In summarizing or evaluating the history of Prairie du Rocher, one must note the impact that historical events and influences have made on present day, Prairie du Rocher. The community is today, as it was in the 1700′ s, basically an agricultural community. The farmers no longer live in the village, but they remain the basic economic factor in the village. The farm lands which surround Prairie du Rocher, are among the most fertile and bountiful soils in the world. The limestone bluffs, from which the French obtained stone for the construction of Fort Chartres, today provide livelihood for many of the villagers. The cemetery in which the inhabitants bury their dead in 1972 is the same one in which their ancestors buried their loved ones as early as 1722. The rock bluffs and the wide Mississippi River isolate the community from the outside world today, as they did in the early years. The mosquitoes remain as numerous and voracious as they were in 1839; and the damp, wet, unbearable, and unhealthy conditions return during the wet months. The population today is approximately 750, a gain of only 250 since 1859, over a hundred years ago. The old, distinctly French names such as Barbeau, Bievenue, Langlois, Louviere, De Rousse, and Duclos, still appear on the village registers, but the influence of the French is not limited to the inheritance of names. Over 90% of the residents today, belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The Church remains the center of the community. The majority of the villagers today, are complacent, contented, unambitious, good-natured, and happy – traits directly traceable to their ancestors. Most of the villagers remain to an amazing degree, as Montague described it, “free from that strife, contention, and turmoil, which attends the pursuit of wealth and political preferment.” In order to observe this living historical heritage, one need only attend the annual church picnic, rendezvous, or witness the group of villagers dressed in 18th century costumes, on New Year’s Eve, who move from house to house proclaiming the end of another year, in the old familiar words of the La Gui-annee.Read More
Collection: Memoirs of a French Village
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...Read More
The name of Barbeau, so well-known in all Randolph County, was never more honorably borne than by the present head of the family. His ancestors have lived near Prairie du Rocher for generations. His father Henry Barbeau, who died in 1902, was born in the vicinity of the Commons. Both this gentleman and his wife, who lived until 1915, were well known through the length and breadth of the county. Henry I. Barbeau was born on the farm where he now resides, on February 1, 1863. He attended the parochial and public schools, and after this studied the science of farming under the effective tuition of his father. He remained on his father’s farm and succeeded to the management of it when his father retired. This was in 1882. In the same year Mr. Barbeau was married. Mrs. Barbeau was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 22. 1861. Her father, whose name was McCaron, died soon after, when she came under the care of relatives in Prairie du Rocher. She received a good education, after which she taught school for three years near Ruma. Here she made the acquaintance of Mr. Barbeau, which resulted in their marriage. Seven children were born to them; Harry J., Frank W., Edward, Louis J., Leo A., George A., and Ella J. Barbeau. Besides the care of his large farm, which comprises 450...Read More
It has been difficult to trace the line of descendants of this founder of Prairie du Rocher. In a document of December 30, 1740, we learn that the late Ettienne Langlois married Catherine Beaudrau, a widow, and had the following children; Marie Louise, who married Pierre Messenger; Marie Josefine, m. Louis Populus sieur de St. Photes; Toinette, m. Pierre Boucher de Monbrum sieur de Soudray; Francois, Louis, Girard, Perine and Auguste. These last five were minors. From other sources it is learned that Ettienne had two brothers, August who lived at Kaskaskia, and Louis. What relation the notary Pierre Langlois was to these is not apparent. He was married to Catherine Normand Labriere, and had two children, Pierre and Marie Louise. The latter signed a marriage contract with Pierre Lefebhve of Vincennes, October 9, 1785. Pierre Langlois died in 1789, and his widow took oath to the inventory of the property December 14, of that...Read More
Every community contains a few men of remarkable business ability, men who have risen to enviable success in some branch of trade. They deserve the public gratitude for their contribution to its prosperity no less than they win general admiration for the manner in which they have risen into eminence and won the hard struggle of life. Such a character is Mr. Moskop, the well-known manager of the Nanson Commission Company. He was born January 28. 1866, in Monroe City. Monroe County, being the son of a prominent farmer. After finishing the parochial and public schools he worked for...Read More
Killian Coerver, the well-known miller, was born in Monroe County, near Waterloo, Illinois, on April 10, 1861. He attended the parochial and public schools and also St. Vincent’s College at Cape Girardeau, Mo. After leaving school he learned the printing trade, and then clerked in a dry goods business a short time, and at the age of 18 he started to work in the circuit clerk’s office. From December, 1882, to 1886, he served as deputy county treasurer, when he was elected on the Democratic ticket as county treasurer of Monroe County and served from 1886 to 1890. On...Read More
Charles Hauck, the well-known dealer in horses, mules and cattle, was born May 31, 1864, in Ste. Genevieve, Mo. He attended the parochial and public schools, and after leaving school became an apprentice of Louis Naumann, learning the butcher trade. He followed this trade in Ste. Genevieve until 1889, when he came to Prairie du Rocher with strong arms and a willing heart and started a meat market in this place. He bought cattle and did his own work slaughtering. Later he began dealing in horses and mules. He assisted in organizing the bank in 1906 and has been...Read More
