Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Historic Waterloo, Illinois

In my last posting I wrote about the Monroe County Museum.  After we were done touring the museum, we walked the grounds surrounding the building, on which are located a couple of historic cabins as well as the Bell Fontaine House.  "LA Belle Fontaine" is a French word meaning beautiful  springs.
In the late 1700s James Moore led a group of soldiers to this area (at the time it was part of the Northwest Territory) and started the settlement of Bellfontaine.  It was the first truly American settlement in Illinois.  In 1772 Enoch Moore was born, the first American white male born in Illinois.  His natal cabin  has been moved to the museum grounds.  The Bell Fontaine House, pictured below,  has received several additions over the years but the kitchen area of the home was originally a circa 1700s log cabin which was part of the Moore homestead.  The house is not open for tours yet, but the ladies working there allowed us to enter it.
In the background of the picture there is a kettle shed, the southern end of which was used for butchering and washing.  The northern end of the shed was a smoke house.  The neighborhoods in northern Waterloo in the early to mid-1880s were known as Peter's Town.  Emery Peter Rogers, for whom the town was named, was also known as the "Merchant Prince".  He operated a grist mill, woolen and cider mills, rope factory, carding mill, carriage factory, a brickyard and quarry.  Peterstown House stands on a lot which was owned by Peter Rogers.  During restoration of the house it was discovered that  at one time a part of it was used for a country store as well as a tavern. History has it that the house served as a stage coach stop which served travelers on the Kaskaskia Trail leading to Cahokia.  Balls were held on the second floor.  Fortunately we were able to tour this fascinating house, which has two cellars, trapdoors and numerous stairways.  One of the rooms is pictured below. 
The docent, who pointed out the features of the house to us, also had an interesting story to tell us as to how Waterloo ended up with its name.  According to legend, the towns of Bell Fountaine and Peter's Town (inhabited by French and Irish immigrants) were located across a creek from each other and the inhabitants  were constantly feuding.   An Irish man built his home on one side of the creek and his barn on the other side.   He was then said to have commented, " It won't be Bellfontaine and it won't be Peterstown, but begorra, I will give ye your Waterloo!".

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