Dennis Stroughmatt presentation at Schweinfurth Museum at the Historical Village

January 8, 2020

Beginning in 1699 with the building of villages such as Cahokia and Kaskaskia along the Mississippi River, French colonists from western France and Québec would intermarry with the Native populations of what are now Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana, developing a Creole culture that remains distinct from its cousins in Louisiana and Canada even today. This early Illinois population grew during the 18th century, giving the landscape of the Illinois County a decidedly French character. It would eventually leave its legacy not only in town names and landmarks, but also though songs, language, stories, food, and even the first lieutenant governor of Illinois, Pierre Menard.

By way of 300-hundred-year-old traditions such as the annual “La Guillannee” French New Year celebration, this presentation by musician and cultural historian Dennis Stroughmatt will take listeners on a fascinating trip through the Illinois Country. Stroughmatt will highlight the enduring French identity of historic Illinois communities such as Prairie du Rocher and Cahokia through long-told folktales, haunting ballads, and foot-stomping fiddle tunes.

About the presenter:
Fiddler, singer, cultural historian, and southeastern Illinois native Dennis Stroughmatt became acquainted with the historically French Creole community of Old Mines, Missouri, as a student and learned the community’s music and folklore from its tradition bearers. He is now recognized as one of the foremost experts on French Creole culture of North America, especially that of the Illinois Country or Upper Louisiana (encompassing much of present-day Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana). He has made numerous recordings, received awards from national cultural institutions, travels extensively throughout the country as both a musical performer and an educational speaker, and teaches at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges. The sponsor for this program is Peoples National Bank.

This program is provided free of charge, donations are appreciated. The Jefferson County Historical Village is located at 1411 North 27th Street in Mt. Vernon. For more information contact the Historical Society office at (618) 246-0033.