Following the script I've seen over and over Smothers managed to find a state-employed historian who disagreed and is backing the traditional site of near Peoria.
Marty Fischer of Macomb, whose research inspired the reappraisal, believes Fort Crevecoeur, long believed to have been built in 1680 on the Illinois River in the Peoria area, actually was constructed at Beardstown.
A research team eventually is expected to travel to farm country just south of Beardstown in search of evidence - shifted dirt, rotted wood pylons, maybe iron nails three centuries old - to, perhaps, resolve that question.
So far no one has found solid proof that the Peoria or the Beardstown locations are the location of the first French fortified settlements, but Fischer's research is based on some intriguing clues.
The Fischer theory is steeped in possibly ground-breaking discoveries, thanks to satellite photography, that offer fresh clues to historians.
- Who built a 600-foot-long earthen wall, once at least 15 feet high and at least several hundred years old, on a high rocky bluff just down and across the river from Beardstown?
- What is a perfect rectangle of ditches, 450 feet in circumference, doing in a farm field nine miles south of Beardstown on the highest plateau in the area?
- Why was a very old ditch apparently carved between the beds of two streams to encircle a flat, sandy knoll that once was lapped by a wide bay jutting from the river just south of town?
- What happens when you trace the 40th degree of latitude on two dozen maps produced by early French explorers to its intersection with the Illinois?
On those old maps, you find Fort Crevecoeur, which La Salle, Henri de Tonti and about 25 men built in January 1680 before abandoning their attempt that year to reach the mouth of the Mississippi River from Canada.
On modern maps, you find Beardstown.
Just when you think that all of historical mysteries are solved someone comes around with a new answer.
Way to go Marty Fischer. Keep researching and keep digging. The answers are there somewhere.