Dedication of Monument to
Pioneers at Kaskaskia, IL
as reported by the Batavia Herald on 13
Typed and Donated by Kim Torp
FOR KASKASKIAN PIONEERS
Dedication of a Monument to the Memory of Thousands
There has just been dedicated with imposing ceremony, at Kaskaskia, a monument, to the memory of 5,000 pioneers of that part of the Mississippi valley. The remains of many of these people had been recently transferred from the old cemeteries in the low grounds at the foot of Fort Gage to the top of a hill a spot immortalized by General George Rogers Clark, a Virginian, who in 1778, with a company of volunteers, captured Fort Gage from the British.
The ceremonies of dedication comprised a speech by Cyrus L. Cook, of EdwardsviIle, one of the commissioners of the State; response by Wm. Hartzell, of Chester; addresses upon "The Historical Reminiscences of Old Kaskaskia" and "History of the Appropriation for the Removal of the Dead"; the reading of "The Declaration of Independence" and a poem, "The Capture of Fort Gage." The monument is a granite shaft, with plinth, die, and bases in appropriate design, standing twenty-six feet high, and bearing the following inscription:
"Those who sleep here were first buried at Kaskaskia and afterward removed to this cemetery. They were the early pioneers of the great Mississippi Valley. They planted free institutions in a wilderness and were the founders of a great commonwealth. In memory of their sacrifices Illinois, gratefully erects this monument."
Gen. Shields, warrior, statesman and Senator of three States, is buried in Carroll County, Missouri, almost in sight of the Missouri River. The body of Elias Kent Kane, one of the first United States Senators elected by Illinois, lies in the bluffs above Kaskaskia, three miles from the monument. The grave is isolated. It is marked by a stone giving the date of birth and death, but little more. The remains of Judge Sydney Breese are buried in Clinton County. Those of Governor Ninian J. Edwards lie in St. Clair County. The late General John Pope, the son of Judge Nathaniel Pope, born in Kaskaskia and reared there, lie in Bellefontaine Cemetery. Those of Judge Pope, his father, were buried at Kaskaskia. The body of Daniel Pope Cook, one of the first Congressmen elected by the new State, is buried in Northern Illinois. These men came to Kaskaskia when it was the territorial capital, and when it was thought to be the coming capital of the coming State. Some of then even drifted there after the territorial admission in 1818. When the capital was located at Vandalia, and it was evident that there was no future for Kaskaskia, the men with political ambition turned away.
At that time the population of the cemetery was larger than that of Kaskaskia. The town was then much more than a century old. Since the date of baptism of the child of Michael and Mary Aco, March 20, 1695, a century and a quarter had passed. In that long time, the fathers of the church had sung as many masses for the dying as they had seen new souls brought to the baptismal font. While Kaskaskia was, for years before the founding of New Orleans, the chief town of the Mississippi valley, and while she remained the head of navigation for years after New Orleans and years before St. Louis became her successful rivals, her population never exceeded 1,000. The cemetery grew much faster than the town and the time following the exodus of 1820 would have found it considerably ahead if a comparative census had been possible. The fate of the town could then be foreseen. In 1766 Capt. Philip Pittman, a British army engineer, writing of Fort Chartres, on the Mississippi River, about thirteen miles from Kaskaskia, saw and predicted the encroachment of the river on the Illinois shore. Kaskaskia was doomed if engineering skill could not be brought to her protection.
The high water of 1844, which cut a new channel across the point, made it clear that Capt. Pitman's prophesy of the destruction of the city would in time be fulfilled, and the question of removing the dead from the doomed cemeteries was discussed. Nothing was done, however, till about nine years ago, when Father Ferland suc-ceeded in interesting the State authorities in the matter. A plat of ground was purchased, and the monument just dedicated was agreed upon.
The work began in January, 1892. Not one grave in fifty was marked by a stone. 0thers were marked by stones which bore but faint traces of their original inscriptions. Still others, by far the majority, were marked only by cedar crosses. Those graves were evidently of those who died in the latter part of the eighteenth century or early part of the nineteenth century, before the tombstone maker's art had reached the frontier. Some of them, no doubt were graves of those who died a century and a half ago.
To the sentimental reader these ceremonies suggested much more than the setting up of a monument. They had much to cause the patriotic Illinoisan to think. A brilliant galaxy of statesmen, politicians, soldiers, jurists and lawyers gave Kaskaskia a place unique in history.
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