Les Amis du Fort de Chartres celebrates the physical and cultural heritage of Fort de Chartres and the surrounding area and we offer The Heart of the Illinois Country Heritage Project to stimulate opportunities for new economic development based on that heritage. In recognition of the upcoming historic milestones of the Bicentennial of the State of Illinois and the approaching Prairie du Rocher Tricentennial, we announce this new project to promote the region’s history and spur new economic growth.

The Heart of the Illinois Country Heritage Project has been developed by Les Amis du Fort de Chartres and is supported by surrounding community organizations such as The Village of Prairie du Rocher, The Prairie du Rocher Chamber of Commerce, Randolph County Commissioners, Monroe County Commissioners, The City of Waterloo, and The Kaskaskia Cahokia Trail Coalition. This heritage project includes a retail not-for-profit start-up venture, The Heart of Illinois Country Heritage Shop and Education Center. This new venture has the ability to promote and offer handmade items that are crafted by regional and local Illinois Country Heritage Artisans, offering not only a location and platform to exhibit and sell their crafts, but also to teach 300-year-old traditions to local community members. These classes/demonstrations will be geared towards providing economic growth opportunities for aspiring artisans, while sharing the area’s rich history. This history prominently features Fort de Chartres, as it was the foundation of the French, and subsequent European settlement of this region, extending from St. Louis and Cahokia in the north to Prairie du Rocher, Kaskaskia, and St. Genevieve in the south, yet there is little state or regional awareness about this era outside the local community.

Our heritage project also has other education/community elements including a new graphic line-art Fort history publication geared to young adults with appeal to readers of all ages, French Colonial Fort de Chartres, a Journey in Time, a Heritage Wheat Project, and a new Historic Prairie Education Plot. All of these elements focus on our region’s French Colonial heritage and they have the ability to create economic change, boost tourism development, and make a difference in both the local community and the region as a whole. The implementation of our project offers additional educational and economic opportunities to capitalize on the annual 45,000-50,000 visitors already in the area visiting Fort de Chartres State Historic Site or attending the Fort’s annual Special Events.

The Heart of Illinois Country Heritage Shop

An important component of The Heart of Illinois Country Heritage Project is The Heart of Illinois Country Heritage Shop. The project’s shop is owned and operated by Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, a not-for-profit organization supporting Fort de Chartres, with all proceeds to fund our organization’s mission to support the physical and cultural heritage of Fort de Chartres through educational and charitable activities. This new undertaking offers a unique and educational experience for all, exploring 18th century French Colonial-era culture throughout the Illinois Country. Our Heart of Illinois Country Artisans are passionate about creating and teaching the arts and cultures that have built the foundations of our region’s history and they have come together to share their efforts with you. Our shop offers a unique and educational experience exploring 18th century French-Colonial era Illinois Country culture.

As we undertake the first stage of our proposed plan, we have created an online shop. The Illinois Country artisans offering their products in our new online store allow us to showcase their unique creations to a wider audience. We are working to secure additional funding and once that goal is met, a physical shop location in Prairie du Rocher is planned. This shop location will also double as our Heritage Center and will attract many new visitors to the area through its teaching activities and shopping opportunities. Our center can provide a stimulus for new growth of artisans and area specialty shops, offering a very real opportunity for an expanding hospitality industry in the area. In pursuing this heritage project and shop, we can work with our community to develop educational and community development elements that will teach the history of our French heritage. This history can help grow our community and provide sustenance for the Fort and its cultural heritage for the future.

Please join us in finding new innovative ways to support Fort de Chartres and its cultural heritage. Visit our online shop today!

The Heart of Illinois Country Heritage Shop

If you are an Illinois Country Heritage artisan and would like to join our community of vendors online, please contact us at lesamidufortdechartres@gmail.com.

