Lecture

Home ] Guidebook ] Dickens ] First Steamboat ] [ Lecture ] My Own Times ] River Improvement ] Pictorial ESL ] Past, Present, Future ] Picturesque ESL ] The Great Cyclone ] St. Clair County ] Blue Book ] The Romantic Story of Cahokia ] Role Models ] Illinois Vignettes ] Nunes ] IDOT Survey ] Temporary Photo Dump ]

 

 

 

HISTORICAL LECTURE

 

Delivered Before the Literary and Historical
Society of East St. Louis, Illinois by
Dr. Isaac N. Piggott, August 4, 1871

 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

By request of the Literary and Historical Society of the city of East St. Louis, I will give you a synoptical description of the natural scenery of the landscape whereon this flourishing city now stands, as it appeared in A. D. 1799, and note some of the wonderful changes that have transpired therein since that date, etc., especially in the channels of the rivers Mississippi and Abbe, the latter most commonly called Cahokia Creek, which runs through your city, and which formerly did not run into the Mississippi, where it now does, but formed its junction south of Piggott's addition to Illinoistown with the slough which then run(sic) at the head of an island, described in the "Western Annals" as being opposte(sic) South St. Louis, and with said slough run past the villlage(sic) of Cahokia, below which the only ferry from Illinois to St. Louis could then be kept.

By reference to the sevety-second(sic) page of Mr. Butler's history of Kentucky, it will be seen that Cahokia creek was knee-deep in front of Colonel Clark's camp at Cahokia when he treated with the Indians in September 1778.

But so great has been the change there that neither slough, creek, nor island can now be properly recognized at that place. As some persons may have been misinformed, and may be incredulous of the facts I am stating, and to enable those who have not known this place over sixty years to comprehend the subject in all its bearings, I will refer you to some ancient documents; and although historians have not mentioned some of the facts of which I am speaking, because unknown to them, or having transpired since their writing, yet I will read to you from the 122d  page of the "Western Annals" the description derived from the late Auguste Chouteau. Then speaking of the first settlement of St. Louis, he said:

"At that time a skirt of tall timber lined the bank of the river, free from undergrowth, which extended back to a line about the range of Eighth Street in the rear was an extensive prairie the first cabins were erected near the river and market; no "Bloody Island" or "Duncans's(sic) Island" then existed. Directly opposite the old market square the river was narrow and deep, and until about the commencement of the present century persons would be distinctly heard from the opposite shore. Opposite Duncan's Island and South St. Louis was an island covered with heavy timber and separated from the Illinois shore by a slough. Many persons are now living (1850) who recollect the only ferry from Illinois to St. Louis was from Cahokia, below the island, and landed on the Missouri shore near the site of the United States Arsenal."

Although that description is correct as far as it goes, it does not attempt (to) describe the landscape at this place; nor when and how Duncan's Island and Bloody Island were formed, and why so named; nor why the only ferry from Illinois to St. Louis had to be from Cahokia, below the island, opposite south St. Louis, and landed on the Missouri shore, near the site of the United States arsenal; nor when, and by whom, the Wiggins ferry at this point was first established. But when you are correctly informed, you will perceive that a ferry at this point, at that date, would have been worse than useless, because it could not have been reached by the inhabitants of Illinois until a road was made, and the river L'Abbe was bridged above its junction with the slough, which then ran at the head of said island, and which is now known as Cahokia commons, south of East St. Louis. And all the space above the slough, between the rivers Misssissippi(sic) and I'Abbe including the ferry division of East St. Louis, and what is now known as Bloody Island, and the dyke and ponds of water in that vicinity was then bottom land, covered with majestic forest timber, interperued(?) with peavine, rushes and winter grass, on which stock (ate) fat all the seasons of the year. The distance between the two rivers then was about half a mile in width. This was also used as the common camping ground for all the friendly Illinois Indians that traded at St. Louis, and sometimes by hostile Indians. Therefore, to make the first bridge, and built(sic) the first road, was not only costly and laborious, but an extremely dangerous undertaking; for, although Colonel Clark, in 1778, had taken all the territory northwest of the river Ohio from the British lion, yet that country's allice(sic), the Indians, like tigers, thirsting for blood, still claimed and occoupied, and, like lords of the forest, roamed through this vast region of wild country.

