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Bishop Brute” History of Vincennes ““ 1839: Part 4 of 7

After the discovery of the Mississippi in 1673, by Father Marquette, even before the visits to the same M. LaSalle and Father Hennepin, the French began through Green Bay and Fox river, and through the St. Joseph, and the Kankakee, to trade to the Illinois river. Their missionaries fixed, toward 1675, a principal residence on the small lake Peoriam which is but an expansion of the river Illinois. This was the primitive St. Louis, nearly an age more ancient than the beautiful city, now the queen of the Upper Mississippi; but it has not even left us ruins to mark its site. Mr. Peck, in his gazetteer of Illinois in the article headed Peoria, page 268, says that the old French village stood one mile and a half above the lower extremity or outlet of the Peoria lake. From that place the missionaries soon extended their zealous range to the Kaskaskia river, Cahokia, Prairie du Rocher, etc. A great number of their names are preserved; some, who came to end. their days at St. Louis; some having spent 10, 20 and 30 years of their devoted and meritorious lives among the Indians, the traders, or the few Canadian families settled at the principal posts. These early settlers only formed small villages, no spirit of better colonization having at that time been awakened at the centre of government, in Quebec or Montreal, a distance of 1500 or 2000 miles by the usual line of traveling; or across the ocean, in old France.

The Wabash had no doubt been occasionally visited from St. Louis or Kaskaskia, and the other villages. Perhaps also others had come down south, from the St. Joseph, left the Kankakee to the west, visited the Tippecanoe, the Eel river, and at the last, the upper parts of the Wabash river. Some Indian village may have early fixed the attention of the traders and been made the rendezvous for those parts before the end of the 17th century. Outatanon may have a short time preceded Vincennes in existence, and destined as St. Louis, that yielded to our modern Peoria, to lose its name, and last vestages, long even before Logansport or Lafayette opened their more splendid career, whilst Vincennes was to preserve from the beginning its personality and titles to future importrance. That Vincennes had thus its direct origin from the St. Joseph, and upper Wabash, is so plausible a conjecture, that research should yet be made to reach some dates and matters of facts, to substitute for conjectures. For the present, your writer finds only a first mention of the post �Ouabache� now our Vincennes, in a letter written in 1713, from Kaskaskia, by Father Gabriel Marest; it refers us to an epoch approaching 1700; yet leaving some blanks to be filled between that number and 1708. Is nothing besides to be found said date? We will only offer now of that interesting letter (found in the 6th volume of the �Lettres Edifiantes and Caricuses� edition of 1781.) the lines that mark the existence of fort �Quabache�,� about 1708. A next paragraph will give more of its interesting items as far as they relate to us, (p. 333.) �The French had come to built a fort on the river Ouabache, (Le Fleure,) They requested that a missionary should be granted them, a Father Mermet was sent to them. This father thought that he ought also to try the conversion of the Mascoutens, who had also established a village on the sane river, (Fleure.) It is a nation of savages who understand the Illinois language, but who were so attached to their superstitions, that they were very little inclined to listen to the instructions of the missionaries.

Father Marest himself came to St. Louis in 1699, and died at Kaskaskia in 1727. We have for these dates old documents of Quebec; he introduces, in a letter of 1702, Father Mermet as the missionary called for by the people of Ouabache; this father had come from Quebec to St. Louis, the center then of the far west Missions, in 1709. If he was sent to for the fort Ouabache, the fort must have been established before that date. Moreover, we know not if a �village�� or a �house�� a post of traders, with some families had not marked the first days of Vincennes, many years before a fort was built to protect them. We rather believe that it had been so and that Vincennes traces its origin
before the year 1700.

Western Sun. Vincennes, April 13, 1839.

Posted: August 11th, 2007 under Postings.