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Early western travels 1748-1846 : A series of annotated reprints of some of the best and rarest contemporary… Thwaites, Reuben Gold, 1853-1913 1905

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Array         Early Western Travels
Volume XXVII
y^'Vtv''; ._--.,_"-.t.---.-.._ ^vjKsspgasaa  rBffitascisiass G
• -H EarlyWesternTravels
A Series of Annotated Reprints of some of the best
and rarest contemporary volumes of travel, descriptive of the Aborigines and Social and
Economic Conditions in the Middle
and Far West, during the Period
of Early American Settlement
Edited with Notes, Introductions, Index, etc., by
Reuben Gold Thwaites, LL.D.
Editor of "The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents," "Original
Journals ofthe Lewis and Clark Expedition," "Hennepin's
New Discovery," etc.
Volume XXVII
Part II of Flagg's The Far West, 1836-1837; and
De Smet's Letters and Sketches, 1841 -1842
Cleveland, Ohio
The Arthur H. Clark Company
The Far West; or, A Tour beyond the Mountains. Embracing Outlines of Western Life and Scenery; Sketches
of the Prairies, Rivers, Ancient Mounds, Early Settlements
of the French, etc., etc. (Chapters xxxiii-xli of Vol. H,
completing the publication).   Edmund Flagg
Author's Table of Contents     .....
Letters and Sketches: with a Narrative of a Year's Residence among the Indian Tribes of the Rocky Mountains.
Pierre Jean de Smet, S. J.
Author's Preface    .        .        .        .        .        .        .129
BOOK I:   Letters I-XII, February 4-Decem-
ber 30,1841 133
BOOK II:   Narrative of a Year's Residence
among   the Indian Tribes of the Rocky
Mountains (comprised in Letters XHI-XVT,
August 15-November 1, 1842) .        .        .      321
Explanation of the Indian Symbolical Catechism      405
and Sketches
"A View of the Rocky Mountains."   From De Smet's Letters
and Sketches
Allegorical sketch
Facsimile of title-page, De Smet's Letters
" Worship in the Desert "
"Kanza Village".
| Interior of a Kanza Lodge "
"Chimney" ....
"Devil's Gate"   .
" Soda Springs "   .
"Fording the River Platte"  .
| Sheyenne Warriors "   .
" Indian Mode of Travelling |
| Indian Symbolical Catechism "— folding plate
403 1,
SB8S8BIH Part II of Flagg's The Far West, 1836-1837
Reprint of chapters xxxiii-xli of Volume II of original edition:
New York, 1838
Blackness of Darkness — Fall of a Forest-tree — A sublime Incident — Musings — A Moral — A Wolf — A Meal — A Mistake — A broiling Sun — The "Heights of Chester "— A noble
View — An Island — A " Bend "— A Steamer —: Chester —
Site and Anticipations — A romantic Pathway — The Sycamores — The Undergrowth — The Bluffs — Forest Quietude
— The wild-grape Vines — Size, Tortuosity, and Tenacity —
A Juliet-bower—-A Prediction—Kaskaskia Bottom—An
elegant Farm and Mansion — The Outhouses — The Harvest-
fields and Grounds — The Bluffs — The Village    .
Antiqueness — A  Proposition  and   Corollary —" All  is  New "
— Freshness of Natural Scenery — The immigrant Inhabitants
— An Exception — A serious Duty — A laudable Resolution —
A gay Bevy —A Hawser-ferry — A Scene on the Kaskaskia —
"Old Kaskaskia "—Structure of Dwellings —Aspect of Antiquity — A Contrast —"City of the Pilgrims "— The Scenes of
a Century — Lane-like Streets — Old Customs — "The Parallel ceases "— The same Fact with the Spaniards — The Cause
— The French Villagers — The Inn-gallery — A civil Landlord — The Table d'Hôte — A Moonlight Ramble — The old
Church — The Courthouse — The fresh Laugh — The Piano
— The Brunettes        ........
The Explorers of the West — The French Jesuits — Cause of the
Undertaking — The Tale of the Hunters — Marquette and
Joliet [viii] — Their Exploration — The Natives — The Illini
— A Village — Manito of the Missouri — The Illinois —
Amazed Delight — Joliet's Narrative — Marquette — Name
to the River— Joliet's Reward—Lapse of Years—M. Robert,
Cavalier delà Salle'—His Talent, Ambition, and Enterprise —
Visit to Canada — Success at Paris — Tonti and Hennepin —
Exploration — The Illinois — An Indian Village — The Hoard
of Corn — Peoria Lake — Treatment by the Natives — Loss of
the Supply-boat — Fort "Crevé Cœur "— Its Site — "Spring
Bay "— The Indian War — Danger of La Salle — The Mutiny i6
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
— The Poison — Exploration of the Mississippi — The Falls
— Captivity — Hennepin's Travels — Character of these early
Writers — "Fort St. Louis "— Second Expedition of La Salle
— The Osage — A Village of Natives — The Oubachi — Fort
Prudhomme — Formal Possession — Louisiana — Ceremonies
at the Gulf — River "St. Louis"—Villages founded — Fate
of La Salle — Retributive Justice — Fate of Marquette —
Decease and Burial — Canadian Colonies — Their Design —
Mining Expeditions — M. de Seur — Disappointment —
Couriers du bois — Petits Paysans — Merry Mortals — Origin
of Kaskaskia — Name — Depot of Fur-trade — De Soto and
the Tradition — His Death and Burial.— Original Extent of
Kaskaskia — The "Common Field "—The Grant —Policy
of French and Spanish Governments — "Common Fields" and
I Commons "— Regulations — | Congress-grants — Harmony
with the Savages — The Cause — Exaggeration — Early Peace
and Prosperity — Jesuit College — Law's Scheme — The Design — Les Illinois — The Failure — The " South Sea Bubble "
— Prosperity of Kaskaskia — Luxuriance of Agriculture — A
chimerical Design — Cession and Recession — An unwelcome
Change — Removal and the Causes      .....
Portraiture of Character — The Difficulty — The French Villager
of  the Mississippi — His ordinary Deportment — Hospitality
— Laws and Courts — Scholastic Proficiency — Affairs of the
Nation—"A Burden!"—Their Virtues—The Helpmate—Religious Faith — Festivals — Their Property — The Change —
Their Avocations — Their Idiom — A Contrast — The Peculiarities — Costume — Amusements ^— Slaves — Early Government — An unwelcome Change —"Improvement ! "— A hateful
[ix] Term — The Steam-engine — The old Edifices — The
Streets — Advantages of the Change — The Contrast — The
poorer Class — Evils of the Change — Superior Enterprise    .
Delay on an interesting Subject — Peculiarities of French and
Spanish Villages similar — Social Intercourse — Old Legends
— Dreamy Seclusion — Commercial Advantages of Kaskaskia
— The Trade — The River — The Land-office — Population
— Fort Gage — Clarke's Expedition — The Catholic Church —
Erection — Its    Exterior — The   Interior — The   Altar-lamp
— Structure of the Roof — Surprise of the Villagers — Interdict
on the Architect — The Belfry — The Bell — View from the
Tower — The Churchyard — The first Record — Old Chronicles — The Nunnery — The Seminary — Departure from Kaskaskia — Farms of the French — A Reminiscence — " Indian
52 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
Old Point "— Extermination of the Norridgewocks — Details
— The Obelisk to Father Rasle — Route to Prairie du Rocher
— Aubuchon — Profusion of wild Fruit — Nuts — Grapes —
A Wine Story — Mode of Manufacture — The Cliffs of Prairie
du Rocher — "Common Field"—Productions — The Bayou
— A Scene of Blood — A Century Slumber — Peculiarities —
View from the Cliffs — Petrifactions — Simplicity and Ignorance — Characteristics of the French Villager — The Catholic
Church — Unhealthy Site — Cause of a Phenomenon
The Western Valley — Early Conception of its Extent inadequate
— The French Cordon of Fortification — Origin of the Policy —
Stations of Posts erected — Fort Chartres — Groves of wild
Fruit — The Dark-browed Villager — His direction to the
Ruins — Desertion and Dreariness of the Spot — Solemn
Effect of the old Pile in the Forest — Coup d'ceil — The Mississippi Slough — Erection of Fort Chartres — The Design —
Expense — Material — Rebuilding — Village Cession, Recession, and the Results — Seat of Power — Form and Extent —
Preservation of the Masonry — French Engineering — Original
Structure of the Fortress — The Pride of its Prime — Its Scenes
— The "Golden Age "— The "old Residenters "— The Pomp
of War — A Shelter for the Night	
Fort Chartres — A romantic Scene — Legendary Lore — Erection of Fort Chartres — Enormous Expenditure — Needless
Strength — The Engineer — His Fate — The "Buried Treasure "— The Money-diggers — Their Success — The " Western
Hannibal "— Expedition against Vincennes — Capture of the
French Villages — Siege of Fort Chartres — A successful Ruse
du Guerre — A Scrap of History — The Capture of Fort Vincent — The Stratagem — Fort Du Quesne — Erection and
History — Useless Strength — A Morning Scene — Philippe
Francis Renault — His Mining Operations — The Village St.
Philippe — The Cottonwood Forest — The Mississippi ! — A
Mistake — A weary Plod — An Atmosphere of Pestilence —
Causes of Disease — Salubrious Site for a Cabin — Precautions
for the Emigrant — Diseases of the West — Fevers — Sickly
Months—"Milk Sickness"—Its Cause and Effects — Fever
and Ague — An Escape — A sick Family — The Consumptive
— Refreshment — An early Settler .....
The "Squatter"'—His Character and Person — A View from
the Bluffs — The ancient Indian Village — Reliques — The
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
Squatter's Reflections — His Wanderings — A Discovery —
The Grave of a Chief — The Ancient Burial-grounds — Human Remains — A Coffin of Stone — The " Pigmy Race "—
An Investigation — Ancient Pottery—The Turtle—The Sinkholes — Waterloo — Its Windmill and Courthouse — Belle-
fontaine—An evening Ride —" Hail Columbia! "—An immortal Name — A very poor Pun — A miserable Night — A pleasant Dawn — The American Bottom — Its Name — Extent
— Boundaries — Bluffs — Lakes,   their   Cause   and   Consequence — Disease  an Obstacle to Settlement — The Remedy
— The   Grand   Marais — The    Soil —Its   Fertility — The
appropriate Production       .......
The American Bottom — Its alluvial Character — An interesting Query — The Ancient Lake — The Southern Limit —
The Parapet of Stone — Alluvial Action on the Cliffs — A
similar Expansion — The Eastern Limit and the Western —
The "Mamelle [xi] Prairie"—Elevation of   Country   North
— Cause of the Draining — The Rocks at " Grand Tower "—
Abrasion of Waters — Volcanic Action — A Tide-spring —
The "Blockhouse"—Geology of the Region — Volcanic
Convulsions — Impress of Omnipotence — Reflections suggested — Ignorance and Indifference on the Subject — Remarks of Dr. Buckland and Cuvier — A very ancient Revolution — Huge Remains — Theory of Cuvier — Productions of
the American Bottom — The Farms — Prairie-flowers —
Mounds — Prairie du Pont — Refreshment — A novel Churn
— A disagreeable Village — Cahokia — The Indian Tribe —
The Settlement — The Mississippi — The Creek — Harmonious Intercourse — A Contrast— Early Inhabitants of Cahokia
— Peculiarities of the Village — The "Common Field"—
Grant of Congress — Cahokia at the present Time — Route
to St. Louis — Sunset on the Water — View of the City —
Moonlight — Arrival at St. Louis — A Farewell!      .      .      .108 THE FAR WEST
" Stranger, if thou hast learn'd a truth which needs
Experience more than reason, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast known
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares
To tire thee of it; enter this wild wood,
And view the haunts of Nature."
The moon had gone down; the last star had burned
out in the firmament; and that deep darkness which
precedes the dawn was brooding over the earth as the
traveller turned away from the little inn at the village of
Pinkneyville. Fortunately he had, the previous evening,
while surveying the face of the region from the door of
the hostelrie, gained some general idea of the route to
[127] Kaskaskia; and now, dropping the reins upon his
horse's neck, he began floundering along through a
blackness of darkness perfectly Cimmerian. It was,
indeed, a gloomy night. The early mists were rising,
damp and chill, from the soil saturated with the showers
of the preceding day; and the darkness had become of
a density almost palpable to the sense. Crossing a narrow arm of the prairie in the direction presumed to be
correct, my horse carried me into a dense wood, and, if
possible, the darkness increased.   I had penetrated some
1 Volume xxvii of our series begins with chapter xxxiii of the original New,
York edition (1838) of Flagg's The Far West. The author is here describing
the part of his journey made in the late summer or early autumn of 1836.— Ed.
il  Ul        I 2o Flagg's Far West [Vol. 27
miles into the heart of the forest, and was advancing
slowly upon my way, when my attention was suddenly
arrested by a low, whispering, rustling sound in the
depths of the wood at my right; this gradually increasing, was almost immediately succeeded by a crashing,
thundering, rushing report, till every echo far and wide
in that dark old wood was wakened, and the whole forest
for miles around resounded with the roar. My horse,
terrified at the noise, leaped and plunged like a mad
creature. An enormous forest-tree had fallen within
a dozen rods of the spot on which I stood. As I left
the noble ruin and resumed my lonely way, my mind
brooded over the event, and I thought I could perceive in
the occurrence a powerful feature of the sublime. The
fall of an aged tree in the noiseless lapse of time is ever
an event not unworthy of notice; but, at a moment like
this, it was surely so in an eminent degree. Ages since
•—long ere the first white man had pressed the soil of
this Western world, and while the untamed denizens of
the wilderness [128] roamed in the freedom of primitive creation — ages since had seen the germe of that
mighty tree lifting up its young, green leaf from the sod,
beneath the genial warmth of the sunlight and the summer
wind. An age passed away. The tender stem had reared
itself into a gigantic pillar, and proudly tossed its green
head amid the upper skies: that young leaf, expanded and
developed, had spread itself abroad, until, at length, the
beasts of the earth had sought out its shade, and the tree
stood up the monarch,of the forest. Another age is gone,
and the hoary moss of time is flaunting to the winds from
its venerable branches. Long ago the thunderbolt had
consecrated its lofty top with the baptismal of fire, and, sere
and rifted, the storm-cloud now sings through its naked
limbs.   Like  an  aged  man,  its head  is bleached  with 1836-183 7]
Early Western Travels
years, while the strength and verdure of ripened maturity
yet girdle its trunk. But the worm is at the root: rottenness at the heart is doing its work. Its day and its hour
are appointed, and their bounds it may not pass. That
hour, that moment is come! and in the deep, pulseless
stillness of the night-time, when slumber falleth upon
man and Nature pauses in her working, the offspring
of centuries is laid low, and bows himself along the earth.
Yet another age is gone; but the traveller comes not to
muse over the relics of the once-glorious ruin. Long
ago has each been mouldering away, and their dust has
mingled with the common mother of us all. Ah! there
is a moral in the falling of an aged tree!
[129] I was dwelling with rather melancholy reflections
upon this casual occurrence, when a quick panting close
at my side attracted my attention; a large, gaunt-looking
prairie-wolf had just turned on his heel and was trotting
off into the shade. The gray dawn had now begun to
flicker along the sky, and, crossing a beautiful prairie
and grove, I found myself at the pleasant farmhouse of a
settler of some twenty or thirty years' standing; and dismounting, after a ride of eighteen miles, I partook, with
little reluctance or ceremony, of an early breakfast. Thus
much for the night adventures of a traveller in the woods
and wilds of Illinois! My host, the old gentleman to
whom I have referred, very sagely mistook his guest for
a physician, owing to a peculiarly convenient structure
of those indispensables ycleped saddle-bags; and was
just about consulting his fancied man of medicines respecting the ailings of his "woman," who was reclining
on a bed, when, to his admiration, he was undeceived.
Passing through an inconsiderable village on the
north side of the Little Vermillion called Georgetown,
my route  lay through an extended  range of  hills and mmm
22 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
barrens? Among the former were some most intolerably
tedious, especially to a horseman beneath a broiling sun,
who had passed a sleepless night: but the sweep of scenery
from their summits was beautiful and extensive. At
length the traveller stood upon the | heights of Chester,"
and the broad Mississippi was rolling on its turbid floods
a hundred yards beneath. The view is here a noble
[130] one, not unlike that from the Alton or Grafton
bluffs at the other extremity of the "American Bottom,"
though less extensive. Directly at the feet of the spectator, scattered along a low, narrow interval, lies the village
of Chester. Upon the opposite bank the forest rolls
away to the horizon in unbroken magnificence, excepting
that here and there along the bottom the hand of cultivation is betrayed by the dark luxuriance of waving maize-
fields. A beautiful island, with lofty trees and green
smiling meadows, stretches itself along in the middle
of the stream before the town, adding not a little to the
picturesqueness of the scene, and, in all probability,
destined to add something more to the future importance of the place. To the right, at a short distance,
come in the soft-flowing waters of the Kaskaskia through
deeply-wooded banks ; and nearly in the same direction
winds away the mirror-surface of the Mississippi for twenty
miles, to accomplish a direct passage of but four, an occur-
a The Vermilion River (which Flagg incorrectly wrote Little Vermilion) rises,
with several branches, in the western and southern portions of La Salle County,
and flows north and west, entering Illinois River at Rock Island, in Livingston
Steelesville (formerly Georgetown) is about fifteen miles east of Kaskaskia, on
the road between Pinkneyville and Chester; the site was settled on by George
Steele in 1810. A block-house fort erected there in 1812 protected the settlers
against attacks from the Kickapoo Indians. In r82S a tread-mill was built,
and two years later a store and post-office were erected. The latter was named
Steele's Mills. The settlement was originally called Georgetown and later changed
by an act of state legislature to Steeleville, being surveyed in 1832.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
rence by no means unusual in its course. As I stood gazing upon the scene, a steamer appeared sweeping around
the bend, and, puffing lazily along with the current past
the town, soon disappeared in the distance. From the
heights an exceedingly precipitous pathway leads down
to the village. Chester is one of the new places of Illinois,
and, of course, can boast but little to interest the stranger
apart from the highly scenic beauty of its situation.* It
has been mostly erected within the few years past; and,
for its extent, is a flourishing business place. Its landing is excellent, location healthy, [131] adjacent region
fertile, and, for aught I know to the contrary, may, in
course of years, rival even the far-famed Alton. Its
landing, I was informed, is the only one for many miles
upon the river, above or below, suitable for a place of
extensive commerce.
From Chester, in a direction not far from north, a narrow
pathway winds along beneath the bluffs, among the tall
cane-brakes of the bottom. Leaving the Mississippi at
the mouth of the Kaskaskia, it runs along the low banks
of the latter stream, and begins to assume an aspect truly
delightful. Upon either side rise the shafts of enormous
sycamores to the altitude of an hundred feet, and then,,
flinging abroad and interlacing their long branches, form
a living arch of exquisite beauty, stretching away in unbroken luxuriance for miles. Beneath springs from the rich
loam a dense undergrowth of canes; a profusion of wild
vines and bushes clustering with fruit serving effectually
to exclude the sunbeams, except a few checkered spots
here and there playing upon the foliage, while at inter-
8 Chester is on the Mississippi River, in Randolph County, just below the
mouth of Kaskaskia River. In the summer of 1829, Samuel Smith built the
first house there, and two years later he, together with Mather, Lamb and Company, platted the town site. It was named by Jane Smith from her native town,
Chester, England, and was made the seat of justice for Randolph in 1848.—Ed. 24
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
vais through the dark verdure is caught the flashing sheen
of the moving waters. Upon the right, at the distance of
only a few yards, go up the bluffs to the sheer height
of some hundred feet, densely clothed with woods. The
path, though exceedingly narrow and serpentine, is for
the most part a hard-trodden, smooth, and excellent one
when dry. The coolness and fragrance of these deep,
old, shadowy woodlands has always for me a resistless
charm. There is so much of quiet seclusion from the
feverish turmoil of ordinary life within [132] their peaceful avenues, that, to one not wedded to the world, they are
ever inexpressibly grateful.
"The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze,
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart.   Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pain'd thee in the haunts of men,
And made thee loathe thy life."
