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KASKASKIA DESTROYED BY ALCURSE
COMMUNICATED BY ELBERT WALLER.
As every student of history knows, Kaskaskia was situated on a little peninsula at the mouth of the Kaskaskia or Okaw river, but there are perhaps few who know or believe that it was destroyed in fulfillment of a curse pronounced upon it more than two centuries ago. It seems that such is the case.
It is a fact well authenticated in history that the French came from Canada and settled with the Indians at Kaskaskia in 1700. Along with them came Jean Benard, his wife and his ten-year-old daughter, Marie. He was a man of wealth and established himself in business. The god of wealth favored him, and he soon became a man of great influence. Marie grew to be a beautiful woman and was very popular among all classes, especially among the young men. It is said that many of them sought her hand, but she, in a very polite manner, rejected them all until it came to the one it seems fate had chosen to play the leading part in this sad bit of history.
Ever since the days of Father Jacques Marquette there had been missionaries among the Kaskaskia Indians at frequent intervals, and many of them had been converted to the Christian faith. Among them was an intelligent and industrious young man. He proved himself honest and trustworthy, accumulated some money and was finally taken in as a partner in a large business enterprise. His general reputation caused him to be received without prejudice in the best of homes. One night at a frolic, for which Kaskaskia was noted, he met Marie Benard. “It was the hour of fate.” On the part of both it was a case of “love at first sight," and the fact could not be concealed. Her father became violent with indignation and forbade his daughter to ever again speak to the Indian. Next he determined to ostracise him from society, and began a sort of social boycott, which worked, though only to a limited degree. The tongues of all the old gossips were set to going, and it made the road, figuratively speaking, extremely rough for the young couple. But love always finds a way, and they managed to see each other occasionally, regardless of all the opposition that the girl's father was able to organize. He became aware of this and, being determined to deal him a crushing blow, he forced him out of business in his trading company.
Thus deprived of his means of making a living, he left Kaskaskia, and it was a mystery to the people as to where he had gone. More than a year passed, and he was drifting out of the people's memories. Benard thought he had carried his point and that Marie had forgotten her lover, for she appeared gay and happy in the company of other young people and never mentioned him. But Marie never forgot; neither did he, for there were two hearts that beat true to each other. One night she disappeared, and it put the people to wondering. An Indian whom nobody knew had been in town that day, and they wondered if he could be Marie's old lover. Their guess was correct. The reason for his disguise need not be stated. Benard soon formed a posse of young men who were anxious to go in pursuit. The chase lasted all night and all the next day. They were overtaken near Cahokia, just as they came in sight of the old French settlement in St. Louis, where he had provided a home for his bride. When overtaken he urged her to hasten on to her journey's end, but she refused, saying she would die with him if need be. Believing it would secure better treatment for her, he surrendered without resistance, asking no mercy for himself. The young men of the party wanted to kill him instantly. The reason is clear. Benard at last dictated the punishment. When they reached Kaskaskia the Indian was bound tightly to a log, with his face upward, and set adrift. As he drifted out into the current he lifted his eyes toward heaven and invoked the curse of God on Benard and the town; that Benard himself should be killed by the hand of man, and that every vestige of the town, even the graves of those then living, should be washed away by the same mighty river that was then drifting him down to his doom. The unhappy girl was placed in a convent, where she was kept until the Angel of Death took her spirit to join her lover in the “Land of Souls." People for miles around say that on dark stormy nights the ghost of this Indian returns to the scene of this awful tragedy, and that with his face still toward heaven he floats on the waves as they sweep over the vanished city.
And has the prophecy been fulfilled? Dear reader, it is a fact that Benard was killed in a duel in 1712. It is likewise a fact that every inch of Old Kaskaskia's soil has been swept away by the Father of Waters, and all that now remains of the erstwhile metropolis of the Mississippi Valley and the Great West is a few rudely carved grave stones, that were taken by the people and erected on higher ground before the old graveyard was washed away. Many people believe that the Indian's curse was the cause of the passing away of Old Kaskaskia. May it not be that God, who “suffereth not even a sparrow to fall without his notice," heard and answered the Indian's prayer, and has but dealt out a just and righteous retribution:
THE WOOD RIVER MASSACRE.
ADDRESS OF HON. J NICK PERRIN,
AT UNVEILING OF MONUMENT TO MEMORY OF VICTIMS OF WOOD RIVER MASSACRE (OF 1814) NEAR UPPER ALTON,
SEPTEMBER 11, 1910. The Declaration of Independence had been promulgated for thirty-six years. The war for American independence had been concluded by treaty for nearly three decades. The American government had existed under the Constitution for twenty-three years. A second war against Great Britain, however, became a necessity, in order to emphasize the position of the new nation; virtually a second war of independence. Acts of hostility and oppression on the part of England against the United States and the incitement of Indian hostilities on the part of British traders in this country against American settlers, were the causes that led President Madison to recommend war against England on June 1, 1812; which recommendation led to the actual declaration on June 18, 1812.
American merchant vessels had been intercepted near our own ports by English warships. These were sent to England as lawful prizes. The culmination of these outrages came on May 16, 1811, when a British sloop of war was hailed by an American frigate near the Virginia coast and a cannon shot was sent in reply. In the action which ensued eleven British were killed and twenty-one were wounded, after which satisfactory reply was made. The British government approved the conduct of its commander and the American government approved the conduct of its commander. This was the first decisive act of open hostility. Events progressed accordingly with the added incitement of Indian hostilities, till the actual declaration of war one year thereafter.
Of these Indian hostilities as a factor in contributing to produce this war, we propose to speak.
The incitements to Indian hostilities against American settlers were made by British traders. They led to murders and thefts. We shall only mention those which occurred in Illinois. They were samples of what occurred everywhere.
The year before the war, namely, on June 2, 1811, over on the forks of Shoal creek (near Sorento), whilst most of the members of the Cox family were away from home the Indians killed a boy, took a girl and stole the horses. The Indians were pursued and overtaken beyond Springfield and the girl and horses were retaken.
On June 20, 1811, Price was killed near the spring in the lower end of Alton, while plowing corn. These desultory depredations culminated in a great Indian uprising. Tecumseh assembled the Indians of the Northwest at Tippecanoe, on the Wabash, where Governor Harrison sent an army of eight hundred men in November, 1811. This opened the Indian war. The frontiers were aroused. In the early part of 1812 companies were organized and forts were built from Wood river to the Ohio and Wabash. In 1811 two forts had been built by the Jourdans near old Frankfort, on the Muddy river, near where the old Fort Massacre Trace crossed. Prior to that time many forts had existed in the north end of the State (then territory); notably Fort Dearborn, which was built in 1804, on the site of Chicago, where the famous Fort Dearborn massacre occurred on August 15, 1812.