History of Prairie du Rocher

On a certain day in January, 1799, (the exact date cannot now be ascertained) the little village of Prairie du Rocher was all aglow with excitement. A party of soldiers had arrived. It was a detachment under the command of Col. George Rogers Clark, and they decided to spend the evening at the hospitable home of Captain Jean Baptiste Barbeau, (Barber). Col. Clark tells of this hospitable reception and the “ball” that followed: “We went cheerfully to Prara De Ruch,’ 12 miles from Kaskaskia, war I intended to spend the Eavening at Capt Barbers.”

“The Gentlemen & Ladies immediately assembled at a Ball for our Entertainment; we spent the fore part of the night very agreeably; but about 12 o’clock there was a very sudden change by an Express arriving, informing us that Governor Hammilton was within three miles of Kaskaskia with eight hundred Men, and was determined to attack the Fort that night . . . .”

Captain Jean Baptiste Barbeau
Captain Jean Baptiste Barbeau

Col. Clark at once ordered his horses saddled in order, if possible, to get into the Fort before the attack could be made Clark‘s brave conduct inspired a number of young men of Prairie du Rocher to saddle their horses and accompany their intrepid leader. But the great attack never occurred. The fact, however, remains, that Col. George Rogers Clark danced with some of the belles and mesdames of old Prairie du Rocher on the night of a certain day in January, 1799.

Map of the Illinois Country from the Illinois to the Ohio
Map of the Illinois Country from the Illinois to the Ohio

The early French settlers of Prairie du Rocher were neither all good nor all bad, nor were they all intermarried with savage women, nor were they all “coureurs de bois”. Most of them knew little more than to read and write, and their accounts, if any, were sometimes carved with a pocket-knife into the doorstep or window casing.

The ancestors of most of them had come from the Normandie, and they naturally adhered to I’usage du pays — the custom of the country. The first settlers followed the rivers — the only highways of those days. Every cultivateur wanted frontage, bottom ground, and high ground. So they laid out narrow strips, measured in arpents, and gave to each four to six arpents in width and ten or more in length. The houses were built in a row, each on its own land, but never far apart. Their ancestors in Canada had so long been subject to the brutal attacks of the savages that they preferred the open prairie, where no Indian could lurk behind a tree, and, in case of attack, the settlers would al-ways be near one another.

“The houses”, writes Breese, “were built in a very simple and unpretending style of architecture. Small timbers which the ‘Commons’ supplied, roughly hewed and placed up-right in the ground a few inches apart, formed the body, the interstices being filled with sticks, pieces of stone and mud, neatly whitewashed within and without, with low eaves and pointed roofs, covered with thatch, or with shingles fastened by wooden pins. Those of the wealthier class were of strong, well-hewed frames, in the same peculiar, though more finished style, or of rough limestone, with which the country abounded. Porches, or galleries as they were called, protected them on every side from the sun and storms, whilst the apartments within were large, airy and convenient, with little furniture, but well-scoured or neatly waxed floors. Pictures illustrative of our Saviour’s passion, or the Blessed Virgin . . . decored the walls . . . well calculated to inspire devotional sentiments in a people naturally and by education so much inclined thereto.”

A typical French Home at Prairie du Rocher
A typical French Home at Prairie du Rocher

Their dishes and pots were mostly of earthenware; they had tin spoons, zinc coffee pots and tea kettles, iron forks, perhaps a copper dipper, – but no knives for table use. Those were still the frontier days, when men and women had to be prepared to fight off the lurking savage, and each man and woman carried a large dagger-like clasp knife for protection, usually dangling on a little chain fastened to the cincture or belt. Why have two knives! At meals both men and women used their dagger knives. “By honoured tradition,” writes Adjutor Rivard, “The cradle passed from generation to generation, a precious family possession; and it is the born right of the eldest daughter to bring it down from her father’s roof when she awaits the first visit of the stork. Thus from mother to daughter has the old cradle, affectionately known as the “blue box”, descended to us. And who fashioned it in the far away past? . . . The colonist has hewn for himself a home in the forest. In the middle of the clearing he has built the house which harbours the love, his joy, his dearest hopes ….

The children did not eat at the family table until they had received their first Holy Communion. In better situated families they had a small table to themselves, in others they ate at the block, on which meat was chopped or people sat, for want of an extra chair. Children in their quarrels would say to one another: “You still eat at the block.”