Fort de Chartres Land Gate Drawing,  Tom Willcockson


French Colonial Fort de Chartres, a Journey in Time

Tom Willcoskson, photo The Woodstock Independent

Another facet of our heritage project is our new Les Amis 2018 educational line-art publication project, French Colonial Fort de Chartres, a Journey in Time, depicting “Forgotten Illinois” pre-statehood years of 1755-1756, in and around Fort de Chartres. A Journey in Time will be a 36-40-page line-art one color publication, created by award-winning artist Tom Willcockson and published by Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, with “Forgotten Illinois” grant support from the Illinois Humanities Council. Tom is the artist of the current interactive pamphlet available at the fort and among his many career accomplishments, his art is featured in two other publications, Twelve Moons: A Year with the Sauk and Meskwaki, 1817-1818 and Passage to Chicago: A Journey on the Illinois & Michigan Canal in the Year 1860.  Both publications won the Illinois Association of Museums’ Superior Achievement Award. The style of this new publication featuring Fort de Chartres’ mid eighteenth-century history is unique to other currently published books about Fort de Chartres and will present a great visual perspective for young adults and the general public, filling a void in schools and libraries. We will publish in late August, 2018 with a special Book Signing and Release Party to be held on August 25, 2018 at Fort de Chartres State Historic Site from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The book will be available for purchase at the Release Party on August 25th for the retail price of $14 (includes tax).

You are invited!

French Colonial Fort de Chartres

A Journey in Time

August 25th Book Release

 & Signing Party

Les Amis du Fort de Chartres special book release event will be held on Saturday,

 August 25, 2018, 11-2 p.m. at Fort de Chartres State Historic Site with author & artist

Tom Willcockson available to sign

French Colonial Fort de Chartres,

A Journey in Time copies.

At the event:

  • A special site tour will be offered by former Fort de Chartres site supervisor, Darrell Duensing
  • Meet Dr. Margaret Kimball Brown, renowned Illinois historian
  • Eighteenth century refreshments will be available.

Show your support of this educational project by ordering your copy. Merci!

Order here-French Colonial Fort de Chartres, a Journey in Time


Les Amis du Fort de Chartres Seed to Loaf: Heritage Wheat Revival Project

The other active component of our heritage project is the Les Amis du Fort de Chartres Seed to Loaf: Heritage Wheat Revival Project. Our heritage wheat project celebrates the importance of the region’s rich French Colonial history of wheat cultivation. From collection and analysis of flotation samples, the grains of breadwheat (Triticum aestivum) from early eighteenth-century deposits at the Cahokia Wedge, represent the earliest records for this introduced grain crop in the Mississippi River Valley.  Historic records indicate spring wheat was extensively cultivated very early by the French in the Illinois Country and we have chosen the heritage wheat variety of Rouge de Bordeaux to be planted in our wheat plots. Through the successful crowdfund SeedMoney grant for the Fort’s Heritage Jardin Potager Project, this heritage wheat seed was purchased last November through one of the garden’s supporting organizations, Les Amis du Fort de Chartres.

Earlier this year, we received support and permission from the Village of Prairie du Rocher to create a point of interest location on the King’s Road, modern day IL Route 155, planting a small 10’ x 10’ wheat plot in Prairie du Rocher near the levee, on Village property. Two additional project plots are planted in the area, with one of the plots located within the Fort de Chartres’ jardin potager.  In January, the Fort de Chartres Heritage Garden successfully applied for additional heritage wheat project support through a mini grant offered by the University of Illinois Extension’s State Master Gardener Program.  We are collaborating with the Village of Prairie du Rocher, area Master Gardeners, and the University of Illinois Extension staff to demonstrate small wheat plot techniques and other educational opportunities and classes while maintaining these 10’ x 10’ village wheat plots, exploring our region’s wheat history and the modern relevancy of growing wheat in small plots. Thank you to the Prairie du Rocher Village Board of Trustees and Alicia Kallal, University of Illinois Extension’s Horticulture Extension Educator, for their support of this heritage wheat project.

Stay tuned as we announce updates and related demonstrations for our Seed to Loaf wheat project. We hope this heritage project will increase the region’s understanding of its rich cultural heritage of wheat cultivation and its importance in pre-statehood history, especially in this Illinois Bicentennial year.


Logo designs courtesy of Mitch Lopata of Lopata Design.