocks, one faience tableware shard, two nails, one shutter pintle, and a shutter hinge. C lay on an eighteenth century trail to Ste. Genevieve and was a residence that yielded the most artifacts, including wine bottle fragments, brass kettle fragments, gun flints, and other objects.