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Historic Diaries: Marquette and Joliet

Late August, 1673: the Tamaroa

Editor's Note:

By the third week of August, Marquette and Joliet were in the vicinity of modern St. Louis, though they left no account of it. Here's how the inhabitants appeared to Fr. Jean François de St. Cosme in the early winter of 1699, when he visited the Tamaroa village 40 miles south of the Missouri.

By then the various Illinois communities that Marquette describes had been decimated by the Iroquois. In the fall of 1680, seven years after Marquette visited them, most of the Illinois nations were over-run when Iroquois warriors came down the Ohio River and burned their towns, backed them up against the Mississippi, and murdered or enslaved the women and children. You can read first-hand accounts of this attack in LaSalle's Official Relation, pages 193-215, in our American Journeys online collection.

After that war, many Illinois Indians moved further southeast to be further from Iroquois raids. The Tamaroas and Cahokias settled in the cluster of villages near modern St. Louis that are described here by Fr. St. Cosme, a generation after Marquette passed them. The Kaskaskia relocated to the southern Ilinois river that bears their name today.

St. Cosme's 1699 Report: "On the following day about noon we reached the Tamarois. These savages had received timely warning of our arrival through some of the Kaoukias, who carried the news to them, and as a year before they had molested Monsieur de Tonty's men, they were afraid and all the children and women fled from the village.

"The chief came with some of his people to receive us on the water's edge and to invite us to their village, but we did not go, because we wished to prepare for the feast of the Conception. We camped on the other side of the river on the right bank.

"Monsieur de Tonty went to the village, and after reassuring them to some extent, he brought the chief, who begged us to go and see him in his village. We promised to do so and on the following day, the feast of the Conception, after saying our masses, we went with Monsieur de Tonty and seven of our men well armed.

"They came to meet us and led us to the chief's cabin. All the women and children were there, and no sooner had we entered the cabin than the young men and the women broke away a portion of it to see us. They had never seen black gowns, except for a few days Reverend Father Gravier, who had made a journey to their country.

"They gave us food and we gave them a small present, as we had done to the Kaouchias. We told them that it was to show them that our hearts were without guile, and that we wished to effect an alliance with them, so that they might give a good reception to our people who would pass there and supply them with food. They received the gift with many thanks and after that we returned to our camp.

"The Tamarois were camped on an island about [blank in MS.] lower than the village, probably in order to obtain wood more easily than in their village, which is on the edge of a prairie and some distance away, probably through fear of their enemies. We were unable to ascertain whether they were very numerous; there seemed to be a great many of them, although the majority of their people were away hunting. There would be enough for a rather fine mission, by bringing to it the Kaouchias [Cahokias], who live quite near, and the Mechigamias, who live a little lower down the Migissipi, and who are said to be pretty numerous. We did not see them because they had gone into the interior to hunt. The three villages speak the Illinois languages. We left the Tamarois in the afternoon of the 8th of December."

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