Saturday, July 01, 2006

New Dig Eyes Site of 1730 Battle

The Pantagraph of Bloomington has an interesting article this week on Parkland College Professor Len Steele's search to find the exact location of a major battle between the French and Illini Indians on one side and the Mesquakie on the other.

The French account of the 1730 siege of a Mesquakie fort, the remains of which are buried beneath rows of corn, are the “the beginning of history in McLean County,” the Parkland College professor said. What remains below the ground are buried trenches and dug-in houses, musket balls, arrow points and various tools and goods, such as blades from hinged French knives.

It was the last stand for the Mesquakie, who were outnumbered in the fortified grove near the Sangamon River, Steele said. There were up to 900 people in the acre-size fort, including women and children, and 1,400 French and Illini troops around them during a 23-day battle, he said.

The professor, his wife, 10 students and a woman whose family has owned the farm since the 1800s have been at the dig site near Saybrook several hours four times a week for the last three weeks, and the class is scheduled to end today. But Steele said he may extend the dig.

People had lived in the area about 12,000 years, but the military accounts are the first written histories for the area, he said.

Not familiar with Saybrook's location, well here's a map.

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