Jeffrey Coleman Carlyle

The Ruler of Earth

Southern Illinois Road Trip
[US 51]
Posted: 22-Feb-2004 1:48AM CST
Topics: [JeffCenter] [Jeff's Road Trips]

Today, I took a road trip with the intention to take in some Illinois history. I headed through Decatur and took US 51 south from there. The US 51 corridor, like the rest of central Illinois, is incredibly flat and boring, I happened to pass the Vandalia Correctional Center on the same day Gov. Blagojevich proposed closing it: there was a TV news van from WAND-25 there; however, what I went to Vandalia to see was one of Illinois’ old state houses. A stone building in downtown Vandalia served as Illinois’ state capital for three legislative sessions from 1836 through 1839 before the capital was moved to Springfield. Vandalia had been home to the state capital since 1820. It turns out that Abraham Lincoln had lead the effort to move the capital.

Illinois' State Capital (1836-1839)
Old Illinois State House

I continued further south and west from Vandalia to Kaskaskia. Kaskaskia is one of the oldest towns in the Illinois country. It was founded by the French on the bank of the Mississippi River during the late 1600s or early 1700s. In 1703 the Mission Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded there. In July 4, 1778, General George Rogers Clark captured the town from the British for the American cause. This was his first victory in his campaign to take the western frontier from the British. For years afterwards, Kaskaskians rang a bell donated by the King of France every July 4 to celebrate Clark’s victory. This bell became known as the Liberty Bell of the West. When Illinois was organized as the Illinois Territory in 1818, Kaskaskia was named as its capital. Kaskaskia remained capital when Illinois became a state in 1818; however, the capital was moved to Vandalia in 1820.

Today Kaskaskia lies on the west side of the Mississippi. It can only be reached from Illinois by traveling into Missouri. A flood in 1881 caused the Mississippi River to cut through a strip of land separating it from the Kaskaskia River. This moved the course of the river eastward and forever cut off Kaskaskia from the rest of Illinois. Today, Kaskaskia is home to only 18 residents.

Kaskaskia Bell Mission Church of the Immaculate Conception, Kaskaskia, Illinois Kaskaskia, Illinois Kaskaskia, Illinois [Illinois State Line]
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