Rising approximately 130 feet above and washed
by the Illinois River at its base, Starved Rock is Illinois most famous
natural landmark. Consisting of St. Peter sandstone, it was
formed when melt waters from the Wisconsonian glacier flooded the
Illinois River Valley scouring out glacial deposits and bedrock.
The location of Starved Rock
is on the south bank of the Illinois River nearly opposite the town of
Utica, Illinois in LaSalle County. It is recognized as a unique
archaeological site because of its focal point in the human history of
the Illinois Valley.
The name "Starved Rock" dates to the
18th century and refers to the desperate plight of a band of Illinois
Indians who took refuge on the top the rock to escape a group of
Pottawatomie bent on revenge for the murder of Chief Pontiac in 1769.
Stranded on the rock and unable to secure provisions, the Illinois band
died of starvation. The site became know as Starved Rock from the
legend of that event. Regardless of whether the siege actually happened
or is rooted in myth, the top of Starved Rock (which is less than one
acre in size) has yielded literally hundreds of pounds of artifacts
ranging from the archaic through the historic periods.
Human occupation in close proximity to the
Rock extends to the earliest inhabitants of Illinois; namely, Paleoindian
hunters whose distinctive Clovis points have been found in the
immediate vicinity. Such evidence places humans here at roughly
13,000 years before present. The best known and most continuous
inhabitants of the area in early historic times were the Illiniwek
Indians. Kaskaskia was the name of the principle Illiniwek tribe
and according to the early Jesuit accounts of Father Marquette and
Louis Jolliet who first encountered them in 1673, estimated their
numbers between 1100-1200 individuals.
As other tribes later joined the Illiniwek,
their numbers grew upwards of 10,000 around 1680. The location of
the Grand Village of the Kaskaskia was unsettled for some time.
Francis Parkman believed the village was located immediately south of
where present-day Utica now stands. More research though, showed
the village lay across the river from Starved Rock extending east for
nearly three miles. Later known as the Zimmerman Site, the Illiniwek lived in long houses covered by mats and reeds.
1768, Rene-Robert Cavalier received a patent from King Louis XIV of
France giving him a monopoly in the trade of buffalo hides south of
Montreal. Later known as Sieur de LaSalle, he and his lieutenant
Henri de Tonti also had rights to build fort for the purpose of the
advancing French presence in the Mississippi Valley. Fort St.
Louis was completed on top of "Le Rocker" (The Rock) in 1683. It
became the center of the fur trade conducted by the French in alliance
with the Illiniwek against the Iroquois. A number of controlled
excavations have been conducted on the top of the Rock, the Zimmerman
Site and Plum Island. The State of Illinois and cooperating
universities have generated scientific reports which have greatly
enhanced our knowledge regarding the history of Starved Rock.
Published accounts and historical exhibits are available in the
visitor's center located in Starved Rock State Park.
Baldwin, Elmer. History of LaSalle County, Illinois, Chicago. Rand McNally and Company, 1877.
Bluhm, Elaine A. editor, 1963. The Plum
Island Site, LaSalle County, Illinois.
Reports on Illinois
Prehistory, #1 Springfield: Illinois State Museum.
Brown, James A., editor, 1961. The Zimmerman Site:
A report on excavations at the Grand
Village of the Kaskaskia,
LaSalle County, Illinois. Reports of Investigations, No.
Hagen R.S. 1956. Starved Rock: An
Illinois Time Capsule. Outdoors in Illinois, Volume 3, No.
Illinois Department of
Conservation, Springfield, Il.
Hall, Robert, 1988. The Archaeology of LaSalle's
Fort St. Louis on Starved Rock and the problem
of the "Newell Fort."
Department of Archaeology, University of Illinois, Chicago, Il.
Parkman, Francis. 1980. LaSalle and the
Discovery of the Great West. Corner house Publishers,
Reprinted from the edition of 1897.
Zmudka, Tom, 1987. Starved Rock Clovis.
Central States Archaeological Journal, Volume 34,
#1, January, 1987.