Sunday, January 8, 2017

Walking in the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark

On a recent trip, I happened thru Metropolis and visited Fort Massac, the very first state park ever created. It sits right on the banks of the Ohio river with Illinois on one side and Kentucky on the other.  To document this site we need to go back to the year 1757. This part of the country belonged to France at the time and the fort was originally called Ft. De L'Ascension  during the French Indian wars. When the wars ended in 1763 the fort was abandoned and the neighboring Chickasaw burned it to the ground which is how the British found it when they took over the spot in the early 1770's.

The British never rebuilt the fort which came back to haunt them when during the Revolutionary war Col. George Clark was able to enter the territory and capture Kaskaskia 100 miles to the North all without firing a shot. This military victory gave the entire Illinois region to the fledgling United States. President George Washington ordered the fort rebuilt in 1794 and it protected the territory for an additional 20 years.

Fort Massac had many brushes with history two of which stand out the most. In 1803 Lewis and Clark stopped here on their great exploratory journey as they mapped out the continent recruiting a man named George Drouillard to accompany them. The creek that runs thru the property is named in his honor.  And in 1868 Edward Everett Hale published a novel "The Man Without a Country" which used Fort Massac as a basis for it's setting.

In 1903 the Daughter of the American Revolution purchased 24 acres of land which encompassed the site of the fort and in 1908 it became Illinois very first state park. Though the original fort had long fallen into ruin a reproduction was constructed in 2002 that was faithful to how it appeared prior to the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Every October the park hosts an Encampment that depicts how life would have been in the 1700's which draws upwards of 200,000 visitors a year. There's also an interactive museum on site that has artifacts collected during various archaeological digs done thru the years.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you have a comment or know of a place that would make for a great future article drop me a line. Thanks!