KASKASKIA, Ill. – The first capital of Illinois will celebrate two big anniversaries on July 4: the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Kaskaskia’s capture from British forces during the American Revolution.
The free events take place at the Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial, home of the “Liberty Bell of the West,” which is now 276 years old. Activities include remarks by the director of the Illinois State Archives, the tolling of church bells, music, appearances by historic interpreters and more.
It was on July 4, 1778, that George Rogers Clark and his men reached Kaskaskia, seizing it from the British and bringing the colonies’ battle for independence to the western edge of British territory in North America.
Villagers celebrated by ringing a bell that is known today as “the Liberty Bell of the West.” Made in 1741, the bell is actually older than Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, and it is no longer rung for fear of damaging it.
Activities at the state memorial begin at 1 p.m., Tuesday, July 4. They include:
- David Joens, head of the Illinois State Archives, will give the featured remarks, “Proud to be from Illinois”
- The tolling of church bells
- Music by the Chester Municipal Band with vocalist Steve Colonel
- A rifle volley from historic interpreters Les Companie Franche de La Marine de Fort de Chartres
- Plate lunches and other refreshments. (Some chairs will be available, but visitors are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. There will not be a tent.)
The event is sponsored by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which operates the memorial; Chester Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion; the City of Chester, and the Kaskaskia Church Foundation.
Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial is located on an island in the Mississippi River, about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis. Kaskaskia, the territorial and then state capital from 1809 until 1820, was once physically connected to the state, but the Mississippi River changed course in 1881, flooding much of the village and cutting it off from the rest of Illinois.
Today, Kaskaskia is reachable only from Missouri. Travelers must go to St. Mary, Mo., take Highway 61 to the Old Channel Bridge, turn right and then follow Kaskaskia Bell Markers for 5 miles.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency protects the state’s historic resources, which contribute to education, culture and the economy. Its sites include ancient burial mounds, forts and buildings erected by settlers, and homes connected to famous Illinoisans.
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