Illinois: East St Lewis Casino Queen RV-Park, Cahokia
Missouri: St Louis
Illinois: East St Lewis Casino Queen RV-Park, Cahokia
Illinois: East St Lewis Casino Queen RV-Park, Cahokia
Friday July 23, 2004 Casino Queen RV-Park Bogy Ave, east St Louis, Illinois: N38° 37.570': W90° 10.120' $24.00 for full hookup/50amps & cable no water but central dump. Telephone at site was $3 per-night extra. This place has LOCATION! Walk across bridge to arch. Arch is visible out our window across the river. LOCATION!
Ten miles south of St. Louis on the Illinois side of the River is the historic town of Cahokia. This little community has done much to preserve its rich history. Although you won't see this little burg receive the attention that St. Louis receives it nonetheless was very important in the Lewis & Clark Expedition and indeed the early movement west. Prior to the Louisiana Purchase in April of 1803 Cahokia was the westernmost post office in the United States. When Lewis was buzzing around St Louis trying to get permission from the Spanish to proceed up the Missouri River on his Corps of Discovery he was regularly making trips across the Mississippi River to Cahokia where he mailed letters to Jefferson, and receive letter from him. That post office is still there, more about it in a moment.
First, there has to be some background. French-Canadian missionaries came to the mid-Mississippi Valley to Christianize the local Indian tribes. They founded the little town of Cahokia in 1699. Now remember that L&C were here in 1803 a little more than 100 years later. In settling this town the French-Canadian missionaries established the first European settlement on the Mississippi River. Cahokia remains the oldest town on the Mississippi, pre-dating both New Orleans and St. Louis.
Settlers arrived and joined the missionary priest to transform Cahokia into a farming community and center of the fur trade. Agriculture was an important livelihood for the settlers, whose principle crop was wheat. Strategically located just below the confluence of the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers, Cahokia also became an important center for the Indian fur trade. By 1752 the remote settlement had grown to 136 people, triple the number of residents in 1735.
Like many places throughout the US flags of three nations flew over Cahokia during the 1700's. Originally part of France's North American empire, Cahokia was briefly held by the British until becoming part of Virginia following General George Rogers Clark's (William Clark's older brother) campaign to roust the British from what was to become the Northwest Territory. After the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Virginia ceded its western lands to the US, which in turn created the Northwest Territory.
In December 1803, the Corps of Discovery arrived in Cahokia, at that time a town already 100 years old. President Jefferson had directed the expedition to explore the Missouri River and other waterways of the Continent to the Pacific Ocean. However, the Corps of Discovery was forced to remain on the Illinois side of the Mississippi until the US took formal possession of the Louisiana Territory in March 1804. At that time Cahokia and St. Louis had comparable populations of around 700 each. Cahokia was the western-most edge of the American frontier until transfer of the territory occurred. It was on this Cahokia frontier that the Corps of Discovery outfitted and trained during the winter of 1803 for their journey west.
To say Cahokia played a prominent role in the success of the Corps of Discovery would be an understatement. Nicholas Jarrot, a prosperous and influential Cahokia citizen, let L&C winter on his land at Wood River. L&C also acquired supplies and intelligence from Jarrot as well as other village residents. Mr. John Hay was Clerk of Court and Postmaster in Cahokia and was a valuable source of information and friend to Lewis & Clark. Both Jarrot and Hay acted as interpreters for Lewis when he parleyed with the Spanish officials in St. Louis. Communications with the government in Washington were maintained through John Hay and the Cahokia post office located in Cahokia.
Cahokia Courthouse/Post office was built circa 1740 the oldest building along the entire Mississippi River
The Cahokia Courthouse/Post office was built circa 1740 as a private residence. It was built using the French poteaus-sur-solle (post-on-sill) construction method. Settlers brought this style of construction from their native Normandy in the north of France, and it remained a favored building tradition through the ensuing generations. This building method utilizes upright, hewn timbers (with stone rubble infill mortared between the upright timbers) in contrast to the more familiar horizontal log style of Anglo-American settlers. Today, this style of architecture is quite rare. Only about thirty such buildings are believed to still stand in all of North America.
This picture of the Cahokia Courthouse/Post office is provided to show the type construction note that the log walls are vertical vice horizontal. This building was built on a sill while it was common in that time frame to put the bottom of the upright log walls into the ground.
In 1790 the private residence became a public building used as the administrative and judicial center for this region of the Northwest Territory. During their nearly 6-month stay at Wood River during the winter of 1803 Lewis and Clark both frequented the building to conduct business.
