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The "Old" French Village at Peoria

There were two French communities at the site of modern Peoria. Professional archaeologists have searched for traces of what was known as the “Old” French Village in the city of Peoria since the 1950s. In 2001, roadwork required an archaeological survey of a neighborhood that was thought to have been the location of this village, which was established in the 1760s. As part of this project, a series of digital overlays of French maps were placed onto the modern urban landscape. From these maps, archaeological testing was conducted on several city lots. These tests immediately encountered the first archaeological remains of the Peoria’s French heritage. 

The excavations located a small house thought to be a slave’s residence owned by Louis Chatellereau, a French trader. A large stockade trench was also found to cross several modern city lots, and probably served as a fenced boundary between the village and the common or agricultural fields of the colonial community. While most of the 18th century topsoil had long ago been removed, features in the subsoil were found in a good state of preservation, just beneath the lawns of late 19th century apartment buildings. Chatellereau’s property was probably abandoned in the 1790s, and was not developed again until after the Civil War.

The results of the 2001 excavations were published in the Sangamo Archaeological Research Bulletin series. Though that publication is now out of print, a free PDF is available below. 


Excavation view of the small wall trench structure at the Chatellereau site.


Plan view drawing of the small two-room building.

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