Visitors Guide to the
Kaskaskia Bell
State Historic Site

Kaskaskia, Illinois
618-859-3031

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Called the Liberty Bell of the West, the Kaskaskia Bell is older than the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Kaskaskia was the center of French colonial administration for the Middle Mississippi River Valley during the 18th century and the 650-pound bell was a gift to The Mission of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and the town's citizens from King Louis XV of France. The bell was cast in La Rochelle, France in 1741 and inscribed with the words: POUR LEGLISE DES ILLINOIS PAR LES SOINS DU ROI D’OUTRE L’EAU (For the Church of the Illinois, by gift of the King across the water). On one side of the bell are the royal lilies of France and the other side features a cross and a pedestal with the fleur de lis. The bell was shipped from France to New Orleans and then pulled up the Mississippi River by ropes on a bateau, arriving in 1743. On July 4, 1778, during the American Revolution, the bell was rung to celebrate the liberation of Kaskaskia from the British by the American forces of George Rogers Clark and his Long Knives.

The bell is currently housed in a brick building built by the State of Illinois in 1948. At one time visitors could enter the shrine and actually touch the bell and hear its soft peal but now it can only be viewed by looking through a barred doorway. A brief audio program has recently been added giving visitors a history of the bell. During the flood of 1973, the bell was washed from its stand, widening a hairline crack that had been discovered in 1948. In spite of the crack, the bell continued to be rung every 4th of July. The bell was washed from the stand a second time during the flood of 1993, widening the crack to a dangerous width and now can no longer be rung for fear of further damage, though Independence Day ceremonies are still conducted at the site. Behind the bell is a wall mural depicting the village of Kaskaskia as it was during colonial times. Adjacent to the building is the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

 
Visiting the Kaskaskia Bell State Historic Site

     Visiting Hours
          Memorial Day Weekend - Labor Day Weekend
               Open Daily: 9 am to 4 pm
          Off Peak Hours
               Wednesday - Sunday: 9 am to 4 pm
          Closed on major holidays
     Note: The doors will be locked. A button by the door needs to be pressed to open them.
There is no charge to visit the Kaskaskia Bell State Historic Site


Directions: The Kaskaskia Bell is located on Kaskaskia Island, one of only two parts of Illinois that is west of the Mississippi River. To reach the Kaskaskia Bell, take MO-61 to St. Mary, Missouri, located south of Sainte Genevieve to County Road U (near the grain elevator) and follow the signs to Kaskaskia.

GPS Coordinates
N  37°  55.303'
W 89°  54.867'

Learn more about the Kaskaskia area.

 
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