In the wild, fierce glaring of a summer noontide, when
amid | the haunts of men" all is parched up, and dusty,
and scathed, how refreshingly cool are the still depths of
the forest! The clear crystal streamlet gushes forth with
perennial laughter from the rock, seeming to exult in
its happy existence; the bright enamelled mosses of a century creep along the gnarled old roots, and life in all its
fairy forms trips forth to greet the eremite heart and charm
it from the world. But there was one feature of the scene
through which I was passing that struck me as peculiarly imposing, and to which I have not yet referred.
I allude to the enormous, almost preternatural magnitude
of the wild-grape vine, and its tortuosity. I have more than
once, in the course of my wanderings, remarked the peculiarities of these vast parasites; but such is the unrivalled
fertility, and the depth of soil of the Kaskaskia bottom,
that vegetation of every kind there attains a size and pro- 1836-18371
Flagg's Far West
portion elsewhere almost unknown. Six or seven of these
vast vegetable serpents are usually beheld leaping forth
with a broad whirl from the mould at the root of a tree,
and then, writhing, and twining, and twisting [133] among
themselves into all imaginable forms, at length away they
start, all at once and together, in different directions for
the summit, around which they immediately clasp their
bodies, one over the other, and swing depending in festoons on every side. Some of these vines, when old and
dried up by the elements, are amazingly strong ; more so,
perhaps, than a hempen hawser of the same diameter.
Having but a short ride before me the evening I left
Chester, I alighted from my horse, and leisurely strolled
along through this beautiful bower I have been attempting to describe. What a charming spot, thought I, for a
Romeo and Juliet ! — pardon my roving fancy, sober reader
— but really, with all my own sobriety, I could not but
imagine this a delightful scene for a "Meet me by moonlight alone," or any other improper thing of the kind,
whether or not a trip to Gretna Green subsequently ensued. And if, in coming years, when the little city of
Chester shall have become all that it now seems to promise,
and the venerable Kaskaskia, having cast her slough, having rejuvenated her withered energies, and recalled the
days of her pristine traditionary glory; if then, I say, the
young men and maidens make not this the consecrated
spot of the long summer-evening ramble and the trysting-
place of the heart, reader, believe us not; in the dignified
parlance of the corps editorial, believe us not.
Some portions of the Kaskaskia bottom have formerly,
at different times, been cleared and cultivated; but nothing
now remains but the ruins of [134] tenements to acquaint
one with the circumstance. The spot must have been exceedingly unhealthy in its wild state.   There is, however, 26
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
one beautiful and extensive farm under high cultivation
nearly opposite Kaskaskia, which no traveller can fail to
observe and admire.   It is the residence of Colonel M ,
a French gentleman of wealth, who has done everything
a cultivated taste could dictate to render it a delightful
spot.4 A fine, airy farmhouse stands beneath the bluffs,
built after the French style, with heavy roof, broad balconies, and with a rare luxury in this region — green Venetian blinds. The outhouses, most of them substantially
constructed of stone, are surpassed in beauty and extent
only by the residence itself. Fields yellow with golden
harvest, orchards loaded with fruit, and groves, and parks,
and pastures sprinkled with grazing cattle, spread out
themselves on. every side. In the back-ground rise the
wooded bluffs, gracefully rounded to their summits, while
in front roams the gentle Kaskaskia, beyond which, peacefully reposing in the sunlight, lay the place of my destination.
Kaskaskia, III.
" Protected by the divinity they adored, supported by the earth which they
cultivated, and at peace with themselves, they enjoyed the sweets of life without
dreading or desiring dissolution."— Noma Pompilit/s.
" A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye."
Castle oj Indolence.
In a country like our own, where everything is fresh and
recent, and where nothing has yet been swept by the mellowing touch of departed time, any object which can lay
but the most indifferent claim to antiquity fails not to be
hailed with delighted attention.   "You have,"  say they
* Flagg is probably referring to Colonel Pierre Menard.   See our volume xxvi,
p. 165, note 116.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
of the other hemisphere, "no ivy-mantled towers; no moss-
grown, castellated ruins; no donjon-keeps rearing in dark
sublimity their massive walls and age-bleached battlements;
nothing to span the mighty chasm of bygone years, and to
lead down the fancy into the shadowy realms of the past;
and, therefore, your country is steril in moral interest."
Now, though this corollary is undoubtedly false, I yet believe
the proposition in the main to be true: especially is this
the case with regard to that region which lies west of the
Alleghany range. Little as there may be in the elder sections of our Atlantic states to demand veneration for the
past, no sooner does the traveller find himself gliding along
the silvery wave [136] of the "beautiful river," than at the
same moment he finds himself forsaking all that the fairy
creations of genius have ever consecrated, or the roll of
the historian chronicled for coming time. All is new.
The very soil on which he treads, fertile beyond comparison,
and festering beneath the undisturbed vegetation of centuries; the rolling forests, bright, luxuriant, gorgeous as on
the dawn of creation; the endless streams pouring onward
in their fresh magnificence to the ocean, all seem new.
The inhabitants are emigrants late from other lands, and
every operation of human skill on which the eye may rest
betrays a recent origin. There is but a single exception
to these remarks — those mysterious monuments of a
race whom we know not of !
In consideration, therefore, of the circumstance that
antiquities in this blessed land of ours are, indeed, very
few and far between, I deem it the serious duty of every
traveller, be he virtuoso or be he not, whenever once so
happy as to lay his grasp upon an antique "in any form,
in any shape," just to hold fast to the best of bis ability !
Such, reader, be it known, was my own praiseworthy determination when drawing nigh to the eastern shore of the 28
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
stream opposite the ancient French village Kaskaskia.
The sun was going down, and as I approached the sandy
edge of the sea-green water, a gay bevy of young folks
were whirling the long, narrow, skiff-like ferry-boat like a
bird across the stream, by means of a hawser to which it
was attached, and which extended from shore to shore. In
my own turn I stepped into the boat, and in a few moments
the old French [137] negro had forced it half across the
river, at this spot about three or four hundred yards in
width. For one who has ever visited Kaskaskia in the
last beautiful days of summer, a pen like my own need
hardly be employed to delineate the loveliness of the scene
which now opened upon the view. For miles the gleamy
surface of the gentle Kaskaskia might be seen retreating
from the eye, till lost at length in its windings through the
forests of its banks, resting their deep shadows on the stream
in all the calm magnificence of inanimate nature. The
shore I was leaving swelled gracefully up from the water's
edge, clothed in forests until it reached the bluffs, which
towered abrupt and loftily; while here and there along the
landscape the low roof of a log cabin could be caught peeping forth from the dark shrubbery. The bank of the stream
I was approaching presented an aspect entirely the reverse;
less lovely, but more picturesque. A low sandy beach
stretched itself more than a mile along the river, destitute
of trees, and rounding itself gently away into a broad
green plain. Upon this plain — a portion of the American
Bottom — at the distance of a few hundred yards from
the water, is situated all that now remains of "old Kaskaskia." From the centre rises a -tall Gothic spire, hoary
with time, surmounted by an iron cross; and around this
nucleus are clustered irregularly, at various intervals, the
heavy-roofed, time-stained cottages of the French inhabitants.   These houses are usually like those of the West i8j6-i837]
Flagg's Far West
India planters — but a single story in height — and the
surface which they occupy is, [138] of course, in the larger
class, proportionably increased. They are constructed,
some of rough limestone, some of timber, framed in every
variety of position — horizontal, perpendicular, oblique,
or all united — thus retaining their shape till they rot to
the ground, with the interstices stuffed with the fragments
of stone, and the external surface stuccoed with mortar;
others — a few only — are framed, boarded, etc., in modern
style. Nearly all have galleries in front, some of them
spacious, running around the whole building, and all have
garden-plats enclosed by stone walls or stoccades. Some
of these curious-looking structures are old, having bided
the storm-winds of more than a century. It is this circumstance which throws over the place that antiquated, venerable aspect to which I have alluded, and which equally
applies to all the other villages of this peculiar people I
have yet spoken of. The city of Philadelphia and this
neglected village of Kaskaskia are, as regards age, the same
to a year;6 but while every object which, in the one, meets
the eye, looks fresh as if but yesterday touched by the last
chiselling of the architect, in the latter the thoughts are
carried back at least to Noah's ark! Two centuries have
rolled by since the "city of the Pilgrims" ceased to be a
"cornfield;." but where will you now look for a solitary
relic of that olden time? "State-street," the scene where
American blood was first poured out by British soldiery;
5 Philadelphia was founded in 1682. There has been much discussion about
the exact date of the founding of Kaskaskia. E. G. Mason was of the opinion
that this uncertainty had arisen in the confounding of Kaskaskia with an earlier
Indian settlement of. the same name on the Illinois River. It seems probable
that Kaskaskia on the Mississippi was started in 1699. Consult E. G. Mason,
"Kaskaskia and its Parish Records," in Magazine oj American History (New
York, 1881), vi, pp. 161-182, and Chapters from Illinois History (Chicago, 1901);
also C. W. Alvord, The Old Kaskaskia'Records (Chicago Historical Society, 1906).
See also A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume iii, p. 69, note 132.— Ed. 30 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
"Old Cornhill;" the site of the "Liberty-tree;" and the
wharf from which the tea was poured into the dock, are
indeed pointed out to you as spots memorable [139] in
the history of the "Leaguer of Boston; " and yonder frowns
the proud height of Bunker's Hill; there lay the British
battle-ships, and there was " burning Charlestown: " but,
with almost the solitary exception of the "Old South"
Church, with the cannon-ball imbedded in its tower, where
shall we look for an object around which our associations
may cluster? This is not the case with these old villages.
A century has looked down upon the same objects, in the
same situations and under the same relations, with a change
scarcely appreciable. Yon aged church-tower has thrown
its venerable shadow alike over the Indian corn-dance,
the rude cotillon of the French villager, the Spanish fandango, the Virginia reel, and the Yankee frolic. Thus,
then, when I speak of these places with reference to antiquity, I refer not so much to the actual lapse of years as
to the present aspect and age of the individual objects.
In this view there are few spots in our country which may
lay more undisputed claim to antiquity than these early
French settlements in the Western Valley.
There is one feature of these Utile villages to which I
have not at this time alluded, but which is equally amusing and characteristic, and which never fails to arrest the
stranger's observation. I refer to the narrowness of those
avenues intended for streets. It is no very strange thing
that in aged Paris structure should be piled upon structure
on either side even to the clouds, while hardly a footpath
exists between; but that in this vast Western world a custom, in all respects the same, should have prevailed, [140]
surpasseth understanding. This must have resulted not
surely from lack of elbow-room, but from the marvellous
sociality of the race, or from that attachment to the eus- 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
toms of their own fatherland which the Frenchman ever
betrays. In agriculture and the mechanic arts they are
now about as well skilled, notwithstanding the improvements which they must perceive have been going on around
them, as on the day their fathers first planted foot on this
broad land. The same implements of husbandry and
the arts which a century since were seen in France, are
now seen here; the very vehicle they drive is the vineyard-
car, which is presented us in representations of rustic
life in the older provinces of the same land. The same
characteristics of feeling and action are here displayed
as there, and the Gallic tongue is sacredly transmitted from
father to son. But here the parallel ceases. We can
trace but little resemblance between the staid, simple-
hearted French villager of the Mississippi Valley, and the
gay, frivolous, dissolute cotemporary of the fifteenth Louis;
still less to the countryman of a Marat or a Robespierre,
rocked upon the bloody billow of the "Reign of Terror;"
and less than either to the high-minded, polished Frenchman of the nineteenth century. The same fact has been
remarked of the Spanish population of Florida and Mexico;
their resemblance to their ancestors, who have been slumbering for more than three centuries in their graves, is far
more striking than to their present brethren of | Old Castile."
The cause of this is not difficult to detect. The customs,
the [141] manners, the very idioms of nations never remain for any considerable period of time invariably the
same: other men, other times, other circumstances, when
assisted by civil or religious revolutions, produce surprising
changes in the parent land, while the scanty colony, separated by mountains and seas, not more from the roar and
commotion than from the influenced sphere of these events,
slumbers quietly on from century to century, handing down
from father to son those peculiarities,  unaltered, which 32
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
migrated with them. Climate, soil, location, though far
from exclusive, are by no means inconsiderable agents
in affecting character in all its relations of intellect, temperament, and physical feature. And thus has it chanced
that we now look upon a race of men separated but a few
centuries from the parent stock, yet exhibiting characteristics in which there are few traits common to both.
It was through one of those long, narrow, lane-like
streets to which I have alluded, and, withal, a most unconscionably filthy one, that I rode from the landing of
the ferry to the inn. The low-roofed, broad-galleried
cottages on either side seemed well stocked with a race
of dark-eyed, dark-haired, swarthy-looking people, all,
from the least unto the tallest, luxuriating in the mellow
atmosphere of evening; all, as if by the same right, staring
most unceremoniously at the stranger; and all apparently
summing up, but in the uncouthest style imaginable, their
divers surmises respecting his country, lineage, occupation, etc., etc. The forms and features of these French
villagers are perfectly unique, at least in our [142] country, and one can hardly fail distinguishing them at first
sight, even among a crowd, once having seen them.
Their peculiarities are far more striking than those of our
German or Irish population. A few well-dressed, genteel
gentlemen were lounging about the piazza of the inn as
I drew nigh, and a polite landlord, courteously pressing
forward, held the stirrup of the traveller and requested
him to alight. Something of a contrast, this, to the attention a stranger usually is blessed with from not more than
nine tenths of the worthy publicans of Illinois. Alas! for
the aristocracy of the nineteenth century! But n'importe.
With the easy air of gentility and taste which seemed to
pervade the inn at Kaskaskia in all its departments, few
could have failed to be pleased.   For myself, I was also 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
surprised. Everything about the establishment was in
the French style, and here was spread the handsomest
table d'hôte it has been my fortune to witness in Illinois.
The moon was pouring gloriously down in misty mellowness upon the low-roofed tenements of this antiquated
village, when, leaving my chamber, I stepped from the
inn for a leisure stroll through its streets and lanes. Passing the gray old church,* bathed in the dim, melting moonlight of a summer night, such as for more than a century
had smiled upon its consecrated walls as one year had
chased away another, the next considerable structure
which arrested my attention was a huge, ungainly edifice
of brick, like Joseph's coat, of many colours, forsooth, and,
withal, sadly ruinous as regards the item of windows.
This latter circumstance, aside from [143] every other,
agreeable to all observed precedent, would have notified
me of the fact that this was neither more nor less than a
western courthouse. Continuing my careless ramble
among the cottages, I passed several whose piazzas were
thronged with young people; and at intervals from the
midst rang out, on the mild evening air, the gay fresh laugh,
and the sweet, soft tones of woman. A stately structure
of stone, buried in foliage, next stood beside me, and
from its open doors and windows issued the tumultuous
melody of the piano. A few steps, and the innocent
merriment of two young girls hanging upon a gentleman's
arms struck my ear. They passed me. Both were young;
and one, a gazelle-eyed brunette, in the pale moonlight,
was beautiful. The blithe creatures were full of frolic
and fun, and the light Gallic tongue seemed strangely
« The church of the Immaculate Conception, the first permanent structure
of its kind west of the Alleghany Mountains, was built in 1720. It was torn down
in 1838 and a large brick church built. For a more detailed description of the
former, see post, pp. 62—64.— Ed. 34
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
musical from those bright lips. But enough — enough
of my evening's ramble — nay, more than enough: I am
waxing sentimental. It was at a late hour, after encountering divers untold adventures, that I found myself once
more at my hotel. The gallery was thronged with French
gentlemen, and it was some hours before the laugh and
chatter had died away, and the old village was buried in
Kaskaskia, III.
" Glanced many a light caique along the foam,
Danced on the shore the daughters of the land."
" How changed the scene since merry Jean Baptiste
Paddled his pirouge on La Belle Rivière,
And from its banks some lone Loyola priest
Echoed the night song of the voyageur."
It is now more than a century and a half since the
sturdy Canadian voyageurs, treading in the footsteps of the
adventurous Sieur la Salle, forsaking the bleak shores and
wintry skies of the St. Lawrence, first planted themselves
upon the beautiful hunting-grounds of the peaceful Illini.
Long before the Pilgrim Fathers of New-England, or the
distressed exiles of Jamestown, scattered along the steril
shores of the Atlantic, had formed even a conception of
the beautiful valley beyond the mountains — while this
vast North American continent was yet but a wilderness,
and the nations of Christendom, ignorant of its character
or of its extent, knew not by whom of right it should be
appropriated — a few French Jesuit priests had ascended
in their bark canoes a distance of three thousand miles
from the mouth of the "endless river," and had explored
its tributaries to their fountains.   It is with admiration 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
almost bordering on astonishment that we view the bold
adventures of these daring men.7 [145] The cause of
their fearless undertaking was, we are told, to investigate
the truth of an idea which at that era was prevalent among
the Canadian French, that a western passage through the
American continent existed to the Pacific Ocean. The
Indian hunters had spoken of a vast stream far away to
the west, which on their long excursions they had seen,
but of whose source, course, or termination they could tell
nothing. This river was supposed to disgorge itself into
the Pacific Seas ; and, to prosecute the inquiry, Father
Marquette, a recollet monk, and Sieur Joliet, an Indian
trader of Quebec, by authority of M. Talon, Intendant
of New France, a man of singular enterprise, entered upon
the expedition. Thridding the great chain of the Northern
Lakes in their slender skiffs, and pursuing the Ouisconsin
River, on the 17th of June, 1673, the first Europeans descended the "Father of Waters."8 By the natives whom
they met they were kindly received, and entertained with
a deference due only to superior beings. Among these
Indians, the Illini, then residing on both sides of the Mississippi, were chief, and their nation was made up of seven
distinct tribes: the Miamies, Micbigamies, Mascotins,
Kaskaskias, Kahokias, Peorias, and Taumarwaus, a peaceful, benevolent, unwarlike race.9 A village was found
at the mouth of the Illinois. Descending the Mississippi,
the French voyageurs were dissuaded from their design
of exploring the Missouri by a tradition of the natives that
' Hall.— Flagg.
8 Jacques Marquette was a Jesuit missionary, not a Recollect. Consult R. G.
Thwaites, Father Marquette (New York, 1902). On Jolliet see Francis Park-
man, La Salle (Boston, 1869); and the latest authority, Ernest Gagnon, Louis Jolliet
(Quebec, 1902).— Ed.
9 For a short note on the Illinois Indians, consult our volume xxvi, p. r23,
note 86.— Ed. 36 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
near its mouth dwelt a Manito, whose residence no human
being could pass with life: nor did the Indians fail to tell
the legend of [146] the Piasa cliff above. Turning up the
Illinois, therefore, they glided with amazement through
the green woodlands and over the silvery wave of that
beautiful stream. It is, perhaps, at this distant day, and
in the present era of "speculators and economists," hardly
possible to conceive the delighted emotions which must
then have swelled the bosoms of those simple-hearted men.
Sieur Joliet, on his return to Canada, published an account
of his adventures, in which narrative language seems
almost too meager for description of the golden land he
had seen.10 Father Marquette remained a missionary
among the peaceful Indians. To the river partially
explored was given the name of the celebrated Colbert,
Minister of Marine, by Count de Frontenac; and to the
trader Joliet, as a reward, was granted the island of
Anticosti in the Gulf of St. Lawrence."
Years passed away, and no enterprising spirit rose up
to prosecute the discoveries already made. The missionary Marquette died among the Indians two years after,
and Joliet took possession of his island. At length appears
M. Robert, Cavalier de la Salle, a native of Rouen in Normandy, celebrated as the birthplace of Fontenelle and
the two Corneilles, and for the martyrdom of the heroic
Maid of Orleans more than two centuries before.   La
10 Flagg errs in saying that Jolliet published an account of his adventures.
His journal was lost in the St. Lawrence River on the return journey. Father
Marquette, however, wrote a journal of his travels. See Thwaites, Jesuit Relations, lix, which also contains Jolliet's map of North America (1674).— Ed.
11 The Island of Anticosti, in the estuary of St. Lawrence River, contains about
3,900 square miles, and is not only of importance as a centre of hunting and fishing interests, but is rich in undeveloped mineral resources. The population of a
few hundred souls is chiefly concerned in fishing. The island is now the property
of M. Henri Menier, a Parisian chocolate manufacturer, who personally rules
his seigniory with benevolent despotism.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
Salle was a man of bold talents and dauntless enterprise.