Just look at the surroundings of the few white people at that time in this country, for, excepting a few French villages in this bottom, the whole country, northwest of the Ohio river, was the abode of ferocious beasts and savage men. Those first heros of the west were without roads, bridges, newspapers or mail carriers. Many of them had assisted in the erection and defense of Fort Jefferson in 1780-1781; and had come with their captain and formed the first purely American settlement at the Great Run. But I will now have to read to you their own statement, as printed on the fifteenth page of the first volume of American State Papers on Public Lands; and also from the fifty-ninth and sixtieth pages of Governor Reynolds' History of his own times:

"Great Run, May 23, 1790.

"To his Excellency Arthur St. Clair, Esq., Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio:

"We, your petitioners, beg leave to represent to your excellency the state and circumstances of a number of distressed but faithful subjects of the United States of America, wherein we wish to continue, and that under your immediate government; but unless our principal grievance can be removed by your excellency's encouragement, we shall despair of holding a residence in the Statewe(sic) love.

"The Indians, who have not failed one year in four past to kill our people and steal our horses, and at times have killed and drove off numbers of our homed cattle, renders it impossible for us to live in the country any way but in forts or villages, which we find very sickly in the Mississippi Bottom; neither can we cultivate our land but with a guard of our own inhabitants, equipped with arms; nor have we more tillable land, for the support of seventeen families, than what might easily be tilled by four of us; and as these lands whereon we live are the property of two individuals, it is uncertain how long we may enjoy the scanty privileges we have here; nor do we find by your excellency's proclamation that those of us which are the major part, who came to the country since the year of 1783, are entitled to the land improved, at the risk of our lives, with the design to live on these, with many other difficulties which you(sic) excellency may be better informed of by our reverend friend, James Smith, hath very much gleemed the aspect of a number of free and loyal subjects of the United States. In consideration of which, your petitioners humbly request that, by your excellency's command, there may be a village, with in-lots and out-lots, sufficient for families to subsist on, laid out and established in or near the Prairie-de-Norivey. We know the other American settlers, near the Mississippi, to be in equally deplorable circumstances with ourselves, and, consequently, would be equally benefited by the privileges we ask. And that those of us who came to the country and improve(sic) land, since 1783, may be confirmed in a right of pre-emption to their improvements, is the humble request of your petitioners. And we, as in duty bound, shall ever pray.

                                                               "James Piggot, and forty-five others,"

 

"When the citizen soldiers abandoned Fort Jefferson, Capt. Piggott, with many of his brave companions arrived at Kaskaskia, and remained there some time. Thes (sic) energetic immigrants, no(sic) early as the year 178 1, were the first considerable acquisition of American population Illinois received. Many of the most worthy and respectable families of Illinois can trace back their lineage to this illustrious noble ancestry. About the year 1783, Capt. Piggot established a fort not far from the bluffs, in the American bottom, west of the present town of Columbia, in Monroe country, which was called Piggott's fort, or the fort of the Grand Ruisseau, alias Great Run. This was the largest fortification erected by the Americans in Illinois in that day, and was well defended with cannon and small arms. Capt. Piggott and forty-five inhabitants at this fort (called in English Big Run) petitioned for grant of lands, etc." (See the petition above).

"I presume it was on this petition that the act of Congress was passed, granting to every one on the public land in Illinois, four hundred acres to each man enrolled in the militia service of that year.

"Governor St. Clair, well knowing the character of Captain Piggott, in the army of the Revolution, appointed him the presiding judge of the court of St. Clair county." (The then county seat was at Cahokia.)

"I will now speak of the establishment of the forst(sic) road-bridge and ferry viz: When Governor St. Clair in 1790, first organized civil government in Illinois, he held council with the people; and in view of the prospective importance of this place, he advised his newly-made judge (Piggott) to establish himself at this place. To look at the surroundings of the country, it had very much the appearance of a forlorn hope, but the governor knew his man. The inhabitants of both sides of the Mississippi felt the great need of such a ferry, and cooperated heartily in it. At that time there was no other man willing to take the risk. In the summer time, men could not work here. In the winters of 1792-93, while the river I'Abbe was frozen, Judge Piggott erected two log cabins at this point; and continued every winter to carry on his improvements until 1795. After General Wayne had conquered and treated with the hostile Indians, he then removed the family from his fort at the Great Run, to this point, among the friendly Indians.