It really is an awesome experience to walk around in this building that has been here since 1740. It is the oldest building along the entire Mississippi River.
Holy Family Parish Log Church in Cahokia, Illinois
Down the street we visited Holy Family Parish Log Church. Like the Cahokia Courthouse/Post office this church is an excellent example of the French post-on-sill vertical timbers with stone and mortar rubble fill between the vertical timbers. The timbers used in the construction of both the Church and Courthouse were black walnut. The present structure is the third church to occupy the site. The original log chapel was destroyed in a 1730's fire. Keep in mind that this chapel was constructed and burned before the Cahokia Courthouse was built in the 1740's. The second church also burned this time in 1783. Construction began on the present building shortly thereafter however, was not completed and dedicated until 1799. From that time to today, Holy Family Parish Log Church has remained a functioning Catholic Church. It is said that members of the Corps of Discovery attended services here during the winter of 1803 when they were holed up in Wood River.
Cahokia, Illinois home of Nicholas Jarrot, a native Frenchman, who helped Lewis & Clark
One hundred yards away from the Holy Family Parish Log Church is the home of Nicholas Jarrot a native Frenchman. Jarrot you will remember went along with Lewis and Hay to meet with the Spanish Government official in St. Louis when Lewis was trying to gain permission to ascend the Missouri River. Jarrot was along as an interpreter. Jarrot was also the one who "hosted" the Corps of Discovery on his property at Wood River during the winter of 1803. Now that you know a little about Nicholas Jarrot it was the Jarrot house or Mansion that we were looking at. Built between 1799 and 1806 it is the first brick home in Illinois. Those construction dates would indicate this brick home was under construction when L&C passed through Cahokia in 1803 and may have been completed when they returned in September of 1806.
The docent at the Cahokia Courthouse was a history major with a master's degree. He was also a serious student of the history of this area. I asked him why Lewis had to get the Spanish Officials permission to proceed through our own land. He laughed and said "bureaucracy and government officials". While the official was Spanish he worked for the French. Government officials and authority back then were operated much like the military, very structured. The "Spanish" official in St. Louis couldn't sneeze without permission from his superior in New Orleans who couldn't sneeze without permission from France. So, even though the United States had purchased the Louisiana Territory in April of 1803 "Official written notice" had not been received by this official. Therefore, like ALL government officials and Military Officers he was conducting his duties as he had been directed until "Official written notice" was received instructing him to do otherwise. That "official notice" arrived in April 1804.
Anyone interested in history especially history associated with the westward settlement of the United States should stop by Cahokia.
Stocks used as a form of punishment at the turn of the century
By the way, I had a history major cornered that actually understood something. I wasn't about to let this opportunity pass with out asking him about stocks that were used as a form of punishment at the turn of the century. He said that Cahokia records indicated that "ne'er-do-wells" were sentenced to spend from 1 to 3 days in the stocks, generally for stealing chickens, pigs and such. Cahokia did not have the type of stocks that only bound the feet. The only type on record in Cahokia was the waist high type that held the offender's head and hands. Of course I asked him if they were released for potty breaks during the 2-day sentences. He had never contemplated that question and it certainly had never been broached but he quickly opined that in his understanding when the offender was locked the offender was there 24/7 until the sentence was completed. Whatever bodily functions the offender had to accomplish would be accomplished in the stocks adding to the public humiliation aspect of the punishment.
I'll write about our afternoon and evening activities tomorrow. It is way to late to write more tonight.
Picture of The Arch in St Louis from the Casino Queen RV-Park across the Mississippi River with passing blimp
Saturday July 24, 2004 Casino Queen RV-Park Bogy Ave, east St Louis, Illinois: N38° 37.570': W90° 10.120' $24.00 for full hookup/50amps & cable no water but central dump. Telephone at site was $3 per-night extra. This place has LOCATION! Walk across bridge to arch. Arch is visible out our window across the river. LOCATION!
Courthouse in St Lewis that was "the court" on the west side of the Mississippi River for years
Yesterday Joyce and I spent the afternoon and evening around the Arch. We took the opportunity to visit the Cathedral and Courthouse. This Courthouse's history is storied. Besides being "the" court on the west side of the Mississippi for years it is most noted for being the court where "Dred Scott" became a household word. Dred Scott was a slave that sued for his freedom in court. The court here in St. Louis agreed with him but the decision was challenged to the Supreme Court where the Supreme Court ruled that as a "slave" Dred Scott did not have the right to sue in court. That decision in the early 1860's played a big part in the festering differences that eventually led to the Civil War.