Ambitious of fame and wealth, he emigrated to Canada;
listened to the wonderful tales of the endless river; conceived
the idea of a Northwest Passage to the East Indies; communicated his views to the commandant of Fort Frontenac
on Lake Ontario, [147] and was advised to lay his plan
before the Court of St. Cloud. On his arrival at Paris,
under the patronage of the Prince de Conti, La Salle
received letters of nobility and extensive grants of land
in America. Associating with himself the Chevalier de
Tonti, an Italian officer, who had the peculiarity of a copper hand as substitute to one lost in the wars of Sicily,
and Father Lewis Hennepin, a Franciscan friar, as historian and missionary, together with about thirty others,
the enterprise was immediately entered upon, under special
sanction of Louis XIV., king of France. After a variety
of fortune, prosperous and adverse, they reached the Dlinois,
and having descended that beautiful river some distance,
discovered an Indian village consisting of five hundred
cabins completely deserted. Here, having found a large
quantity of corn concealed in the earth under each of the
wigwams, the party remained six days. Descending
ninety miles, they came to Peoria Lake, where they found
two encampments of the natives. At first hostility was
manifested, but soon they were on most amicable terms
with the voyageurs, and a feasting, and dancing, and rejoicing was kept up for three days. Not long after this
the boat containing supplies was lost upon "Le Baie des
Puants," or Green Bay; and La Salle was forced to
erect a fort, which received the appropriate name of
" Crevé Cœur " — broken heart. The site of this fortification
is supposed to have been a spot now called "Spring Bay,"
not far from Peoria, on the Illinois. This is a singular
place.    It is a broad sand basin, some hundred feet [148] I Y'.
38 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
in diameter, opening upon the river, the waters of which,
in the higher stages, fill it to the brim, but when low they
retire, and a number of large springs gush copiously forth
from three sides of the ridge, and form a stream. "Blue
Creek" empties itself just below, crossed by a bridge of
earth, while yet farther down is seen a large mound, which
has been opened, and found to contain human remains
twenty feet from the summit.12
At the time of the erection of Fort Crevé Cœur the Illini
were at war with the warlike Iroquois Indians; and the
former, anticipating assistance from their friends the
French, and receiving none, resolved to destroy La Salle.
His boldness and eloquence alone saved him and restored
amity. No sooner was this disturbance quelled than a
mutiny arose among his own men. On Christmas-day
his dinner was poisoned, and powerful medicine alone
saved his life.
Preparations were now made to explore the Mississippi.
Father Hennepin, with four Frenchmen, two Indians,
and M. Dacan, commander, ascended the river to the falls,
and named them, in honour of their patron saint, St. Anthony. They were here taken prisoners by a party of
Sioux, carried one hundred and sixty miles into the interior
to their villages, and detained several months, when they,
regained their liberty. Father Hennepin returned to
Canada, and subsequently to France, where he published
his travels in splendid style, dedicating the book to the
celebrated Colbert. These early writings, though deeply
imbued with a spirit of superstition [149] and exaggeration,
are yet valuable as the only records of the time.13  The chief
12 Concerning La Salle's discoveries, see Ogden's Letters jrom the West, in our
volume xix, pp. 44-53, and accompanying notes.— Ed.
13 Concerning Hennepin's expedition from Crêvecœur to the Falls of St.
Anthony, Flagg is in error. Hennepin was accompanied by two Frenchmen,
Michel Accault and Antoine Auguel, and probably went merely as their spiritual 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
of these historians were Hennepin, Tonti, and Charlevoix.14
Difficulties arising with the Indians, La Salle resolved to
erect another fort, which, after infinite difficulty, was completed. The site is described as " a rock, very high, the top
of which was even and of convenient space, so that it
commanded the river and country round about." This
description applies to no place on the Illinois so well as
to the "Starved Rock." The fort was called "St. Louis."
La Salle visited Canada, and a crowd of adventurers
returned with him. Descending the Illinois and Mississippi, the company stopped for some time at the mouth
of the Missouri, then the Osage River, and found a village
of the Taumarwaus, which was deserted, the natives being
on a hunting expedition. In three days they were at the
Oubachi or Ohio. At the Chicasaw Bluffs a fort called
Prudhomme was erected, and formal possession of the
country first taken, and, in honour of the reigning monarch,
companion. His publications were: Description de la Louisiane (Paris, 1683);
Nouvelle Découverte d'un très grand Pays Situé dans l'Amérique (Utrecht, 1697);
Nouveau Voyage d'un Pais plus grand que PEurope (Utrecht, 1698). The first
was dedicated to Louis XIV, the last two to William HI, king of England. For
bibliography of Hennepin, see Victor Hugo Paltsits, "Bibliographical Data," in
Thwaites, Hennepin's New Discovery (Chicago, 1903), pp. xlv-briv.— Ed.
14 M. Tonti, among other writers, speaking of the country, according to Mr.
Peck's translation, says:
"The soil is, generally speaking, so fertile, that it produces naturally, without
culture, those fruits that nature and art together have much ado to bring forth
in Europe. They have two crops every year without any great fatigue. The
vines bring extraordinary grapes, without the care of the husbandman, and the
fruit-trees need no gardeners to look after them. The air is everywhere temperate.
The country is watered with navigable rivers, and delicious brooks and rivulets.
It is stocked with all sorts of beasts, as bulls, orignacs, wolves, lions, wild asses,
stags, goats, sheep, foxes, hares, beavers, otters, dogs, and all sorts of fowl, which
afford a plentiful game for the inhabitants."
In another place, this writer gives an amusing account of hunting " wild bulls,"
which "go always by droves of three or four hundred each." This description
answers well for the buffalo, but it is not so easy to determine what animals they
mistook for "wild asses, goats, and sheep."
Passing down the Mississippi, Tonti mentions the same animals, and describes
the forest-trees with tolerable accuracy, had he not added, "one sees there whole m
40 Èarly Western Travels [Vol. 27
named Louisiana. Several other forts were erected, and
one of them, the ruins of which yet remain, is supposed to
have stood between St. Louis and Carondelet. Descending the river on the 7th of April, 1683, La Salle reached
the Gulf of Mexico, where a Te Deum was sung; a cross,
with the arms of France, was suspended from the summit
of a lofty tree; and the river, which had occupied three
months in its exploration of about one thousand miles,
was named "St. [150] Louis." On his return, the associates of La Salle founded the villages of Kaskaskia and
Cahokia on the American Bottom, while he hastened on
to Canada and thence to France, to obtain a colony for
the country at the mouth of the Mississippi. Losing his
route on returning with this expedition, he commenced a
journey over land to Illinois; but, while on his way, was
treacherously assassinated by two of his followers.15
It is a remarkable fact in the history of retributive justice,
plains covered with pomegranate-trees, orange-trees, and lemon-trees; and, in
one word, with all kinds of fruit-trees." Goats are frequently mentioned by different writers. Hennepin, while narrating the account of an embassy from Fort
Frontenac to the Iroquois nation, and the reception the party met with, says:
" The younger savages washed our feet, and rubbed them with grease of deer,
wild goats, and oil of bears." When upset in their boat and cast on the western
shore of Lake Michigan, an Indian of their company "killed several stags and
wild goats."
Wild goats are named so frequently, and in so many connexions, as hardly to
admit of an intentional misrepresentation.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. For sketches of Charlevoix and Tonty, see Nuttall's Journal,
in our volume xiii, pp. 116 and ri7, notes 81 and 85 respectively.
15 For a recent work on La Salle, consult P. Chesnel, Histoire de Cavelier de
La Salle (Paris, 1901). With the exception of Crêvecceur, Prudhomme, and
St. Louis, we have no definite proof that La Salle established any other forts in
the Mississippi Valley. He erected a monument at the mouth of the Mississippi
on April 9, 1682, on taking possession of the country in the name of Louis XIV.
Kaskaskia and Cahokia were not founded by the associates of La Salle on the
latter's return. For historical sketches of these towns, see A. Michaux's Travels,
in our volume iii, p. 69, note 132, and p. 70, note 135, respectively. La Salle
was assassinated March rg, 1687, on a branch of the Trinity River, in the present
state of Texas.— Ed. 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
that these men soon after dealt death to each other; and
two priests of the mutineers became penitent, and confessed
all the circumstances of the crime. The burial spot of
the noble La Salle is unknown to this day. Marquette,
"the apostle of the wilderness," died under circumstances
of touching interest on the lonely shores of Lake Michigan
while upon his mission. Charlevoix, the historian, throws
an interest of melancholy romance over the fate of this
venerable man. According to this writer, Father Joseph
Marquette was a native of Laon, in Picardy, and of distinguished family. About two years after his discovery
of the Mississippi, while engaged in his missionary labours
among the savages, he was journeying from Chicago to
Michinimackinac, and on the 8th of May, 1675, entered
the mouth of a small river emptying into Lake Michigan
upon its eastern side, which now bears bis name. Here
he landed, erected an altar, and said mass. After this
ceremony he retired a short distance, and requested the
two voyageurs who conducted his canoe to leave him alone
for half an hour, while in private [151] he returned thanks.
The period having expired, they went to seek him, and
found him dead in the attitude of devotion:1* the circumstance then recurred to them, that, on entering the river,
he had dropped an intimation that he should there end his
days. The distance was too great to Michillimackinac to
convey there his remains, and the voyageurs accordingly
buried them near the bank of the stream, which they called
by his name. From that time the river, as if from reverence for the missionary's relics, has continued to retire,
and his grave is yet pointed out to the traveller. Thus
did the venerable Marquette, at an advanced age, alone
with his God, yield up his blameless life to its giver, while
16 Father Marquette died May   18, 1675, on the  present site of Ludington,
Michigan.— Ed.
II Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
engaged in his holy errand of peace to the savage, and
amid the magnificent solitudes of the land of his discovery.
Subsequent to these explorations, colonies from Lower
Canada rapidly settled the recent villages of Kaskaskia,
Cahokia, and Peoria.17 But their designs seem not to have
been those of the speculators of our own day. Their sole
anticipation was to amass opulence by mining in a country
then supposed incalculably rich in the precious metals,
from its resemblance to the silver region of South America ;
and we find exclusive grants of extensive tracts bearing
this date to Cruzat, Renault, and other individuals.18 In
pursuit of this golden chimera, many expeditions were
fitted out at vast expense. In 1699 M. de Seur, an enterprising traveller, with ninety men, descended the Mississippi to a spot six hundred miles above the Illinois, and
erected a fort [152] upon the present site of Fort Armstrong
for the purpose of exploring a mine of terre verte, said to
17 For the settlement of Peoria, see our volume xxvi, p. 133, note 93.— Ed.
18 Owing to the exhaustion of France following the War of the Spanish Succession, Louis XIV, determined to develop the resources of the vast Louisiana
territory, granted (September 14, 1712) to Antoine Crozat, a wealthy merchant,
the exclusive right of trade in Louisiana for a term of fifteen years. Among other
privileges, Crozat was permitted to send one ship a year to Africa for a cargo of
negroes; to possess and operate all mines of precious metals in the territory, on
the condition that a fourth of the metal be turned over to the king; and to possess
in perpetuity all buildings and manufactories erected by him in the colony. On
the other hand, Crozat was obliged to import two shiploads of colonists each
year, and after nine years to assume all the expenses of the government. In the
meantime the king was to furnish fifty thousand livres annually. Crozat did all
in his power to develop the resources of the country; but owing to discord among
the subordinate officials, in despair he surrendered the charter to the prince regent
(August 13,1717). See Charles Gayaxié, History oj Louisiana (New Orleans, 1903).
After Crozat's surrender, Louisiana territory was turned over to the Mississippi
(or Western) Company, directed by John Law; see post, p. 49, note 28. Philip
François Renault was made the principal agent for a French company, whose
purpose was the development of the mines of the territory. In 1719 he sailed
from France with more than two hundred mechanics, stopped at the West Indies,
and secured a cargo of five hundred negro slaves, and in due course arrived at
Fort Chartres in the Illinois (1721). Large grants of land for mining purposes
were made to Renault — an extensive tract west of the Mississippi River; another, 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
have been discovered in that beautiful region.19 It need
hardly be said that all these adventurers were disappointed :
but the buoyant hilarity of the race did not forsake them,
and as boatmen, hunters, couriers du bois, Indian traders,
and small farmers,20 they gained a comfortable subsistence,
and merrily did they enjoy it. Most of their lives were
passed upon the broad prairies, and in penetrating every
section of this vast valley in their birch pirogues wherever
a stream presented to them its bosom; and yet with the
violin, the grape-juice, and a short pipe, they seemed "the
blithest mortals on the face of the earth. It was by men
such as these that the village of Kaskaskia, in old French
chronicles styled "Notre dame de Cascasquias" originating in the name and residence of an Indian tribe, first was
fifteen leagues square, near the site of Peoria; and still another above Fort
Chartres, one league along the river and two leagues deep. He founded St.
Philippe, near the fort, and built what was probably the first smelting furnace in
the Mississippi Valley.   In 1743 he returned to France, where he died.— Ed.
" Pierre Charles le Sueur went to Canada when a young man, and engaged
in the fur-trade. In 1693, while commandant at Chequamegon, he erected two
forts — one on Madelaine Island, in Chequamegon Bay (Lake Superior), and
another on an island in the Mississippi, near Red Wing, Minnesota. Later he
discovered lead mines along the upper Mississippi. In 1699 he returned from a
visit to France, and under Iberville's directions searched for copper mines in the
Sioux country, where Le Sueur had earlier found green earth. Le Sueur reached
the mouth of Missouri River (July 13, 1700) with nineteen men, according to
Bénard de la Harpe's manuscript, compiled from Le Sueur's Journal—with
twenty-nine men, as related by Pénicaut, a member of the expedition. The company was later increased to perhaps thirty or forty, but not ninety, as Flagg says.
Le Sueur ascended the Mississippi, and its tributary the Minnesota, and erected
a fort in August, 1700, one league above the point where the Blue Earth River
(St. Peter's River, until 1852) empties into the Minnesota. This fort he named
l'Huillier, in honor of his patron in France. Flagg has confused this site with
that of Fort Armstrong at Rock Island, Illinois. In May, 1701, Le Sueur left the
fort in care of d'Eraque, who remained in charge until 1703, when he abandoned
the place. For extracts from original documents relating to Le Sueur's activities,
consult: "Le Sueur's Mines on the Mississippi," "Le Sueur's Voyage up the Mississippi," and "Le Sueur's Fort on the Mississippi," in Wisconsin Historical
Collections, xvi, pp. 173, 174, 177-200.— Ed.
,0 "Petits paysans."— Flagg.
jU 44 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
settled ; and in a few years it had become an extensive depot
for the trade in furs. It was probably by the same Indian
tribe which originally possessed the site of Kaskaskia that
a party of the unfortunate expedition of Ferdinand de Soto,
by whom Florida was partially conquered, was almost
destroyed about the year 1539. Indeed, there was a tradition still extant upon the arrival of the French, of their
having exterminated the first white faces they had ever
seen. For three years did the chivalrous De Soto, with
his nine hundred steel-clad warriors, scour the land in
search of the reality of his golden dreams: at length he
died; he was an object of hatred and terror to the Indians;
and to conceal his death, or to [153] preserve from violation his remains, his followers enclosed them in a coffin
constructed from the section of a hollow tree, and sunk
them beneath the floods of the eternal river. His followers,
reduced to only two hundred and fifty, returned to Spain.
And so the burial-places of the first explorers of the Mississippi are unknown.21
The extent of the territory of Kaskaskia was originally
very great, stretching from the Kaskaskia River to the
Mississippi, a breadth of about two miles, and comprising the area from the confluence of the streams, seven
miles below, to the present site of the place. The tract
below the town is incalculably fertile, abounding in the
"■ The battle of Mauilla, to which Flagg is referring, was fought in October,
1540, between De Soto's men and the Mobilian Indians, near the present site of
Mobile. Our author is mistaken in supposing that these Indians were the Kaskaskia. De Soto reached the Mississippi in May, 1541, and died May 21, 1542.
He started on the expedition with less than seven hundred men, instead of one
thousand. According to Herrera, his body was laid in a hollow live-oak log, and
lowered into the Mississippi; but it seems more probable that the corpse was
wrapped in mantles made heavy by a ballast of sand, and thus lowered into the
water. See John G. Shea, " Ancient Florida,-" in Justin Winsor, Narrative and
Critical History oj America (Boston and New York, 1886), ii, pp. 231-283; also
E. G. Bourne (ed.) Narratives oj the Career oj Hernando de Soto (New York,
1904).— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
plum, the persimmon, the cherry, the delicate pecan, the
hickory, and the hazel-nut; and for the most part was comprised in one vast "common field," over which herds of
wild horses, introduced by the emigrants, long roamed
in undisturbed possession. This common, consisting of
seven thousand acres, was granted "to Kaskaskia and
inhabitants for ever" by Vaudreuil, governor of the Province
of Louisiana, as early as 1743.22 In this arrangement we
observe a striking feature in the policy both of the French
and Spanish governments, in their early setdements on
the Mississippi. The items of door-yards, gardens, stable-
yards, etc., and of settling colonies in the compact form
of towns and villages, as a protection from the savages
and to promote social intercourse, were all matters of special
requisition and enactment; while to each [154] settlement
was granted two tracts of land for "common fields" and
"commons." This distinction was not, however, invariably observed. The former consisted of several hundred
acres, conveniently divided among the individual families,
and the whole enclosed by the labour of all the villagers
n Annexed is a copy of the grant of the celebrated commons attached to the
village of Kaskaskia. It is the earliest.title the citizens hold to seven thousand
acres of the most fertile land in the West — perhaps in the world.
"Pierre de Rigatjlt de Vaudreotl, Governor and Edme Gatien Salmon
Commissary orderer of the Province of Louisiana, seen the petition to us presented
on the sixteenth day of June of this present year by the Inhabitants of the Parish
■of the Immaculate Conception of Kaskaskia dependence of the Illinois, tending
to be confirmed in the possession of a common which they have had a long time
for the pasturage of their cattle in the Point called La bois, which runs to
the entrance of the River Kaskaskia. We, by virtue of the power to us granted
by his Majesty have confirmed and do confirm to the said Inhabitants the possession of the said common on the following conditions —
"First, That the concessions heretofore granted either by the India Company,
■either by our predecessors or by us in the prairie of Kaskaskia on the side of the
point which runs to the entrance of the river, shall terminate at the land granted
to a man named Cavalier, and in consequence, that all concessions that may have
been made on the said point from the land of the said Cavalier forward, on the
side of the entrance of the said river shall be null and void and of no effect. In
consequence of which, the said Point, as it is above designated, shall remain I
46 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
in common. If the enclosure opposite any plat was suffered
to become ruinous, the right to the common was forfeited
by the offending individual. The seasons, also, for ploughing, sowing, reaping, etc., were by public ordinance simultaneous: yet with these restrictions, each individual, so
long as he complied with the necessary regulations, possessed his lot in franc allieu — fee simple, subject to sale
and transfer. The "common" was a far more extended
tract, embracing in some instances several thousand acres
without enclosure, and reserved for the purpose of wood
and pasturage. Here there was no grant of severalty,
and no individual portion could be appropriated without
the special and unanimous consent of the whole village.
To the indigent who came to settle among them, and to
young married pairs, donations from this tract were often
made by the villagers, and, if conveniently situated, might
in common without altering its nature, nevertheless, reserving to us the power
whenever the case may require it, of granting the said commons to the inhabitants
established and who may establish, and this, on the representations which may be
made to us by the commandants and sub-delegates in the said places.
"Secondly, on the road vulgarly called the Square Line between the large and
small line shall be rendered practicable and maintained for the passage of the
Carts and Cattle going into the Common, and this by lack of the proprietors as
well of the great as of the small line whose lands border on the roads of the Square
line. And as to the places which ought to run along the side of the village from the
said road of the Square line unto the river, as also the one on the side of the point
running to the Mississippi and to the Kaskaskia river, they shall be made and
maintained at the expense of the community, to the end that the cultivated lands
be not injured by the cattle.
"Thirdly, To facilitate to the inhabitants the means of making their autumnal
harvest, and prevent its being damaged by the cattle, we forbid all persons to leave
their cattle range upon cultivated lands — they are, notwithstanding, permitted to
graze upon their own proper lands on having them diligently watched.
