Cahokia, Illinois

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Cahokia is a village in St. Clair County, Illinois, United States. As of the 2000 census, the village had a population of 16,391. The name is a reference to one of the clans of the historic Illini confederacy, who were encountered by early French explorers to the region.

Early European settlers also named Cahokia Mounds after the Illini. This is an extensive prehistoric Mississippian culture urban complex located to the north in present-day Collinsville in Madison County. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a State Historic Park.

The village of Cahokia is the home of significant colonial and Federal-period buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places: the Cahokia Courthouse (c 1740), in the French Colonial style, Church of the Holy Family (Cahokia) (c. 1697), and the Jarrot Mansion (c 1810).

Contents

History

While the Europeans also named the Cahokia Mounds site to the north after the Illini group, archeologists have determined that the earthwork mounds complex was built by the Mississippian culture, an earlier, potentially unrelated indigenous people. The city site reached its peak in the 13th century and was abandoned centuries before European contact. The Cahokia Native Americans did not coalesce as a group and live in the Illinois area until closer to the time of French contact.

The European association with Cahokia began over 300 years ago, with Father Pinet’s mission in late 1696 to convert the Cahokian and Tamaroa Indians to Christianity. Father and the Seminary of Foreign Missions of Quebec built a log church. It is dedicated to the Holy Family. During the next 100 years, Cahokia became one of the largest French colonial towns in the Illinois Country.

Cahokia had become the center of a large area for trading Indian goods and furs. The village had about 3,000 inhabitants, 24 brothels, and a thriving business district. The nearby town of Kaskaskia on the Mississippi became the region’s leading shipping port, and Fort de Chartres became a military and governmental command center. The 50-mile (80 km) area of land between the two cities was cultivated by farming settlers, known as habitants, whose main crop was wheat. As the area expanded and expanded, the relationship between the settlers and the Indians continued to be peaceful. Settlers were mostly French-Canadian migrants whose families had been in North America for a while.

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