Henri de Tonti, founder of Peoria, at Pimetoui, 1691-93 Lonnie Eugene Stewart, 1990; Peoria 1691 Foundation
French Peoria in the Illinois Country, 1673-1846
Many histories of Illinois begin at statehood, a
little more than 150 years ago, when Americans -- mostly of British
descent -- settled the area. These histories often ignore or only
briefly touch upon the 150 years before that when time, when the
Illinois Country was explored and settled by the French. In
commemoration of the 300th year of European settlement at Peoria,
Judith Franke's book: French Peoria and the Illinois Country,
1673 - 1846, is concerned with the little-known first half of
Peoria was first the southernmost part of New France,
then the northernmost part of the French Colony of Louisiana, and
finally the westernmost part of the of the newly formed United
States. It is interesting, therefore, that in the perception of
many Americans today, Peoria is the quintessential middle American
French interests were dominant at Peoria for well
over a hundred years, from the time the first French explorers came
up the Illinois River in 1673 until the first "American" settlers
began to move into the area in about 1815. A small French presence
persisted for a time on the east bank of the river, but was gone by
about 1846. Today, only faint echoes of French Peoria survive in
the street plan of downtown Peoria, and in the name of an
occasional street, school, or hotel meeting room: "Joliet,"
Since this period of Illinois history had been almost
totally ignored, Franke proposed in 1989 to the Dickson Mounds
Museum staff to produce an exhibit on the French and the historic
Indians of Illinois in conjunction with the Peoria Tricentennial
celebration which was to begin in 1991. Her book grew out of the
research for this exhibit.
Originally submitted by: Ray LaHood, Representative (18th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.