Sunday, August 19, 2018

Fort Le Pouz (1729-1730), Joliet, Illinois.

The Old French Fort, as it was known to early Joliet settlers, was originally called Fort Le Pouz and was built in the fall of 1729 by Lt. Nicholas Antoine Coulon sieur de Villiers, the commandant of Fort St. Joseph in Niles, Michigan.
It was one of about 75 New France forts designed to promote the French fur trade in the Mississippi Valley, to provide over-night shelter and protection for inland travelers and traders from the Mesquakie (Fox) Indians who were at war with the fur traders in the Great Lakes region, mostly in today's Michigan and Wisconsin, from 1712 to 1733.

The fort was staked out by people with a compass, or at least an accurate knowledge of direction; perhaps by accident as it stood true with the north star. It was not a large fort, or stockade, as it contains less than an acre of ground. In a 1926 the walls were mounds of earth about two or three above the forest level and the ditches not more than two or three feet below.

A.J. Mathieson [or Mathewson] surveyor, of Lockport, Illinois located excavations of supposed magazines, wells and underground shelters in the late 1830s.

The fort is believed to have been burned down by the French themselves in 1730, along with other fortifications in the area, to prevent their use by Potawatomi and Sauk Indian tribes.

Fort Le Pouz was found in the east part of Pilcher Park (320 acres) 
which was previously known as Higginbotham Woods (239-acres) owned by early settler Henry D. Higginbotham, and before that it was called the Big Woods. 
A 1970s map of Higinbothan Woods (note the spelling), now Pilcher Park with (F) marker being Fort Le Pouz; a replica which was dismantled somtime in the 1980s.
The exact location is, 500 feet west and 75 feet south of northeast corner of the west one half of the southeast fourth of section 8 in Joliet Township (T. 35 N. R. 11 E.).

Fort Le Pouz was in the northeast corner of the Higginbotham woods which was untouched by the axe until 1918 when it was stripped. The Higginbotham property was deeded to the City of Joliet for a park in 1920 or 1921.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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