All the early settlers were hunters; and the flintlock muzzle-loader and powder-horn hung from the middle beam of the kitchen, which also served as living-room and bedroom.

The Last Will and Testament, sometimes drawn up by an itinerant, notary, was a solemn document. It set forth that nothing is more certain than death, and nothing more uncertain than the hour thereof. In the formula used, the testator then professed his faith and “recommended his soul to God the Father Almighty, praying Him, through the merits of the passion and death of our Lord and through the intercession of the glorious Virgin Mary . . . that when his soul shall free itself from his body, to vouchsafe to place it among the number of the blessed in the heavenly kingdom.”

A peculiar custom prevailed, that immediately after the death of the testator, the not-ary, who had written the will, was called, and the will was solemnly read in the presence of the family, over the corpse of the departed.

Map of the Kaskaskia Country - 1796
Map of the Kaskaskia Country – 1796

Men and young men, on week-days and on Sundays wore the capot – a garment of home-spun gray, caught about the waist by a belt of red or checkered woolen stuff, and topped off with a tuque of Norman hat with a broad ribbon about the crown and hanging down on one side. The color of the tuque varied. In the Quebec district, white; and at Montreal and Fort de Chartres, blue.

Most of the habitants made their own shoes — soft sole, and top reaching to the knee. They were called bottes sauvages. Of course, they did their own tanning of hides.

Women’s dress! Blue or scarlet bodice without sleeves, skirt of a different color, and straw hat while at work in the fields. The inventories of those days show a large assortment of short clocks made of ‘etoffe or calico; bodices of woolen stuff; skirts of dimity or drugget, and of white and red striped cotton or flowery calico, and handkerchiefs of many colors, made of cotton, muslin, or even silk. Jewelry was rare. Every good wife wore her wedding ring, a silver ring, and a silver cross.

“In their domestic relations”, writes Breese, “they were exemplary, kind to their slaves, and affectionate to their children, loving each other as much as they should, and faithful to all their vows. In truth, the domestic circle was a very happy and a very cheerful one.”

“Though there were slaves within, it was not a prison house, and such was the kindness always manifested towards them in health and in sickness that they sought not to escape from it . . . When sick or afflicted, they were nursed with the greatest care, and withal, were the recipients of so much kindness, as to become unmindful of the fetters with which a wicked policy had bound them.”

As tillers of the land, the habitants in the Mississippi Valley were not very successful. They had the advantage of a rich alluvial soil, and it was perhaps not so much due to their own industry as to the soil that the crops grew.

According to Breese, “their implements and mode of using them were primitive indeed, a wooden plow, generally, and to carry their grain at harvest, small carts resembling those used by the Swiss peasantry in their vintages, with no iron about them …. To these, if oxen were used, they were connected not by a yoke, but by a strong wooden bar, well se-cured to the horns by strips of untanned hide, and guided by a rope of the same material. If horses were used, they were driven tandem, at length, or one before the other, and con-trolled entirely by the whip and voice, without ropes or reins.”

The life of the habitant was patriarchal, simple, sober, and frugal; hospitality was generous, and courtesy charming. He was satisfied with little on the principal that “contentment surpasses riches.” He was retentive of the old. Why do things differently? Ce n’est pas I’usuage du pays! – It is not the custom of the country!

“They (the habitants) visited on feast-days and Sundays,” writes Roy, “to enjoy themselves, to dance, to eat fruit, to play cards. Houses in which there was no violin were rare. The workingmen, bent over his plow or in the midst of his hardest labors, loved to sing. It was the same with the frugal, thrifty housewife, no matter how tired from her work.”

“Pretexts for merry making, were many. If they killed a hog, they gave the choicest pieces to their friends. They exchanged blood-sausage and liver-sausage. St. John’s fires were lighted; … the baptism of a baby was nearly always a pretext for a reunion of relatives and friends … It was not a real wedding, if it did not last three days and three nights”.

State Bank of Prairie du Rocher
State Bank of Prairie du Rocher

Georges Bouchard, who, in Other Days Other Ways, so beautifully sketched the simple, humble life of the habitant of former days, writes: “One must have lived among these men of the soil to be able to appreciate all the wholesome and exuberant gaiety, all the charm of these village feasts . . . The old fiddle, fashioned by the dexterous hand of the grand-‘pere, out of a length of plaine (hard maple) free of knots and a plank of fir, in the course of long winter nights spent at the corner of the fireplace, often revealed itself a choice instrument under the deft touch of the village fiddler . . . The fiddlestick was formed very simply of a lock of horsehair from la Grise (the gray mare), drawn taut on a bow of supple wood . . .

