Jean Baptiste Ducoigne: Chief of the Kaskaskias

Jean Baptiste Ducoigne: Chief of the Kaskaskias

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His last name is of French origin with roots on his father's side and early traditional heritage attributable to that fact as Jean Baptiste Ducoigne was born Jan. 21, 1750, and soon baptized at the Church of St. Anne outside of Fort de Chartes.

Ducoigne's mother was a Tamaroa Native American, however, and Ducoigne's life was dedicated to leading tribes of Native Americans in the area as he was eventually referred to for his accomplishments as Chief of the Kaskaskias.

"He was a Tamaroan who eventually settled along the Little Muddy River in the area. He was kind of a gypsy, but his celebrity status grew," said Publisher John Croessman of The Du Quoin Evening Call.

Ducoigne was made chief of the Tamaroas in 1767. It was the same year the Illinois Confederacy made up of the Kaskaskias, the Michigans, the Peorias, the Cahokias and the Tamaroas, dissolved when Native Americans from the Michigan tribe murdered notable Chief Pontiac. In retaliation, the other tribes drove the Michigans onto Starved Rock and by 1769, had starved them to death.

Ducoigne continued to lead the Tamaroas. In 1778, he was commended in a letter of praise by French aristocrat and military officer Marquis de La Fayette who had aligned himself under the command of General George Washington and the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War, for his (Ducoigne's) bravery. The chief knew many notables of the period including Washington, Thomas Jefferson and William Henry Harrison, according to written accounts published in the Du Quoin Evening Call.

In 1800 Chief Ducoigne merged the Kaskaskias, Cahokias and Tamaroas into a new confederacy.

Under his leadership, they fought the Shawnees in prairies east of the Big Muddy two years later and it was bloody as nearly all were killed from both sides. The few who survived were from the Kaskaskia tribe and Ducoigne soon was referred to as Chief of the Kaskaskias.

He died in 1811 and was buried in Kaskaskia. His son, Louis Jefferson Ducoigne, became chief of the tribe in 1811. He helped lay plans for a winter camp where hunting and trapping took place along the Little Muddy and nearby creeks. In the spring, tribe members sold their furs in Kaskaskia and spent the summer in leisure. Located on the main trail from Shawneetown to Kaskaskia, the camp offered shelter and hospitality to all travelers.

Soon a few settlers remained within the locale of the area Native American seasonal camps. There was Jarrold Jackson who owned and operated the first toll bridge across the Little Muddy River.

There was Daniel Dry who opened a store near the camps. And there was Chester A. Keyes who was instrumental in bringing the railroad to a platted township renamed Du Quoin which replanted the nearby Native American camps.

"When the railroad was laid out, there were a couple of houses remaining in the camps, but soon, everything began developing around the Illinois Central tracks and station," Croessman said about his town's origins.

Du Quoin soon developed with the first bank opened by G.S. Smith in 1860 and city water and electric service arriving in 1870.

scott.fitzgerald@thesouthern.com / 618-351-5076

 

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