Friday, July 6, 2018

Lost Towns of Illinois - La Vantum, Illinois [Country] AKA: The Grand Village; Old Kaskaskia Village, is the best documented historic Indian village in the Illinois River valley.

The French called the village both the Grand Village du Kaskaskia and La Vantum ("the washed") which was near present Utica, Illinois.
Old Kaskaskia Village, located on the north bank of the Illinois River east of North Utica, Illinois. The road at left is Dee Bennett Road. The river is out of the frame to the right, about 1,000 feet south of the road. The building with three rows of windows to the right of the road is the Sulphur Springs Hotel.
It was a large agricultural village of Indians of the Illinois confederacy (Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Peoria, Tamaroa, Moingwena, Michigamea, Chepoussa, Chinkoa, Coiracoentanon, Espeminkia, Maroa, and Tapouara), located on the north bank of the Illinois River near the present town of Utica, Illinois. French explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette came across it in 1673. The Kaskaskia of the Illinois tribe lived in the village. It grew rapidly after a mission and fur trading post were established there in 1675, to a population of about 6,000 people in about 460 houses. Around 1691 the Kaskaskia and other Illiniwek moved further south, abandoning the site due to fear of an Iroquois invasion from the northeast.

A prominent local landmark, Starved Rock, stands on the south bank of the river directly opposite the Grand Village site. Explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (or: René-Robert de La Salle) built Fort Saint Louis du Rocher in 1682-82 to be near this village.

Archeological evidence indicates that the Illinois of the Grand Village were well adapted to their environment. They grew corn, beans, and squash in the rich soil. In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet visited the village, which at that time contained approximately 1,000 people. The French were returning from their expedition charting the Mississippi River (the Indians called the Mississippi River, "Sinnissippi," meaning "rocky waters"). Although terminally ill, Marquette returned to the Grand Village in early 1675 to celebrate Mass, and founded the mission of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin.

Later English speaking European pioneers had no idea what happened to the people of the Grand Village. Long after the Indians dispersed, a tale was repeated in local folklore that members of the Illinois tribe had been driven to the top of Starved Rock by the Potawatomi who wanted revenge for Chief Pontiac's murder. Hopelessly surrounded the brave villagers refused to surrender and supposedly perished of starvation. It was said that this was how "Starved Rock" got its name. 

The Starved Rock Massacre of 1769 - Fact or Fiction is a research article analyzing whether this massacre actually occured.

The historic site is owned by the State of Illinois. The state has conducted archaeological excavations there. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Suggested reading:
French Life in the Illinois Country, from Canada to Louisiana, in the 1700s.

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