“At weddings particularly does the fiddle demonstrate its superiority over all other instruments of music. His services, retained a long time ahead of the ceremony, the violoneux arrives with a flourish and is received with enthusiasm. He is less of a hireling than a professional man called in to direct consequential and stirring entertainment . . .

“After kissing la mariee (the bride) and greeting la compagnee (the company, the guests), the violoneux allows himself to be steered into la grand chambre (the big room, the bedroom of the father and mother) where he lays his wraps on the bed and partakes of the customary p’tit coup (little drink) . . . The fiddle is slipped of its shroud of checkered cotton to be tuned up and adjusted to the shoulder of its owner with a solemnity that compels the deepest silence. The silk kerchief wraps itself about the neck of the artist. The dancers swiftly find their places in the middle of the floor for the opening cotillion . . . In the bottom of a glass of rum the fiddler finds the fortitude to carry on to the end …”

Another important ceremony was the drawing up by the notary and signing of the ante-nuptial contract. This ceremony generally took place the Sunday preceding the wedding. The notary would solemnly read the contract in the presence of the relatives and friends. When he came to the part reciting the mutual dowry, he would “rush for the bride and place a sonorous kiss on both cheeks.

It must be remembered that the Commandants and officers of Fort de Chartres were mostly men of the nobility, and some of them Knights of the Military Order of St. Louis. Their families lived in the village of Ste-Anne. This infused into the social atmosphere a certain refinement and etiquette. Then, too, there was the proximity of the fort, the Fleur-de-Lis floating over its ramparts, the morning and evening drumbeats, the bugle calls, the commands of the officers and the drilling of the soldiers, the hurried departure or arrival of messengers, the coming and going of convoys with news they brought from New Orleans.

Early Crops and Flowers

The crops of the early French settlers were cultivated by themselves and by slaves or indentured servants. The settlers of Prairie du Rocher were much given to the cultivation of small fruits, and flowers. Cherry, apple, peach and plum trees grew in every yard. Large beds of flowers were cultivated, and wild flowers were gathered in abundance to adorn homes and church.

As late as 1825, when LaFayette visited Kaskaskia, Cahokia and St. Louis, the French inhabitants searched the woods for wild flowers and the banquet hall at Kaskaskia and the Jarrott Mansion at Cahokia, where he and his entourage were feasted and dined, were literally billed with flowers.

There have really been three predominant crops in the county of what might be considered the staple products that have engaged the attention of the agriculturist. In very early times, Indian corn was the principal product. Later, the castor bean was largely cultivated, and was considered a most profitable crop. Still later, wheat became largely planted, and continued as the best crop of the county.

The principal varieties of timber are black oak, white oak, shell bark and pig nut hickory, sugar maples, linden, black gum, persimmon, red slippery and white elm, black ash red bud, dogwood, sassafras, cottonwood, sycamore, honey locust, hackberry, box elder, sweet-gum, white ash, swamp oak, burr oak, white and black walnut, pecan and white maple. The timber served as fuel and was also used for building purposes.

Horses and Cattle Introduced

Horses and cattle were introduced in this vicinity very early. It is said the cattle came from Canada, while the horses were of Arabian strain and were brought from the Southwest by the Spaniards. It is not to be understood that the cultivation of the soil was of a very high order in 1772, and for some decades after. Utensils were crude. The plows were of wood and were usually drawn by oxen. The oxen were fastened together by the horns, by means of a flat piece of wood, not as later on yokes as was customary with the English. Wagons were usually small two-wheeled carts, made by the early settlers themselves, usually with little iron, and were pulled or pushed by hand, seldom by horses or oxen.

Early French Government

In 1717 the Illinois country became a district of the French Province of Louisiana, and was governed by a major commandant, who, besides exercising military powers super-vised fur trading and agriculture. Other district officers were a doctor, a notary, and interpreter, and a judge who administered the coutume de Paris or common law of Paris. Each village maintained a militia company, the captain of which was an agent of the district, judge and the major commandant.

Although there was no legal basis for local government, that function was admirably performed by marguilliers (church wardens) elected by the parishioners of the Catholic churches of Cahokia, Kaskaskia and Prairie du Rocher. In addition to accounting of church property, the marguilliers passed acts concerning the time of harvest, fence repair, and in short the general welfare of the village.

