Kaskasia, Illinois' first capital, was once home to more than 7000. In 2000, according to the census, it was home to 9.
The town was named after the Kaskaskia River, a name given to it by Native Americans. This town was originally located on a peninsula and was a Native American village as indigenous peoples had lived there for thousands of years.
In 1686, the first settlers arrived from France by the name of DeRousse. French Jesuits established a mission in 1703 with the idea of converting the natives to Catholicism. The congregation built the first stone church in 1714. The French established a trading post here. French settlers moved in to farm and mine lead along the Missouri side of the river. Kaskaskia became the French capital of Upper Louisiana in 1718 and established Fort de Chartres. The French also began importing African slaves from Santa Domingo to work in the lead mines.
In 1733, the French built Fort Kaskaskia here. It was destroyed by the British in 1763. King Louis XV sent a bell for the church in 1741. The farms in the area were important for growing wheat and corn to send to Lower Louisiana, as wheat and corn did not grow well there. After the French and Indian War, many residents moved west of the river rather than live under British rule.
In 1778, George Rogers Clark took the town in the American Revolution. The church bell was rung to signal the victory and has been called the liberty bell ever since. A brick building shrine, near the Church of Immaculate Conception, houses the bell.
Kaskaskia served as the territorial capital from 1809 until statehood in 1818 and as the state capital until 1819 when it was moved to Vandalia. The town had reached it's zenith and with the move of the capital began it's decline.
Although Steamboats in the 19th century stimulated economic growth, they also contributed to environmental issues. Many of the riverbanks along the rivers were deforested as the steamboat crews would cut fuel for the boats. River banks became unstable and collapsed into the rivers. The Mississippi River between the confluence with the Ohio River and St Louis became wider and more shallow. It also became more prone to severe flooding. Following the Great Flood of 1844, Kaskaskia moved to the south. The original location became an island. The flood of 1881, destroyed all remnants of the original town and the Mississippi River now passed on the east side of the town, not the west (as originally done). With the new routing of the River, deposits were made along the west side of the island, physically attaching it to what is now Missouri, although the state line hasn't changed. Now a bayou, the west side of Kaskaskia is regularly flooded, and bridge has been built to connect it to Missouri. In 1893, the Church of Immaculate Conception was rebuilt on the island. In the Great Flood of 1993, nine feet of water covered the island.