Illustrated Atlas Map of Menard County, Illinois 1874|
Published by W.R. Brink & Co., of Illinois
Introductory to the History of Menard County
A brief mention of the more important facts connected with the discovery and first settlement of the vast territory of which it forms a part will not be inappropriate. The discovery of Illinois is due to Father Marquette, a Jesuit missionary, and Louis Joliet, an enterprising fur-trader, at Quebec. The existence of a vast river, flowing through grassy plains, on which grazed hoards of buffalo, having been communicated to the Governor of Canada by Indians, Marquette and Joliet were deputed to explore the country. Accordingly, on the 17th of May, 1673, these two venturesome spirits, with two canoes, five voyageurs, and a supply of corn and smoked meat, started on their journey. They coasted to the head of Green Bay, ascended the Fox River, crossed Lake Winnebago, and followed up the swift and torturous stream to the Pertega (? Pontiac ?hard to read!) Thence they launched their canoes into the Wisconsin, and descending the valley of the stream so long and so ardently sought for. Reaching the mouth of the Arkansas River, they were compelled to turn back, owing to demonstrations of hostility by the Indians,-the latter having been arms with guns by the Spaniards, with which people the French were then at war. This was on the 17th of July. Arrived at the mouth of the Illinois, the explorers' descended that stream to an Indian village, near Ottawa. Thence they subsequently journeyed to the head of Des Plaines, when, by easy portage, they entered the Chicago River, and then reached Lake Michigan. Marquette, then, and his little crew, were the first white men who visited what is now the site of Chicago! This was more than two centuries ago, and the region was an almost interminable marsh. From this point, the party coasted along the western shore of the lake, and reached Green Bay late in September; having, in the course of four months, paddles their canoes over twenty-five hundred miles. At this point, the explorers separated, --Joliet returning to Quebec to report and Marquette to retrace his course to Chicago and thence continue his explorations. He died, however, a short time afterwards, at an Indian town, near what is now Ottawa, Illinois. Ten years after the discovery by Marquette and Joliet, Kaskaskia and Cahokia were settled. The French, who, by right of discovery, claimed the territory now comprised in the Great States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan, remained in almost undisputed possession of the soil for ninety years, when if fell into the hands of the English, by whom it was held until the conquest of Colonel George Rogers Clark, during the Revolutionary struggle, in 1778, when the territory came into the possession of the State of Virginia, and was established as the County of Illinois. Having been ceded to the United States in 1784, it was made a part of the Northwestern Territory by the ordinances of 1787. By the division of territory in 1800, Illinois became a part of Indiana, and not until 1809 did it acquire an independent existence as the Territory of Illinois. The first two counties organized were Randolph and St. Clair,-the former in 1790, the latter in 1796. Thus were the people of Illinois brought under civil jurisdiction for the first time. St. Clair, as originally organized, contained the County of Sangamon, from which Menard was stricken in 1839.