We refer on another page to the election of judges for the district. One of these judges, in later days, was M. Andrew Barbeau, who was present at the cornerstone laying of St. Joseph’s Church, on July 19, 1858, when a new brick church was erected.

Early Legal Transactions

St. Luke's Mills of Prairie du Rocher
St. Luke’s Mills of Prairie du Rocher

Reference is made in Kaskaskia records, as far back as 1778 to legal transactions. One pertains to the death of Antoine Cottinault, in which a scribe of the house of M. Barbeau, captain of militia and commanding the said place of Prairie du Rocher, sought the privilege of being appointed administrator, and to have a guardian chosen for the minor children. This petition was resented by the spirited widow, and its prayer was, though first granted, soon rescinded. She was rather permitted to act as guardian for her children, and to enjoy, and make use of her goods whatsoever they may be without interference of anyone, whoever he may be. The property thus placed in her care included a tannery. A sign of the commercial life of Prairie du Rocher at so early a day in its history.

Another reference is to Instruction to George Rogers Clark from Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, in which Clark is instructed to spare no pains to conciliate the affection of the French and Indians, as their friendship was of great importance to the struggling Union of States as then constituted.

Another reference is to a strict command by Colonel Clark, prohibiting the sale of intoxicants to Indians or Negro slaves, or to lend or rent to any red or black slaves their house, buildings, and courts, after sunset or for the night, for the purpose of dancing, feasting or holding nocturnal assemblies therein.

Still another reference is found relative to an election at Prairie du Rocher held on May 17, 1779, at which election, two magistrates for the district were chosen. The first judge chosen was M. Jean Baptiste Barbeau, captain of the militia, and the second judge chosen was M. Antoine Duchafour du Louvieres, lieutenant of said militia.

Census of Prairie du Rocher

A Census of the early inhabitants of Prairie eu Rocher was made by Commandant McCarty of Fort de Chartres in 1752. He listed this at 101.

The census held in 1787 listed the names of 16 inhabitants who signed the register for themselves and male children, making a total of 62 registrants; and six inhabitants who did not personally sign, and their male children, making a total of 17, thus showing a grand total of 79 males at this time.

The population of Prairie du Rocher in 1825 was 287 whites, 52 slaves, and 13 free Negroes. Apparently, when the masters of the slaves died, the slaves were granted their freedom.

In 1850 the population had grown to 500.

An early Messenger of the area states that; “At the present the parish numbers 350 families – 1600 souls.” This of course included the local farmers who did not actually live within the city limits.

In 1940 the population was reported to be 540; sometime after this (1950) the population appeared to number 700.

Today the population fluctuates between 700 and 750.

The Commons

The following article was taken from the Red Bud Review on March 2, 1901:

“By reason of a bequest in 1730, inhabitants are now exempt from taxation.”

The village of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. has a fund that is unique. This little town, which is located in Randolph County a few miles southwest of Red Bud, and not far from the Mississippi River, was officially founded in 1722.

What were known as the “Common Fields” of Prairie du Rocher were granted to the village in 1730 by Jean St. Theresa Langlois.

The early French settlers held the possession of their lands in common. A tract of land was fixed upon a common field, in which all the inhabitants were interested. To each villager was assigned a portion, the size depending upon the size of his family. Fixed times were assigned for plowing, sowing, harvesting and other agricultural occupations.

The land was usually granted to each villager in long, narrow strips, partly, it is said, from an old custom in France, and perhaps to insure more efficient production against the Indians and other foes while engaged in the arduous work of tilling the land. A fence surrounded the whole enclosure, but the individual lots were not divided from each other.

Besides the “common field”, another tract of land was set apart as commons. All the villagers had free access to this place as a pasture for their stock. From this they also drew their supply of fuel.

In 1852 a portion of this land was leased for ninety-nine years, and a part of it was sold. Several thousand dollars were realized from these transactions, and the fund is now controlled by a special committee of villagers. The money was loaned for a long time to the farmers of Randolph County at interest payable annually.

“From this source the village derives so much money that the six hundred inhabitants are almost wholly exempt from taxation, all because of an idea more than one hundred and seventy years old of sharing things in “common”.

One half of the common fields were sold at general auction in 1852. The lands sold for prices ranging from 1.50 to 4.00 per acre. On May the twenty-first, 1859, there had been $11,856.40 accumulated in the commons fund. In 1851, F. W. Brickey was elected Chair-man of the board of trustees for the commons fund and also Chairman of the school board.