"As soon as the Judge had completed his road and bridge, and established his ferry from the Illinois to the Missouri shore, he petitioned (15th day of August, 1797) for, an(sic) obtained the exclusive right to collect ferriage in St. Louis (at that time a Spanish province.) As a relic I give the petition in full:

"St. Clair County, Territory of the United States, Northwest of the River Ohio.

"To Mr. Zenon Trudeau Commander at St. Louis: "Sir: Though unacquainted, through a certain confidence of your love of justice and equity, I venture to lay before you the following petition, which, from reasons following, I am confident you will find just to allow:

"The petition is, that your honor will grant me the whole benefit of this ferry, to and from the town of St. Louis. I do not desire to infringe upon the ferry privilege below the town, which has been long established. But that no person in the town may be allowed to set people across the river for pay (at this place), so long as you shall allow that the benefits of this ferry hath made compensation for my private expenses, in opening a new road and making it good from this ferry to Cahokia town, and making and maintaining a bridge over the river Abbe, of 150 feet in length. Your consideration and answer to this is the request of your humble petitioner; and as an acknowledgment of the favor petitioned for, if granted, I will be under the same regulations with my ferry respecting crossing passengers or property from your shore as your ferry-men are below the town; and should your people choose to cross the river in their own crafts, my landing and road shall be free to them.

"And should you wish me to procure you anything that comes to market from the country on this side, I shall always be ready to serve you.

"And should you have need of timber or anything that is the product of my land, it may be had at the lowest rates.

                                                                               "I am, sir, with due respect, your humble servant,

                                                                                "August 15, 1797.

                                                                                JAMES PIGGOTT."

 

Although the Spanish commandant at St. Louis was anxious to have the ferry regularly carried on by Piggott because of its great use to St. Louis, yet he devised a plan by which it was done without having it said he granted ferry right to a foreigner, viz, he granted Piggott the ferry landing below Market street, on which Piggott then erected a small ferry-house, which was occupied mostly, however, by one of his ferry hands, who, at any time could cross foot passengers in a canoe; but when horses, etc., were crossed, the platform had to be used, which required three of his men to manage.

Neither skiffs, scows, nor yawls, were then used; but the well-made Indian canoe and pirogue were the water-craft used at the ferry at that early day.

The ferry tract of land which then lay between the creek and river, and belonged to Piggott, has been regularly conveyed by several deeds to the Wiggins ferry company; and allow me to say that the ferry company has ever been composed of honorable, energetic and liberal men, who, at great expense, have successfully contended against many cross-currents, and greatly improved the place for the public convenience as well as their own profit.

From the commencement of this ferry it was carried on under the immediate supervision of Piggott until the 20th of February, 1799, when he died, leaving his wife the executrix of his will.

She first rented the ferry to Dr. Wallis for the year 1801-2; then to Adams for the year 1803-4. This adams(sic) was then the husband of the distinguished Sarah Adams of Duncan's Island notoriety.

About this time the widow of Piggott married Jacob Collard, and removed from Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri. Before leaving she leased the ferry to John Campbell for ten years, from the 5th day of May, 1805. This Campbell proved treacherous, and procured a license for a ferry in his own name during the time of the lease; and hence for a short time, it was called "Campbell's Ferry." But after a law-suit, Campbell and confederates were beaten, and the ferry re-established to Piggott's heirs -- one of whom, assisted by men named Solomon, Blundy and Porter, operated the ferry until part of the heirs sold out to McKnight & Brady.

The other heirs of Piggott conveyed to Samuel Wiggins their share of the ferry. He very soon succeeded in buying out his competitors, and thus obtained the whole ferry. He superintended it in person.

You must bear in mind that I am only giving a synoptical description of the subject matter under consideration, and therefore it would not only be beyond my strength of body but also beyond the proposed plan, if I should make a detailed statement of everything that transpired, and the names of several tenants who occupied said ferry under Campbell and McKnight and Brady -- such as Lockhart, Day, Vandostal and others.