"Fourthly, Willing that the wood which is on the land granted belong to the proprietors of the said lands, we forbid all persons to cut down any elsewhere than on their
own lands, and as to the wood which may be found in the'commons to cut down for their
own use, either for building or for fire wood, and this shall be the present regulation.
"Read, published and affixed to the end that no person may be ignorant thereof.
Given at New-Orleans the fourteenth day of August, 1743. VAUDREUIL.
" Salmon."— Flagg. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
subsequently become a portion of the " common -field." **
That such an arrangement, under all the circumstances
of the period when instituted, and with such a people as
the early French settlers, was the best that could have
been made, no one can doubt. But how such a regulation
would suit a race of enterprising Yankees, fidgeting eternally
for improvements, or a squad of long-sided Kentuckians,
grumbling about elbow-room, is problematical.
[155] The proceedings of our national government towards these ancient villages have been characterized by
generosity, whatever may be said of the conduct of individuals. In 1788, an extensive tract lying along the
Mississippi was by act of Congress granted to the French
inhabitants east of that river; and to those of Kaskaskia
was secured for a common field twenty thousand acres.
It is under direction of the trustees of the town by provision of the state legislature.24
Unlike the policy of all other Europeans who have planted
themselves upon the Western continent, that of the French
emigrants towards the aborigines, with the single exception of the extermination of the Natchez in the South, has
invariably   been   conciliatory,   peaceable,   and   friendly.2S
23 "Under the old management all the inhabitants had equal access to the commons for pasturage and fuel. By an act of the legislature passed in 1854, the
citizens were authorized to elect five trustees every two years, who should exercise
the charge of the commons, lease portions thereof, and apply the proceeds to church
and school purposes only. The common fields were also originally owned jointly
by the villagers, though each resident was assigned an individual portion. The
United States commissioners, in 1809, determined the rights of each citizen, and the
lots have since been held in fee simple." See Combined History oj Randolph,
Monroe, and Perry Counties, Illinois (Philadelphia, 1883), p. 308.— Ed.
24 For the memorial of George Morgan, upon these lands along the Mississippi
River, the report of the committee to which the above had been referred, and
the resolutions of Congress thereon (August 28, 29, 1788), see Laws oj the United
States, etc. (Bioren edition, Philadelphia, 18x5), i, pp. 580-585.— Ed.
25 For an account of the extermination of the Natchez, see F. A. Michaux's
Travels, in our volume iii, p. 254, note 53.— Ed. 48 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
This has been the effect rather of debasing themselves
than of elevating the natives. Surrounded by everything which could fascinate the eye or delight the fancy,
we find these inoffensive foreigners, therefore, unlike the
English settlers along the Atlantic and in the elder
Western states, at peace with all their savage neighbours;
unambitious, contented, and happy, increasing and flourishing; and in a few years, they tell us, Kaskaskia, "the
terrestrial paradise," numbered a population of eight
thousand souls!2e Blessed with a soil of boundless fertility,
and prolific in all Nature's luxurious stores to a degree
of which less-favoured climes can form no conception:
subsisting solely by culture of the little homesteads around
their own thresholds, by hunting [156] the wild denizens
of their noble forests, or angling upon the calm bosom of
their beautiful stream: simple-hearted and peaceful, almost
without the terms of law, gently ruled by the restraints of
a religion they venerated and a priesthood they loved:
without commerce, the arts, or the elegances of life; a
thousand miles from a community of civilized men; from
year to year they went on, and from generation to generation they flourished, until, in that of our own age and our
own day, they are found still treading in the steps in which
their fathers trod ! So long as the peaceful French villager
retained the beautiful land of his adoption in undisputed
possession, all was flourishing and prosperous. A little
more than half a century from its origin, Kaskaskia was
capital of Illinois; and on the visit of Charlevoix in 1721,
a monastery and Jesuit college was in successful operation, the ruins of the edifice remaining extant even at the
28 Doubtless an exaggeration.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. "From 1810 to 1820 the town (Kaskaskia) probably contained more people than at any other period of its history. A census taken at
that time showed a population of seven thousand." See History oj Randolph,
Monroe, and Perry Counties, p. 307. 1836-18371
Flagg's Far West
present day.27 This institution was successful in converting a number of the aborigines to its peculiar tenets, and
at one period is said to have "embraced twenty-five hundred catechumens ! ! " A most preposterous assertion, most
It was in the early part of this century that the scheme
of that celebrated projector, John Law, of Edinburgh,
on the strength of which he elevated himself to the dignity
of Comptroller-general of the Finance of France, was first
set on foot with reference to the Valley of the Mississippi.
The design, so far as it is now known, was to establish a
bank, an East India, and a Mississippi Company, from
[157] the anticipated enormous revenue of which was to
be liquidated the national debt of France.28 The territory
of Louisiana had already acquired a reputation abroad
for the boundlessness of the wealth and fertility of its soil;
and, to foster the delusion of Law's scheme, descriptions
of this beautiful region, tinted with all the rainbow hues
of romance, were scattered throughout Europe, until the
distant wilderness of les Illinois became the paradise of
the slumberer's vision. "The Illinois" was the fairyland of fancy realized. A few years, the vast fabric of
fictitious credit crumbled, almost annihilating the finance
of France, and burying thousands of families in its ruins.
17 A monastery and accompanying college, liberally endowed from Europe, was
founded at Kaskaskia by Jesuit missionaries in the first quarter of the eighteenth
century.— Ed.
28 "The idea," says Adam Smith, "of the possibility of multiplying paper money
to almost any extent, was the real f oundation of what is called the Mississippi scheme,
the most extravagant project, both of banking and stock-jobbing, that perhaps the
world ever saw."— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. John Law died at Venice, March 21, 1729. Concerning
his financial methods, see Emile Levasseur, Recherches historique sur le system
de Law (Paris, 1854). Ample and accurate is Andrew M. Davis's A Historical
Study oj Law's System (Boston, 1887), reprinted from Quarterly Journal oj
Economics (Boston, 1887), i, pp. 289-318, 420-452. 50 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
Law was exiled and retired to Venice, where in poverty
he soon died. It is a coincidence not a little remarkable,
that the same year, 1720, witnessed the same desperate
game enacted by the South Sea directors in England.
But the attention of France was now directed towards
her remote colony in North America; and notwithstanding
the failure of Law's scheme, old Kaskaskia continued to
flourish beyond all compare. Other villages sprang into
existence around; a lucrative fur-trade was carried on
by the Canadian voyageurs, and agriculture became the
peculiar province of the French villager. The extent and
luxuriance of the agriculture at this period maybe [158]
gathered from the fact, that in the single year 1746, eight
hundred thousand weight of flour was sent to New Orleans
from these settlements.29 At this period there was not a
solitary village west of the Mississippi, though the lead-
mines then known and worked were resorted to by traders.80
Twenty years after the failure of Law's scheme, the French
government formed the design, almost as chimerical, of
securing her immense possessions in the Mississippi Valley
by a continuous line of military posts, connecting them
with Canada; and vast were the sums of money expended
in the undertaking.
A century, and the whole region was ceded to England,
thence to our own government in 1783, and now old Kaskaskia is but the wreck of its former prosperity. It makes
one almost sad to wander about among these ruinous,
deserted habitations, venerable with departed years, and
reflect that once they were thronged with population, the
seat of hospitality, and the home of kindly feeling. The
quiet villagers have been not a little annoyed by the steady
29 Breckenridge.— Flagg.
80 For an account of the early lead-mines, see Flagg's Far West, in our volume
xxyi, p. 95, note 60.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flaggs Far West
and rapid influx of immigration on every side of them,
dissimilar in customs, language, religion, and temperament, while the bustling enterprise has fretted and displeased them. Long accustomed, also, to the arbitrary
but parental authority of their military commandants
and priesthood, they deemed the introduction of the common law among them exceedingly burdensome, and the
duties of a citizen of a republic, of which we are so [159]
proud, intolerable drudgery. Many, therefore, of the
wealthy and respectable, on cession of their territory to
our government, removed to Louisiana, where civil law
yet bears sway; others crossed the river and established
Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis;81 while the foreigners returning to the lands from which they had emigrated, few but
natives of the country remained behind. The ordinance
of i787,sa prohibiting involuntary servitude in the region
then called the Northwestern Territory, induced many
who were desirous of preserving their blacks to remove
to the new villages west of the Mississippi, then under
Spanish rule. From these and a variety of similar causes,
this peaceful, kind-hearted people have within the last
thirty years been more than once disturbed in the dwellings of their fathers.
Kaskaskia, III.
81 For an historical sketch of Ste. Genevieve, see Cuming's Tour, in our volume
iv, p. 266, note 174.— Ed.
32 The French civil law still prevails in Louisiana.
For a good monograph on the Ordinance of 1787, and the text of the same, see
Jay Amos Barrett, Evolution oj the Ordinance of 1787, with an Account oj the earlie
Plans jor the Government oj the Northwest Territory (New York, 1891).— Ed. ■
52 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
" If my readers should at any time remark that I am particularly dull, they may
rest assured there is a design under it."— British Essayist.
" Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor."
Gray's Elegy.
Few things are more difficult, and, consequently, more
rarely met, than correct portraiture of character, whether
of the individual or of a community. It is easy enough,
indeed, to trace out the prominent outlines in the picture;
and with a degree of accuracy which shall render it easily
recognised, while yet the more delicate shading and fighting is false; just as the artist may have transferred every
feature in exact form, size, and proportion to his canvass,
while the expression thrown over the whole may be incorrect. This has more than once been the case in descriptions hastily drawn of that singular being, the French
villager of the Mississippi. One distinguished writer has
given an absolute caricature of the race. My own design
has been, therefore, merely to throw before the reader
those characteristic traits which not even the most careless observer could have failed to detect.
[161] Though betraying but little of that fiery restlessness which distinguishes the Parisian, these men are yet
Frenchmen in more respects than mere origin. In their
ordinary deportment we view, indeed, rather the calm
gravity, the saturnine severity of the Spaniard; and yet
in their fêtes and amusements, which were formerly far
more frequent than at present, they exhibit all the gayety
of the native of La Belle France. The calm, quiet tenour
of their lives presenting but few objects for enterprise, 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
none for the strivings of ambition, and but little occasion
of any kind to elicit the loftier energies of our nature, has
imparted to their character, their feelings, their manners,
to the very language they speak, a languid softness
strongly contrasted by the unquiet restlessness of the emigrant who is succeeding them. Hospitality was formerly,
with them, hardly a virtue: it was a matter of course, arising from their peculiarity of situation; and the swinging
sign of the tavern is a recent usurpation. The statute-
book, the judiciary, courts of law, and the penitentiary,
were things little recognised among these simple-hearted
people; for where the inequalities of life were unknown,
what was the inducement to crime demanding this enginery of punishment? Learning and science, too, were
terms scarcely comprehended, their technicalities not at
all; for schools were few, and learned men still more so;
and thus reading, writing, and ciphering are, and ever
have been, the acme of scholastic proficiency with the
French villager. How many of the honest fellows can
do even this, [162] is not for me to estimate. As to politics and the affairs of the nation, which their countrymen
on the other side of the water ever seem to think no inconsiderable object of their being, they are too tame, and too
lazy, and too quiet to think of the subject. Indeed, the
worthy villagers very wisely look upon "earthly dignities"
and the like much with the stoicism of Cardinal Wol-
sey in disgrace,
" Oh, 'tis a burden, Cromwell, 'tis a burden,
Too heavy for a man that hopes for heaven. "   .
The virtues of these people are said to be many: punctuality and honesty in their dealings; politeness and hospitality to strangers; though, it must be confessed, the
manifold impositions practised upon their simplicity of
late years has tended to substitute for the latter virtue ça. Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
not a little of coolness and distrust. There is much
friendship and warmth of feeling between neighbours
and kindred, and the women make affectionate wives,
though by no means prone to consider themselves in
the fight of goods and chattels of their liege-lords, as is
not unfrequently the case in more enlightened communities. Indeed, as touching this matter, the Mississippi
French villager invariably reverses the sage maxim of the
" In things of moment on yourself depend ; "
for he never presumes to depend upon any one but bis
faithful helpmate, whether things are of moment or not.
As to religious faith, all are Catholics; and formerly, more
than of late years, were punctilious in observance of the
ceremony and discipline [163] of their church, permitting
but few festivals of the calendar to pass unobserved.
Their wealth consisted chiefly of personal property, slaves,
merchandise, etc.; land being deemed an item of secondary consideration, while lead and peltry constituted the
ordinary circulating medium. Rent for houses was a thing
hardly known. All this changed long ago, of course;
and while real estate has augmented in value many hundred per cent., personal property has somewhat proportionally depreciated.
In the ordinary avocations of the villagers, there is but
little variety or distinction even at the present day, and
formerly this uniformity of pursuit was yet more observable. The wealthier and more enterprising habitans were
traders, often with peculiar and exclusive privileges; and
they kept a heterogeneous stock of goods in the largest
room of their dwelling-houses, by way of being merchants.
There are but few who practice the mechanic arts for a
livelihood: carpenters, smiths, tailors, shoemakers, etc.,
as  artisans,  were formerly almost  unknown,  and  there 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
is now in this respect but little change. Now, as then,
the mass of the population are agriculturists, while many
of the young and enterprising men embrace with pride,
as offering a broad field for generous emulation, the occupations of boatmen, traders to the Rocky Mountains
— in the vicinity of which most of their lives are passed
— engages of the American Fur Company, or hunters
and trappers upon the prairies. The bold recklessness
of this class has long been notorious.
[164] The idiom of these villages, though by no means
as pure as it might be, is yet much more so, all things considered, than could be expected. It requires no very close
observation or proficiency in the language to detect a difference, especially in pronunciation, from the European
French. There is not that nervous, animated brilliancy of
dialect which distinguishes the latter; and the nasal, lengthened, drawling sound of words, gives their conversation a
languid, though by no means a disagreeable movement.
It is said to be more soft and euphonious than the vernacular,
though very different from the Creole dialect of the West
India Islands. There are some provincialisms, and some
words which a century ago might have been recognized
in some provinces of France, though not now.
As to the item of costume, it is still somewhat unique,
though formerly, we are told, much more so: that of the
men was a course blanket-coat, with a cap attached behind in lieu of a cape; and which, from the circumstance
of drawing over the head, gave the garment the name of
capote. Around the head was wreathed a blue handkerchief in place of a hat, and on the feet moccasins instead
of shoes and stockings. All this, however, has pretty
generally given place to the American garb, though some
of the very aged villagers may still be seen in their ancient
habiliments, the capote, moccasins, blue handkerchief on 56 Early Western Travels [Vol. a^
the head, and an endless queue lengthened out behind.
Their chief amusement ever has been, and, probably, ever
will be, the dance, in which all, even from the least to the
greatest, [165] bond and free, unite. Their slaves are
treated well, if we may judge from appearances; for nowhere in the West have I seen a sleeker, fleshier, happier-
looking set of mortals than the blacks of these old villages.
Previous to the cession of Louisiana to our government, the Laws of Spain were pretty generally in force
throughout the province, so far as related to municipal
arrangement and real estate, while the common law of
France — Coutume de • Paris — governed all contracts of
a social nature, modified by and interwoven with the
customs of the people.33 Each district had its commandant, and each village its syndic, besides judges in civil
affairs for the province, and officers of the militia, a small
body of which was stationed in every district, though too
inconsiderable to afford much protection to the inhabitants.
These rulers were appointed by the governor at New-
Orleans, to whom there was an appeal; and the lieutenant-
governor, who resided at St. Louis, was commander of
the troops. Thus the government was a mixture of civil
and military; and, though arbitrary to the last degree,
yet we are told the rod of domination was so slight as
scarcely to be felt.84 However this may be, it is pretty
certain they did not well relish at first the change in the
33 Under the feudal regime in France, the local or customary laws of the more
important centres of population came gradually to extend their sway over larger
and larger districts. With the rising importance of Paris, the coutume de Paris
(common law of Paris), reformed in 1580 by order of the parliament, in time displaced all others; it breathed the national spirit. Codified, it was in a sense the
forerunner of the Code Napoleon.— Ed.
34 Breckenridge — to whom the author is indebted for other facts relative to
these early settlements.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. Henry Marie Brackenridge (not Breckenridge), Views oj
Louisiana (Pittsburgh, 1814). 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
administration of justice when they came under the jurisdiction of our laws. The delay and uncertainty attendant
on trial by jury, and the multifarious technicahties of our
jurisprudence, they [166] could not well comprehend,
either as to import, importance, or utility; and it is not
strange they should have preferred the prompt despatch
of arbitrary power. Nor is the modern administration
of justice the only change with which the simple-hearted
villager is dissatisfied. On every side of him improvement,
the watchword of the age, is incessandy ringing in his ears;
and if there be one term in all our vocabulary he abhors
more than all others, it is this same: and, reader, there
is much wisdom in his folly. In 1811 the invention of
Fulton's mighty genius was first beheld walking upon
the Western waters; and from that hour "the occupation"
of the daring, reckless, cMvalrous French voyageur "was
gone." Again the spirit of improvement declared that
the venerable old cottage, gray with a century's years, must
give place to the style and material of a more modern date;
and lo ! the aged dwelling where his fathers lived, and
where his eyes opened on the light, is swept away, and its
very site is known no more. And then the streets and
thoroughfares where his boyhood has frolicked, as the
village increases to a city, must be widened, and straightened, and paved, and all for no earthly reason, to his comprehension, but to prevent familiar chat with his opposite
neighbour, when sitting on his balcony of a long summer
night, and to wear out his poor pony's unshodden hoofs!
It is very true that their landed property, where they have
managed to retain it from the iron grasp of speculation,
has increased in value almost beyond calculation by the
change; but they now refuse to [167] profit by selling.
Merchandise, the comforts and luxuries of life, have become cheaper and more easily obtained, and the reward 58 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
of industrious enterprise is greater. But what is all this
to men of their peculiar habits and feelings? Once they
were far better contented, even in comparative poverty.
There was then a harmony, and cordiality, and unanimity
of feeling pervading their society which it never can know
again. They were as one family in every village; nearly
all were connected either by ties of affinity, consanguinity,
propinquity, or friendship: distinction of rank or wealth
was little known, and individuals of every class were dressed
alike, and met upon equal and familiar footing in the same
ballroom. It is needless to say, that now "Nous avons
changé tout cela." 8B
As to the poorer class of these villagers, it is more than
doubtful whether they have at all been benefited by the
change of the past twenty years. We must not forget that,
as a race, they are peculiar in character, habits, and feeling; and so utterly distinct from ourselves, that they can
with hardly more facility associate in customs with us
than can our red brother of the prairie. Formerly the
poorest, and the laziest, and the most reckless class was
fearless of want or beggary; but now a more enterprising
race has seized upon the lands with which they have imprudently parted, perhaps with little remuneration, and
they find themselves abridged in many of their former
immunities. Their cattle may no longer range at will, nor
have they the liberty [168] of appropriating wood for fuel
wherever it seemeth good. It cannot be denied, that many
a one gains now a precarious subsistence, where formerly
he would have lived in comfort. Nearly every one possesses a little cart, two or three diminutive ponies, a few
cattle,   a cottage,   and  garden.   But  in  agriculture, the
35 Sganarelle.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. Sganarelle is a character in Molière's plays, notably in
"Le Médicin malgré lui." 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
superior industry of the new immigrant can afford them
for lease-rent double the result of their toil, while as draymen, labourers, or workmen of any kind, it is not difficult
for foreigners to surpass them. In a few years the steamer
will have driven the keel-boat from the Western waters,
and with it the voyageur, the patron, and the courier du
bois; but the occupation of the hunter, trapper, and engage,
in which the French villager can never be excelled, must
continue so long as the American Fur Company find it
profitable to deal in buffalo robes, or enterprising men
think proper to go to Santa Fé for gold dust. Nor will
the farmer, however lazy, lose the reward of his labour
so long as the market of St. Louis is as little overstocked
as at present. Nathless, it is pretty certain "times ain't
now as they used to was" to the French villager, all this
to the contrary notwithstanding.
Kaskaskia, III.
"All things have an end.
Churches and cities, that have diseases like to man,
Must have like death that we have. "
" Birth has gladden'd it: Death has sanctified it."
" The roof-tree sinks, but moulders on the wall
In massy hoariness."
