Last week, I wrote about Paul Beck, who came to the Big Spring area of Carson Township in search of a good place to build a fort. This was around 1805.
Soon after Beck had determined what was the best location for his fort, he met a prominent Indian chief, who bid him welcome and professed great friendship. The Indian invited Beck to come and make his home among them, which he did.
He built a double-log home near the gushing waters of the big spring that he would later be identified with.
In the previous article, I wrote that I had arrived at the opinion that when Paul Beck came to the Kaskaskia lands, there was no reason to build a fort, even though he was ready to. Bond County history records that he built a blockhouse near a spring in the area of Lansing Cemetery one year before taking off in search of the Kaskaskia River, which he knew lay to the east.
Around the same time, Isaac Hill of Kentucky was preparing his expedition to the Illinois lands. He had been charged with preparing a survey for Thomas Jefferson and to determine what minerals could be found, days of no frost and to trace the Third Meridian from the Cahokia line to the Okaw (Kaskaskia), Sangewa (Sangamon) and Illinois rivers. He was also to note the presence of savages.
Hill’s map, accompanying this article, has as its most recent date, 1810.
On the map, in addition to the major tributaries and lay of the land, Hill noted claims to be given to the seven Kentuckians who had joined him on the expedition. He also noted the presence of at least two forts, John’s Fort and White’s Fort, both southwest of Greenville in Bond County, along with several traders who were doing business with the Indians.
By this early day, Isham Revis had made an improvement south of the "grass swamp." Hill noted the presence of several traders in the area. North along the Kaskaskia River (referred to as Ocar on Hill’s map) a French trader had settled east of the river.
Further inland on the west side of the Hurricane Creek, Hill notes the presence of a trader named "Lacor," with a second trader, "French John," a few miles west on the summer trace.
Scouting the Ocar River area, he found a trader at the same place that Charles Barbeau, surveyor of an 1803 French map, had identified as Vanne Delai, “water gate.” By 1810, a trader was at this place, along with one Dutch, four British and seven "savages."
French John and Lacor, both identified as traders by Isaac Hill, appear in the early history of Bond County, and, with regard to French John, in the first records of Fayette County.
An order for a road “crossing the Hurricane Fork at the ford near St. John’s cabin to westward limits of the county” is recorded in the Fayette County Commissioner’s record of June 4, 1821. In September of that year, men were ordered to work on the “road to St. John’s cabin in Bond County.”
The history of Bond County notes that three or four miles north of Mulberry Grove, a Frenchman named St. John kept a trading post, established before 1816. Another Frenchman, LaCrois, kept a trading post, and both he and St. John accepted furs in payment for their goods. Some people preferred to haul their furs to Cahokia.
“When settlers lost their horses, they would call upon the Frenchmen to recover them from the Indians.”
French John is probably Andre St. Jean, who married very early to Polly Brasel, and Lacor is possibly the same man known as LaCrois.
These early traders were the first residents of the county, although without the permanence of the Paul Beck family, who still call the area "home."