Riders see trail through eyes of history - Republic-Times | News

Riders see trail through eyes of history

By on September 14, 2016 at 1:28 pm
Buddy Allscheid leads the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail ride Saturday outside of the Bellefontaine House in Waterloo.

Buddy Allscheid leads the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail ride Saturday outside of the Bellefontaine House in Waterloo. For more photos from the ride, click here. (Alan Dooley photos)

Hundreds of years ago, pioneers used the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail to travel with mule-hitched wagons from Kaskaskia to Cahokia.

The trail today travels north about 60 miles from the Lock & Dam in Modoc to Cahokia, passing Fort de Chartres in Prairie du Rocher and narrowly missing Fults. It then heads up to Waterloo where it hits major attractions such as the Bellefontaine House and Peterstown House, eventually making its way to North Main Street in Columbia where it continues through Dupo and ends at the historic Old Cahokia Courthouse.

The trail ultimately runs through Randolph, Monroe and St. Clair counties.

A trip that would take little more than an hour with modern transportation took days for travelers in the 1600s and 1700s. Those travelers included ancestors of Monroe County residents such as Dave Lehr of Columbia, Kevin Hirsch of Fults and Buddy Allscheid of Waterloo, who jumped at the opportunity to relive history.

Dave Lehr’s wagon makes its way down Lemen Road near Burksville on the way to the Wm. Nobbe & Co. John Deere dealership. (Alan Dooley photos)

Dave Lehr’s wagon makes its way down Lemen Road near Burksville on the way to the Wm. Nobbe & Co. John Deere dealership. For more photos, click here.

These three joined several others in venturing the old-fashioned way up the trail Friday for a three-day trip. In fact, Allscheid, Lehr and Hirsch each led mule-hitched wagons down the path.

“I think (one) important thing to take away from this is the significance of the mules,” Hirsch said. “It’s a false narrative that the horses did all the work back then.”

Hirsch added that using mules tended to be more advantageous to the pioneers because of their stamina and strength.

The 20 or so riders, who referred to themselves as the Friends of the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail, relived history in many other ways, including imagining the impact their ancestors had on the area.

“The biggest image that will remain in my mind was never photographed,” Hirsch said. “When we were at the Bellefontaine House, we could look back and see our tracks. It’s not hard to think back about how my grandparents or great-grandparents could have made those same tracks back then.”

Other enjoyable moments included stopping at the Bellefontaine House to see a group of kindergartners and first graders eager for a history lesson. Lehr counted that as one of his favorite parts of the trip, saying the kids asked a lot of questions about the mules.

“I really enjoyed when the kids got interested in it,” he said. “I believe the younger generation (needs to be a part of this)…>>>

Read the rest of this story in the September 14 issue of the Republic-Times. If you don’t already receive the paper, you can subscribe by calling 939-3814 or clicking here, or pick up a copy at any of these locations.


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Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years. email:sean@republictimes.net