Childe Harold.
In remarking upon the history of the French in the
West, and the peculiarities which still continue to characterize them, I am aware I have lingered longer than
could have been anticipated; much longer, certainly,
than was my original intention. The circumstances which
have induced this delay have been somewhat various.
The subject itself is an interesting one.   Apart from the mm
60 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
delight we all experience in musing upon the events of
bygone time, and that gratification, so singularly exquisite, of treading amid the scenes of "things departed,"
there is an interest which every individual who has cast
his lot in the great Valley cannot fail to feel in every item,
even the most minute, which may pertain to its history.
In dwelling, too, upon the features of "old Kaskaskia,"
my design has been to exemplify the distmguishing characteristics of all these early settlements, both French and
Spanish, in the Valley of the Mississippi. The peculiarities of all are the same, as were the circumstances [170]
which first conduced to them. The same customs, the
same religion, the same amusements, and the same form
of government prevailed among all; and though dissimilar
in dialect, and separated by the broad Mississippi, yet,
cut off from all the rest of mankind, both the French and
the Spanish villagers were glad to smother differences,
and to bind themselves to each other in their dependant
situation by the tendrils of mutually kind offices and social
intercourse. Thus, several of the villages stand opposite
each other upon the banks of the Mississippi. Ste. Genevieve is only across the stream from Kaskaskia, and many
fine old traditionary legends of these early times are yet
extant, and should be treasured up before too late.
But another circumstance which has been not unfavourable to that prolixity into which I have suffered my
pen to glide, and without which other inducements might
have proved ineffectual, has been the quiet, dreamy seclusion of this old hamlet, so congenial to the workings of the
brain. Yesterday was like to-day, and to-morrow will
be the transcript of yesterday; and so time's current slips
lazily along, like
"The liquid lapse of a murmuring stream."
As to objects of interest, one could hardly have lingered 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
so long as I have within the precincts of this "sleepy hollow" without having met with some incidents worthy of
regard for their novelty, if for naught else.
There are few situations in Illinois which can [171] boast
advantages for mercantile transaction superior to Kaskaskia. But the villagers are not a commercial, enterprising, money-making people, and the trade of the place
is, therefore, very small. The river is said to be navigable
for fifty miles from its mouth; the current is gentle, and
an inconsiderable expense in clearing the channel of fallen
timber would enable small boats to penetrate nearly two
hundred miles higher, by the meanderings of the stream,
to Vandalia. Measures for this purpose have been entered upon. A land-office for the district is here established.88 The number of families is seventy or eighty,
nearly all French and all Catholics, besides considerable
transient population — boatmen, hunters, trappers, who
traverse the great rivers and broad prairies of the
Opposite Kaskaskia, on the summit of a lofty crag overlooking the river, once stood a large fortress of massive
timber, named Fort Gage. Its form was an oblong quadrangle, the exterior polygon being several hundred yards
in circumference. It was burnt to the ground in 1766.
About twelve years subsequent to this event, the place
was taken by the American troops under Colonel George
Rogers Clarke, "Hannibal of the West." After most
incredible exertions in the march from Virginia, he arrived
before Kaskaskia in the night; and, though fortified, so
38 A land-office was established at Kaskaskia by act of Congress approved
March 26, 1804, "for so much of the lands included within the boundaries fixed
by the treaty of the thirteenth of August, one thousand eight hundred and three,
with the Kaskaskia tribe of Indians, as is not claimed by any other Indian tribe;"
this was discontinued by order of the president, November 12, 1855. The records
were transferred to Springfield the following February.— Ed. 6 2 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
bewildering was the surprise of  the villagers, that not a
blow was struck, and the town was taken.87
The aged Catholic church at Kaskaskia, among [172]
other relics of the olden time, is well worthy a stranger's
visit. It was erected more than a century since upon
the ruins of a former structure of similar character, but
is still in decent condition, and the only church in the
place. It is a huge old pile, extremely awkward and ungainly, with its projecting eaves, its walls of hewn timber
perpendicularly planted, and the interstices stuffed with
mortar, with its quaint, oldfashioned spire, and its dark,
storm-beaten casements. The interior of the edifice is
somewhat imposing, notwithstanding the sombre hué
of its walls; these are rudely plastered with lime, and decorated with a few dingy paintings. The floor is of loose,
rough boards, and the ceiling arched with oaken panels.
The altar and the lamp suspended above are very antique,
I was informed by the officiating priest, having been used
in the former church. The lamp is a singular specimen
of superstition illustrated by the arts. But the structure
of the roof is the most remarkable feature of this venerable
edifice. This I discovered in a visit to the belfry of the
tower, accomplished at no little expenditure of sinew and
muscle, for stairs are an appliance quite unknown to this
primitive building. There are frames of two distinct
roofs, of massive workmanship,  neatly united,  compris-
87 During the Indian troubles a fort was erected in 1736 on an eminence, later
known as Garrison Hill, opposite Kaskaskia. It was repaired and occupied by
a French garrison at the opening of the French and Indian War. In 1766 the
fort was burned, but another soon afterward built, was occupied by the English
(1772) and named Fort Gage, in honor of the British commander-in-chief. On
the night of July 4, 1778, Colonel George Rogers Clark captured the fort and
made it his headquarters while in Illinois. It was abandoned at the close of the
Revolution, but was re-occupied for a short time by American troops in 1801.
Colonel Pike's regiment was stationed there for a short period. See R. G. Thwaites,
How George Rogers Clark Won the Northwest (Chicago, 1903).— Ed.
» » 1836-1837!
Flagg's Far West
ing a vast number of rafters, buttresses, and braces, crossing each other at every angle, and so ingeniously and
accurately arranged by the architect, that it is mathematically impossible that any portion of the structure
shall sink until time with a single blow shall level the entire
[173] edifice.88 It is related, that when this church was
about being erected, the simple villagers, astonished at
the immense quantities of timber required for the frame,
called a meeting of the citizens, and for a time laid an
interdict upon operations, until inquiry respecting the
matter should be made. It was with difficulty the architect at length obtained permission to proceed; but, when
all was completed, and the material had disappeared,
they knew not where, their astonishment surpassed all
bounds. The belfry reminded me of one of those ancient
monuments of the Druids called Rocking-stones; for though
it tottered to and fro beneath my weight, and always swings
with the bell when it is struck, perhaps the united force
of an hundred men could hardly hurl it from its seat. The
bell is consecrated by the crucifix cast in its surface, and
bears the inscription "Pour Leglise des Illinois. Normand A. Parachelle, 1741." The view from this elevation
was extremely beautiful: the settlement scattered for miles
around, with the quaint little cottages and farms all smiling in the merry sunlight, could hardly fail of the lovely
and picturesque. [174] The churchyard attached to the
building is not extensive, but crowded with tenants. It
is into this receptacle that for four generations Kaskaskia
38 The reader will recollect that these notes were sketched two years ago. Since
that time some changes in this old edifice have taken place; the whole southwest
angle has fallen to the ground, and, agreeable to the text, the entire roof would
have followed but for the extraordinary strength of one solitary piece of timber.
High mass was in celebration at the time, and the church was crowded, but no
accident occurred. The old building has been since dismantled, however; its
bell removed from the tower, and the whole structure will soon, probably, be
prostrated by "decay's effacing finger."—Flagg. 6a. Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
has poured her entire population. I saw but a few monuments and a pile of stones. The first record on the register
belonging to this church is, I was informed by the priest,
to the following effect, in French: "1741, June 7. This
morning were brought to the fort three bodies from without,
killed by the Renards, to whom we gave sepulture" There
is here also a baptismal record, embracing the genealogies
of the French settlers since 1690, and other choice old
chronicles.89 Some land deeds still remain extant, bearing date as early as 1712, and a memorial also from the
villagers to Louis XV., dated 1725, petitioning a grant
of "commons" etc., in consequence of disasters from the
flood of the preceding year, in which their all had been
swept away, and they had been forced themselves to flee
for life to the bluffs opposite the village.
The Nunnery at Kaskaskia is a large wooden structure,
black with age, and formerly a public house. With this
institution is connected a female seminary, in high repute
throughout this region, and under superintendence of
ten of the sisters. A new nunnery of stone is about being
It was a glorious morning, and, with many a lingering
38 The earliest "extract from the baptismal records of the mission among the
Illinois, under the title of the Immaculate conception of Our Lady," bears date
March 20, 1692. The first ceremony recorded after the removal of the mission
to Kaskaskia, was performed April 17, 1701. See "Kaskaskia Church Records,"
in Illinois State Historical Library Publications (Springfield, 1904), pp. 394-413;
Edward G. Mason, "Kaskaskia and its Parish Records," in Fergus Historical
Series, No. 12 (Chicago, 1881), pp. 1-22; C. W. Alvord, The Old Kaskaskia
Records (Chicago Historical Society, 1906); Magazine oj American History, vi,
pp. 161-182;  Michigan Pioneer Collections, v, pp.  94-109.— Ed.
40 A convent of the.Visitation was established at Kaskaskia in May, 1833, by
a colony from the parent house at Georgetown, District of Columbia. It was
patronized by Pierre Menard, and connected with the academy named in his
honor. A large building was erected and opened for pupils in 1836. The institution enjoyed a high reputation until the flood of 1844 forced its abandonment.
See History oj Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, p. 308.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
step, I left behind me the village of old Kaskaskia. As
I rode leisurely along the banks of that placid stream,
and among the beautiful farms of the French settlers, I
was more than once reminded forcibly of similar scenery
high up the Kennebeck, [175] in a distant section of Maine,
known by the name of "Indian Old Point," where I once
took a ramble with a college classmate during an autumn
vacation. The landscape is one of singular beauty; yet,
were it otherwise, there is a charm thrown around this
distant and lonely spot by its association with an interesting passage in the earliest history of the country. In the
expressive language of an eloquent writer, who has made
the place the scene of an Indian tale, the soil is fertilized
by the blood of a murdered tribe. Here, one hundred years
ago, stood the village of the Norridgewocks, a tribe of
the powerful Abnaquis, who then held undisputed domination over the extensive wilds of the far East. Though
possessing not the fierce valour of the Pequods, the. sinewy
vigour of the Delawares, the serpent-like subtlety of the
Penobscots, the bell-toned idiom of the Iroquois, we are
yet told they were a powerful tribe for their intelligence
and their numbers. The Jesuit missionaries of Canada,
while at this era they were gliding upon the beautiful rivers
of the distant West, had not neglected the steril rocks of
the equally remote East: and the hamlet of the Norridgewocks had early been subjected to the influences of the
fascinating ceremony and the lofty ritual of the Catholic
faith. Under the guidance of the devoted Sebastian Rasle,
a rude church was erected by the natives, and its gray,
cross-crowned spire reared up itself among the low-roofed
wigwams. Beloved by his savage flock, the venerable
Father Rasle lived on in peacefulness and quietude for
thirty years in the home of his adoption. During [176]
the troubled period of the  "French and Indian War" 66 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
which ensued, suspicions arose that the Norridgewocks
were influenced by their missionary to many of their acts
of lawless violence upon a village of English settlers but
a few miles distant. In the autumn of 1724 this distrust
had augmented to a conviction that the Abnaquis had
resolved on the extermination of the white race, and a
detachment of soldiers ascended the Kennebeck. It was
a bright, beautiful morning of the Sabbath when they
approached the Indian hamlet. The sweet-toned bell
of the little chapel awoke the echoes with its clear peal,
and announced the hour of mass just as the early sunlight was tinting the far-off hill-tops. A few moments,
and every living soul in the village was within the church,
and had bowed in humbleness before the "Great Spirit."
The deep tones of the venerable Rasle were supplicating,
"Ora, or a pro nobis," when the soldiers rushed in. Terrible and indiscriminate was the massacre that ensued.
Not one was spared; not one\ The pious Rasle poured
out his heart's blood upon the altar of bis devotion. Those
of the natives who escaped from the chapel were either
shot down or perished miserably in the river, their bark
canoes having been previously perforated by the treachery
of their foes.41   The drowsy beams of that day's setting
41 I give the tradition of the farmers now resident upon the spot. History
differs somewhat.
Most of the historical facts relative to the extermination of the Abnaquis
will be found condensed in the subjoined extract from a late valuable work.
"Determined on destroying this assemblage of Indians, which was the headquarters of the whole eastern country at this time, the English, in 1724, sent out
a force, consisting of 208 men and three Mohawk Indians, under Captains Moulton,
Harman, and Bourne, to humble them. They came upon the village the 23d
August, when there was not a man in arms to oppose them. They had left 40
of their men at Teconet Falls, which is now within the town of Winslow, upon the
Kennebeck, and about two miles below Waterville College, upon the opposite side
of the river. The English had divided themselves into three squadrons: 80, under
Harman, proceeded by a circuitous route, thinking to surprise some in their cornfields, while Moulton, with 80 more, proceeded directly for the village, which, 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
sun dreamed beautifully as ever among the fragrant pine-
tops and the feathery hemlocks of the river-bank; but
his slanting rays smiled upon the ancient hamlet beneath
being surrounded by trees, could not be seen until they were close upon it. All
were in their wigwams, and the English advanced slowly and in perfect silence.
When pretty near, an Indian came out of his wigwam, and, accidentally discovering the English, ran in and seized his gun, and giving the warwhoop, in a few
minutes the warriors were all in arms, and advancing to meet them. Moulton
ordered his men not to fire until the Indians had made the first discharge. This
order was obeyed, and, as he expected, they overshot the English, who then fired
upon them in their turn, and did great execution. When the Indians had given
another volley, they fled with great precipitation to the river, whither the chief
of their women and children had also fled during the fight. Some of the English
pursued and killed many of them in the river, and others fell to pillaging and
burning the village. Mogg, their chief, disdained to fly with the rest, but kept
possession of a wigwam, from which he fired upon the pillagers. In one of his
discharges he killed a Mohawk, whose brother, observing it, rushed upon and
killed him; and thus ended the strife. There were about 60 warriors in the
place, about one half of whom were killed.
"The famous Rasle shut himself up in his house, from which he fired upon
the English; and, having wounded one, Lieutenant Jaques, of Newbury, burst
open the door, and shot him through the head, although Moulton had given orders
that none should kill him. He had an English boy with him, about 14 years old,
who had been taken some time before from the frontiers, and whom the English
reported Rasle was about to kill. Great brutality and ferocity are chargeable to
the English in this affair, according to their own account; such as killing women
and children, and scalping and mangling the body of Father Rasle.
" There was here a handsome church, with a bell, on which the English committed a double sacrilege, first robbing it, then setting it on fire; herein surpassing
the act of the first English circumnavigator in his depredations upon the Spaniards in South America; for he only took away the gold and silver vessels of a
church, and its crucifix, because it was of massy gold, set about with diamonds,
and that, too, upon the advice of his chaplain. 'This might pass,' says a reverend
author, 'for sea divinity, but justice is quite another thing.' Perhaps it will be
as well not to inquire here what kind of divinity would authorize the acts recorded
in these wars, or, indeed, any wars.
"Upon this memorable event in our early annals, Father Charlevoix should
be heard. There were not, says he, at the time the attack was made, above 50
warriors at Neridgewok; these seized their arms, and run in disorder, not to defend
the place against an enemy who was already in it, but to favour the flight of the
women, the old men, and the children, and to give them time to gain the side of
the river, which was not yet in possession of the English. Father Rasle, warned
by the clamours and tumult, and the danger in which he found his proselytes,
ran to present himself to the assailants, hoping to draw all their fury upon him,
that thereby he might prove the salvation of his flock.   His hope was vain; for 1
68 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
[177] whose ashes its exterminated dwellers were slumbering the last sleep!
The grave of Father Rasle, a green mound overlooking the stream, was pointed out to us. A granite obelisk
to his memory was erected by Bishop Fenwick, of Boston,
a few years since, but was demolished by a party of
miscreants soon after its completion. My object in this
lengthened episode upon the Norridgewocks, so casually
introduced, has been twofold: to illustrate the peaceful
policy of the French towards the Indian all over the con-
hardly had he discovered himself, when the English raised a great shout, which
was followed by a shower of shot, by which he fell dead near to the cross which he
had erected in the centre of the village: seven Indians who attended him, and
who endeavoured to shield him with their own bodies, fell dead at his side. Thus
died this charitable pastor, giving his life for his sheep, after 37 years of painful
"Although the English shot near 2000 muskets, they killed but 30 and
wounded 40. They spared not the church, which, after they had indignantly
profaned its sacred vases and the adorable body of Jesus Christ, they set on fire.
They then retired with precipitation, having been seized with a sudden panic.
The Indians returned immediately into the village; and their first care, while
the women sought plants and herbs proper to heal the wounded, was to shed
tears upon the body of their holy missionary. They found him pierced with a
thousand shot, his scalp taken off, his skull fractured with hatchets, his mouth
and eyes filled with dirt, the bones of bis legs broken, and all his members
mutilated in a hundred different ways.
" Such is the account of the fall of Rasle, by a brother of the faith; a deplorable
picture, by whomsoever related! Of the truth of its main particulars there can
be no doubt, as will be seen by a comparison of the above translation with the
account preceding it. There were, besides Mogg, other chief Indians who fell
that day: 'Bomazeen, Mogg, Wissememet, Job, Carabesett, and Bomazeen's
son-in-law, all famous warriors.' The inhumanity of the English on this occasion,
especially to the women and children, cannot be excused. It greatly eclipses the
lustre of the victory."    Drake's Book oj the Indians, b. iii., c. 9.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. Instead of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), Flagg
is doubtless referring to Queen Anne's War (1702-1713).
A large amount of valuable but scattered documentary and secondary information concerning this massacre and the causes leading to it may be found under
captions " Norridgewock " and " Rasle " in indexes to Maine Historical Society
Collections, and Documents relative to Colonial History oj State oj New York
(Albany, 1854-61). See also William Allen, History oj Norridgewock (Norridgewock, 1849). 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
tinent, and  to contrast it with that of other Europeans.
The ride from Kaskaskia to Prairie du Rocher in early
autumn is truly delightful.    Crossing Aubuchon, formerly
called St. Philippe — a passage from the Mississippi to
the  Kaskaskia,  about four miles above  the  town,  and
through which, in high floods, a rapid current passes from
one river to the other — the path lay through a tract of
astonishing fertility, where the wild fruit flourishes with
a  luxuriance  known  to  no other soil.   Endless thickets
of   the wild plum42 and the blackberry,  interlaced and
matted together by the young grape-vines streaming with
gorgeous clusters,  were to be seen stretching for miles
along the plain.    Such boundless profusion of wild fruit
I had never seen before.   Vast groves of the ruby crab-
apple, the golden persimmon,48 the black and white mulberry,44 and the wild cherry,45 were [178] sprinkled with
their rainbow hues in isolated masses over the prairie,
or extended themselves in long luxurious streaks glowing
in the sun.   The pawpaw,46 too, with its luscious, pulpy
fruit; the peach, the pear, and the quince, all thrive in wild
luxuriance here; while of the nuts, the pecan or Choctaw
nut, the hickory, and the black walnut, are chief.   As for
grapes,  the indigenous vines are prolific; and  the fruit
is said to be so excellent, that wine might be, and even
has been, made from them, and has been exported by
the early French in such quantities to France, that the
trade was prohibited lest the sale of a staple of that kingdom should  be injured!   But all this is undoubtedly exaggeration, if no more.   Although the grape and the wine
42 Prunus Americana.— Flagg.
48 Indian Date, by the French called Placminier, Diosporus Virginiana.— Flagg.
44 Morus Rubra and Alba.— Flagg.
45 Prunus Cerasus Virginia.— Flagg.
48 Custard apple, Annona glabra.— Flagg.
If jo Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
of southern Illinois have long been the theme of the traveller through that delightful region, from the worthy Father
Hennepin, who tells us of the purple clusters lending their
rich hues to the gliding wave, to the tourist of the present
day, yet from personal observation I am confident they
are now by no means of much importance, and from good
authority am inclined to think they never were so. As
to the manufacture of wine becoming a matter interesting
to commerce, there is no probability of that. A kind of
liquor was formerly made in some quantities from what
is called the winter grape, common to the same latitude
in many portions of the United States, but it is said to have
been a very indifferent beverage. It was made in the
following simple manner: the clusters were heaped in
broad, shallow [179] vessels of wood, and, after being
crushed, the juice was expressed through perforations
for the purpose in the sides and bottom, by the application of heavy weights, into vessels prepared for its reception.    Slight fermentation then completed the process.47
A ride of some hours through this delightful region
brought me to the bluffs, which, at this point extending
into the plain, confine the bottom to a narrow strip,
bounded on the one side by the Mississippi, and on the other
by the battlement of the cliffs, upward of an hundred
feet in height. Beneath lies the French village of Prairie
du Rocher, so called from its situation.48 It is thirteen
miles from Kaskaskia, and its low cottages scattered along,
like the tents of a nomadic tribe, for miles, are completely
overhung by the huge, beetling crags above. From the
deep alluvion along the river's verge rises an enormous
47 Breckenridge.— Flagg,
Comment by Ed.   Henry Marie Brackenridge, Views oj Louisiana, p. 60.