The election for common trustees are held, every two years; first Monday in April.

Present board members are; Lavern Doiron – sec. treas., Arnold Steibel – Pres. Floyd Meniere, Phillip DeRouse, and Ted Fadler – trustees.

At present, there is about $52,000 principle which yields approximately $2,003 which is used by the board of education for the children.

Until 1800, Prairie du Rocher was a completely French village. The French had made no great improvements in the village, but they were content and went about their farming in a carefree manner. They managed to live in peace and harmony with the Indians. When with the Indians, the French acted like Indians, and when the Indians were with the French, they tried to act like Frenchmen. This may have been what impressed Christian Schultz when he visited the village in 1810. He describes Prairie du Rocher as,

“Being a continuous prairie of the richest soil, … an old French settlement of about forty families, who are all Roman Catholics, and support a confessor and a chapel of their own. This village is built upon a very contracted scale, the streets being barely twenty feet wide . . . The people of this settlement all live by tillage, and in their outward appearance seem but a few degrees superior to their savage neighbors; the Indians yet, when accosted, they immediately discover their national trait of politeness.”

Prairie du Rocher received another bad review in 1823, when it was described as.

Its’ (Prairie duRocher) situation is low and unhealthy, and during wet season is very disagreeable. The houses are generally built in the French style, and the inhabitants are, with few exceptions, poor and illiterate. The streets are very narrow and dirty. Here is a Roman Catholic chapel, which is its’ only public building. In the vicinity, is an extensive common, which is attached to the village, and is under control six of the trustees. Prairie du Rocher in 1766 contained 14 families; at present, between 30 and 40 . . . Few Americans have as yet disturbed the repose of the ancient inhabitants of this place, nor is it probable they ever will, as it possesses no advantages, and is withal very unhealthy.

The constitution of 1818 in Illinois provided that no more slaves could be brought into the state, but that the old French settlers were allowed to retain their slaves. The village was incorporated in 1825, but the inhabitants saw no great need for the incorporation, and it was soon abandoned. This same process was repeated in 1835. The mosquitos were not late arrivals in Prairie du Rocher as evidenced by the reminiscences of J. F. Snyder, who visited the settlement in 1839,

“I also have a lively recollection of the mosquitos there, Prairie du Rocher more numerous, and more voracious than those of Kaskaskia. The Barbeaus Antoine our host and hostess, were unalloyed specimens of the non-progressive exotic Creole race that originally settled in the American Bottom, dark-complexioned, black-haired, and black-eyed, slow-motioned, contented, sociable, and very kind and hospitable.”

Despite the mosquitos, Prairie du Rocher seems to have been infested with an industrious spirit about the middle of the 19th century. In 1840, William Henery, an American, built a steam mill to process the wheat grown in the area. This mill was constructed on the site of the present day, H. C. Cole Milling Company.

Writing in 1859, E. J. Montague describes the inhabitants and the commercial aspects of the village as,

“The history of Prairie du Rocher presents no marked event. It was strictly a French village for more than a hundred years, and the orderly inhabitants quietly pursued their various vocations, enjoying their social amusements undisturbed. They were happy, con-tented people, unambitious, and careless of wealth or distinction. They were free from that strife, contention, and turmoil, which attends an uninterrupted stream of quiet joyous happiness.

The place now contains one first class flouring mill; four dry goods stores; two grocery stores; two furniture stores; one saddlery shop; one boot and shoe shop; one wagon shop; one wagon manufactory; two carpenter and cabinet shops; two hotels; one church no resident priest.

With the advent of the 20th century, Prairie du Rocher seems to have faded quickly from the history books. The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois published in 1907, went as far as to say that Prairie du Rocher had become extinct. However, as the village started its 181st year of existence, the great iron machine arrived in Prairie du Rocher in 1903. A brick hotel sprang up near the depot, and many people predicted that Prairie du Rocher would now lose its’ unique isolation and quickly succumb to the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Mail now arrived on the train, to such faraway places as St. Louis, Missouri. The original railroad line seems to have been a part of the Iron Mountain Line. Today, the Missouri Pacific Line runs through Prairie du Rocher, servicing both mills, but the passenger service has been discontinued.

A big celebration was held in 1939 of the Golden Jubilee, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Priesthood, of the Very Reverend William Van Delfth, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church. Prairie du Rocher was either flooded or threatened by floods in 1943, 1944, 1946, and 1947. Construction of an extensive levee system was started in 1949. Since 1949, there has been no great threat of floods and many of the inhabitants remain skeptical of the ability of the levees to restrain the flood waters, if the occasion arises.