But you wish to be informed when and how the half-mile width of land, in 1799, lay between the rivers I'Abbe and Mississippi -- which was covered with majestic timber, and used as the camping ground of all the Illinois Indians trading at St. Louis, Missouri - became transformed into what has been called Bloody Island, with its slough, dike, etc., from which it is now so rapidly being reclaimed. You will recollect the description given by Auguste Chouteau; and I will add thereto, that the main channel of the Mississippi, in 1800, ran nearly straight from the chain of rocks -- supposed to be about nine miles above St. Louis -- toward and close to the old western boundary of the Cabanne Island; and from thence striking the rocky shore of Missouri above St. Louis, near where the sturgeon market now is; thence running deepest against said rocky shore to Market street, below which a sand-bar formed, which grew into what is now called Duncan's Island, causing the current to deflect to Cahokia Island, (before mentioned in the "Western Annals," and carried off a great part thereof Meanwhile, accretions accumulated on the west side of the Cabanne island. This caused the current to carry off a great deal of the Missouri shore, and formed what was called the Sawyer bend above what is called Bissell's Point. In the fall of 1798, a sand-bar was formed in the Mississippi similar to the one now opposite this place, and near the same locality. It increased rapidly, and soon became an island covered with willow and cottonwood. In time this island received the prefix "Bloody" -- from the many bloody duels it was the theatre of Among the prominent duelists who made the island the place whereon to settle (according to the code duello) their differences, were the following parties: Charles Lucas fell by Colonel Benton, Joshua Barton fell by            Rector, Jaor Biddle and        Pettes fell together, Waddell fell by           Mitchell, and others.

In process of time the main channel for steamboat navigation run(sic) east of Bloody Island; and the current thus deflected against the Illinois shore, it was worn away rapidly. I believe the whole Mississippi river, would, are now, have been running east of this place had it not been prevented by diking. But before dikes proved a success, the Mississippi had washed away all the land heretofore described as the Indian camping-ground lying between the rivers, and filled up the old miry bed of the creek at the southwest comer of Illinoistown -- about the northwest end of Main and Market streets, and a mile below it.

Various and expensive efforts were made to force the Mississippi back to its old channel west of this island. After several dikes or rock piers had been made along the Illinois shore, so far as to deflect the current toward the Missouri shore, and also Dike avenue having stopped the current toward the Missouri shore, and also Dike avenue having stopped the current from running on the east of this place, the slough which had run there has been rapidly filling up.

That you may judge how great the change of the natural scenery has been since 1795, examine the old plat of Illinoistown, and you will see at the northwest end of Main and Market streets, marked the place where the bridge and road, made in 1796, crossed the river I'Abbe, which is now the bed of the slough. To disabuse the public mind, I will inform you that, however many have been the several tenants that occupied the ferry tract of land, yet none of then had a fee title therein, excepting James Piggott, his heirs and their assigns.

On the 4th day of January 1815, five-sevenths of Piggott's heirs conveyed their interest in the ferry to McKnight & Brady, who had, under special contract, been running it on trial one year previous. And on the 4th of March 1820, the other two-sevenths of Piggott's heirs conveyed their interest in the land and ferty to Samuel Wiggins, who under special contract with them had been running a ferry in competition with McKnight & Brady during 18 10; and the 19th of May 1821, McKnight and Brady conveyed their right of ferry to Samuel Wiggins. Since that time, Wiggins, and those claiming under him, have held the whole concern.

You will understand from what I have endeavored to explain to you what mighty obstacles have been overcome; the slough at the end of this island is already filled up; it is again attached to the mainland, and the other part of it is diked in several places, and rapidly filling up. Properly speaking, this place is no longer Bloody Island, but the law-abiding ferry division of the city of East St. Louis.

Surrounded with the best prospects of increasing wealth and prosperity. I ask you to consider the following facts: vis., the two greatest rivers in the United States form their junction just above us, giving us here a fine navigable channel of about sixty feet in depth by __ in width, and connecting us, by means of ferryboats, with the metropolis of the West, St. Louis. Consider how vast and fertile are the regions of country, east, west and north drained by those rivers; how rich and various are the productions thereof, and one of the best outlets for their transportation is this place; and see how rapidly far-seeing capitalists are constructing their various railroad routes both at West and East St. Louis, from which they diverge to and converge from all parts of the country. And wisely have the streets in this part of the country been laid out, with the future view of allowing railroad tracks to be put down, for the purpose of moving goods in a more expeditious manner to and from the various railroad depots. And this city is the portal through which all travel from the East must enter to reach the great emporium on the southwest bank of the Mississippi.