48 For a sketch of Prairie du Rocher, see A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume
iii, p. 70, note 133.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg' s Far West
growth of cottonwood-trees and sycamores, concealing
the stream from the view. From the bluffs to this belt
of forest stretches away the vast common field, rustling
with maize. The castor-bean and tobacco-plant are also
often seen carpeting the ground with emerald. Around
each tenement, as usual, is a plat of cultivated land, and
the luxuriance of vegetation is unrivalled. Passing these
outskirts, I at length arrived at the body of the village,
lying upon a creek or bayou of the same name, which
winds through its centre, and empties into the Mississippi.
This quiet stream was once the scene of a very bloody
tragedy. When Illinois first came under territorial government, and courts of civil judicature [180] were established, the functionaries of the law, in passing one day
from Cahokia to Kaskaskia, to hold at the latter place
a session, stopped a few moments at this creek to water
their horses. The animals had scarcely begun to drink,
when a shower of balls from an adjoining thicket laid
three of the party weltering in their blood.49 They had
neglected the usual precaution to disguise themselves in
the garb of the French villagers; and such was the hostility
of the Indian tribes, especially that of the Kickapoos,
to our countrymen at the time, that to travel in American
costume was almost inevitable death. The Indians at
that day had the ascendency in point of population, and
the Kaskaskia tribe, as well as others, was powerful.
At Prairie du Rocher, as everywhere else where these
ancient villages remain as yet undisturbed in their century
slumbers, the peculiarities to which I have so frequently
alluded stand forth to the traveller's eye. The narrow
lanes, the steep-roofed houses, the picketed enclosures,
the piazza, the peculiar dress, manners, and amusements
49 This tradition does not appear to have been noticed in the local histories
of the region.— Ed. I !
j 2 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
of the villagers, all point back to a former age. At this
place I tarried for dinner, and while my olive-browed
hostess, a trim, buxom little matron, was "making ready,"
I strolled forth to the bluffs, having first received most
positive injunctions to make my reappearance when the
horn sounded; and, scrambling up a ravine, soon stood
upon the smooth round summit. The whole tract of country over which my route had led was spread out like a map
before me; and the little village lay so directly at my feet
[181] I could almost look down its chimneys. Among
the crags I obtained some fine petrifactions, which I ex-'
hibited to my simple host, much to his astonishment, on
my return. Forty years had this man dwelt upon the very
spot he then inhabited, the scene of his birth; and almost
every day of his life had he ascended the cliffs among which
I had been clambering; and yet, though the seashells were
standing out in every direction from the surface of the
ledge, not the slightest peculiarity of structure had he ever
dreamed of. That the great ocean had rolled among these
rocks, he could have formed no conception. Experience
had told him that when burned they were lime, and he
neither knew nor cared to know anything farther of their
character or history. This slight incident well exemplifies
the simplicity of this singular people. Content to live
where his father lived; content to cultivate the spot he
tilled; to tread in the steps which he trod; to speak the
language he spake, and revere the faith he observed, the
French villager is a stranger to the restless cravings of
ambition, and acknowledges no inclination to change.
At Prairie du Rocher is a little, dark-looking, ancient
Catholic church, dedicated to St. Sulpice, formerly " Chapel
of Ease" to Fort Chartres, but at present it has no resident
priest. The population of the village is about two hundred.    Its site is low, and, buried as it is in such enormous 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
vegetation, the spot must be unhealthy: yet, year after
year, and generation after generation, have its present
inhabitants continued to dwell where death almost inevitable must have awaited an [182] American. But
where will you search for a fleshier, sleeker, swarthier-
looking race than these French villagers? Some attribute this phenomenon to diet; some to natural idiosyncrasy;
and other some do not attribute at all, but merely stand
amazed. The truth of the matter is — and the fact is
one well ascertained — that, give a Frenchman a fiddle,
a pipe, a glass of claret, and room enough to shake his
heels, and, like a mushroom, he'll vegetate on any soil !
La Prairie du Rocher, III.
"I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate. The thistle shook
there its lonely head: the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out from
the windows; the rank grass of the wall waved round his head."— Ossian.
"We do love these ancient ruins:
We never tread upon them but we set
Our foot upon some reverend history."
To those of the present day who are in some degree
acquainted with the extent of the vast Western Valley,
it is not a little surprising to observe how inadequate the
conception with which, by its early proprietors, it was regarded, and the singular measures which their mistaken
estimates originated. It is but within a very few years
that the extent and resources of this country have become
sufficiently developed to be at all appreciated. That the
French government was wholly unaware of its [183]
true character in the cession of old Louisiana to Mr. Jefferson in the early part of the present century, and that
our own people were at that time little less ignorant of
the same fact, need hardly be suggested to one acquainted 'if l'/\
74 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
with the diplomatic negotiations of the day, or with the
views and the feelings of the respective powers then
But there are few circumstances which more definitely
betray the exceedingly inadequate idea entertained by
France respecting her possessions in North America,
than that early article of her policy, of uniting her Canadian colonies, by a continuous chain of military posts,
with those upon the Gulf of Mexico. That any ministry
should seriously have entertained the idea of a line of
fortifications four thousand miles in extent, through a
waste, howling wilderness such as this valley then was,
and along the banks of streams such as the Ohio and Mississippi yet continue to be; and that the design should
not only have been projected, but that measures should
actually have been entered upon for its accomplishment,
seems, at the present day, almost incredible. And yet,
from the very discovery of the country, was this scheme
designed, and ever afterward was steadily pursued by the
government of France. La Salle, in his last visit to Paris,
suggested the policy of a cordon of posts from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico, and urged the measure upon
Colbert as affording a complete line of defence to the
French settlements against those of the English along
the Atlantic shore. In furtherance of this design, he
sailed to establish a [184] colony at the mouth of the
Mississippi, in prosecution of which expedition he lost his
fife. A line of fortifications was, however, commenced,
and gradually extended along the southern shore of Lake
Erie: one stood on the present site of the village of that
name; another between that point and the Ohio; a third
on the present site of Pittsburgh, named Du Quesne; a
fourth at the mouth of the Kentucky River; a fifth on the
south bank of the Ohio below; a sixth on the northern 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
bank at the mouth of the Wabash; a seventh at the confluence with the Mississippi; half a dozen others on the
latter stream below the junction, and several above upon
its banks and along those of the Illinois. Among these
last, and the most extensive of the fortifications then erected,
was Fort Chartres, long the most celebrated military
post in North America, now a pile of ruins.50
It was a beautiful afternoon, when, leaving the little
French hamlet La Prairie du Rocher, after, a delightful
ride of three or four miles through rich groves of the persimmon, the wild apple, and the Chickasaw plum,51 I began
to believe myself not far from the ruins of this famous
old fort. Accosting a French villager whom I chanced
to meet, I inquired the site of the ruins. He turned on
me his glittering dark eye for a moment, and, pointing
away to the dense belt of forest upon the left in a direct
line with an enormous black-locust on the right of the
pathway, passed on. Not the slightest indication of the
object of my inquiry was to be [185] seen; but deeming
it fruitless to attempt gathering farther information from
the dark-browed villager, who was now some distance
on his way, I turned my horse's head from the path, and,
after labouring several rods through the deep, heavy grass
of the prairie, entered the wood.   The dense undergrowth
60 For sketches of Forts Presqu' Isle (present site of Erie), Machault (on Allegheny River), Duquesne (present site of Pittsburg), Le Bœuf (near the present
town of Waterford, Pennsylvania), St. Joseph (Michigan), and Ouiatonon (on
the Wabash), Detroit, and the fort on the Maumee River, see Croghan's Journals,
in our volume i, p. 101, note 62; p. 102, note 64; p. 85, note 45; p. 102, note 65;
p. 117, note 85; p. 55, note 18; and p. 122, note 87, respectively. On Forts
Chartres (on the Mississippi) and Massac (on the Ohio), see A. Michaux's
Travels, in our volume iii, p. 71, note 136, and p. 73, note 139, respectively.
Fort Massac was the only one upon the Ohio. Juchereau's post was erected
(1702) at the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi, but was soon
abandoned.— Ed.
61 Prunus Angustijolia.— Flagg.
1   \J I
ff f'
76 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
of bushes and matted vines was undisturbed, and there
was not an indication of visiters at the spot for months.
All seemed deserted, and silent, and drear. The ruins
were completely shrouded in foliage, and gigantic trees
were rearing their huge shafts from amid the crumbling
heaps of rubbish. Wild grape-vines and other parasites
were creeping in all directions over the trembling structures; or, drooping forth in pensile gracefulness from the
disjointed walls, seemed striving to bind up the shattered
fragments, and to conceal the pitiless ravage of time. The
effect of this noble old pile of architecture, reposing thus
in ruins, and shrouded in the cathedral duskiness of the
forest, was singularly solemn.
" The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean,
O'ercome with moss and baleful mistletoe.
Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds
Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven. "
Securing my horse to the trunk of a young sapling rearing up itself beneath the walls, I at length succeeded,
by dint of struggling through the rough thickets and the
enormous vegetation, in placing myself at a point from
which most of the ruins could be taken at a coup d'œil.
Some portions of the exterior wall are yet in good preservation, and [186] the whole line of fortification may be
easily traced out; but all the structures within the quadrangle are quite dilapidated, and trees of a large size are
springing from the ruins: an extensive powder-magazine,
however, in a gorge of one of the bastions, yet retains its
original form and solidity. The western angle of the
fort and an entire bastion was, about fifty years since,
undermined and thrown down by a slough from the Mississippi; but the channel is now changed, and is yearly
receding, while a young belt of trees has sprung up between the ruins and  the water's edge.    The prairie in
I ft 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
front of the fort was in cultivation not many years since,
and was celebrated for its blue grass.
Fort Chartres was erected by the French in 1720, as
a link in the chain of posts which I have mentioned, uniting New-Orleans with Quebec; and as a defence for the
neighbouring villages against the Spaniards, who were
then taking possession of the country on the opposite side
of the Mississippi, as well as against the incursion of hostile Indian tribes. The expense of its erection is said to
have been enormous, and it was considered the strongest
fortification in North America. The material was brought
from the bluffs, some four or five miles distant over the
bottom by boats across a considerable intervening sheet
of water, and from the opposite side of the Mississippi.
In 1756 it was rebuilt; and in 1763, when France ceded
her possessions east of the Mississippi to England, the
adjoining village embraced about forty families, and a
church dedicated to St. Anne.82 [187] When the English
troops took possession of the country, the villagers all
removed to the hamlets across the river, then under the
French government, having been previously ceded, in
the treaty of St. Ildefonso, by Spain to France. The
fort was not evacuated, however, until July, 1765, when
its commandant, M. de St. Ange de belle rive, proceeded
to St. Louis with his forces.58
83 Immediately after the erection of Fort Chartres (1720), a village sprang up
and the Jesuits established there the parish of Ste. Anne de Fort Chartres. The
earliest records of this parish now extant, bear the date 1721.— Ed.
53 Philip Pittman, who visited Fort Chartres in 1766, says in his Present State
of the European Settlements on the Missisippi (London, 1770), p. 46, concerning
Fort Chartres: "In the year 1764 there were about forty families in the village
near the fort, and a parish church, served by a Franciscan friar, dedicated to St.
Anne. In the following year, when the English took possession of the country,
they abandoned their houses, except three or four poor families, and settled at the
■villages on the west side of the Missisippi, chusing to continue under the French
In a personal letter dated November 3, 1762, Louis XV deeded to Charles III T /
78 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
While Fort Chartres belonged to France, it was the
seat of government for all the neighbouring region; and
in 1765, when taken possession of by Captain Sterling,
of the Royal Highlanders, it continued to retain its arbitrary character. It was here that .the first court of justice,
established by Lieutenant-colonel Wilkins, held its sessions.54   Seven judges were appointed, who came together
of Spain all of the French territory in North America lying to the west of Mississippi River; see Shepherd, "Cession of Louisiana to Spain," in Political Science
Quarterly, xix, pp. 439-458; also Thwaites, France in America (New York, 1905),
pp. 272-275. Napoleon coerced Charles IV to rétrocède Louisiana to France,
by the secret treaty of St. Ildefonso, signed October 1, 1800. Three years later
(April 30, 1803), Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States for $15,000,000.
Captain Louis St. Ange de Bellerive formally surrendered Fort Chartres to
Captain Sir Thomas Sterling on October 10 (not July), 1765, went to St. Louis,
and entering the Spanish service was placed in command of the little garrison
there, composed almost wholly of his French compatriots who had removed thither
from the Illinois. For a sketch of St. Ange, see Croghan's Journals, in our volume
i, p. 138, note 109.— Ed.
84 Sir Thomas Sterling (1733-1808), commissioned captain of the 42nd Highlanders (1757), served with his men in the conquest of Canada, and the capture
of Martinique (1759) and Havanna (1762). Having taken command of Fort
Chartres in October, 1765, he was relieved of this unpleasant duty, December 4
of the same year, by Major Robert Farmer, heading a detachment of British foot
from Mobile. Sterling and his regiment set sail from America (1767), but returned
(1776) and served with distinction at the storming of Fort Washington (1776) and
of Elizabethtown (1779). He was wounded at Springfield (Massachusetts) in
June, 1780. Promoted through the various ranks, he was made a royal aide-decamp of the king and in turn a colonel (February 19, 1779), major-general (November 20, 1782), and general (January 1, 1801). He became baronet of Andoch
on his brother's death, July 26, 1799. Several Illinois historians strangely persist in killing Sterling in 1765, shortly after he took command at Fort Chartres.
See Dictionary oj National Biography; and Documents relative to Colonial History oj New York, vii, p. 786.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Wilkins, appointed captain of the 55th foot (1755)
and then major (1762), commanded at Niagara. In 1763, while marching to
relieve Detroit, he was attacked by Indians and forced after heavy losses to retreat
to Fort Schlosser. Later, he made an unsuccessful attempt by water, but was
caught in a disastrous storm. In August, 1764, Wilkins was promoted to the
majorship of the 60th, and in the following January was appointed lieutenant-
colonel of the 18th Royal Irish with seven companies. In May, 1768, he was
ordered from Philadelphia to Fort Pitt, and thence to Fort Chartres. His administration was unpopular, and grave charges — notably misappropriation of  land
iff 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
monthly at the fortress; but their decisions were very ill
received by a people who, until then, had been released
from all but arbitrary restriction.55
The original form of  Fort Chartres was an   irregular
quadrangle, with four bastions; the sides of the exterior
and funds — were brought against him. He was suspended in 1771, set sail
for Europe the following year, and either died or left the army (1775). See
Historical Magasine, viii, p. 260; and Documents relative to Colonial History
oj New York, viii, p. 185.— Ed.
65 Subjoined is a copy of the preliminary proceedings of the first regular court
of justice held in Illinois while under the British government. It purports to be
transcribed from the state records, and first appeared in a Western newspaper.
It lays before the reader a view of the subject, which the most graphic description
would fail to present.
"At a Court held at Chartres Village, in the Illinois, this sixth day of November, in the eighth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord, George the Third,
by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Ring, Defender
of the Faith, &c, &c, &c, in the year of our Lord Christ one thousand seven
hundred and sixty-eight, 1768.
"Present, George Morgan, James Remsey, James Campbell, James M'Millar,
Jean Baptist Barbeau, and Peter Girardot, Esqrs., Justices. Commissions of the
peace granted by John Wilkins, Esqr., Governor and Commandant of the said
country, and directed to the gentlemen named, were produced and read.
"Whereupon the said Justices took the several oaths of allegiance to his
Majesty's person and government, and also the oaths of Justices of the peace;
which oaths were administered to them by the Governor and Commandant aforesaid.
"A commission from the said Governor to Dennis M'Croghan, Esq., to be
Sheriff of the country aforesaid, was produced by the said Dennis M'Croghan,
Esq., and read, who took and subscribed the usual oaths of allegiance to his
Majesty's person and government, and also the oath of sheriff for said country.
"The Governor and Commandant aforesaid entered into a recognizance in the
sum of five hundred pounds lawful money of Great Britain for the said Sheriff's due
performance of his office."
It would appear from the following deed, made by a military sergeant, executing
the office of sheriff under the style of Provost under Commandant Hugh Lord, in
1772, that the government in Illinois was then purely military.
"Be it remembered that on this nineteenth day of December, in the year of
our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-two, by virtue of a writ
unto me directed, I, Andrew Hoy, Provost, did seize, levy, and distrain upon the
dwelling-house and lot of John Baptist Hubardeau, situated in the village of
Kaskaskia, for a debt due as per note of hand, of the signature of the aforesaid
Hubardeau, for the sum of two thousand and forty livres, with interest and
damages.    Now, know ye, that the aforesaid writ of Fieri Facias was issued by
* 8o Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
polygon being about five hundred feet in extent. The
ditch and scarp were commenced, but left uncompleted.
The walls, massively constructed of stone, and stuccoed
with lime, were upward of two feet in thickness and fifteen
feet in height. They still retain this altitude in some portions which are uninjured; and many of the loopholes
and the ports for cannon, in the face of the wall and in the
Hugh Lord, Esq., Captain in his Majesty's 18th or Royal Regiment of Ireland,
in manner and form following:
"George the Third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c.
"To Sergeant Hoy, Provost.
"We command you that you cause to be made of the (goods) and chattels of
John Baptist Hubardeau, in your bailiwick, two thousand and forty livres, which
Franks & Company, lately, in our court, before us, at Kaskaskia, recovered against
him by virtue of a power of attorney, for a debt, with lawful interest, and damages
which they have sustained, occasioned as well by the detaining of the said debt, as for
their expenses and costs by them laid out in and about their suit in that behalf,
whereof the said Hubardeau is convicted, and have you the money before us at
Kaskaskia as soon as the sale of said effects shall admit, to render to the said
Franks & Company their debt and damages aforesaid, and have then there this
"Given at Fort Gage, this 19th day of December, 1772.
"Hugh Lord, Commandant of Illinois.
"Andrew Hoy, Provost.
"Moreover, that in consequence of further orders from the commandant aforesaid, I did give general notice of the sale thereof by the following advertisement,
which was publicly placed for perusal and knowledge of the inhabitants in general»
both here and at the village of Caho.1
" Vendredi, à onse heur du Matin le 29th du mois prochain, sera vendu au
porte de L'Eglise, la Maison et Terrain du Sieur Jean Baptist Hubardeau, qui
est puis en exécution, payable en Pèlletrie,   Bon Argent, lettres de change, ou la
bon esclaves, dans le moi de Mai qui vient.
"Au Kas,2 Décembre 29 [19] th, 1772.
" Andrew Hoy, Provost. "
Making allowances for bad French, the following is a translation of this notice:
"Wednesday, at eleven o'clock in the morning of the 29th of next month, I
shall sell at the gate of the church, the House and lot of Mr. Jean Baptist Hubar-
1 Cahokia.
'Kaskaskia 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
flanks of the bastions, are yet to be seen entire. The
elegantly dressed freestone, however, which [188] was
employed about them, as well as for the cornices and
casements of the gate and buildings, has long since been
removed.   Specimens are to be seen incorporated in some
deau, which is taken in execution, payable in peltry, good silver, bills of exchange,
or in good slaves, in the month of May coming.
"Kaskaskia, Dec. 19th, 1772."
