Peoria County, Illinois  Genealogy Trails



Fort Clark Memorial


WPA File- Monuments and Memorials, by: H.S. Hambright
Transcribed from the WPA File by Albre S.,  proofread by Candi Horton 2006



Fort Clark memorial is located on the smoke stack of the electric light plant at foot of liberty and Adams Sts.
(Personal observation by writer H.S. Hambright)

Official history concerning Fort Clark is so completely lacking that no plan of the fort is [was] found in the United States or Illinois records. It cannot be stated certainly for whom it was named; some authorities say it was named for William Clark, Indian superintendent at St. Louis in 1813; others say that it was named for his older brother, Col. George Rogers Clark, hero of Kaskaskia and Vincennes. Preponderance of testimony gives the honor to Col. Clark.

Peoria Lake in 1813 was the rendezvous of Pottawatomie, Kickapoo and Miame Indians, many of whom were hostile to Americans. British authorities at Ft. Malden, now Amherstburg, Ont. Encouraged them to commit depredations against Illionis settlements, most of which were in the southern part of the state. Ninian Edwards, territorial governor of Illinois, with the assistance of the United States war department determined to put an end to these depredations. A force of regulars supported by 800 Illinois and Missouri mounted rangers was sent against the Indians of Peoria.

Benjamin Howard, governor of Missouri territory, resigned to take a commission as brigadier general and he was in command of the expedition, although he was preceded to Peoria by Col. Nicholas, who remained here for some time after Howard departed with the militia. Nicholas, with about 200 men of the First Infantry, arrived on Sunday, Aug. 15, 1813, according to R. S. Brickey, member of the militia who wrote his experience in a letter dated at Potosi, Mo., Dec. 8, 1850. The militia came on the following Wednesday. Howard had long been a civil officer but had little knowledge of military affairs. Doubtless, he left the construction of the fort to the more experienced regular army officer.

Nicholas brought his men by boat up the Illinois River. They carried the tools for building the fort. Immediately they began the erection of a blockhouse but, before this was finished, about 150 Indians, probably under the command of the Old Black Partridge, made attack on the regulars. The Indians were beaten off. George Davenport, member of Capt. Owens' company of the First Infantry, told his experiences in this skirmish. His relation is preserved in "Davenport: Past and Present", by Franc B. Wilke. 

Gen. Howard in a letter to the Secretary of war described the difficulties encountered in erecting Fort Clark. Timbers were cut on the east side of the lake, rafted to the west side and hauled into position with manpower. Howard wrote: "This for unquestionably is one of the strongest I have ever seen in the western country." It is said to have had mounted cannon. 

There is some evidence that Fort Clark was garrisoned as late as 1815, Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, then a clerk with the American Fur Company, said he saw Indians burning the stockade in 1818. Portions remained when Josiah Fulton and others came in 1819 to form the first American settlement here. (1)

The following are extracts from a letter written by R. S. Brickey, Potosi, Mo., to J. T. Lindsay,
Lake Forest, IL in 1850.

"For want of suitable timber and materials within several miles of the place, on the west side of the lake, on account of the country back from the river being prairie, it became necessary to obtain all timber from a fine forest on the east side of the Illinois River at the lower end of the lake, and raft it over. 
The men commenced felling the trees, the most of them were white oak, and for the palisades, cut them about eighteen feet long, and each log not less than fifteen or eighteen inches in diameter, the timbers fort the block house corners of the enclosure were much longer; the area enclosed for the fort contained, according to my recollection, two or three acres.
Having no carriages all the materials were drawn by men on trucks, by means of long ropes, a distance from two miles. Thus was Fort Clark erected where Peoria now stands, in less than two months, by Missouri and Illinois volunteers- In Sept. and Oct. in the year 1813- at a distance of more than one hundred miles from any white settlement."

Research has failed to reveal any more particular description of Fort Clark than above. It is reasonable to suppose it differed little from the other forts erected about that time. Only one block-house is spoken of but there were also within the enclosure quarters for officers and men. (2)


WPA Sources:
(1) E.E. Bast in the Peoria, IL Journal Mar. 6, 1936
(2) Incyclopia of Illinois and History of Peoria, County, by: David McCulloch, Vol. II, Munsell Pub. Co. Chicago & Peoria, IL (page 50 to 53)
Early History of Peoria by Geo. A. Shurtleff, as it appeared in the Peoria, IL Star 5/18/30.



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