Area 3 Attractions
The Village of Fults originated in 1901 as a stop on the St. Louis Iron Mountain and Southern Railway line that was built through that area. Brownsburg was the original name of the Village, after John Brown, a resident of nearby Brown’s Hollow. The name was changed to Fults, in honor of Jacob Fults, who lived near the town. Fults had many businesses that supported the surrounding farming community. Fults was also home to Cedar Bluff School, an elementary school of the Valmeyer School system. Following the 1993 Flood, many of the homes were demolished. St. John United Church of Christ received major damage as well, but a local resident purchased and renovated the building.
Renault, originally named Glasgow City, after founder James Glasgow is located on the upland Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail. It was founded in 1860 and incorporated as a Village in 1896. The Village was later named Renault, in honor of Philip Francois Renault who came to the area from France in search of mineral resources in the Mississippi River bluffs.
Paul Wightman Subterranean Nature Preserve
This 535-acre nature preserve, overlying the Foglepole Cave system, the largest cave in Illinois, was purchased in 2013 to protect the cave’s subterranean stream water quality, endangered bats and cave aquatic species. The surface is a karst sinkhole landscape that was historically farmed. A mosaic of native prairie grasses and wildflowers are now planted, and the woods and sinkholes are being managed to improve native vegetation and reduce erosion and contaminated surface waters percolating into the cave streams. The preserve is named in honor of Father Paul Wightman who did extensive research and surveying of the cave system in the mid-20th Century. The site is open to the public with access facilities, interpretive displays/brochures, and 4 miles of easy hiking trails.
Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve
The 532-acre Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve is owned and managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Most of this unique area was purchased by IDNR between 1970 and 1976. This area contains a wide variety of plants and animals, some common and others found nowhere else in the State. It includes woodland, prairie and glade communities, and has the largest complex of high quality loess hill prairies in Illinois. In 1986 it was recognized by the U. S. Department of the Interior as a National Natural Landmark.
Kidd Lake Marsh State Natural Area
The 465-acre Kidd Lake State Natural Area is owned and managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It is an example of the once expansive wetlands of the Mississippi floodplain known as the American Bottoms.
Historically, the marsh was part of an 800-acre lake bed. It is an important rest stop for migrating waterfowl and continues to provide critical habitat to a diverse range of birds, amphibians and reptiles. Kidd Lake was named for Robert Kidd, one of Monroe County’s early settlers, who came to the area in 1782.
Native American Village
Signage interpreting the village of the Metchigamia, a tribe of the Illiniwek confederation. The Metchigamia people lived in close relations with the neighboring French Settlements.
St. Philippe and Renault Land Grant Roadside Pull-Off
On June 14, 1723, Philip Francois Renault received several concessions of land in order to support the establishment of mines in the bluffs. The plan was to develop mineral resources and exploit the wealth of the Mississippi Valley. Boisbriant, the Commandant at Fort Chartres, and Des Ursins, the Principal of the Royal India Company, signed this conveyance. Of these concessions of land, the one that fronts the Mississippi at the Great Marsh has since been known as the Renault Grant in the south corner of Monroe County. Renault himself had headquarters at the fort. The Village of St. Philippe was founded within the lands of this grant, just north of Fort de Chartres by Philip Renault. Farmers and tradesmen were encouraged to settle here to support mining operations initiated in 1717 by the Company of the West and the Company of St. Philippe. The fertile tract of bottom land in the Renault Grant was intended to furnish supplies for the mines. It was soon discovered that the bluffs did not contain the rich minerals that the French had expected. The Village quickly declined, and by 1765, most of the residents of St. Philippe had moved away.
Fort de Chartres
Fort de Chartres was a French fortification originally built in 1720 on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. The Fort was named in honor of Louis, duc de Chartres, son of the Regent of France. It was originally built as a palisade of logs with two bastions at opposite corners. Prone to river flooding, the fort was rebuilt several times, further from the river, and the last time built of limestone in 1756. The fort’s stone powder magazine is considered the oldest building in the State of Illinois. Following the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, the French transferred control of the area to the British, who abandoned the fort in 1772 and established Fort Gage in Kaskaskia Village until 1778. By 1900, the structure was in ruin, and the exterior walls were gone. Several buildings and the fort’s gateway were reconstructed on original foundations.
Ste. Anne Church
Signage interpreting the site of a chapel to Ste. Anne built in 1721 outside the first Fort de Chartres near the river.
Pierre Laclede Home
Floodwater in 1993 damaged a bridge adjacent to Fort de Chartres historic site. In 1998, State transportation workers doing repairs came across the foundation of an old home. Archaeologists excavated the site and analyzed the findings including pottery and other items. The description of the property built with methods used by the French, along with the pottery, deed records, architectural evidence and the historical records all point to Laclede’s ownership of this property.
Historic Prairie du Rocher
Prairie du Rocher translates to “prairie by the rock.” The fourth European settlement in Illinois, this Village was founded in 1722, shortly after the establishment of Fort de Chartres, on a tract granted by the Royal Indian Company to Pierre Dugue Boisbriant, the commander and builder of the fort. Situated in the fertile farmland known as the American Bottoms, and at the base of the Mississippi River Bluffs, Prairie du Rocher provided grain and other foodstuffs to New Orleans and other lower Louisiana Territory communities.
The Village Hall building was constructed to recreate the historic “post on sil” architectural style so prevalent during the French colonial era.
The original portion of the Creole House was built around 1800 by Dr. Robert McDonald. This one-room dwelling held a living room, kitchen, dining area and sleeping quarters. A second room was added as either an office or additional bedroom. This portion of the house was constructed in a manner that is called “half-timber,” which was common in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. In 1855, owner Franklin Brickey added four additional rooms, a long front porch and a basement. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by the Randolph County Historical Society.
St. Joseph Church
This parish was established in 1722 as a chapel dependent upon the royally endowed church of Ste. Anne at Fort de Chartres. The original log chapel was replaced by a larger log church in 1734. The records and sacred vessels of Ste. Anne are now held for safekeeping at St. Joseph Church. The present church building dates to 1850. It is the only true French parish in the Diocese of Belleville, founded under the patronage of the king. The Romanesque style of architecture and the flat ceiling were inspired by the famous basilicas of Rome.