Over next year, Illinois newspapers to commemorate Illinois’ Bicentennial

By Dennis Anderson
Journal Star

Illinois turns 200 on Dec. 3, 2018, and over the course of the next year the the Hyde Park Herald is helping to commemorate the event.

The Hyde Park Herald  and dozens of publications throughout Illinois will print a weekly series of articles featuring key moments, figures, industries and events that help to make Illinois unique. Some of the first articles include the Underground Railroad, coal mining, the dueling Peoria territory and top Illinois athletes through the years.

Other topics include Illinois’ role in the Civil War, World War I and World War II; transportation, from the railroads to the interstates to aerospace; and the arts, including jazz and the blues.

Newspapers contributing articles in this series include the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, the Belleville News-Democrat, the Pantagraph of Bloomington, the Southern Illinoisan of Carbondale, the News-Gazette of Champaign, the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Decatur Herald & Review, The Paper from Dwight, the Galesburg Register-Mail, the Hancock Journal Pilot, the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, the Lebanon Advertiser, the County Journal of Percy, the Journal Star of Peoria, the Dispatch Argus of Rock Island, the Rock River Times, the Rockford Register Star, the State Journal-Register of Springfield and Sauk Valley Media of Sterling/Dixon.

The series will also be featured on the website 200Illinois.com.

Dennis Anderson is the executive editor of the Journal Star in Peoria and president of the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors. He can be reached at danderson@pjstar.com and on Twitter at @dennisedit.

Before becoming a state, Illinois had its own Liberty Bell

This map is of Randolph County prior to the 1881 flood which cut Kaskaskia, Illinois, off from the Illinois mainland. -Courtesy of Randolph County

By Travis Lott
County Journal

No exploration of the 200 years of Illinois history would be complete without a look at what preceded those two centuries.

While Illinois became a state in 1818, its story began nearly 150 years before that, in 1673, when Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette explored the Mississippi River in search of a route to the Pacific Ocean.

When the two explorers’ travels led them near hostile Spanish territories, they turned back and traveled along the Illinois River, finding safety among the Kaskaskia Indian tribe. Marquette founded the Mission of the Immaculate Conception, but left the mission in the hands of Father Pierre-Gabriel Marest due to Marquette’s poor health.

This artist’s rendition is of George Rogers Clark’s expedition on its trek to take back Kaskaskia from the British in 1778. – Courtesy Randolph County, randolphco.org.

The mission had to be moved several times due to conflicts between the Kaskaskia, Illini Confederation and the Iroquois.

Eventually, the mission planted roots at the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Michigamea River, which is now known as the Kaskaskia River.

The village of Kaskaskia was established in 1703, and was mainly inhabited by French traders and their wives.

The village’s fertile ground in the American Bottoms, along with its positioning at the confluence of two rivers, led it to be a hub of agriculture and trading. It also became a focal point for warring British and French during the French and Indian War.

In 1756, fearing attack, the townspeople built Fort Kaskaskia on a hill overlooking the town. The fort was then destroyed by the townspeople who feared it would fall into British control after the French lost the war.

Those who did not want to live under the impending British rule moved to St. Louis or Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. The town fell to the British and was kept under control of the crown until July 4, 1778, when George Rogers Clark led an expedition of American troops into the village to liberate it. After a two-month journey over 1,000 miles, Clark and his 175 men arrived in Kaskaskia to take the area. Many of the British had been withdrawn from the area, and Clark captured the settlement without a shot being fired.

With Clark in town, residents rang the Liberty Bell of the West, which got its name that day. The bell was originally given to the Catholic Church of the Illinois Country by King Louis XV of France. The bell was cast in France in 1741, making it 11 years older than the Liberty Bell that sits in Philadelphia.

When George Rogers Clark’s expedition of American troops arrived in Kaskaskia to liberate the town from the British, residents rang this bell, now known as the Liberty Bell of the West. – Courtesy of Randolph County, randolphco.org.

An inscription on the side of the bell reads “Pour Leglise des Illinois par les Soins du Roi D’outre,” which translates to “for the Church of the Illinois, by gift of the King across the water.”

One side of the bell is ornamented with the royal lilies of France. The other side bears a cross and pedestal, with the top and arms of the cross terminating in grouped fleur de lis.

Taking Kaskaskia was the first step in Clark’s plan to capture the western headquarters of the British at Detroit.

The bell is now a tourist attraction, much like the Immaculate Conception Church that sits next door.

Travis Lott of the County Journal in Percy can be reached at cjournal@egyptian.net, or (618)497-8272.