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With its history dating all the way back to 1540, the site of Fort Massac is an integral early American part of Southern Illinois’ history.

The fort itself was built by the French in 1757 as Fort De L’Ascension during the French and Indian War. It was rebuilt in 1759-60 and was renamed Massiac in honor of the then French Minister of Colonial Affairs.

In 1763, after the war, the French left the fort, and it was reported that a tribe of Chickasaws burned it to the ground.

Shortly after, the British took control of the burned down fort and anglicized the name to its current form of Massac. The fort was not rebuilt until President George Washington ordered the reconstruction in 1794.

The fort also played a minor role in the War of 1812, only to be abandoned again in 1814. The site served as a training camp early in the Civil War, which is the last time U.S. troops were stationed there. It was abandoned after a measles outbreak in 1861.

In 1903, with the help of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the site was purchased by the state of Illinois. On Nov. 5, 1908, it was officially dedicated as Illinois’ first state park.

Today, Fort Massac is a great place to visit and for camping. The park also has a 1-mile trail through the woods with great scenery. Boating and fishing are permitted on and along the Ohio River near the fort. Hunting is also permitted in some parts of the park.

A re-enactment of the lifestyles and atmosphere of the 1700s is held each year in October. The Fort Massac Encampment typically brings about 80,000 people to the site. This year, the encampment is Oct. 18 and 19. Admission is free.

For more information, call 618-524-9321


on twitter: @zd2000



Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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