1970s Panorama of Prairie du Rocher

The History of an Illinois Town – Prairie du Rocher

AccessGenealogy has been working over the past year to compile early records and histories of French-American, Canadian-American towns and settlements that presents a look into the early history of this ethnic group of people as they were some of the earliest settlers in the Midwest, settling and trading in Native American towns long before the English were present in the area. Our American history, though, so perpetuated by English roots, often forgets this settlement of people, and their contribution to what is now America.

The latest offering takes a look at the oldest European settlement in Illinois: Prairie du Rocher. Prairie du Rocher is a quaint French town along the Mississippi River in what is now Randolph County. When encountered by the French the area around Prairie du Rocher was settled by the Native American tribes of the Illinois Confederacy. To establish their trade amongst these friendly tribes, the French established Fort Chartres, which also served as a military reminder to the Spanish, English and American interests in the area. Along with the building of the fort came the fur traders, merchants, farmers, and tradesmen, all needed to ensure a thriving enterprise at that time. They settled down in communities around the fort, the most ancient of them being Prairie du Rocher.

But Prairie du Rocher isn’t a town comprised of just French and Native American families. It also had multiple immigrations of Germans, Irish, British and Americans, which over the centuries has integrated it’s population in a mecca of nations. Of particular interest to genealogists will be the multiple articles on family genealogies, which contain biographical details of many of the earliest residents: Barbeau, Blais, Blow, Brickey, Coerver, Conner, Didier, Eichenseer, Ellner, Frawley, Grassinger, Hauck, Hoef, Ker, Kribs, Langlois, Louvier, Moskop, Mudd, O’Hara, Palmier, Seitz, Shea, Siegfried, and Wierschem families of Prairie du Rocher.