Mr. Hoef is one of those citizens who have come to our shores, leaving their native country, and seeking a new home in a new world. In early times all of our people crossed the seas, “but their hardihood and enterprise has all but been forgotten. Those who emigrated in more recent times serve to remind us of the dangers and privations attending the long voyage from another continent. Mr. Hoef was born in Cobenz, Germany, on March 16, 1851. He came to America with his parents in 1865 and settled in Madonnaville. Here he attended the parochial and public schools, and after finishing his schooling helped on the farm of his parents. The father died in 1878, the mother in 1892, on August 17th. But previous to this Mr. Hoef had taken a farm for himself. In 1883 he rented 54 acres of fertile bottom land near Prairie du Rocher. This soil, with the careful management which he gave it, yielded abundantly and brought him such prosperity that he purchased it in a short time. In 1889 he bought land adjoining to his and became the possessor of 240 acres. The large farm, situated on Rural Route #3, has been his home to the present time and has become a perfect farm in every sense as a result of his industry and prudence. Mr. Hoef was married in...Read More
The influential farmer, James Duncan Mudd of Prairie du Rocher, is a member of the oldest family of settlers in Randolph County. Indeed, his family has been in America since the very earliest days, having come over to Maryland in the time of Lord Baltimore. This band of stout-hearted Englishmen set out from their native shores in 1633 and sought religious freedom in the new world. They established the Church in North America and guaranteed religious liberty, where until then there had been only Puritan fanaticism. The Mudd family were original settlers of this colony. After the Revolution, when...Read More
The father of Henry Ker, a leading farmer in the neighborhood of Prairie du Rocher, was a man than whom few have seen more varied vicissitudes or left lives of more remarkable adventure. His name, like that of the subject of our biography, was Henry Ker, and he was born at Boston, Massachusetts, the son of English parents, who were temporarily residing at that place. He lived but a short time in Massachusetts. The family moved back to London where Henry received his education. He seems to have been born with an adventurous disposition, and habits of personal courage and daring. He left London in April, 1808, for Charleston, South Carolina, and thus began a series of travels which extended over eight years. He traveled through the Carolinas westward to the sources of the French Broad river, and followed its current down to the Holston to the Tennessee, and then by the waters of that river and the Ohio and Mississippi, stopping at various places along the banks to learn something of the nature of the localities and the habits of the people, he at last reached New Orleans. In the summer of 1809 a visit was made to some of the West Indian Islands, particularly Jamaica. Leaving the West Indies, the vessel on which he took passage to Savannah was shipwrecked, and he was compelled to return to...Read More
By the time the early French arrived, the Mississippi had laid layer upon layer of rich silt on the land for decades. They copied the Indian way of planting corn in the spring, forgetting about it, and harvesting it in the fall. Since there was no need to till the soil, the populace had leisure time. Why the Indians did not build a great culture can be explained partially through the humid climate. The American Bottom is humid and moist which produces a lassitude and inertia that hangs heavy over the valley. Consequently, creative work is to a large extent inhibited. Visitors to Prairie du Rocher who sleep in the bottoms often comment how difficult they find it to rise in the morning, and how this sluggishness increases with the heat of noon. Exhaustion from this languor is soon dispersed with as the visitor returns homeward. The climate is partially responsible for the preservation of many old interesting buildings; moreover, for the calmness, and peacefulness which is characteristic of its inhabitants. Strangely enough the French settled at Prairie du Rocher before the Metchigamias Indians with whom we associate this area. Illinois consisted of at this time five basic Indian tribes known as the “Illinois Confederacy”: The habitat of the Metchigamis was originally west of the Mississippi and they really became a part of the confederacy by adoption when they...Read More
Since they were rather uniform in pattern, it will doubtless yield a clearer picture if the common points of the pioneer schools are given rather than giving short references to each one. Nearly all of the first school houses were built of unhewed or round logs and had roofs made of clapboards that had been split from some convenient oak of large size. These boards were generally two feet or more long, about eight inches wide, and were often laid without the use of nails, poles being used on each course to hold them down. These weight poles were...Read More
There are few citizens of American blood, native born in Randolph County, who date their birth back as far as does Mr. W. S. Conner, a resident of the southern part of Township five — eight. He was born within a quarter of a mile of his present residence, in the year of 1815. He was the son of Henry Conner, who was born in Maryland and moved to Kentucky when ten years old, about the year 1795. The Conner family is of Irish extraction. The name was formerly spelled “O’Connor,” in which form it will be easily recognized...Read More
The old town of Prairie du Rocher has undergone, perhaps, fewer changes than any other locality of Randolph County. Its foundation dates back to the early part of the previous century. Its growth has not been rapid. The French population of which, its inhabitants were at first entirely composed, has here retained its distinctive character more closely than elsewhere, and a considerable proportion of the present residents of the village are descendants of the families who were identified with its history a century ago. The Blais family is one of the oldest in the town. The first of the...Read More
Mr. John Grassinger of Prairie du Rocher, was born July 6, 1836, in Bavaria, Germany, and came to America in 1850. Coming first to St. Louis, he remained there until his father died, in the same year, and left him an orphan. He worked as a gardener until 1865, when he bought the farm which is now owned by his son-in-law. He owns his present home in the town, whither he removed on his retirement from farming. In 1856 he was married to Miss Mary M. Chapen, who bore him four children, Henry J., William P., Lucille and Lizzie....Read More
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