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The Morris Birkbeck Site:
The English Prairie at the Dawn of Statehood

“The English Settlement” established by Morris Birkbeck and George Flower in 1817 is well known to historians of the Old Northwestern frontier. One of these communities – the town of Albion platted for George Flower in 1819 – remains on modern maps as a small town in Edwards County, Illinois. The other – the town of Wanborough platted by Birkbeck in 1819 – failed to develop, and its former location is rarely a point of discussion. More importantly, its early demise inadvertently created an important archaeological resource.

Upon his arrival in 1817, Morris Birkbeck (author and one of Illinois’ first Secretaries of State - pictured above) built an usually large and well-appointed estate situated in an embryonic American frontier community. Birkbeck died in June of 1825, and the house soon fell into disrepair and was abandoned by 1835. The first archaeological investigations at the site of Birkbeck’s 1817 estate were conducted in 2005. These encountered unusually rich and well-preserved archaeological deposits dating to the 1810s and 1820s.


The fieldwork initiated in 2005 was cut short due to inclement weather and was not resumed. FICAS is currently considering a return to the site. In the meantime, selected information from the 2005 research will be posted here shortly.


Two drawings of the Birkbeck home, made in 1826.


A stone-lined well at the Birkbeck Estate, constructed in the 1810s and still drawing water


An unusually large quantity of Cantonese porcelain has been recovered at the Birkbeck site.

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