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Habitants and La Marines


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



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Habitants & La Marines

French missionaries and fur traders, first entered the Illinois country. Solders from the French Marine Department constructed forts to secure peace within the colony. After Louis XIV's Edict, many displaced coureur de bois remained in the Illinois country.  Many continued in the illegal fur trade, by trading with the Virginia and the Carolina Traders descending the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.  Many of the early French habitants (farmers) established small farms. Soon, by the 1720's, Illinois habitants had established five settlements (Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, St. Philippe, and Cahokia, in Illinois and Ste. Genevieve, in Missouri). French Illinois habitants produced vast grain surpluses, which fed the lower Louisiana Colony.  The French defeat during the French and Indian War destroyed the economic viability of the Illinois grain trade.  The Treaty of Paris (1763) granted Louisiana to the Spanish.  The Mississippi river trade languished under Spanish rule and the Illinois country, consequently suffered economic loss.  

The top photograph portrays typical early French construction techniques.  In the Illinois country vertical log construction predominated, and not until the English entered Illinois did typical horizontal log construction appear.  

The second photograph represents the Jarret House (circa 1810) at Cahokia, Illinois.  Even in the American Period of Illinois history, French influences become apparent.  (Photos from Balesi's Time of the French in the Heart of  North America, 1673-1818

fort des chartres

New France defended Her North American holdings by establishing a series of forts.  The French placed these forts at strategic places along water ways.  The French Marine Department garrisoned these forts with the Compagnies de Marine.  The Crown granted the Fort's commanders with the right to trade with the Indians.  Illinois  Marines served in all of France's colonial and Indian wars.  Illinois Marines and Illinois Indians fought in the Chickasaw Wars and during the French and Indian War served at the Siege of Fort Necessity and at Braddock's Road. 


fort des Chartres



First photograph shows the powder magazine---the oldest surviving European structure in Illinois. (photo taken March, 1997)  
Second photograph shows main entrance and the reconstructed barracks foundations.  (photo taken March, 1997---all photos by author of page) 




Coureur de Bois