Colonial Outpost (1673-1776)

Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet explored Illinois in 1673, extending the reach of New France in America. Eager to earn rich profits through trading with Native Americans, to convert Indians to Christianity, and to establish and maintain their claim to the region, France dominated the Mississippi Valley for almost a century. French influence diminished when they were defeated by the British in 1763. Afterwards, many Native American tribes joined the British during the American Revolution in hopes of stemming the expansion of American settlement.

Wedding Shoes

Image of wedding shoes.

1761
Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum
Gift of Mrs. Robert Gillespie, 1972.028.746876

These shoes were passed down through six generations of an Illinois family. They were worn by the donor’s great-great-grandmother, Joahanna Herrick of Massachusetts, when she married William Bartlett at age 16 in 1761.

Arrow Straightener

Even a piece of bone adapted for use as a tool is an opportunity for artistic expression. In this case, an arrow straightener, made from a bison’s rib bone, serves as a tiny canvas. It was found at the Kaskaskia Village site in Randolph County and collected in 1952.

Black Bear Skull

Image of Black Bear skull.
Like other large carnivores, the Black Bear (Ursus americanus) was gone from Illinois by the mid to late 1800s. Queto (Luella) J. Rennier of Champaign found this Black Bear cranium in the Embarras River in Jasper County and donated it to the Illinois State Museum in 2012. One of the bear’s teeth was sampled in order to obtain an age. The bear dates to about A.D. 1760, or 250 years before present, just before the American Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Kirtland’s Water Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)

Image of Kirtlands Water Snake model.
The Kirtland’s Water Snake shares some similar habitats and habits as the Massasauga Rattlesnake and is also under scrutiny as its numbers continue to decline. It is not venomous, but it uses crayfish burrows like the Massasauga and spends most of its life underground. Biologists hoping to survey the secretive snake often will use a cover board, a corrugated sheet of aluminum that is placed over a crayfish burrow.

Prie Dieu

Image of prie dieu, or prayer kneeler, ca. 1775
This prie dieu, or prayer kneeler, was used by French settlers in the Illinois territory during the late 18th century. During prayer, individuals would kneel on the bottom platform and rest their elbows or place books on the upper shelf. The Roman Catholic Church played a dominant role in the lives of these settlers, who celebrated 27 religious holidays throughout the year.

Stone Petroglyph

Image of stone with Petroglyph
This petroglyph is made of stone, probably granite, and has been pecked or incised with Native American artwork on two sides. The artwork has been traced with white chalk to make it clearly visible. It was found in Wabash County at Hanging Rock and was likely produced by a holy man of the Piankishaw Tribe.

Bringing Reminders of Home

Image of German Staffordshire Plate

German transfer print plate provides clues to settler’s origins

Immigrating to a new land brought with it plenty of uncertainty. That may be why a German immigrant family brought items with them that reminded them of home. This transfer print plate, made in the style of Staffordshire, England potters, was actually made by Villeroy & Boch, a German pottery firm.

The Rise of Corn

Image of ancient corn cob and modern-day corn.

Compare the size of ancient corn cob with modern-day corn.

Pictured here is a vial containing a corncob that was found in a fire pit at Cahokia Mounds. The pit and its contents are about 800 years old.  Note the size difference between the ancient specimen and the modern sweet corn purchased from a local grocer. 

Brass Crucifix

Image of Brass crucifix

Brass crucifix LaSalle Co., ~ 300 years old

A harbinger of a changing world.  French explorers and voyageurs arrive in the late 17th century.  Their presence will transform Native American life and foretell of even more profound change to come.  The forces of colonization nearly extinguish Native American life in Illinois.
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