PIGGOTT

Home ] Up ] INTRODUCTION ] BRITISH AND SPANISH ] FRENCH COLONIZATION ] AMERICAN REVOLUTION ] ANARCHY ] TERRITORIAL PERIOD ] [ PIGGOTT ] EARLY SETTLEMENT ] ECONOMIC GROWTH ] SETTLEMENT GROWTH ] STEAMBOAT ERA ] RIVER CONTROL ] EARLY RAILROADS ] CIVIL WAR EVE ] CIVIL WAR ] EADS BRIDGE ] DEVELOPMENT ] RR EXPANSION ] HIGH GRADE ] RRs & CAHOKIA CR. ] EAST SIDE LEVEE ] THE STOCKYARDS ] INDUSTRIALIZATION ] CITY EXPANSION ] GOLDEN ERA ] DEMOGRAPHICS ]

 

 

PIGGOTT'S FERRY

 

In the late 18th century one ferry operated in the bottoms between the town of Cahokia and Ste. Genevieve, which was located south of St. Louis. The swamp opposite St. Louis precluded direct service from St. Louis since there was no suitable road that could stand up to loaded wagons. Piggott, seeing the advantage of direct ferry service from the east bank to St. Louis, set about building an all-weather road in 1792 from Cahokia to a point on Cahokia Creek opposite St. Louis. Piggott and his eldest sons constructed the road with rocks buttressed with logs. They worked in the winter when the threat of Indian attack was less likely. When the creek froze over, they constructed a 150-foot wooden bridge and extended the road to the waterfront. By 1795, the Piggotts had erected two log cabins near the river (Reavis 1876:51-52). All they needed now was a permit and they would be ready for business.

On August 15, 1795, Piggott formally applied to Zenon Trudeau, the commandant of St. Louis, for permission to operate a ferry between Illinois and St. Louis. Piggott noted that he had no desire to infringe on the Cahokia/ Ste. Genevieve ferry, but would like a monopoly from his settlement to St. Louis until he had recovered the personal expenses incurred during construction. Piggott added that he would be able to provide agricultural goods and lumber for Trudeau at the lowest cost, and people crossing the river in their own craft would be welcome to use his landing and road (Reavis 1876:52).

Trudeau granted the request under the condition that Piggott become a citizen of St. Louis under the French version of his name Piquette. Piggott's request was approved by the St. Clair County Court at Cahokia (Reavis 1876:52). The latter approval was easy enough considering the influence Piggott probably carried as an appointed judge. One would assume that approval from St. Clair County was merely a formality since it seems doubtful that Piggott would have invested three years of his time and money in a project if he had not had fairly good assurance that it would be approved. Also, Piggott may have been one of the presiding judges who granted approval since it was quite common for judges to 'sit in on cases involving their own interests during the territorial period.

The implications of this contract between Piggott and Trudeau, coming at a time of covert Spanish aggression, bear some discussion. Throughout the last two decades of the 18th century Spain had been coercing French inhabitants and American immigrants to leave the east side of the river and become citizens of Spain. The commandant of St. Louis had even gone so far as to write to the French at Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes, and offer them free lands west of the Mississippi (Boggess 1908:55). At the same time Spain was hoping to attract American citizens and foment a movement for separation of the west from the United States, they were also negotiating for a commercial treaty with the United States (Boggess 1908:73). In light of these conditions, St. Louis would have had many reasons for granting the ferry monopoly. Not only would it give easy access to the steady flow of settlers from Illinois to the Spanish side of the Mississippi, it would also provide a direct link to the productive American Bottoms, including agricultural products and lumber that St. Louis sorely needed. Most likely, Trudeau and Piggott were looking ahead to the commercial potential of this direct link to the American territory in the event that the trade negotiations between Spain and the United States were successful. Obviously both parties had enough foresight to see the development of the east side of the river as an adjunct in the St. Louis market sphere as an inevitable course of events, no matter what the outcome of the political intrigue.

However, did the St. Louis citizenship that Piggott acquired as a result of this ferry monopoly have any implications reaching farther than a mere concern for good public relations with the French constituents of the Mississippi Valley? In becoming a French citizen of St. Louis, Piggott was also, technically, a citizen of Spain. In their goal of Spanish control of the American northwest territory, Spain was acquiring nominal control of the east side of the river through control of Piggott (a new citizen of Spanish St. Louis). Spain's foothold on the east side of the river through their influence on Piggott was tenuous to be sure, though no one can dispute the fact that success of the new ferry was entirely dependent on the continued benevolence of Spanish St. Louis. Piggott did in fact take his Spanish citizenship seriously and moved his family to the west side. He was possibly managing the ferry business from the station on the St. Louis side of the river at the foot of Market Street (Reavis 1876:51,52). Whatever the designs Spain might have had on Piggott and the east side of the river, they never materialized before Piggott's death in 1799, and American acquisition of Louisiana and the west side of the Mississippi River in 1803 (McReynolds 1962:31, 32).

 

Previous                                                                                 Next

 

 

top.gif (906 bytes)