St. Philippe, Illinois
St. Philippe was a former village in Monroe County, Illinois, United States. The settlement was founded by Frenchman, Philip Francois Renault, during the French colonial period, in 1720. St. Philippe was strategically located near the bluffs, that flank the east side of the Mississippi River, in the vast Illinois floodplain, known as the "American Bottom". The village was located three miles from Fort de Chartres. Because of, many decades of, severe, seasonal flooding, St. Philippe, along with the fort, was abandoned, before 1765.
In 1719, Philip Francois Renault arrived from Picardy to the area. A friend of the French King Louis XV, Renaud was given a large tract of land for mining purposes. However, he was not as successful as anticipated. However, he founded the village of St. Philippe along the Mississippi and soon, his village was producing a surplus of crops, which was sold to the towns and villages in the southern part of French Louisiana. The town was strategically located along fertile Mississippi River bottomland. Surpluses from the productive cultivation by habitants later helped supply critical wheat and corn to New Orleans and other lower Louisiana Territory communities.
D'Artaguette, an inspector in the country in the early 18th century, wrote:
"This country is one of the most beautiful in all Louisiana. Every kind of grain and vegetables are produced here in the greatest abundance.... They have, also, large numbers of oxen, cows, sheep, etc., upon the prairies. Poultry is abundant, and fish plentiful. So that, in fact, they lack none of the necessaries or conveniences of life."
Because habitants did not practice fertilization, the soil became exhausted. In addition, an increase in population meant there was not sufficient land for everyone. Some villagers moved to the west side of the Mississippi and founded Ste. Genevieve about 1750, in present-day Missouri. They quickly created an agricultural community with characteristics similar to St. Philippe.
Following their victory in the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years' War), the British gained possession of French lands east of the Mississippi, excluding New Orleans. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763; however, the British did not arrive in force until 1765. To avoid British rule, many of the town's French residents moved across the Mississippi River to towns such as Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis in what was now, via the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau, Spanish Louisiana. Additionally, King George III's Royal Proclamation of 1763 designated all the land west of the Appalachians and east of the Mississippi an Indian Reserve. He tried to prevent settlers entering from the then-British Colonies.
During the American Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark captured Prairie du Rocher for the colonies in his campaign that resulted in the capture of Vincennes, Indiana. Reportedly, his campaign caused some of the remaining French settlers to emigrate to the Spanish-controlled territories west of the Mississippi, leaving relatively few in Prairie du Rocher. Many of the subsequent settlers of the area had been members of Clark's campaign, or were related to someone who was. They were convinced of the promise of the area by tales of the fertility of the soil in the area now called American Bottom.
The cutting of the forest trees and deforestation of the shoreline, on both sides of the Mississippi River, caused the river banks to collapse, which continuously flooded large tracts of land, including the village of St. Philippe.
Fort de Chartres
Fort de Chartres was a French military fort constructed in 1718, where the colonial settlement, of St. Philippe, began. It later, was designated an Illinois state historic site. State budget cuts, in the fall of 2008, closed the fort, until the following spring. Since, the fall of 2009, the fort has been open to visitors.
Because, the location, of St. Philippe, was within the floodplain, of the American Bottom, the village was eventually abandoned, before 1765, as Fort de Chartres had been.
- Margaret Kimball Brown, "French Colony Survivors in the Illinois Country", Northern Illinois University Library, Retrieved on January 24, 2008
- Carl J. Ekberg, Colonial Ste. Genevieve: An Adventure on the Mississippi Frontier, Gerald, MO: The Patrice Press, 1985, p. 25