Having mentioned a few of the facts in regard to the past and present condition of this place, let us take a look at its future prospects. East St. Louis enjoys the same facilities for navigation as the greater city on the other side of the river does. And why not(sic) the acorn became an oak in time? The material is here, if properly handled. The coal-fields surrounding this city are hourly pouring in their treasures. The iron mountains of Missouri are at a convenient distance to us; and how naturally will the coal and iron meet at this place. Is not East St. Louis the real terminus of all the railroads east of the Mississippi?

Hitherto the lack of elevators prevented the shipping of grain at this point, and the "sluggard said there was a lion in the way." But enterprising farmers, merchants and capitalists obtained, on the 6th(?) of March 1867(?), a liberal charter from the Illinois Legislature, and are astonishing the natives by the erection of an elevator and warehouse 140 by 300 feet, with a railroad track in the center, so that cars loaded with grain will run into the warehouse to be unloaded; and there is 300 feet of river front so arranged that boats loaded with grain can safely land alongside and be unloaded with great dispatch. Everything is arranged for speed and safety.

The result will be to add to the value of all the grain productions of Illinois sent to this place for shipment to St. Louis. The unneccesary(sic) ferriage will be avoided, which caused loss to the grain and damage to the cooperage. To show how much saving can be effected, I call attention to an article in the St. Louis Democrat -- 6th day of May last -- in which it is stated that the cost of transfer of grain and flour, for the past year, exceeds $220,000, being a tax on flour of twelve cents per barrel and three and a half cents per bushel on wheat and corn. The greater part of this enormous freightage can be saved by storing at the warehouse of the elevator. It will be ready for the reception of the growing crop of this year. The farmers of Illinois should bear this fact in mind. Egbert Dodge, Esq., is the indefatigable and energetic superintendent, who can be found at his office adjoining the elevator at all seasonable hours.

Pardon this incidental digression. Perhaps I should have spoken of the mortal combat, as given by the Indians who killed Jacob Grot(s or z), grandfather of the late Captain Carr; of the former appearance of the landscape on the east side of the river L'Abbe; of the surveys and resurveys of the Cahokia common-fields; of the laying out of the old Illinoistown, in 1817, etc., and other exciting incidents prior to that time, but I will stop here for the present. At some future time I may elaborate more fully.

While speaking of the early history of East St. Louis, we perhaps cannot do better than to refer to some of the brave pioneers who were conspicuous in that early day. Among the most prominent who took an active part in advancing the interests of this once savage wild, was Captain James Piggott, of whom Ex-Govemor Reynolds makes the following mention in his "Life and Times." It conveys a graphic picture of who Captain Piggot was, and the ordeal the early settlers passed through, in this severe contest with savage and wild beasts:

Although Fort Jefferson was established before my own times, says Governor Reynolds, yet so many incidents arising out of the establishment of this fort, extending into my own times, and so many of the pioneers of Illinois being connected with it, I deem it proper, in the scope of my work, to give some sketches of the history of the Fort.

In 1781, the Government of Virginia, the great statesman, Thomas Jefferson, being Governor, knew that the Spanish Crown pretended to have some claim on the country east of the Mississippi, below the mouth of the Ohio; and to counteract this claim, ordered George Rogers Clark to erect a fort on the east side of the Mississippi, on the first eligible point below the mouth of the Ohio.

General Clark, with his accustomed foresight and extraordinary energy, levied a considerable number of citizen soldiers, and proceeded from Kaskaskia to the high land, known at this day as Mayfield's creek, five miles below the mouth of the Ohio. Here, on the east side of the Mississippi, he erected a fort, and called it Jefferson, in honor of the then Governor of Virginia. It was neglected to obtain the consent of the Indians for the erection of the fort, as the Governor of Virginia had requested. This neglect proved to be a great calamity. Clark encouraged immigration to the fort, and promised the settlers lands. Captain Piggott, and many others followed his standard.

