The “Lost” Third Fort de Chartres:
New Light on the Laurens Site
Fort de Chartres III
1733 – 1753
Prior to 2010, the existence of a “third” wooden Fort de Chartres was entirely unknown. Recent archival research, coupled with the re-examination of the archaeological remains of the French fortification known as the “Laurens site”, have completely revised our understanding of the history of this fort and the surrounding community.
Recognized during the early 1980s, the Laurens site was initially interpreted as the first Fort de Chartres, built in 1720. However, subsequent reexamination of the archival record revealed that the first fort was built very near the riverbank, and the “second” fort was simply an expansion of the first. Further, the entire Fort 1-2 complex was in fact washed into the Mississippi River during the late-eighteenth century.
It is now clear that the Laurens site represents a "third" incarnation of the fortification. Built in 1732-33 and occupied into the 1750s (when it was replaced by the stone fort that stands as a reconstruction today), the 1733 fort was actually the longest-occupied French fort in the Illinois Country. All of the archaeological remains associated with the site are affiliated with the zenith of the French regime in the Illinois Country.
Initial archaeological testing of the site in 1983 by Illinois State University was limited. In 2011, Margaret Brown and Robert Mazrim returned to the site and ultimately excavated the entire northeast bastion of this large and long-occupied fortification.
The results of those excavations, along with new archival research and document discoveries, are featured in the first issue of our journal Relations, available via the link below. The PDF is a large, full resolution file.