Jean Baptiste Janis

Submitted by Joyce Whitten

The Osceola Times, Saturday 16 January 1904, page 1.

Jean Baptiste Janis. [Biographical Sketch by Gustavus St. Gem.]

Jean Baptiste Janis was born in the town of Kashaskia, Illinois, September, 1779. His father, Nicholas Janus, emigrated from France to the French colony “Des Illinois,” when a young man and married at Kaskaskia April 27, 1751, Marie Louise, daughter of Jean Baptiste Taumure Lasourse. When George Rogers Clark captured that place and took possession of the country, July 4, 1778, he organized over it what may be termed a provisional government. It appears that he appointed John Todd Gov. and Chief Magistrate, and five of the prominent citizens Justices of the Peace, who constituted a District Court. They were Gabriel Cerre leading merchant of the town, Nicholas Janus, Jacque Lasourse Duplas and Lachance, Carbonnean was clerk of the court. It further appears that General Clark organized a militia force to strengthen his small command. Jean Baptiste Janis received a commission as “Ensign in the militia of the District of Kaskaskia, County of Illinois’, [State of Virginia,] issued July 14, 1779, by John Todd, who styles himself Lieutenant of the County, of Illinois; but later, July 1779, another commission was given Janis signed by General George Rogers Clark himself, constituting said Janis “Lieutenant and Ensign of Militia in Illinois,” the rank which he held in the volunteer company, commanded by Capt. Francois Charleville, which March from Kaskaskia with General Clark, and assisted in the capture of post Vincennes.

Janis was nearly 20 years old when he entered the service under General Clark; he was a young man of medium size, about 5 feet 7 inches high, rather slender of figure, but vigorous, active and energetic, fond of adventure, with a limited education such as the French schools of the country afforded at the time. After his return from the Vincennes expedition, he married at Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, in the year seventeen eighty-one, Miss Rene Julie Barbeau, and a short time after his marriage he crossed the river and settled in Ste. Genevieve in the territory been held under Spanish rule as upper Louisiana, where he lived until his death which occurred October 2, 1836, in the 78 year of his age, leaving a large progeny of whom only numerous grand and great-grandchildren are now living.

The commission received from General Clark could not be found among his old papers, but a receipt dated August 9, 1827, from E. K. Kane, attorney, shows that said commission, now loss, was entrusted to said Kane who was to submit the claim of Janis for services as a Revolutionary Soldier, to the government. This is the same Kane who became later one of the prominent men of Illinois, and was a US Senator from 1826 to 1832.

The three grandchildren of Jean Baptiste Janis living in Ste. Genevieve, who still possess old family papers, kindly furnished the writer [continued on fourth page] for reference, related a traditional incident in the life of their grandfather, connected with his services under General Clark as follows: “When the attack was made on post Vincennes (or rather Fort Sackville) and during the heat of action, the Ensign was wounded and dropped the color; but young Janus, regardless of danger, immediately sprang forward and recovered the flag which he bore in triumph to the end of the contest, when victory was achieved in the capture of the place and surrender of the British forces.” It may have been in recognition of this act of bravery that General Clark commission Janus Ensign and Lieutenant; and if so, this must have occurred after the return of his command to Kaskaskia, and if history is correct and placing the date of the movement on Vincennes in February, as the Commission was dated July 30, 1779.

The above sketch of our great-grandfather on her mother’s side appeared in the Ste. Genevieve Fair Play a generation ago. Since Maurice Thompson has immortalized the heroic spirits who fought with General Clark for the cause of American independence in the Western territory in his “Alice of Old Vincennes,” we feel that the record of the courage and valor of Ensign Janus should be preserved for the benefit and gratification of his numerous descendants scattered throughout a wide expanse of territory, which he helped to win as a heritage for them.

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