The History of Cahokia St. Joseph Institute
Cahokia (population 16,391) is located in southwestern Illinois along the Mississippi River.
The community takes its name from the Cahokia Mounds, which was inhabited by Native Americans at the
time it was discovered by French-Canadians in the latter part of the 1690's.
As the explorers became to settle, priests from the Seminary of the Foreign Missions
of Quebec attempted to convert the Cahokian and Tamaroan Indians to Christianity, and built a log church that was
dedicated to the Holy Family. Within 50 years, the area became one of the larger French colonial towns in North America.
Cahokia became a trading post with over 3,000 residents and had a successful business district, which rivaled
that of Kaskaskia 50 miles down river. Farmers stayed and planted wheat while maintaining peaceful relations
with the Native Americans.
But all of that ended in 1763 as the French were forced to give up Cahokia to the British as the result
of losing the French & Indian War. Many residents were in fear of the British, and moved across
the Mississippi into what is now St. Genevieve and St. Louis. Thanks to George
Rogers Clark, Cahokia was taken from the British in 1778 during the Revolutionary War and a
court was set up there. The courthouse was used as a territorial courthouse and political center until 1801 when
it expanded its boundaries to take in a sizable area that stretched all the way to Canada. That ended in 1814 when St.
Clair County (where Cahokia is located) had decreased in size and moved the county seat to Belleville.