Prairie du Rocher, Illinois


Prairie du Rocher, Illinois

Geobox|Settlement
name = Prairie du Rocher
native_name =
other_name =
category = Village
country = United States
state = Illinois
region = Randolph
region_type = County
district = Prairie du Rocher
district_type = Precinct
municipality =
location =
elevation_imperial = 394
prominence_imperial =
lat_d = 38
lat_m = 04
lat_s = 59
lat_NS = N
long_d = 90
long_m = 05
long_s = 45
long_EW = W
coordinates_no_title = 1
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population = 613
population_date = 2000
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established = 1722
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timezone = CST
utc_offset = -6
timezone_DST = CDT
utc_offset_DST = -5
postal_code = 62277
area_code = 618
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map_caption = Location of Prairie du Rocher within Illinois
map_background = Illinois - background map.png map_locator = Illinois2
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Prairie du Rocher ("Prairie of the Rock" in French) is a village in Randolph County, Illinois, United States. Founded in the French colonial period in the American Midwest, the community is located near bluffs that flank the east side of the Mississippi River in the floodplain often called the "American Bottom".

Prairie du Rocher is one of the oldest communities founded as a French settlement that survives in the 21st century. The nearby Fort de Chartres, site of a French military fortification and colonial headquarters established in 1720, is now a state park and historical site. The fort and town were a center of government and commerce at the time when France claimed a vast territory in North America, New France, which stretched from Louisiana and the Illinois Country to Canada.

The population was 613 at the 2000 census. It was founded in 1722 by French colonists.

History

New France

In 1718, Pierre Dugué de Boisbriand built the first Fort de Chartres. In 1722, Prairie du Rocher was founded by St. Thérèse Langlois, a nephew of Boisbriant. A tract of land was donated to Boisbriand by the Royal Indian Company. He was the commandant of the area. The town was located along fertile Mississippi River bottomland and provided food to New Orleans and other lower Louisiana Territory communities.

D'Artaguette, an inspector in the country in the early 1700s 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. [ [http://www.lib.niu.edu/ipo/2005/iht1220511.html "French Colony Survivors in the Illinois Country"] , Northern Illinois University, Retrieved on January 24, 2008]
In 1743 the territorial government granted the Prairie du Rocher Common (land used by all the villagers) to the village; the common was used until 1852. ["Visitor's Guide to Prairie du Rocher - Randolph County, Illinois." Great River Road. http://www.greatriverroad.com/stegen/randattract/pdr.htm] A school existed as early as the 1760s; students boarded with local families.

British Rule

Following their victory in the French and Indian War, the British gained possession of the land east of the Mississippi, excluding New Orleans. The treaty was signed in 1763; however, the British did not arrive in force until 1765. To avoid avoid British rule, many of the town's French residents fled across the Mississippi River to towns such as Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis in what was now, via secret treaty, Spanish Louisiana. Additionally, King George III's proclaimed all the land west of the Appalachians and east of the Mississippi an Indian Reserve, trying to prevent settlers entering from the then-British Colonies.

United States

During the American Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark captured Prairie du Rocher for the United States 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.

Prairie du Rocher was one of the few Mississippi River towns that eluded flood waters from the Great Flood of 1993. After levees broke to the north near the towns of Columbia, Illinois and Valmeyer, Illinois, flood waters engulfed Fort de Chartres. They were also threatening the town of Prairie du Rocher. With only the Prairie du Rocher Creek levee protecting the town, residents found themselves in a unique situation. The water that had broken through the main Mississippi River levee and was lapping at the top of the Prairie du Rocher Creek levee was actually at a level higher than the water in the main Mississippi River channel.

As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to use a barge-mounted shovel to break through the Mississippi River levee near Fort de Chartres, thus allowing flood waters to escape back to the Mississippi River channel. This was not enough to significantly lower the water level, but the Army Corps of Engineers decided no further action would be taken. I

n a 3:30 a.m. decision, with the flood waters lapping at the top of the sandbags that were stacked on top of the Prairie du Rocher Creek levee, all three commissioners of the Fort de Chartres - Ivy Landing Drainage and Levee District voted to use dynamite to breach the levee in two additional locations, against the advice of the Army Corps of Engineers. These two additional openings allowed enough water to escape back to the main channel and the town was saved from flooding. [Verhovek, Sam. "The Midwest Flooding; Illinois Town Cuts Levee Against Federal Advice." "New York Times." 5 August 1993.]

Today Prairie du Rocher is a small village with a rich history. Mainly a farming town, Prairie du Rocher still has a few reminders of that history. In addition to historic Fort de Chartres, there are several unique historic houses in the town dating from French colonial days, including the Creole House. French customs still practiced in Prairie du Rocher include "La Guiannee", a custom of caroling on New Year's Eve that has been practiced every New Year's Eve since 1722.

Geography

Prairie du Rocher is located at coor dms|38|4|54|N|90|5|46|W|city (38.081755, -90.096243).GR|1 It is approximately 40 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri. It has an elevation of 396 feet above sea-level and is situated underneath the Mississippi River bluffs. It is located approximately 4 miles east of the Mississippi River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 0.6 square miles (1.5 km²), all of it land.

Illinois Route 155 is the only state highway that runs through Prairie du Rocher. It connects the town with Ruma, Illinois, 7 miles to the northeast and Fort de Chartres, 4 miles to the west. Several other smaller roads connect it to various other surrounding communities.

Demographics

As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 613 people, 240 households, and 160 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,076.2 people per square mile (415.2/km²). There were 255 housing units at an average density of 447.7/sq mi (172.7/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 99.02% White, 0.33% Native American, and 0.65% from two or more races.

There were 240 households out of which 39.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.5% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the village the population was spread out with 29.2% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 12.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 81.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.5 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $35,795, and the median income for a family was $44,659. Males had a median income of $31,750 versus $20,556 for females. The per capita income for the village was $14,771. About 9.3% of families and 8.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.3% of those under age 18 and 14.3% of those age 65 or over.

External links

News from Randolph County
* [http://randolphcountyheraldtribune.com/ The Randolph County Herald Tribune - Local newspaper] Illinois Town Cuts Levee Against Federal Advice
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=9F0CE6DB113BF936A3575BC0A965958260 The New York Times]

References


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