MONROE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
P.O. BOX 48 WATERLOO, IL 62298
Connie Werkmann, President
Pat Vaseska, Vice President
Ericha Sondag, Secretary
Virginia Bersche, Treasurer
Carol Sondag, Board
Steve Korneffel, Board
Janet Flynn, Board
Lynn J. Bersche, Attorney
Monroe County, Illinois
A Very Short Historical Sketch By Janet Flynn
The first white men to settle in Monroe County were the French who arrived in the 1600’s. They settled around a beautiful spring that was located halfway between their settlements of Cahokia and Kaskaskia on the Kaskaskia Trail. They named the spring Belle Fontaine, which means “beautiful fountain”. This spring and a part of the old Trail still exist and are located south of today’s Waterloo in Monroe County, on land now owned by the Monroe County Historical Society. The English routed the French and, for a short time, the area was part of England. French, English, Virginian and American flags (in that order) have all flown over the county.
During the Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark and his Long Knives captured the forts at Cahokia and Kaskaskia in Illinois. Because these men were Virginians, Illinois became a county of Virginia after the Revolution. The new Continental Congress was very short of funds and Virginia donated this land to the new government. Illinois then became part of the vast Northwest Territory. The territory composing the present county of Monroe was part of the old county of Illinois from 1778 to 1790, when it became incorporated in the county of St. Clair. Monroe County was organized in 1816, formed out of St. Clair and Randolph Counties. Illinois achieved statehood in 1818.
After the Revolution, many Virginians who had served with George Rogers Clark came to Monroe County area and received land grants there for their services. The first five Americans to settle in the state of Illinois settled at Belle Fontaine, Monroe County, in 1782. They were:
They were soon followed by fellow Virginians including the Ogle, Lemen, Biggs, Whiteside, Tolin, Clover, Brownfield, Iman/Eyman, Smith, Johnson, Agnew and Harness families (to name but a few).
The following men served in the Revolutionary War and are buried in Monroe County:
Ebenezer Brown and Robert Givens both died in Monroe County but it is not known whether they were buried in the county.
These pioneers suffered great hardships, including disease, Indian massacre and scalping. As if clearing and settling a new land wasn’t difficult enough, they had to live close to or in blockhouses. They often had to run from their work in the field to one of these forts to escape massacre. There were several blockhouses in Monroe County, including Moore, Lemen, Golden, Piggott and Whiteside. In 1825, Anthony Wayne reached a settlement with the Indians and life became easier.
In the mid-1800’s German and Irish emigrants began settling in Monroe County.
Note: for a detailed account of the history of Monroe County, see Arrowheads to Aerojets, published in 1967 by the Monroe County Historical Society.