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Land Between the Waters: The French History of Illinois


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



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The French History of Illinois


Louis XIV revoked the Compagnie des Cent's royal charter, converting New France (Canada) into a royal colony

Fur trader Louis Jolliet and missionary Jacques Marquette entered the Illinois villages and established French claims of the Illinois country (Pays des Illinois)

Canadian Governor Frontenac granted La Salle the right to settle the Illinois country. 

King William's War (War of the Rhenish Palatinate, or league of Augsburg) officially commenced in Europe, but in America the war began with Iroquois attacks into the Illinois country as early as 1680. Control of the beaver trade motivated  the Iroquois to foray against the french and the Illinois tribes.



Louis XIV's edict abolished the Indian trade (fur trade), western travel, and settlement, consequently stranding many Canadian Coureur de Bois in the Illinois country. 

First Illinois mission established at Cahokia. 

Unauthorized French settlers established six villages down river from present day St. Louis. 

Queen Anne's War (War of the Spanish Succession) produced a new strategy for New France:  detach the Iroquois from English influence. Consequently, New England felt the burden of Indian attacks and the Illinois country received a period of peace and growth.

Louis XIV dies and the 1696 edict allowed to lapse.  Consequently, "since no Frenchmen, except the mission priests, were supposed to be there, there was no government, nor any officials, to prevent these coureurs de bois turned Habitants from setting up their own village society as they---and the local clergy---thought right and proper." [Briggs, Winstanley.  "Le Pays Des Illinois." The William and Mary Quarterly.  57  (vol. 1, 1990).  33].  The French of Illinois established the first European republic west of the Allegheny mountains. 

The French crown detached the Illinois country from Canada and placed Illinois under the Louisiana Colony's jurisdiction. 

For twenty years, intermittent raids and warfare raged upon the Louisiana and Illinois colonies from the Chickasaw Nation. 

The War of Jenkin's Ear  furnished the spark, which created King George's War (War of Austrian Succession). During the war George Groghan captured the Ohio Valley fur trade from the French. After the war, Illinois fur traders exchanged peltry for English trade goods. 

Fort de Chartres recruits 300 Illinois warriors to fight George Washington at Fort Necessity. 

Fort Massac constructed, near present day Metropolis, Illinois. 

The French and Indian War (the Seven Years War) officially ends in French defeat.  The Treaty of Paris cedes all land east of the Mississippi to the English. 

French garrisons evacuate the Illinois country. Pontiac foments Indian unrest in the Illinois country against the English. The Chickasaws burn the evacuated Fort Massac. Laclede opens a trading post opposite Cahokia.



Coureur de Bois




Website constructed by R. I. Peters as a project for a graduate class in Local History at Eastern Illinois University.