The fort being established, General Clark was called away to the frontiers of Kentucky, and left the fort for its protection in the hands of Captain James Piggott, and the soldiers and citizens under him.

Captain Piggott was a native of Connecticut, and was engaged in the privateering service in the Revolutionary War. He was in danger of assassination by the enemy in his native State, and emigrated to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. He was appointed Captain of a company in the Revolution by the Legislature of his adopted State, and served under Generals St. Clair and Washington. He was in the battles of Brandywine, Saratoga, and marched to Canada. By severe marches, and hard service, his health was impaired so that he was forced to resign his captaincy, and with his family, he left his residence in Westmoreland county, and came West with General Clark.

Several families settled in the vicinity of Fort Jefferson, and some in it; but all attempted to cultivate the soil to some extent for a living.

The Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians became angry for the encroachments of the whites, and in August 178 1, commenced an attack on the settlements around the fort. The whole number of warriors must have been ten or twelve hundred, headed by the celebrated Scotchman Calbert, whose posterity figured as half-breed. These tribes commenced hostilities on the settlements around Fort Jefferson. The Indians came first in small parties, which saved many of the inhabitants. If they had reached the settlement in a body, the whole white population outside of the fort would have been destroyed.

As soon as the preparation for the attack of the Indians on the fort was certainly known, a trusty messenger was dispatched to the falls of the Ohio, as it wascalled(sic) at that day and for years afterward, for more provisions and ammunition. If support did not arrive in time, the small settlements and garrison would be destroyed, and it was extremely uncertain if succor would reach the fort in time.

The settlement and fort were in the greatest distress; almost starving, no ammunition, and such great distance from the settlements at Kaskaskia and the Falls.

The first parties of Indians killed many of the inhabitants before they could be moved to the fort, and there was great danger and distress in marching them into the fort. Also the sickness prevailed to such extent, that more than half were down sick at the time. The famine was so distressing, that it was said that they had to eat the pumpkins as soon as the blossoms fell of the vines. The Indian marauding and murdering private persons and families, lasted about two weeks before the main army of Indian warriors reached the fort. The soldiers aided and received in the fort, all the white population that could be moved.

The whole family of Mr. Music, except himself, was killed, and inhumanly butchered by the enemy. Many other persons were also killed.

In the skirmishes a white man was taken prisoner, who was compelled, to save his life, to report true state of the garrison. This information added fury to the already heated passions of the savages.

After the arrival of the warriors, with Calbert at their head, they besieged the fort for six days and nights. During this time no one can describe the misery and distress the garrison was doomed to suffer. The water had almost given out. The river was falling fast, and the water in the wells sunk with the river. Scarecely(sic) any provisions remained, and the sickness raged so in the fort that many could not be stiffed from their beds. The wife of Captain Piggott, and some others died in the fort, and were buried inside of the walls, while the Indians besieged the outside. If no relief came, the garrison would inevitably fall into the hands of the Indians and be murdered.

It was argued by the Indians with the white prisoner, that if he told the truth, they would spare his life. He told them truly, that more than half in the fort were sick, -- that each man had not more than three rounds of ammunition, and that scarcely any provisions were in the garrison. On receiving this information, the whole Indian army retired about two miles to hold a council. They sent back Calbert and three Chiefs with a flag of truce to the fort.

When the whites discovered the white flag, they sent out Captain Piggott, Mr. Owens, and one other man, to meet the Indian delegation. This was done for fear the enemy would know the desperate condition of the fort. The parley was conducted under the range of the guns of the garrison.

Calbert informed them that they were sent to demand a surrender of the fort at discretion; that they knew the defenseless condition of the fort, and to surrender it might save much bloodshed. He further said; that they had sent a great force of warriors up the river to intercept the succor for which the whites had sent a messenger. This the prisoner had told them. Calbert promised he would do his best to save the lives of the prisoners, all if they would surrender, except a few, whom the Indians had determined to kill. He said, the Indians are pressing for the spoils, and would not wait long. He gave the garrison one hour for a decision.

On receiving this information, the garrison had an awful and gloomy scene presented to them. One person exclaimed, "Great God direct us what to do in this awful crisis!"

