Monday, August 27, 2018

Fort Piggott, Piggott's Ferry and a brief history of James Piggott.

James Piggott took the long view regarding the development of Illinois territory. Born in Connecticut, his fortunes took him further west throughout his life. He served in the Revolutionary War as a member of the Eighth Pennsylvania Regiment. After his military service he joined George Rogers Clark recruiting families to live in the proposed town of Clarksville, close to present day Wickliffe, Kentucky. Chickasaw Indians forced the abandonment of this endeavor in 1782. 

Piggott and family settled in Columbia, Illinois, in 1783. During that time, the area was swampy and uninhabited. To get to St. Louis from the Illinois side, you'd have to start from Cahokia and go North, up the Mississippi, against the current, to get to St. Louis. Piggott had a brilliant idea. He laid a planked road from Columbia to a low point on Cahokia Creek. Then he built a 150-foot wood bridge over the creek so goods could get to his ferry landing. 

Piggott and seventeen families built cabins and a blockhouse just west of modern day Columbia. 

FORT PIGGOTT (1783-c.1791)
Fort Piggott, or as it was sometimes called; Fort Big Run. (It was Piggott’s wish to change the name of the town to “Big Run.”) James Piggott erected this fort in 1783 at the foot of the bluff, one and one half miles west of Columbia.
A drawing of Fort Boonesboroug, Kentucky - Fort Piggott was yet another look-a-like. 
The fort was located on what was known as Carr Creek, which the French called "Grand Risseau" (literal translation: large gully). The creek was named for Lenard Carr, an early settler.

James Piggott fought with George Washington in the Battle of the Brandywine. As Indian depredations increased, the Fort became a safe-haven for the settlers. When word went out to summon the settlers to the fort it was said that even the children realized the danger. In 1783 there were forty six inhabitants living at Fort Piggott. Indian killings accelerated during 1789 and 1790; no one was safe. Indeed, one-tenth of the population was killed by the Indians.

Assenath Piggott, James Piggott's daughter, was born on January 17, 1791 within Fort Piggott, St. Clair County, Illinois.

The growth of St. Louis encouraged the development of the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. Demand to ferry to St. Louis increased. In 1795 Piggott opened a ferry service which quickly became a central point for travelers and goods. The ferry transported people, animals, carts, wagons, and goods directly to the St. Louis docks. The area around the dock, developed very quickly. Piggott faced competition from other entrepreneurs interested in capturing some of the ferry business.

Illinois Territorial Governor, Arthur St. Clair, made Piggott a Territorial Judge in 1790.
The location of Piggott's Ferry complex in 1795.
After James Piggott died in 1799, the ferry continued operation by his sons. The McKnight-Brady operation invested in Piggott's ferry. Eventually was sold to the Wiggins Ferry monopoly. They platted the land behind the Piggott ferry in 1818 and named it Illinoistown.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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