Brinkerhoff's history of Marion County, Illinois

In writing a history of Marion county it is necessary that the author present a brief outline of the history of the state of which the county forms a part, in order that the reader may refresh his memory of the conditions and difficulties to be met and overcome by the men and women of an age which demanded the best and bravest and called for, not only an indomitable spirit, but a body as well, inured to privations and hardships, inseparable from a pioneer life. The youth of today can hardly realize, surrounded as they are by every convenience and many of the luxuries of modern life, the utter lack of conveniences and comforts that faced the pioneer of a century ago in the then wilderness of Illinois; and brave, indeed, was the man who with his family traversed the woodland and the plain to literally hew out with the axe the home which he must defend with the rifle; upon which he also must largely depend for sustenance.

Yet it is of these we must write, if we are to preserve the records of our people and trace the character of the men of today back to its foundation in the lives of those who have gone before, and instill into the life of coming generations that love of liberty and independence which characterized the fathers and made the hardy American pioneer the noblest work of the Creator, unsung heroes and heroines whose bones rest peacefully in the soil their energy conquered, and left a rich heritage to succeeding generations.


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Old Fort Gage was built on the top of a bluff, some two hundred feet above the Mississippi and on the east side of the Kaskaskia, about one-half mile from and over-look- ing the town of Kaskaskia. The town was built on a tongue of land east of the Mississippi river and west of the Kaskaskia, and a short distance above the juncture of the two rivers, and the town was under the direct command of the fort. The fort was built of huge logs of native wood, squared and built upon an earthwork. It was two hundred and eighty feet by two hundred and fifty-one feet, oblong in form and of sufficient strength to withstand any attack likely to be brought against it. In 1772 only one officer and twenty men composed the garrison. To such a state of fear had the Indians of the Illini been reduced that they rather regarded the white man as a protector from the fierce tribes of the north and east, than as an enemy, and thus the savage of America, the peasant of France, the trader and the chevalier dwelt together, and over all the tolerant rule of the priest, which was more the rule of a father than of a master. It is true that a foreign flag the English waved over them, but the English rule was not felt so far from English power, and English dominion was but an empty name, so far as the people were concerned. From Kaskaskia two trails led, one to Detroit in the far north and distant hundreds of miles, with a wilderness of forest and prairie land between, over which only the god of silence reigned. The other led from Kaskaskia to Fort Vincennes on the Wabash, distance about one hundred and fifty miles direct, but by the trail considerably farther. Both trails crossed what is now Marion county, but slight indications of either trail now re- main. The French in Kaskaskia had two well-trained companies of militia in 1772, which, with the twenty men in Fort Gage, was the total military strength of the Illinois country. But the Treaty of Paris, in 1763, had forever extinguished the French claim to the territory, for the possession of which so much French energy, toil, suffer- ing and privation had been freely bestowed ; and never again were the Kaskaskians to see the Lillies of France wave its protecting folds over them as the symbol of their country. They had accepted British dominion in good faith, and were, outwardly at least, con- tent. Rumors of a struggle between the English colonies, nearly a thousand miles to the east of them, and the mother country reached them, but they were secure, for a wilderness lay between and not even an echo of the war was likely to reach them to alarm their fears or disturb their calm. In 1778 a Frenchman, M. de Rochblave, was in command at Fort Gage and not a British soldier was on duty, and the military was French- men and Breeds, but under the English flag, acting under the hair buyer of the English army, General Hamilton's orders, when such orders reached them, which was at infrequent intervals, and this was the situation when General George Rogers Clark began the march for the conquest of Illinois.