"At the expiration of which time, the aforesaid house was, agreeable to law,
justice, and equity, exposed to sale, first at the church gate, and afterwards at
different parts of the village, to prevent as much as possible, any persons pleading
ignorance of the sale thereof. Now, know ye, in discharge of the duty of my
office and the trust reposed, after having kept up the said house and lot from the
hours of ten to two at the sum of 3200 livres, and no person bidding higher, or likely
so to do, that the same was struck off to James Remsey, inhabitant of Kaskaskia,
who, by these presents, is invested with full right and title thereto, to have and
to hold the said messuage and tenements, and all and singular of the premises
above mentioned and every part and parcel thereof, with the appurtenances unto
the said James Remsey, his heirs and assigns forever: and I, the said Andrew
Hoy, Provost, from myself my heirs, the said messuage and tenement and premises and every part thereof against him and his heirs, and against all and every
other person and persons whatever, to the said James Remsey, his heirs and assigns shall and will warrant and forever defend by these presents. In witness
whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal.
"Andrew Hoy, Provost.   (L.S.)
"Fort Gage, 29th Dec, 1772.
"Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of
"William Dunbar,
"Isaac Johnson."
"By virtue of the power and authority in me invested, I do hereby grant unto
Mr. James Remsey, late Lieut, of his Majesty's 34th Regiment, a certain tract
of land containing—acres in part from the river Kaskaskia to the Mississippi,
once the property of one La Bacchou, whereon formerly did stand a water mill,
the remains of which are now to be seen. The whole being agreeable to his Majesty ' s
proclamation, confiscated to the King, and is hereby given to said James Remsey,
in consideration of His Excellency Gen. Gage's recommendation and for the
speedy settlement of his majesty's colony, as likewise the frame of a house with
a lot of land thereunto appertaining, opposite the Jesuit's College in the village
of Kaskaskia.
"Given under my hand, at Fort Chartres, Nov. 12th, 1767.
"Capt. 34th regiment."
This grant of land where the old mill stood, is now the site of a speculative
city called "Decoigne," and is about five miles from Kaskaskia on the road to St.
Louis.— Flagg.
■   :-'■
i 82
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
of the elegant structures which have since gone up in the
neighbouring city.56
The military engineering of the early French fortifications in North America was of the school of Vauban; and
the massive structures then erected are now monuments,
not less of the skill of their founders than of departed time.
The almost indestructible character of their masonry
has long been a subject of surprise. The walls of Fort
Chartres, though hah a century has seen them abandoned
to the ravages of the elements and of time, yet remain
so imperishable, that in some instances it is not easy
to distinguish the limestone from the cement; and the
neighbouring villagers, in removing the materials for the
purposes of building, have found it almost impossible
to separate them one from the other.
The buildings which occupied the square area of Fort
Chartres were of the same massive masonry as the walls.
They consisted of a commandant's and commissary's
residence, both noble structures of stone, and of equal size:
two extensive lines of barracks, the magazine of stores,
with vaulted cellars, and the corps de guarde. Within the
gorges of the eastern bastions were the powder-magazine
and a bakehouse; in the western, a prison, with dungeons
and some smaller buildings. There were two sally-ports
to the fortification in the middle of opposite faces of the
wall; and a broad avenue passed from one to the other,
directly through the square, [189] along the sides of which
were ranged the buildings. A small banquette a few feet
in height ran parallel to the loopholes, for the purpose of
elevating the troops when discharging musketry at an
enemy without.
56 Flagg's description agrees in the main with that given by Philip Pittman
(see ante, p. 77, note 53), save that the latter is more detailed. Judging from
the phraseology, Flagg must have read Pittman's description.— Ed.
i    •*
(Mm 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
Such was Fort Chartres in the pride of its early prime;
the seat of power, festivity, and taste; the gathering-spot
of all the rank, and beauty, and fashion the province could
then boast. Many a time, doubtless, have the walls of
this stern old citadel rung to the note of revelry; and the
light, twinkling footstep of the dark-eyed créole has beat
in unison with a heart throbbing in fuller gush from the
presence of the young, martial figure at her side! Fort
Chartres, in its early years, was doubtless not more the
headquarters of arbitration and rule than of gentility
and etiquette. The settlers of the early French villages,
though many of them indigent, were not all of them rude
and illiterate. Induced by anticipations of untold wealth,
such as had crowned the adventurers of Spain in the southern section of the Western Continent, grants and charters
of immense tracts of territory in these remote regions had
been made by the crown of France to responsible individuals;
and thus the leaders in these golden enterprises were generally gentlemen of education and talent, whose manners
had been formed within the precincts of St. Cloud, then
the most elegant court in Europe. Many of these enthusiastic adventurers, it is true, returned to France in
disappointment and disgust; and many of them removed
to the more genial latitude of Lower Louisiana: [190] yet a
few, astonished at the fertility and extent of a country of
which they had never dreamed before; delighted with the
variety and delicacy of its fruits, and reminded by the mildness of the climate of the sweetest portions of their own
beautiful France, preferred to remain. By the present
degenerate race of villagers, those early days are referred
to as a "golden age" in their history, and the "old
residenters" as wonderful beings. Consider the singular
situation of these men — a thousand miles from the
Atlantic shores, surrounded by savages and by their own 84 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
countrymen scarce less ignorant, and separated by pathless
mountains from a community of civilized man. The higher
stations in the French army were at that era, too, more
than at present, occupied by men of genius and information, while the Catholic priesthood was equally distinguished
for literary attainment. Under circumstances like these,
was it other than natural that reciprocity of feeling and
congeniality of taste should have sought their gratification
by mutual and frequent intercourse? Fort Chartres must,
therefore, have been the seat of hospitality, religious celebration, and kindly feeling. Here the fleshy old habitans
of the neighbouring villages dozed away many an hour
of sober jovialness with their "droughty cronies " over
the pipe and the claret of their own vineyards; while their
dark-haired daughters tripped away on the green sward
before them in the balmy moonlit summer eve with the
graceful officers of the fortress.
Here, too, has been witnessed something of "the pride,
and pomp, and circumstance of glorious war." [191] The
fleur-de-lis of the Fifteenth Louis has rolled out its heavy
folds above these stern old towers; the crimson Lion of
England has succeeded; and the stripes and stars of our
own republic have floated over both in triumph. The
morning gun of the fortress has boomed across the broad
prairie, and been reverberated from yonder cliffs: the merry
reveille has rose upon the early breeze, and wakened the
slumbering echoes of the forest; and the evening bugle
from the walls has wailed its long-drawn, melancholy
note along those sunset waters of the Eternal River !
Such, I repeat, was Fort Chartres in its better days,
but such is Fort Chartres no more. I lingered for hours
with saddened interest around the old ruins, until the
long misty beams of the setting sun, streaming through
the forest, reminded me that I had not yet secured a shel- 1836-183:
Flagg's Far West
ter for the coming night. Remounting my horse, I left
the spot at a brisk pace, and a ride of a few miles brought
me to a dwelling situated upon a mound somewhat elevated
from the low, flat bottom-land around, about one mile from
the Mississippi, and commanding a view of the distant
lake and bluffs to the north. Here, then, I affix the name
by which is known all the surrounding region.
Fort Chartres, III,
" I know not how the truth may be,
I tell the tale as told to me."
" Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war. "
Fort Chartres has already detained me longer than
was my design. My pen has been unconsciously led on
from item to item, and from one topic to another; and
now, in leaving this celebrated fortress, I cannot forbear
alluding to a few incidents connected with its origin
and early history, which have casually presented themselves
to my notice. Selection is made from" many of a similar
character, which at another time and in a different form
may employ the writer's pen. The conclusion of my
last number attempted a description of the spot from
which it was dated; and, reader, a beautiful spot it was,
beneath the soft, gentle radiance of a summer evening.
Not soon, I ween, shall I forget the wild romance of that
moonlit scene as I reclined upon the gray old bench at
the door of the farmhouse after the evening meal was
over, and listened to the singular events of which that
region had been the theatre in other days. More than
forty years had seen mine host a resident of the spot,
and no one, with diligence more exemplary [193] than his 86 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
own, had gathered up the curious legends of the place,
many of them from aged men who had themselves been
witnesses of the events they chronicled. By these traditions, whatever may be our inclination to yield them credence at this late period, the origin and history of the
fortification of Fort Chartres is by no means devoid of
interest. In 1720, when it was resolved on by the crown
of France to erect a fortress at this point Upon the Mississippi, in continuation of her line of posts uniting Quebec with New-Orleans, and for the defence of her colonies,
a military engineer of the school of the celebrated Sebastian
Vauban was sent over to project and accomplish the design.57 To his own discretion, within prescribed limits
— so goes the story — was confided the whole undertaking. Far and wide throughout the province resounded
the note of preparation. The peaceful villager was summoned from his pipe and his plough; the din of steel and
stone broke in upon the solitudes; and at length, at the
enormous expenditure of nine millions of livres, arose
Fort Chartres; and its battlements frowned over the forests
and cast their shadows along the waters of the Eternal
River \ The work was completed, and fondly believed
its architect that he had reared for his memory a monument for the generations of coming time. A powerful
battery of iron ordnance protruded from the ports, and
every department of the fortress was supplied with the
most extensive munitions of war. A large number of
cannon for many years were laying beneath the walls
of the fort, in the early part [194] of the present century,
buried in matted vines and underbrush. The fortress
was completed, and the silver lilies floated over the walls;
but the engineer had far exceeded the limits prescribed
in erecting a work of such massive and needless strength,
" Relative to Fort Chartres, see ante, p. 75, note 50.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
and a missive royal summoned him to St. Cloud. The
miserable man, aware that little was to be hoped from
the clemency of the warlike Louis XV., poisoned himself
upon arriving in bis native land, to escape the indignation
of his sovereign. Previously, however, to bis departure
for France, immense sums in gold for defraying the
expenses of the fortress had been forwarded him to
New Orleans and sent up the river, but, owing to his
subsequent arrest, were never distributed to the labourers.
Tradition averreth these vast treasures to have been buried
beneath the foundations of the fort. However the truth
may be, the number of those who have believed and searched
has not been inconsiderable: but unhappily, as is ever the
case with these " hidden treasures," the light has gone
out just at the critical moment, or some luckless wight,
in his zeal, has thought proper to speak just as the barrel
of money has been struck by the mattock, or some other
untoward event has occurred to dissolve the charm of the
witch-hazel, and to stir up the wrath of those notable
spirits which are always known to stand guard over buried
gold! And thus has it happened that the treasure yet reposes in primeval peace; and the big family Bible, always
conveyed to the spot on such inquisitorial occasions, has
alone prevented consequences most [195] fatal! Whether
the good people of the vicinity in the present unbelieving
generation have faith to dig, I know not; but, when I visited
the spot, the earth of the powder-magazine to which I have
alluded exhibited marvellous indication of having been
disturbed at no distant period previous. So much for
the origin of Fort Chartres. The story may be true, it
may not. At all events, it will be remembered I do not
endorse it.
There is also a tradition yet extant of a stratagem of
war by which Fort Chartres  was once  captured, worthy
'•H* 88
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
the genius of Fabius Maximus, and partaking, moreover, somewhat of history in character. The name of
George Rogers Clarke is familiar to every one who can
claim even indifferent acquaintance with the early border
warfare of the West. This extraordinary man, having
satisfied himself, like Hannibal of Carthage, that the only
way decisively to conquer a crafty and powerful foe was
by carrying the war to his own altars and hearths, placed
himself at the head of a few hundred of the Virginia militia
in 1778, and set forth upon one of the most daring enterprises ever chronicled on the page of military history —
the celebrated expedition against the distant post of Fort
Vincent, now Vincennes. Our country was then at war
with Great Britain, and this fort, together with those upon
the lakes and the Mississippi, were in possession of the
enemy and their savage allies. Colonel Clarke crossed
the mountains with his little band; descended the Monongahela and the Ohio to within sixty miles of the mouth
of [196] the latter, and there concealing his boats, he
plunged with his followers through swamps, and creeks,
and marshes almost impassable, a distance of one hundred
and thirty miles, and in a space of time incredibly short,
arrived at night opposite the village of Kaskaskia. So
overwhelming was the surprise, that the town, though
fortified, was taken without a blow. History goes on to
tell us that a detachment of troops, mounted on the horses
of the country, was immediately pushed forward to surprise the villages of Fort Chartres and Cahokia, higher
up the Mississippi; and that they were all taken without
resistance, and the British power in that quarter completely
destroyed.58   So  much  for  History,   now  for  Tradition.
68 Hall.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed.    Flagg's authority is James Hall, Sketches oj History, Lije,
and Manners in the West (Philadelphia, 1835).
Owing to the encroachments by the Mississippi, Fort Chartres was abandoned 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
When the little band arrived beneath the walls of Fort
Chartres, the numbers of the garrison far exceeding those
of the besiegers, the latter, as if in despair of success, shortly
took up the line of march and disappeared behind the
distant bluffs. Days passed on; diligent examination
of the heights was kept up with glasses from the walls,
but no enemy returned. At length, when apprehension
had begun to die away, early one morning a troop of
cavalry appeared winding over the bluffs, their arms
glittering in the sunlight, and descended from view apparently into the plain beneath. Hour after hour the march
continued; troop after troop, battalion upon battalion,
regiment after regiment, with their various ensigns and
habiliments of warfare, appeared in lengthened files,
wound over the bluffs, and disappeared. Alarmed [197]
and astonished at the countless swarms of the invaders, the
garrison hastily evacuated the fortress, and for dear fife
and liberty, soon placed the broad Mississippi between
themselves and the cloud of locusts! Hardly was this
precipitate manœuvre well accomplished, when the alarum
of drum and fife was heard, and the identical force which
but a few days before had raised the siege, and in despair
had retreated from beneath the walls, now paraded through
the open sally-ports, their rags and tatters fluttering by
way of "pomp and circumstance" in the evening breeze.
This fortunate ruse du guerre had been accomplished
through the favourable nature of the ground, a few extra
stand of colours manufactured for the occasion, and a
variety of uniforms and arms of like character. After
winding over the bluffs into the plain beneath, they again
in 1772, and was never again used as a garrison. The legend given by Flagg is
somewhat exaggerated. The French settlements adjacent to Kaskaskia readily
accepted the situation on being invited by Clark's representatives, who were
accompanied by Kaskaskians as friendly interpreters. â
90 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
ascended through a defile unobserved by the garrison,
and once more appeared in different guise and order in
rear of their comrades. "Distance," too, cast doubtless
not a little "enchantment" over "the view;" and then the
fear and trepidation of the worthy garrison probably
sharpened their optics to detect all the peril in store
for them, and, perchance, somewhat more. Now, reader,
you can do as you choose touching belief of all this. And
while you are making up a decision on the point, permit
me to furnish yet another scrap of History, which may,
peradventure, assist.
For sixteen days was Col. Clarke employed in his march
from Kaskaskia to Vincennes, after the [198] capture
of the military posts upon the Mississippi. At length,
after toils incredible, he reached the Wabash. High
upon the eastern bank, its base swept by the rolling flood,
stood Fort Vincent, the British fortress, at that period
garrisoned by a superior corps of soldiery, with an auxiliary force of six hundred Indian warriors, and under
the command of a skilful officer, Gov. Hamilton. On the
western bank was spread out a broad sheet of alluvion five
miles in breadth, completely inundated by the swollen
stream. After five days of toil this wilderness of waters
was passed; the rolling current of the Wabash was crossed
in the night, and the morning sun beheld these daring
men before Vincennes. As they approached the town —
history goes on to relate — over the broad and beautiful
prairie upon which it stands, at the moment his troops
were discovered by the enemy, Clarke found himself near
a small ancient mound, which concealed part of bis force
from the foe. Under this covert he countermarched bis
men in so skilful a manner, that the leading files, which
had been seen from the town, were transferred undiscovered to the rear, and made to pass again and again in 1836-18371
Flagg's Far West
sight of the enemy, until his whole force had several times
been displayed, and his little detachment of jaded troops
assumed the appearance of an extended column greatly
superior to its actual strength. The garrison was promptly
summoned to surrender, and, after a brief defence, Gov.
Hamilton struck his flag to a body of men not half as
powerful as his own.59
[199] Next in importance to Fort Chartres, of that chain
of military posts commenced by the French in the Valley
of the Mississippi, was Fort du Quesne; 8ffl and of this
celebrated fortress, so notorious in the bloody annals of
border warfare, it may not be irrelevant, in concluding
the present subject, to add a few sentences. This post
was erected on that low tongue of land, at the head of the
Ohio and confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela
rivers, where Pittsburgh now stands, commanded on all
sides by lofty bluffs. It was built by M. de la Jonquier,
at command of the Marquis du Quesne, governor of
Canada. In 1754 the bold Contrecoeur came down the
Alleghany, with a thousand Frenchmen in canoes, and
eighteen pieces of artillery; and, dispersing the small colonial force, intrenched himself upon the spot. This was the
prologue to that bloody drama, the catastrophe of which
deprived France of all her possessions east of the Mississippi. In 1758 Fort du Quesne was taken by Gen. Forbes;
a more scientific and extensive fortress was erected on
the spot, at an expense of sixty thousand pounds sterling,
m Hall.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. Compare with R. G. Thwaites, How George Rogers Clark
won the Northwest, pp. 52-62.
*• A fort was begun by Charles Trent, with a few Virginia troops, in February,
1754. On April 17, Contrecœur took the place, completed the fort, and named
it Duquesne in honor of the then governor of New France. See Croghan's Journals, in our volume i, p. 85, note 45; also F. A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume
iii, p. 156, note 20.— Ed. *mmm
92 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
and, in honour of William Pitt, then Premier of England,
named Fort Pitt. It is difficult to conceive what could have
been the design of these commanders in erecting such
a massive fortress on such a spot, unless to impress the
minds of their savage but simple neighbours; for resistance
to artillery planted upon the neighbouring heights would
have been quite as vain as any attack of the Indians upon
its walls with their primitive weapons. The same may
be said of [200] nearly all the early fortifications in the
West, and of some of more modern date upon our frontier.
Subsequently Fort Pitt came into the possession of our
government as part of the estate of the Penn family, and
is now only a heap of rubbish. Thus much for early
military posts in the Valley of the Mississippi.
So deeply interested was I in listening to the " legendary
lore" associated with the spot upon which I was sitting,
that hours glided unobserved away, and the full moon
was culrninating in cloudless splendour from the zenith
when we retired.
Early the following morning I was in the saddle. The
heavy night-mists lay wavering, like a silvery mantle,
all over the surface of that broad plain; and the crimson
clouds, rolling up the eastern sky, proclaimed the rising
sun. After a short ride I reached the former site of St.
Philippe, a settlement of the French, since called Little
Village. Its "common field" is now comprised in the
single plantation of Mr. M'David. It was at this point
that Philippe Francis Renault — from whom the village
received its name, as well as a large section of the neighbouring region, known to this day as "Renault's Tract"
— established himself in 1719, with two hundred rniners
from France, in anticipation of discovering gold and silver.91
61 Renault sailed from France in 1719, but did not reach Illinois until 1721.
For a short sketch of Renault, see ante, p. 42, note 18.
St. Philippe, five miles from Fort Chartres on the road to Cahokia, was founded 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
He was disappointed; but is said to have obtained large
quantities of lead from the region along the opposite bank
of the Mississippi, in the vicinity of Ste. Genevieve; and
to have discovered, moreover, a copper mine near Peoria.
St. Philippe was once a considerable village. Previous
to 1765 — when possession of the country was claimed
[201] by the English government, and, like the other
French settlements, it was abandoned by. the villagers
— it is said to have comprised twenty or thirty families,
a Catholic church, and a water-mill; while the surrounding meadow afforded pasturage for extensive herds of
Leaving St. Philippe, the winding pathway in a few
miles had conducted me into the depths of a forest of
gigantic cotton-trees upon the left, encircled by enormous
grape-vines, and the ground beneath entangled by a wilderness of underbrush and thickets of wild fruit. In a few
moments the forest opened unexpectedly before me, and
at my feet rolled on the turbid floods of the Mississippi,
beyond which went up the towering cliffs of limestone,
hoar and ragged, to the sheer height of some hundred feet
from the water's edge. They were the cliffs of Herculaneum, with their shot-towers.62 For the first time I discovered that I had mistaken my way. Perceiving the low
log-cabin of a woodcutter among the trees, I had soon
obtained the requisite information, and was retracing
my  steps; but   a   weary   plod   through   the   deep   black
about 1725 by Renault, on a tract granted to him in 1723. Philip Pittman, who
visited the place in 1766, wrote that there were about sixteen houses and a small
church left standing, although all the inhabitants save the captain of the militia
had crossed the Mississippi the preceding year. In 1803, John Everett was the
sole inhabitant.— Ed.