In 1948, Doctor Couch left Prairie du Rocher, and the residents have searched in vain for a resident doctor since then.

The old Creole house, was built about 1800. It is located directly across the street from the present day post office. An iron fence extending from the old Brickey house re-mains in front of the property. The Creole house was drawn and photographed by W.P.A. architects for historical reference. According to Thomas J. Conner, who was a local merchant and historian for many years until his recent death, the Creole house was the birth-place of Henry Clay Hansbrough, who later was elected as a senator from North Dakota, and served his state in the U.S. Senate for 18 years.

The old Kaskaskia Trail Hotel is now demolished. Until very recently, it was the home of Mr. Al Siedle. This house served as a stagecoach stop on the trail between Cahokia and Kaskaskia. This house was also believed to have been constructed in the early 1800’s. The old slave quarters and an outside brick oven was torn down when Mr. Siedle produced the house in 1938.

St. Joseph's, Prairie du Rocher
St. Joseph’s, Prairie du Rocher

In 1956, Father Theodore C. Siekman was appointed pastor of St. Joseph’s Church. He became very interested in the history of Prairie du Rocher and the church which serves it. The Illinois Historical Society visited the village in 1959. The society was welcomed by Mayor William M. Shea and then was treated to a dinner in the school basement. Father Siekman spoke to the society and explained some of the uniqueness of Prairie du Rocher. Painstaking arrangements were made in 1965 under the direction of Father Siekman for a Bi-Centennial Celebration of the parish to be held on May 25, 1965. He established the beginning of the parish as 1765 — coinciding with the abandonment of the old chapel of St. Anne within Fort Chartres. On May 25, 1965, a Solemn Pontifical Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph’s Church, with the Bishop of the Diocese, the Most Reverend Albert R. Zuroweste, D.D., in attendance. Some of the^ old vessels and chalices, which had been brought from the chapel of St. Anne in 1765, were used in the Mass. The Mass was at-tended by the villagers dressed in Indian garbs, or in the old costumes of their ancestors. After the Mass, a candlelight procession was made to the old cemetery, which was the site of the original church and village of Prairie du Rocher. The procession included oxen, horses and buggies, the villagers and their friends. At the cemetery, the heritage of the site was recounted, and various old French songs were sung. A temporary museum had been set up in the school building, to which the inhabitants contributed the tools, letters, and mementos of their ancestors. The rich and varied history of Prairie du Rocher was revived on this day in an illuminating and wonderful manner.

During the 1930’s, industry finally arrived in Prairie du Rocher in the forms of two quarries. The Prairie du Rocher Quarry owned by Al Stotz, and the Columbia Quarry. These quarries mine limestone and rock from the same bluffs that the French used to construct the new fort in 1750. It may be noted that the quarries are the largest, oldest operating lime-rock quarries in the United States.

The Cemetery at Rocher is the oldest Cemetery in continuous use in all of mid America. It started about 1722 as the Church yard surrounding the old log chapel of St. Joseph’s. It is the only parish and Community Cemetery the town has ever had, and burials have taken place in it continuously for over two centuries. Here lie buried Jean St. Theresa Longlois, the founder of Prairie du Rocher. Likewise buried in what once was the sanctuary of the old church, are the bodies of Father Luc Callet (died 1765) and Father Joseph Gagnon (died 1755) both were pastors of St. Anne at Fort Chartres, originally buried there and transferred to Prairie du Rocher in 1786. About 1935 all graves were levelled and footstones were buried, so that today this ancient burial ground presents a beautiful sigh with its smooth green lawn and a contrast of varied colored markers.

On September 8, 1971 A.D. a memorial was erected “To mark the site of the sanctuary of the original church of St. Joseph and to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the first baptism recorded in the parish September 8, 1721. St. Joseph church and cemetery were located in the middle of the first village of Prairie du Rocher. Here lie buried the remains of Michigamea Indians, early French adventurers, black slaves, victims of wars, massacres, floods, and plagues. Veterans of all wars of the United States and Pastors and parishioners of St. Joseph Church of three centuries – May they rest with God.”



MLA Source Citation:

Theodore P. Memoirs of a French Village: A Chronicle of Old Prairie du Rocher, 1722-1972. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 25 October 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/illinois/history-prairie-du-rocher.htm - Last updated on Jun 8th, 2014


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