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Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

jeff6538 (View posts)
Posted: 13 Jul 2013 10:40PM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 13 Jul 2013 11:39PM GMT
Sandra Mackley sent me a link to the Digital Archives of the University of Missouri for a map of Ste. Genevieve County that dates from 1920 - 1930. On that map, there are three parcels of land south of the town of Ste. Genevieve that are labeled, Big Common Field of Ste. Genevieve, New Bourbon Common Field, and Grand Park Common Field of Ste. Genevieve. I sent a query to a reference librarian at the University of Missouri, but I'm not sure that I'll get a response because I'm not a student there, a Missouri resident, or an academic. I know that there is a Common Field archaeological dig that is possibly in this area but I couldn't gain much information about the dig. I'm not interested in archaeology, though - I'm curious to know what these fields were for. When were they deeded? What were they used for? What is their present status? If anyone has any information or could tell me where to look or hook me up with someone who knows something about these fields, I'd most appreciate it!

Thanks!

Jeff

Re: Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

BobMueller55 (View posts)
Posted: 14 Jul 2013 3:59PM GMT
Classification: Query
The Big Field or Le Grand Champ was the communal farming area for the town of Ste. Genevieve. However, each plot of land extending from the surrounding fence was owned by individual farmers (habitants). They were granted these long narrow strips of land by the French (prior to 1763 and 1800-1804)and Spanish (1763-1899)governments. The Ste. Genevieve District was the original district in the area. In the 1790's, the Spanish government created the New Bourbon District out of the Ste. Genevieve District. The Commandant of the New Bourbon District was Pierre de Hault Delassus de Luziere, a French Royalist who came to America during the French Revolution. The Parc area was a general area where residents could cut wood and let their animals graze. It is thought to be above the alluvial plan where the Big Field is located.
For more reading on this subject, please read "COLONIAL STE. GENEVIEVE" by Carl Ekberg. For information on New Bourbon, read "A FRENCH ARISTOCRAT IN THE AMERICAN WEST" also by Carl Ekberg. Other reads are Houck's "History of Missouri" and Bonnie Stepnoff's "From French Community to Missouri Town"
These French and Spanish land grants became one of the big issues after the Americans gained control of upper Louisiana in 1804 with the Louisiana Purchase. It took years to sort through all the claims. Many people lost significant amounts of land. The actual decisions of various commissions are contained in a series of books called "THE AMERICAN PAPERS"

The Big Field contains several Mississippian Culture Native American mounds. Past archaeological work has been done on these mounds.

Re: Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

jeff6538 (View posts)
Posted: 14 Jul 2013 4:14PM GMT
Classification: Query
Many thanks, Bob! You might possibly know that there is a renewed interest in the almost forgotten concept of the commons. I was very surprised when I saw these parcels of land in the Midwest. I had known that this type of land ownership existed in New England (I think), but I hadn't ever seen it in the Midwest. Again, thanks for the help and the references.

Re: Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

teatajean (View posts)
Posted: 14 Jul 2013 4:39PM GMT
Classification: Query
This system of long narrow lots came from northern France via French Canada. Most of the people who settled the the Mid-Mississippi country (known as the Illinois Country)were French Canadians. Along the St. Lawrence river, there were similar long lots but they were under the seigneurial system. For more info see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seigneurial_system_of_New_Franc...

Re: Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

jeff6538 (View posts)
Posted: 14 Jul 2013 4:55PM GMT
Classification: Query
How very interesting! If I were to look further north along the Mississippi River, I would likely see the same "footprints" of this land system. You've both given me lots of food for thought. I know that there are similar grants of land in Florida (from the Spanish), but I've never known of land designated as a common field. That was new. Thanks!

Re: Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

jeff6538 (View posts)
Posted: 9 Aug 2013 3:11PM GMT
Classification: Query
Bob,
I read Stepenoff's book but was underwhelmed - I wouldn't recommend it at all as the writing, in my opinion, barely reaches the college freshman level. Ekberg's book, Colonial Ste. Genevieve, on the other hand, is excellent and provided a very valuable introduction to what I was looking for. Ekberg wrote another book, which I will likely purchase, which I think will answer most of my questions about the land use practices which the Big Field is but one example of in the Illinois Country. Thank you for steering me in the right direction. For anyone else intrigued with long lot agriculture, I'd recommend Ekberg's "French Roots in the Illinois Country: the Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times". In that book, Ekberg documents a number of settlements in the Illinois Country and traces their roots to medieval Europe as well as contrasting them with the settlements on the St. Lawrence river. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Re: Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

jeff6538 (View posts)
Posted: 9 Aug 2013 3:13PM GMT
Classification: Query
Also see Carl Ekberg's book, "French Roots in the Illinois Country: the Mississippi Frontier in Colonial Times." The settlement pattern in Ste. Genevieve differs in important ways from the settlement pattern along the St. Lawrence River, according to Ekberg.

Re: Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

JULIEOKEN (View posts)
Posted: 10 Aug 2013 3:18PM GMT
Classification: Query
Look at the maps of St. Louis County around Florissant, MO. The same long lots are shown for the land between the old St. Stanislaus Seminary and the Missouri River. They were also called the Commons. Florissant too was settled by French Canadians after Ste. Genevieve.

Julie

Re: Common Fields of Ste. Genevieve County

jeff6538 (View posts)
Posted: 10 Aug 2013 3:59PM GMT
Classification: Query
Edited: 10 Aug 2013 4:00PM GMT
Julie,
Yes, I see that, now that I pulled up the plats available from the Digital Library at the University of Missouri. There are long lots on the Missouri River and also on the Mississippi River. According to Ekberg, the reason the lots are long and narrow is because each freeholder (the lots were privately owned) wanted to minimize the number of times that he had to turn his team of oxen around when plowing the land. Each lot is usually 3 or 4 arpents (an arpent is about 192 feet) wide. This was a feature of French settlement in the Illinois Country. Thanks for adding Florissant, which was originally named Fleurissant, or "blooming", in English, to the places in Missouri that feature this land use pattern.
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