The Increase of Population and the Extension of the Settlements in Illinois from 1805 to 1809, the Time of the Formation of Illinois Territory.-The Monks of La Trappe. -Shawneetown Increased


THE whole country on the margin of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash Rivers, from the site where Alton now stands to Vincennes, commenced to improve. Within the present limits of Gallatin, Johnson, and Union Counties, small colonies were formed. The Simpson, Stokes, and many other settlements, were established in this section of the country, while the country was under the jurisdiction of Indiana Territory. Some mills were erected on the Little Wabash River, near its mouth; and about this time the town of New Haven commenced near these mills. A talented and energetic merchant, then of Shawneetown, laid out New Haven, and erected a fine flour-mill in the vicinity.

The settlements around the Ohio Saline, in Gallatin County, increased considerably, and the business at the salt works was carried on with much prosperity and success. These settlements, around the margins of these large rivers, extended only a few miles in the interior; and within was a wilderness.

The families of Jourdons, and connections, made a location in 1808, east of Big Muddy River, not far from the place where the old Fort Massacre trace crossed the stream.

Colonies were formed some years before 1809, on Mary's River and Plumb Creek, in Randolph County, and extended up the east side of the Kaskaskia River, in narrow strips, to the upper extremity of the Horse Prairie, and east of Silver Creek, in St. Clair County. On,.Sugar and Shoal Creeks some settlments were formed during. this period. The highest locations on Shoal Creek were about the present Greenville; and the settlements on Silver Creek extended up to the vicinity of the present Highland Town, in Madison County.

During this period, colonies were extended from the vicinity of -the present towns of Troy and Edwardsville to the forks of Wood River, which was the upper settlement in the country at this early period. Andey Dunegan resided then, solitary and alone, on the site which Alton now occupies. These were the frontier settlements during the war of 1812, and around which the United States Rangers guarded the inhabitants.

Some of the Bird family, who had previously resided in Missouri, west of Cape Girardeau, sold out their interest in the premises and settled on the site of the present city of Cairo, in 1805. The settlements extended up the Wabash River, with wide gaps between them, as high as Vincennes-but most of the inhabitants left these upper settlements during the war of 1812.

The French colonies were also extended before 18og; and the villages called "the French Village," situated in the American Bottom, on the present road from Belleville to St. Louis, and- the Quentine Village,. near the Great Mound, on Cahokia Creek, were formed. The French settlements at Peoria and Prairie du Chien were stationary.

The colonies of the Creoles, on the Big Island, in the Mississippi, above St. Louis, increased but never prospered much.

In the year 1809, the Monks of La Trappe made a settlement in the American Bottom, near the Great Mound, and remained there for several years. This colony was located near the county line, between St. Clair and Madison Counties, and they made there considerable, improvements. They introduced into the country a good breed of stock; and were, many of them, excellent mechanics. The monks introduced the first Jack into the country; but there was such inveterate prejudice, at that day, against mules, that no one bred from the Jack.

At the place they located it was near large lakes, and they suffered bad. health. Two priests and several lay members died here, and they abandoned the country in the year 1812.

This order of religionists, La Trappe, were very rigid and severe in their rules, and discipline. It is an ancient order, commencing in France in the year 1140, and revived in 1664, by Abbey Rance. This devotee was a crazy fanatic, and enjoined on the monastery perpetual silence. A stone floor was their beds, bread and water their food-and every day they dug part of their graves. I saw many of the order, at their monastery in the American Bottom, who refused to speak, but made signs, pointing to the place to obtain information. Many whom. I saw were stout, robust men, badly clothed, but fat and hearty.

These monks came to the United States in 1804 and first settled in Pennsylvania, at Conewango Creek--then in Ketucky-then in the Flourisant Village, in St. Louis County, Missouri; and then came to Illinois. They always seemed to me to be discontented and unhappy The leader of the fraternity, the Rev. Pere Urban, was considered a man of talents and true piety. I have often seen him reading in a book on horseback. This monastery was an order of the Cistercian Monks; and with all their rigor and severity, they had attached to them many followers.

It is a singular trait in the human character, that the most strange and most superstitious institutions of religion will secure to them proselytes who will suffer even martyrdom for a cause which they cannot understand.

In all religions, it is a principle to chasten "the carnal man, as it is called by some, so that the grossest passions, and the most degraded impulses of the animal man, will not be permitted to run riot, and ruin the higher and more intellectual sentiments and impulses of cultivated humanity; but these monks seemed determined to destroy the animality altogether in man, to prevent him from committing sin. As well might a physician kill his patient to cure him. It is extremely difficult to educate the human family in such manner as to pursue the exact line of right, in the sight of Heaven, between the two extremes of the low, baser passions of man, and the celestial and etherial elevation of the human intellect.

During this period, Shawneetown, on the Ohio River, commenced to grow, and gave evidence then of becoming a large commercial town. Shawneetown made its first appearance in the years 1805 and 1806, and increased considerably for sometime. Great fleets of keel boats concentrated at this point, engaged in the salt, and other traffic, and diffused life and energy to the new colonies.

About the year 1804, La Bauissier, a Frenchman, located on the Ohio River; he fished, traded with the Indians, and kept a ferry. E. Ensminger settled there about the same time, and was deputy-sheriff of Randolph County in 18og. Davenport, Wilson, Ellis, Hubbard, and others, located here a few years after.

Congress in 1810, and also in 1814, caused to be surveyed out two sections of land in lots, and sold many of them. After the sale a general jollificaition was enjoyed, and most of the old log-cabins in the town were burnt, so that new houses, larger, and built of better materials, would occupy the places of the squatter houses. The river, for several years, did not inundate the town, and everything seemed to prosper and advance the growth of the place-it soon contained a population of fifteen hundred inhabitants or more. The Indians were removed from the country near Shawneetown in 1811, and the immigrants flocked to the country in great numbers.

At the first settlement of Shawneetown, a number of extraordinary and highly gifted immigrants settled in it, and gave it a high standing and character throughout the country. Many of the pioneers reached, in after days, a high standing and fame in the public mind. Among many others, Isaac White, John Marshall, Moses M. Rallings, Leonard White, Willis Hargrove, Henry Eddy, John McLean, Thomas C. Brown, A. F. Hubbard, Moses M. Street, John Lane, Seth Guard, and many more.

In 1805, we computed the population of Illinois to be about five thousand souls; and in 1810, the census taken then returns 12,284 inhabitants in the territory of Illinois.


from My Own Times by Gov. John Reynolds (pp. 61--63) 


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