The city was sponsoring "Summer Splash" along the riverfront complete with music. Several bands played for fans seated on the gigantic steps leading from the Arch down to the river. Finally, after several nominal groups, at 8PM sharp out steps the main act, current pop star Liz Phair. We had never heard of her (we listen to country music and oldies) but we were in the minority. She was a hot little blond cutie that really stirred up the huge crowd. The crowd sang along with her every word. The audience was in it like Elvis had just returned. Following Liz Phair was a production consisting of fireworks, laser light show, and high-energy movie presented by using a spray of water for the screen. All in all it was a good high tech production. The movie highlighted events and individuals that make St Louis special. Starting with Tina Turner in a high-energy number, the 1904 World's Fair, the Arch, Jackie Joiner Kersey, Chuck Berry singing his famous "I met my thrill on Blue Berry Hill", playing tribute to the Cardinals and Rams and a number of other things that don't come to mind. I am always inquisitive about how they pull things like this off. The "water-screen" that was so effective was created with a HIGH PRESSURE pump and a monster "spray head" that created a 180-degree fan from the spray head that was located on the surface of the river approximately 100-yards from shore directly in front of the steps. The pictures/movie clips flashed on the fan of water that erratically moved with the wind was a really "cool" medium. The laser lights emphasized high-energy parts both on the water screen and in the air backed up by spectacular fireworks.
The top deck (car traffic) of the Eads Bridge was closed and turned into Eats Bridge. Local Restaurants set up tables complete with tablecloths and wine goblets. The city turned out for this event. We sat with the common folk on the steps at the Arch while the high elite and other gentry watched the show seated at a gourmet meal on Eads Bridge (Eats Bridge for the weekend) sipping wine.
We caught the Metro back to the RV-Park. Riding a METRO in a big city is always a mental challenge when you are new to an area and their particular system. Which side does it load from, where do you get tickets, what ticket option is best, how do you work the ticket machine, how do you determine when your stop is next, why don't the announcers speak English? If you have ever experienced a big city Metro you know the drill until you get familiar with the system. Joyce and I have the St Louis Metro system down reasonably well by now. We jockeyed for a place to get on------then the next Metro arrives and the doors open------- no one gets off the Metro and it is standing room only inside the metro. Undaunted, I step on anyway with Joyce following but she quickly reverses herself and jumps off which I have to do if I am to stay with her. Bingo the doors close, the Metro is gone and we are standing on the loading dock. I am not happy since Joyce acting like a squirrel means we are going to have to wait on the next Metro. Joyce is part squirrel-----you know how squirrels will dart out in the road in front of a car then reverse themselves and run back under your automobile? Joyce has this innate gene that just grabs control of her when things like this happen and cause her to reverse course. When she gets frightened and can't reverse course the opossum gene kicks in to replace the squirrel syndrome. Remember the other day when we were coming into East St. Louis and at the last moment our exit was barricaded and we found ourselves in the motorhome with the Saturn in tow heading across the Mississippi River Bridge into downtown St Louis during rush hour? When that happened I was driving and she couldn't do the squirrel thing and reverse herself so the opossum gene immediately took control and she froze. I am not sure she breathed again until we were in the RV-Park.
Anyway, back to the Metro ride back across the river to our motorhome-------a St Louis Cardinals baseball game had just finished in downtown St Louis and throngs of baseball fans were boarding the Metro about 3-stops before the Metro got to our boarding station. Every Metro that arrived in our station was going to be jam packed for the next hour or so with these Cardinal fans heading home after the game. I explained that to Joyce and that I was getting on the next Metro and if she wanted to ride it with me she best put the squirrel to bed and follow me. We got on the next Metro and played sardine until we got across the river to our stop. Nearly everyone on the Metro exited at that stop which was the Casino Queen. It seems that people going to the Cardinals ball games use the free parking lot at Casino Queen and ride the Metro to the ball game. Ah! I am thankful for the excitement that can be derived from such mundane things.
When we finally reached the motorhome we were dead tired. Right then we decided Saturday would be a DOWN DAY.
And a "down day" it was. I fixed a few things around the motorhome and Joyce took care of laundry and other domestic things inside.
By the late afternoon Joyce
had decided that the "down day" was over and we were going
to the big dance in one of the Casino lounges. True to the casino's
advertisements the DJ hired to do the entertainment was on his game.
We noticed that locals made the bulk of the attendance at the dance.
The DJ was known for playing oldies and his audience was geared to
the 40 to 60 age group. We stayed way too late, thank goodness this
was a down day.
Until next time remember how good life is.
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Until next time remember how good life is.