*° For location and settlement of Herculaneum, see Maximilian's Travels, in
our volume xxii, p. 212, note 122; for the shot-towers there, see our volume xxvi,
p. 103, note 66.— Ed.
■ill i
94 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
loam, and the tall grass weltering in the night-dews, and
the thickets of the dripping meadows, was anything but
agreeable. There were but few farms along my route,
and the tenants of those with whom I chanced to meet
betrayed too plainly, by their ghastly visages, and their
withered, ague-racked limbs, the deadly influences of the
atmosphere they inhaled. As I wandered through this
region, where vegetation, towering in all its rank [202] and
monstrous forms, gave evidence of a soil too unnaturally
fertile for culture by man, whose bread must be bought
by "the sweat of bis brow," I thought I could perceive
a deadly nausea stealing over my frame, and that every
respiration was a draught of the floating pestilence. I
urged onward my horse, as if by flight to leave behind me
the fatal contagion which seemed hovering on every side;
as if to burst through the poisonous vapours which seemed
distilling from every giant upas along my path. That
this region should be subject to disease and death is a
circumstance by no means singular. Indeed, it seems
only unaccountable to the traveller that it may be inhabited at all. A soil of such astonishing depth and fertility,
veiled from the purifying influences of the sun by the
rank luxuriance of its vegetation, in the stifling sultriness
of midsummer sends forth vast quantities of mephitic
vapour fatal to life; while the decay of the enormous vegetables poisons the atmosphere with putrid exhalations.
Cultivation and settlement will, of course, as in the older
states, remedy this evil to some extent in time. It is said
that the southern border of a lake in this region is less
unhealthy than the northern, on account of the prevalence
of winds from the former quarter during the summer
months; and that the immediate margin of a river, though
buried in vegetation, is less liable to disease than the neighbouring bluffs, upon which hang the night and morning
111' 1 \ 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
vapours. A dry and somewhat elevated spot is preferable
to either for a cabin; and it should be well ventilated, and
never closely surrounded by [203] cornfields. The rank
and massive foliage shields the earth from the sunbeams,
which exhale its poisonous damps; and in its rapid growth,
the plant abstracts from the surrounding atmosphere one
of its vital ingredients. Indeed, most of the diseases
peculiar to the West are superinduced by imprudence,
ignorance, or negligence in nursing. Let the recent emigrant avoid the chill, heavy night-dews and the sickening
sultriness of the noontide sun; provide a close dwelling,
well situated and ventilated, and invariably wear thicker
clothing at night than in the day, and he may five on as
long and as healthily in the West as in his native village.
Bilious intermittents are the most prevalent and fatal
diseases in the sickly months of August, September, and
October; and in the winter and spring pleurisies are frequent. The genuine phthisic, or pulmonary consumption of New-England, is rarely met. A mysterious disease,
called the "milk sickness"—because it was supposed to
be communicated by that liquid — was once alarmingly
prevalent in certain isolated districts of Illinois.83 Whole
villages were depopulated; and though the mystery was
often and thoroughly investigated, the cause of the disease
was never discovered. By some it was ascribed to the
milk or to the flesh of cows feeding upon a certain unknown
poisonous plant, found only in certain districts; by others,
to certain springs of water, or to the exhalations of certain
** Milk-sickness, no longer so diagnosed by medical authorities, is described
by early writers in the Middle West as a malignant disease attacking both men
and stock. It was supposed that the disease was contracted by eating the
flesh or dairy products of animals that had grazed on a certain weed. In the
case of the human being the symptoms were intolerable thirst, absolute constipation, low temperature, an extreme nervous agitation, but with an absence of
chills and headaches.    Recovery seemed to be the exception.     Although no spe- 'f
96 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
marshes. The mystery attending its operations and its
terrible fatality at one period created a perfect panic in
the settlers; nor was this at all wonderful. The disease
appears [204] now to be vanishing. But, of all other
epidemics, the "fever and ague" is the scourge of the
West. Not that it often terminates fatally, except by
superinducing a species of consumption; but, when severe
and protracted, it completely shatters the constitution;
and, like Mezentius, the victim ever after bears about him
a living death. In its lighter form, most of the settlers
at some time or other experience it, as it is brought on by
exposure: and when I consider that, during my ramble
in the West, I have subjected myself to every variety of
climate and circumstance; have been drenched by night-
dews and morning-dews; by the vapours of marshes and
forests, and by the torrents of summer showers; have
wandered day after day over the endless prairies beneath
a scorching sun, and at its close have laid myself anywhere or nowhere to rest; when I consider this, I cannot
but wonder at the escape of a constitution naturally feeble
from complete prostration. Yet never was it more vigorous than during this tour on the prairies.
At length, after a ride which seemed interminable, I
found myself at the foot of the bluffs; and, drawing up my
horse, applied at a cabin attached to an extensive farm for
cific remedy was used, the best results were thought to be obtained by judicious
stimulation and careful nursing. The same disease among stock was usually known
as "trembles." The symptoms were the same as with men, and death followed,
generally within eight or ten days. A farm where this dreaded disease had come
was called a "milk-sick farm," and was rendered almost unsalable. For a later
and more detailed account, see Thomas L. M'Kenney, Memoirs, official and personal, with Sketches oj Travels among the Northern and Southern Indians, etc.
(New York, 1846), p. 141. Dr. William M. Beach, a pioneer physician in Ohio,
who had had much experience with milk sickness, wrote an article for Albert
H. Buck, Rejerence Handbook oj Medical Science (New York, 1884-87), volume v.
An abstract of the above article by Beach is given in the edition for 1902.— Ed.
I u 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
refreshment. A farmer of respectable garb and mien came
tottering towards the gateway; and, to my request, informed
me that every individual of his family was ill of the "fever
and ague." I inquired for the state of his own health,
remarking his shattered appearance. " Yes, I am shattered,"
he replied, leaning heavily against the rails for support;
"the agues and fevers have terribly [205] racked me; but
I am better, I am better now." Ah, thought I, as, returning
his kind good-morning, I resumed my route, you think,
poor man, that health will revisit your shattered frame;
but that pallidness of brow, and those sunken temples,
tell me that you must die. Consumption's funeral fires
were already Irindling up in the depths of bis piercing eye.
At the next cabin, where I was so fortunate as to succeed
in obtaining refreshment, I was informed that the poor
fellow was in the last stages of a decline brought on by
undue exposure to the chill, poisonous night-dews of the
bottom. The individual from whom this information
was received was himself far from enjoying uninterrupted
health, though tiurty-five years had seen him a tenant of
the spot upon which I met him.
Monroe County, III.
"'Tis many moons ago—a long—long time."
R. H. Wilde.
" Rich, silent, deep, they stand; for not a gale
Rolls its light billows o'er the bending plain:
A calm of plejaty! till the ruffled air
Falls from its poise, and gives the breeze to blow."
The Seasons.
In the course of my journeying in the regions of the
"Far West," it has more than once chanced to me to
encounter  individuals  of  that  singular  class  commonly 98 Early Western Travels [Vol* 37
termed " Squatters ; " those sturdy pioneers who formed the
earliest American settlements along our western frontier.
And, in my casual intercourse with them, I have remarked,
with not a little surprise, a decision of character, an acute-
ness of penetration, and a depth and originality of thought
betrayed in their observations, strangely enough -contrasting with the rude solitude of their life. For more than
half a century, mayhap, Nature
" Had been to them a more familiar face
Than that of man; "
and whether, in the present exhibition of intellectual energy,
we are to claim an argument for the influence of natural
scenery upon character, or may find a corroboration of
the theory of diversity of mental ability; or to whatever
circumstance it may be attributed, [207] very assuredly
it owes not its origin to the improvements of education
or the advantages of society. There is also remarked in
these rude men a susceptibility and refinement of feeling,
and a delicacy of sentiment, which one would suppose
hardly compatible with a protracted continuance of their
semi-savage life.
It was at the frugal, though well-spread board of an
individual of this class that I was pleased to find myself
seated, after my tedious morning ramble of several hours
through the weltering vegetation of the prairie. Mine
host was a man of apparently forty, though in reality some
eight or ten years in advance of that age: his form, of
medium stature, was symmetrical, erect, and closely knit,
betraying considerable capability of endurance, though
but little of muscular strength: his countenance, at first
sight, was by no means prepossessing; indeed, the features,
while in repose, presented an aspect harsh — almost forbidding; but, when lighted up by animation, there was
discoverable in their rapid play a mildness which well 1836-1837] Flagg's Far West 99
compared with the benevolent expression of a soft blue
eye. Such was the physique of my backwoods pioneer,
who for forty years had been a wanderer on the outskirts
of civilization, and had at length been overtaken by its
rapid march.
As I had before me but an easy ride for the day, I proposed to mine host, when our repast was over, that he
should accompany me to the summit of the range of bluffs
which rose behind his cabin, towering to the height of
several hundred feet above the roof. To this he readily
assented, and well did [208] the magnificent view commanded from the top compensate for the toil of the ascent.
The scene was grand. "Yonder," said my companion,
seating himself on the earth at my side, and stretching out
his arm to the southeast, " yonder lies the village of old
Kaskaskia, with the bluffs of the river beyond, rising
against the sky; while a little to the left you catch the white
cliffs of Prairie du Rocher. In thatf heavy timber to the
south are the ruins of Fort Chartres, and to the right, across
the lake, fifty years ago stood St. Philippe. The Mississippi is concealed from us, but its windings can be traced
by the irregular strip of forest which skirts its margin.
Beyond the stream, stretching away to the northwest,
the range of heights you view are the celebrated cornice-
cliffs 84 above Herculaneum;- and at intervals you catch
a glimpse of a shot-tower, resting like a cloud against the
sky, upon the tallest pinnacles. The plain at our feet,
which is now sprinkled with cornfields, was once the site
of an Indian village. Forty years ago, the ruins of the
wigwams and the dancing circle surrounding the war-
post could be distinctly traced out: and even now my
ploughshare  every  spring  turns  up  articles  of   pottery
M Two ranges of cliffs are known by this name.    One is below Ste. Genevieve.— Flagg. y*
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 27
which constituted their domestic utensils, together with
axes and mallets of stone, spear and arrow heads and
knives of flint, and all their rude instruments of war. Often
of a fine evening," continued my companion, after a pause,
"when my work for the day is over, and the sun is going
down [209] in the west, I climb up to this spot and look
out over this grand prospect; and it almost makes me sad
to think how the tribes that once possessed this beautiful
region have faded away. Nearly forty years ago, when
I came with my father from old Virginia, this whole state,
with its prairies, and forests, and rich bottoms, was the
hunting-ground of the Indians. On this spot we built
our cabin; and though I have since lived far off on the
outskirts of the Missouri frontier, I always had an affection
for this old bottom and these bluffs, and have come back
to spend here the rest of my days. But the Indians are
gone. The round top of every bluff in yonder range is
the grave of an Indian chief."
While my singular companion was making these observations, somewhat in the language I have attempted to
give, interrupted from time to time by my inquiries, I
had myself been abstractedly employed in thrusting a
knife which was in my hand into the yielding mould of
the mound upon which we sat, when, suddenly, the blade,
striking upon a substance somewhat harder than the soil,
snapped into fragments. Hastily scraping away the loose
mould to the depth of some inches, the femur of a human
skeleton protruding from the soil was disinterred, and,
in a few minutes, with the aid of my companion, the remnants of an entire skeleton were laid bare. Compared
with our own limbs, the bones seemed of a size almost
gigantic; and from this circumstance, if from no other,
it was evident that our melancholy moralizing upon the
destinies of the Indians had been indulged upon a very 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
fitting spot — [210] the grave of one of its chieftains.
Originally, the body had no doubt been covered to the
depth of many feet, and the shallowness of soil at the present time indicates a lapse of centuries. Still these graves
of the bluffs, which doubtless belonged to the ancestors
of the present aborigines, will neither be confounded nor
compared with the gigantic earth-heaps of the prairies.
Strangely enough, this has been the case, though a moment's
reflection must convince one that they are the monuments
of a far later race.
Descending the bluffs by an ancient path in a ravine,
said to have been made in conveying oak timber to Fort
Chartres at the period of its erection, my host conducted
me into one of the enclosures of his farm, a spot which
had evidently once been the ordinary burial-place of the
ancient Indian village. Graves, sufficient, apparently, for
hundreds of individuals, were yet to be seen upon every
side. They were arranged parallel to each other in uniform
ranges, and were each formed by a rough slab of limestone upon either side, and two at the extremities, terminating in an obtuse angle. From several of these old
sepulchres we threw out the sand, and, at the depth of
about four feet, exhumed fragments of human remains
in various stages of preservation, deposited upon a broad
slab of limestone at the bottom. When taken together,
these slabs form a complete coffin of stone, in which the
body originally reposed ; and this arrangement, with
the silicious nature of the soil, has probably preserved the
remains a longer period than would otherwise have been
the case. But the circumstance respecting [211] these
ancient graves which chiefly excited my astonishment
was their marvellous littleness, none of them exceeding
a length of four feet; and the wondrous tales of a "pigmy
race of aborigines"  once inhabiting the West,  which I
> ^^^^^T^^
I ' Y
102 Early Western Travels [Vol. 27
had often listened to, recurred with considerable force to
my memory. Resolved to decide this long-mooted question to my own satisfaction, if possible, the earth from
one of the graves, the most perfect to be found, was excavated with care, and upon the bottom were discovered
the femur and tibia of a skeleton in a state of tolerable
preservation, being parallel to each other and in immediate
proximity. Proof incontestible, this, that the remains
were those of no Lilliputian race four feet in stature, and
affording a fair presumption that the limbs were forcibly
bent in this position at the time of burial, occupying their
stone coffin much as the subject for scientific dissection
occupies a beef-barrel. In this manner may we satisfactorily account for the ancient "pigmy cemetery" near
the town of Fenton, on the Merrimack in Missouri, as
well as that on the Rivière des Pères, in the same vicinity,
already referred to, and those reported to exist in various
other sections of the West, in which, owing to the dampness of the soil, the remains have been long resolved to
dust, and only the dimensions of the grave have remained.65
Among the articles which my host had procured from
these old graves, and deemed worthy of preservation, was
a singular species of pottery, composed, as appeared from
its fracture, of shells calcined and pulverized, mixed with
an equal quantity [212] of clay, and baked in the sun.
The clay is of that fine quality with which the waters of
the Missouri are charged. The vessels are found moulded
into a variety of forms and sizes, capable of containing
from a quart to a gallon.86    One of these, which my host
85 For further information on the pigmy cemetery in the Meramec, see our
volume xxvi, p. 105.— Ed.
88 Mr. Flint's remarks respecting the Ancient Pottery found in the West coincides so well with the result of my own more limited observation, that I subjoin
them in preference to extended description myself.    Preceding these remarks is an 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
insisted upon hanging upon the bow of my Spanish saddle as I mounted, was fashioned in the shape of a turtle,
with the form and features very accurately marked. The
handle of the vessel, which was broken off, once formed
a tapering tail to the animal, presenting a rare specimen
of a turtle with that elegant appendage.
Ascending the bluffs by a tortuous though toilsome path-
interesting notice of the Lilliputian graves on the Merrimac, to which allusion
has several times been made.
"At the time the Lilliputian graves were found on the Merrimac, in the county
of St. Louis, many people went from that town to satisfy their curiosity by inspecting them. It appears from Mr. Peck that the graves were numerous; that the
coffins were of stone; that the bones in some instances were nearly entire; that
the length of the bodies was determined by that of the coffins which they filled,
and that the bodies in general could not have been more than from three feet
and a half to four feet in length. Thus it should seem that the generations of the
past in this region were mammoths and pigmies.
"I have examined the pottery, of which I have spoken above, with some attention. It is unbaked, and the glazing very incomplete, since oil will soak through
it. It is evident, from slight departure from regularity in the surface, that it was
moulded by the hand and not by anything like our lathe. The composition, when
fractured, shows many white floccules in the clay that resemble fine snow, and
this I judge to be pulverized shells. The basis of the composition appears to be
the alluvial clay carried along in the waters of the Mississippi, and called by the
French 'terre grasse,' from its greasy feel. Samples of this pottery, more or less
perfect, are shown everywhere on the river. Some of the most perfect have been
dug from what are called the ' chalk-banks,' below the mouth of the Ohio. The
most perfect that I have seen, being, in fact, as entire as when first formed, was a
vessel in my possession. It was a drinking jug, like the 'scyphus' of the ancients.
It was dug from the chalk-bank. It was smooth, well-moulded, and of the colour
of common gray stoneware. It had been rounded with great care, and yet, from
slight indentations on the surface, it was manifest that it had been so wrought
in the palm of the hand. The model of the form was a simple and obvious one —
the bottle-gourd — and it would contain about two quarts. This vessel had been
used to hold animal oil; for it had soaked through, and varnished the external
surface. Its neck was that of a squaw, known by the clubbing of the hair, after
the Indian fashion. The moulder was not an accurate copyist, and had learned
neither statuary nor anatomy; for, although the finish was fine, the head was
monstrous. There seemed to have been an intention of wit in the outlet. It was
the horrible and distorted mouth of a savage, and in drinking you would be obliged
to place your lips in contact with those of madam the squaw."— Flint's Recollections, p. 173-4.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. For bibliography on Indian antiquities, see our volume xxvi,
p. 69, note 33; p. 159, note in; and p. 184, note 128. io4 Early Western Travels [Vol.27
way through the ravines, my route for some miles wound
away through a sparse growth of oaks, and over a region
which seemed completely excavated into sink-holes. Some
of these tunnel-shaped hollows were several hundred feet
in diameter, and of frightful depth, though of regular
outline, as if formed by the whirl of waters subsiding to
the level of the plain beneath. They were hundreds in
number, yet each was as uniformly circular as if excavated
by scientific skill. I have met with none so regular in
outline, though I have seen many in the course of my
The puissant little village of Waterloo furnished me
a very excellent dinner, at a very excellent tavern. The
town appeared, from a hasty view in passing through its
streets, remarkable for nothing so much as for the warlike soubriquet attached to it, if we except a huge windmill,
which, [213] like a living thing, flings abroad its gigantic
arms, and flaunts its ungainly pinions in the midst thereof.
The place, moreover, can boast a courthouse, indicative
of its judicial character as seat of justice for the county
of Monroe; and, withal, is rather pleasantly located than
otherwise. About five miles north of the village is situated
a large spring, and a settlement called Bellefontaine. This
spot is celebrated as the scene of some of the bloodiest
atrocities of the Kickapoo Indians and predatory bands
of other tribes some fifty years since. Many of the settlers
were killed, and others carried into a captivity scarce to
be preferred.87
87 Waterloo, in Monroe County, about thirty miles northwest of Kaskaskia,
was incorporated in 1848. In 1818 George Forquer purchased the land on which
the village now stands, and in the same year he and Daniel P. Cook (later a member of Congress) laid out and named the town. In 1825 the county seat was
changed from Harrisonville to Waterloo. About 1830, John Coleman erected
a large wind-mill, later changed to an ox-mill (1837).
Bellefontaine is the name applied by the early French to a large spring a mile 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
An evening ride of a dozen miles, interesting for nothing
but a drenching shower, succeeded by a glare of scorching sunshine, which, for a time, threatened perfect fusion
to the traveller, or, more properly, an unconditional resolution into fluidity; such an evening ride, under circumstances aforesaid, brought me at sunset to the town of
Columbia, a place, as its name denotes, redolent of patriotism.''8 "Hail Columbia!" was the exhilarated expression of my feelings, if not of my lips, as I strode across the
threshold of a log-cabin, the appertenance of a certain
worthy man with one leg and the moiety of another, who
united in his calling the professions of cobbler and publican, as intimated by the sign-board over his door. Hail
Columbia! All that it is possible to record touching this
patriotic village seems to be that it adds one more to the
five hundred previous villages of the selfsame appellation
scattered over the land, whose chief [214] consequence,
like that of a Spanish grandee, is concentrated and consists in a title. Every county of almost every state of the
Union, it is verily believed, can boast a Columbia. Indeed,
the name of the Genoese seems in a fair way of being
honoured as much as is that of George Washi