In the mid 1830s, there was much interest in the eastern part of St. Clair County as there was no town directly east of Belleville. Samuel Mitchell, Jr., who owned much of the land that is now Mascoutah, laid out a plat of land he called Enterprise, on ten acres of his land. He never filed the plat, but part of the land later was transferred from Tilghman H. West to Theodore J. Krafft.
August Conradi, Theodore Hilgard and Gustav Heimberger formed a partnership called Conradi and Company. They asked Krafft and John Flanagan to join them in the purchase of the Mitchell land in order to lay out a town and sell lots. The deed from Samuel Mitchell to the group was dated June 6, 1836, but due to the Panic of 1837, there were financial difficulties in meeting previous obligations. The “Plat of the Town of Mechanicsburg” was dated April 6, 1837 and recorded on May 16, 1837.
The residents of Engelmann Township had been dissatisfied with their mail delivery through Jefferson, a small settlement located on the Kaskaskia River near Fayetteville; the delivery was irregular since Jefferson was not on a regular mail route. They wanted the mail to be delivered from some place on the Shawneetown - St. Louis Trail that had regular delivery; Mascoutah was that place. F.B. Marshall put up a building on the southwest corner of State and Lebanon streets and moved his store and the post office from Jefferson to Mascoutah. That building still stands.
After mail delivery began, the postmaster was notified that the name of the city had to be changed as there already was a town in Illinois called Mechanicsburg. August Conradi spoke with John Hay, clerk of the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, who selected the name Mascoutah, after the Mascoutens, a well-known tribe of Indians originally located in Michigan. This group of Indians was part of the Illinois Indians, the subjects of a recent exhibit at the Mascoutah History Museum.
The Mascoutah History Museum has many displays of early life in Mascoutah. The original plat of Mascoutah in 1837 is on display, along with maps from various eras. Advertising items, pictures of early buildings, businesses, clothing, and church items, along with disasters and celebrations are also on display. Exhibits are changed regularly, so even if you have visited the museum before it is worth coming again.
The Historical Society continues to search for early Mascoutah items (maps, artifacts, advertisements, etc.). Historic pictures can be scanned and returned to the owner with no danger of being harmed. What you may consider “junk” may be just what the Historical Society is looking for! There are many, many things that are still around Mascoutah, in closets, trunks, sheds and basements that are interesting and representative of our small town that has been around for 175 years. If you have something you would like to donate, please call (618) 566-9774 and leave a message. You may also bring items to the Museum on Tuesday mornings.
Please visit mascoutahheritagemuseum.org for hours of operation and more details on this wonderful historical site.
For more history of Mascoutah, please visit the Mascoutah Heritage Museum at 306 West Main Street, (618) 566-9774.