Dr. Elizabeth M. Scott - Excavations and Research at Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

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Related French Colonial Sites

 

Historical Background French Colonial and Post-Colonial Settlements

 

Bolduc House, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

Bolduc House, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

 

 

French settlements in North America formed a broad arc, strategically tied to water, from Acadia through the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley to New Orleans and out into the Caribbean. While thousands of miles separated the relatively small number of French colonists, there was an enormous amount of interaction and contact between New France, New Orleans, and the Illinois Country, and between all of them and France.

 

Map by Thomas Hutchins, 1771

 

This is partly related to the way in which France's colonies developed in North America. While there were isolated missions in the Mississippi Valley in the late 1600s, it is not until the 1710s and 1720s that we see a concerted effort by France to establish forts, trading posts, and settlements there. However, this settlement did not progress in a gradual fashion from one end of the valley to the other. All of the initial settlements happened at about the same time.

 

Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site, Cahokia, Illinois

Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site, Cahokia, Illinois

 

Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site, Cahokia, Illinois

 

The upper half of the Mississippi Valley was considered part of New France until 1718, after which it was placed in the Louisiana Colony and was referred to as Upper Louisiana or the Illinois Country thereafter. The middle Mississippi Valley is where the agricultural villages of the Illinois Country were located, on both sides of the Mississippi River. These settlements operated more or less on their own, free of the close administrative control that Paris maintained in New France and in Lower Louisiana. Thus, we see there villages that are reminiscent of those in France , from which these settlers, or their parents, had originated.

 

View toward the site of Kaskaskia, Illinois

 

Map of the town of Kaskaskia by Thomas Hutchins, 1766

 

The mission at Kaskaskia, in what is now Illinois, began in 1703, and French colonists settled nearby soon thereafter. In 1718, as it was establishing forts elsewhere in the colonies, France saw the need to secure the center of the Mississippi Valley. It did so not far from Kaskaskia, with Fort de Chartres, the first one finished in 1721. The third fort, built of stone in the 1750s, has been restored; it was the only stone fortification the French built in the entire Mississippi Valley and was the second largest military fort they established, the first being Fortress Louisbourg. Around the fort grew up the village of Prairie du Rocher, named for the high limestone bluffs that overlook it.

The Illinois Country settlements reflect influences of both New France and Louisiana. Not only were there many settlers from those locations, but there was much interaction between the regions. These influences may be seen in something as basic as the architecture of the houses people built and how they laid out their villages and fields on the landscape. What has been termed French vernacular architecture, or vertical log construction, could be found throughout the entire arc of French colonial settlement, and the greatest number of extant structures may be found in the middle Mississippi Valley in towns such as Cahokia and Dupo, Illinois, and Ste. Genevieve and Florissant, Missouri. Ste. Genevieve contains examples of both Acadian and Louisianan influences in its extant architecture. Both poteaux-en-terre (posts-in-ground) and poteaux-sur-sol (posts-on-sill) houses may be found, and both double-pitched and steep, hipped roofs are found. Although French colonists used many different settlement plans (Schroeder 2002), the reliance on long agricultural lots and nucleated villages and towns could be found from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. Some of these long lots are still visible from the air in the lower Mississippi Valley, and the Grand Champ of Ste. Genevieve is still in use today.

 

Pierre Menard Home State Historic Site, Chester, Illinois

Pierre Menard Home State Historic Site, Chester, Illinois
(note similarity to Parlange Plantation, below)

 

Parlange Plantation, XXXX, Louisiana

Parlange Plantation, False River, Louisiana

 

Pigeonierre (dovecote), Parlange Plantation, XXXX, Louisiana

Pigeonnier (dovecote)
Parlange Plantation, False River, Louisiana

 

Roche House, Natchitoches, Louisiana

Roque House, Natchitoches, Louisiana
(note steep hipped roof)

 

Detail of bousillage construction, Roche House, Natchitoches, Louisiana

Detail of bousillage, poteaux-sur-sole construction
Roque House, Natchitoches, Louisiana

 

Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana

 

Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana

Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana
(poteaux-en-terre construction; front view)

 

Side, Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana

Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana
(side view; gutter runs to cistern)

 

Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana
(view from rear; enclosed cabinets)

 

Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana

 

Kitchen, Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana

Detached kitchen, Badin-Roque House, Cane River, Louisiana
(poteaux-sur-sole construction)

 

Badin-Roque kitchen, Cane River, Louisiana

 

Oakland Plantation, Cane River National Waterway, Louisiana

Oakland Plantation, Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana

 

Outbuildings, Oakland Plantation, Cane River National Waterway, Louisiana

Outbuildings
Oakland Plantation, Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana

 

Slave quarter, Oakland Plantation, Cane River National Waterway, Louisiana

Slave quarter
Oakland Plantation, Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana

 

Detail showing vertical log construction, Slave quarter, Oakland Plantation, Cane River National Waterway, Louisiana

Detail showing vertical log construction
Slave quarter
Oakland Plantation, Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana

 

Pigeonniere (dovecote) and mule barn, Oakland Plantation, Cane River National Waterway, Louisiana

Pigeonnier (dovecote) and mule barn
Oakland Plantation, Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana

 

Barn, Oakland Plantation, Cane River National Waterway, Louisiana

Barn
Oakland Plantation, Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana

 

 

 

 

 
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