The Colonial Era - Welcome to New France
Valles Mines 1749
Note: In 1749 Valles Mines and the French territories (see map below, in blue) were considered
Under this system, all men were subjects of the King of France. National citizenship did not
exist in France, or New France, or Valles Mines at that time.
The Ancien Régime or "old order" refers to the social and political order that existed in France
from the late Middle Ages until the French Revolution in 1789.
- 1337: The Hundred Years' War begins.
- 1347: The Black Death kills a lot of Europe.
- 1439: Gutenberg invents the printing press.
- 1492: Columbus sails to the New World.
"Noblesse Oblige" was supposed to be the code of
the well-to-do French Catholics to reach salvation. Until
The Estates-General of 1789 and the Reign Of
Terror when Madame Guillotine came down on a lot of people.
What was wrong with the estate system in France? Although the 1st and the 2nd Estate members did not
pay taxes, they nevertheless reaped all of the benefits of a tax-paying country. This tax exemption became a
major cause of the extreme inequality between these estates and the 3rd Estate. The 3rd Estate comprised the
rest of France's population.
Why did the guillotine appeal to revolutionaries?Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, an anatomy professor from a Paris
medical school, first advocated the device as a more humane means of execution that would cause little to no pain.
Whereas previously executions varied based on the individual, the guillotine reflected the new French ideals of
equality for all persons.
Note: French involvement in the American Revolutionary War of 1775–1783
began in 1776 when the
Kingdom of France secretly shipped supplies to Gen. George Washington and the
...Secretly approached by Louis XVI and France's foreign minister, the comte de Vergennes, Pierre Beaumarchais
was authorized to sell gunpowder and ammunition to the Americans for close to a million pounds under the veil of the
French company Rodrigue Hortalez et Compagnie. The aid given by France, much of which passed through the neutral
Dutch West Indies port of Sint Eustatius, contributed to George Washington's survival against the British
onslaught in 1776 and 1777.
Pioneer women had a lonely lot, not without danger. Calling 911 would not happen for 200
years in the future.
Marianne Billeron, the Mayor of Kaskaskia's Daughter, Marries Francois Valle
Francois Valle was born in Beauport, Quebec,
Canada in 1716. His
grandfather, Pierre LaVallee, a surgeon, had immigrated to Quebec in 1665 from St. Saens, Dist. of Rouens,
France. Francois, son of Charles LaVallee, wanted to buy lead directly from the Indians who had
discovered it on top of the ground in an area far to the South near a French settlement called
Kaskaskia, a French settlement about halfway between Quebec and New Orleans in New France.
He came down the Mississippi River and took up residence in Kaskaskia and being familiar with
commerce on the East Coast, he traded and sent lead back to New York and Philadelphia. Valle's
lead was used by the Continental Army
in the Revolutionary War. Soon he was doing so well that he was able to marry the Mayor's daughter.
And so Francois and Marianne Billeron Valle moved from Kaskaskia, due East across the Mississippi
River to what would later bear their name, Valles Mines (in French that would mean "The mines of
the Valles" or "the mines of the Valle Family").
They lived in a log cabin built for them as a wedding present by her father Leonard Billeron. This log
cabin (14115 Valles Mines School Road) currently houses, some 259 years later and continually
in use, our Lost History Museum.
Eventually, the gathering of exposed lead from the surface of the ground
gave way to digging and mining of lead below the ground. Early mines were very shallow.
But European mining practices were advancing. It soon became obvious that there
was more work to do than any one man could ever accomplish so Valle took to leasing
land to others. A village grew up and then a town and soon Valles Mines was a population
War Party Indians were not what you wanted to see coming to your neighborhood.
The village of
Kaskaskia was established by Jesuits in 1703 before there was a United
States. At the end of the French And Indians War in 1763, the French Fort Kaskaskia was destroyed
by the British, a fact that did not escape Valle's attention. The British had won the war effectively and
taken the lands on the east side of the Mississippi. They were also winning in Europe.
"Having lost Canada, King Louis XV of France proposed to King Charles III of Spain that France should
give Spain "the country known as Louisiana, as well as New Orleans and the island in which the city is
situated." Louis proposed the cession on November 13 and Charles accepted on November 23, 1762."
The Treaty Of Fountainebleau
The British Navy had adopted the
latest techology of the day, John Harrison's "H4", the super-accurate Marine Chronometer which allowed
their Navy's ships to arrive within 1 mile of their plotted destination anywhere in the world.
And they were not about to share it.
Meanwhile back in New France, Sainte Genevieve, founded in 1735 and almost directly to the west of
Kaskaskia across the Mississippi in what would someday become Illinois, had grown into a French
cultural center. It connected to Valles Mines by the French Village Road,[now Y-Highway].
Fears rose that New France would be colonized by the English as they had begun in
Canada. By the time he was 63 Francois Valle had moved to Ste. Genevieve where he had become Commandant
of its fort and militia and he saw his chance for payback for Fort Kaskaskia. Francois in 1780
saved his Spanish brothers and sisters in [what would be later] Saint Louis from being overrun and captured by the British and their
Indian war parties as they had done to his father-in-law in Kaskaskia. This constituted
one very brave act being outnumbered 3 to 1, for which
King Charles of Spain decreed Francois Valle a Don, a great honor. You can be sure the
Indians thought twice about charging a garrison firing lead cannon balls instead of the British
rocks and gravel.
[The French 'Colonial Era' refers to the culture there in the 1700's and its connection all the way
back to Europe. England, France, and Spain all wanted a piece of the New World and for good reason.
And so the fighting began. Later Valles Mines would become part of the
Louisiana Purchase under Jefferson (1803). Valles' Mines lies 30 miles west of Ste.
Genevieve in the Lead Belt, founded and thriving well before
St. Louis. The Mineral Area of Missouri may have passed out of its heyday but we
have found residents of Valles Mines living as far away as Australia. If you know
anything about the area or even if you don't, please stop by and add your 2 cents
The French Colonial era uniquely defined the culture of the area for centuries. Thanks
to the annual reenactments at Fort DeChartres in Illinois and the work of many dedicated
reenactors, you can see for a few
days an entire village reconstructed in historically accurate
dress and habits from the Colonial Era.
Maybe someday they will come to Valles Mines.
The pictures shown above were donated by prize winning reenactors
at Fort DuChartres, Prairie Durocher, Illinois
and display the dress of the times with historical accuracy, all the way down
to the Indian brave's facepaint.
Lost History Museum Exhibit:
Recent construction (1954) of Missouri Highway 67 through the Valle Mining Company
property destroyed many original hand dug mines. One museum grade hand dug mine survived
from that era, called 'The Rocky Digs'. Somehow it remains intact and
open for spelunkers (guides available). It lies on the hillside across the creek from
Valle's original front door, a 10 minute walk from the Lost History Museum.