After mature deliberation, Piggott and the other delegates were instructed to say, that nothing would be said as to the information received from the prisoner. If we deny his statements you may kill him -- we cannot confide in your promises to protect us; but we will promise, if the Indians will leave the country, the garrison will abandon the fort and country as soon as possible. Calbert agreed to submit this proposition in council to the warriors. But on retiring, Mr. Music, whose family was murdered, and another man, shot at Calbert, and a ball wounded him. This outrage was greatly condemned by the garrison, and the two transgressors were taken into custody. The wound of Calbert was dressed, and he guarded safely to the Indians.

The warriors remained long in council, and by a kind of providential act the long wished-for succors did arrive in safety from the "Falls."

The Indians had struck the river too high up, and thereby the boat with the supplies escaped. The provisions and men were hurried into the fort, and preparations were made to resist a night attack by the warriors.

Every preparation that could be made for the defense of the fort was accomplished. The sick and small children were placed out of the way of the combatants, and all women and children of any size were instructed in the art of defense. The warriors, shortly after dark, thought they could steal on the fort and capture it; but when they were frustrated, they with hideous yells and loud savage demonstrations, assaulted the garrison and attempted to storm. it. The cannon had been placed in proper position to rake the walls, and when the warriors mounted the ramparts the cannon swept them off in heaps. The enmy(sic) kept up a stream of fire from their rifles on the garrison, which did not much execution. In this manner the battle raged for hours; but at least(sic) the enemy were forced to recoil, and withdrew from the deadly cannon of the fort. Calbert and other chiefs again urged the warriors to the charge; but the same result to retire was forced on them. Men and women at that day were soldiers by instinct. It seemed they could not be otherwise.

The greatest danger was for fear the fort would be set on fire. A large, dauntless Indian, painted for the occasion, by some means got on top of one of the block houses and was applying fire to the roof A white soldier, of equal courage, went out of the block house and shot the Indian as he was blowing the fire to the building. The Indian fell dead on the outside of the fort, and was packed off by his comrades.

After a long and arduous battle, the Indians withdrew from the fort. They were satisfied the relief had arrived in the garrison, and they could not storm it. They packed off all the dead and wounded. Many were killed and wounded of the Indians, as much blood was discovered in the morning around the fort. Several of the whites were also wounded, but none mortally. This was one of the most desperate assaults made by the Indians in the East, on a garrison so weak and distressed and defenseless.

The whites were rejoiced at their success, and made preparations to abandon the premises with all convenient speed.

The citizen soldiers of Fort Jefferson all abandoned the fort; and some wonded(sic) their way to Kaskaskia, and others to the Falls.  Captain Piggott, with many of his brave companions, arrived at Kaskaskia and remained there some years.

This flood of brave and energetic immigrants, so early as the year 1781, was the first considerable acquisition of American population Illinois received.  Many of the most worthy and respectable families of Illinois can trace their lineage to this illustrious and noble ancestry, and can say with pride and honor, that their forefathers fought in the Revolution to conquer the Valley of the Mississippi.

About the year 1783, Captain Piggott established a fort not far from the bluff in the American Bottom, west of the present town of Columbia in Monroe county, which was called Piggott's Fort, or the fort of the Grand Ruisseau.  This was the largest fortification erected  by the Americans in Illinois, and at that day was well defended with cannon and small arms.  In 1790 sometime Captain Piggott and forty-five other inhabitants at this fort, called the Big Run in English, signed a petition to Governor St. Clair, praying for grants of land to the settlers.  It is stated in this petition that there were seventeen families in the fort.

I presume it was on this petition that the act of Congress was passed granted to every settler on the public land in Illinois, four hundred acres, and a militia donation of a hundred acres to each man enrolled in the militia service of that year.

Governor St. Clair knew the character of Captain Piggott in the Army of the Revolution, and appointed him the Presiding Judge of the Court of St. Clair county.

Captain Piggott, in the year 1795, established the first ferry across the Mississippi, opposite St. Louis, Missouri, known now as Wiggin's ferry; and Governor Trudeau, of Louisiana, gave him license for a ferry and to land on the west bank of the river in St. Louis, with the privilege to collect the ferriage.  He died at the ferry, opposite St. Louis, in the year 1799, after having spent an active and eventful life in the Revolution, and in the conquest and early settlement of the West.

 

 

 

top.gif (906 bytes)