What would Ste. Genevieve history be without Kaskaskia?
In the early 18th century Kaskaskia was a fur trading and farming community that supplied lower Louisiana with flour, meat, and bear oil which could be had in abundance in Illinois. In return, New Orleans supplied necessities as well as luxuries to be brought back.
At the very time that Ste. Genevieve was emerging as a distinct settlement, Governor Vaudreuil wrote from New Orleans to the Commandant at Fort de Chatres, Jean Jacques McCarty, and urged him to increase the supply of wheat to the lower colony. Perhaps this letter had a bearing on McCarty’s eagerness to convey land grants on Ste. Genevieve Grand Champ during the spring of 1752 which he did to persons like Francois Rivard and Jean Baptist Thomure. (From Thomure, a Project Pioneers book, 1997; Ste Genevieve Chamber of Commerce)
Now Kaskaskia Island consists mostly of farmland though there are some houses and living quarters, a cemetery, the Catholic church, and the Liberty Bell of the West.
There is some history on the bell here, and here are some photos taken by stegenevieve.net’s webmaster of the bell and other areas on Kaskaskia including the cemetery:
Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site
Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site preserves the site of the old fort. A scenic overlook offers views of the Mississippi and Kaskaskia Rivers and of the site of Old Kaskaskia. Bronze tablets at the overlook feature sonnets on Old Kaskaskia by blind poet Louis William Rodenburg. Historical plaques, also authored by Rodenburg, are mounted in the picnic shelters.
Just north of the fort is Garrison Hill cemetery, created when graves were moved from Kaskaskia Island in the 1890’s. The State of Illinois appropriated the funds for the relocation and erected a monument to Illinois’ early pioneers.
Open daily 6am to 10pm. Campground is open year round. There are several picnic areas with tables and stoves. Three picnic shelters are available, no reservations taken. Two playground areas, one at each end of the park, accommodate both picnickers and campers. Campground with electrical hook-ups and sanitary station available. Tent camping and group camping permitted. No reservations; large groups must call ahead.
An annual music festival and craft show is held in September. For additional information, write Site Manager, Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site, 4372 Park Rd, Ellis Grove, IL 62241 or phone 618.859.3741, or fax 618.859.3741.
All that remains of the old fort is the land upon which it stood. The outline is visible and can be walked around. Also very near to the old fort site is Menard Cemetery.
1. Thomure, Project Pioneers, Ste. Genevieve Chamber of Commerce, 1997
2. Pierre Menard Home, Fort Kaskaskia, Kaskaskia Bell; State Historic Sites, The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency