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Fort Massac (or Fort Massiac) was a French colonial and early National-era fort on the Ohio River in Massac County, Illinois, United States.

Fort Massac State Park
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Log structure inside palisade fence
The 2002 reconstruction of the 1802 Fort Massac, with the Ohio River in the background. The original, 1757 French fort foundation impression, can be seen on the far right, beyond the trees.
Map showing the location of Fort Massac State Park
Map showing the location of Fort Massac State Park
Map of the U.S. state of Illinois showing the location of Fort Massac State Park
LocationMassac County, Illinois, USA
Nearest cityMetropolis, Illinois
Coordinates37°08′38″N 88°41′14″W / 37.14389°N 88.68722°W / 37.14389; -88.68722Coordinates: 37°08′38″N 88°41′14″W / 37.14389°N 88.68722°W / 37.14389; -88.68722
Area1,450 acres (587 ha)
Governing bodyIllinois Department of Natural Resources
Fort Massac Site
Fort Massac is located in Illinois
Fort Massac
Fort Massac is located in the United States
Fort Massac
Nearest cityMetropolis, Illinois
NRHP reference #71000293[1]
Added to NRHPJuly 14, 1971

Its site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.



The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his soldiers may have built a fort nearby as early as 1540. Maps from the early 18th century show an "Ancien Fort" ("Old Fort") near this location.[2]

Fort Massac foundation impression, photograph pre-1920.
The reconstructed Fort Massac facing the Ohio River shoreline in 2010

Fort Massac was built by the French in 1757, during the French and Indian War and was originally called "Fort de L’Ascension." The name was changed in 1759, to honor of Claud Louis d'Espinchal, Marquis de Massiac, the French Naval Minister.[3] Massiac is in the Cantal department, in France.

The French left the fort at the conclusion of the war, and it was destroyed by the Chickasaw sometime after 1763. In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, Colonel George Rogers Clark led his regiment of "Long Knives" into Illinois near the site of the fort at Massac Creek.[a] The fort was rebuilt in 1794, during the Northwest Indian War.[2]

In the fall of 1803, the Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped at Fort Massac on its way west, recruiting two volunteers.[4]

The Fort was repaired after being damaged in the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes, but it was decommissioned in 1814.[2]

State park and historic siteEdit

The Fort Massac site became the first Illinois state park in 1908. In the 1970s, a partial reconstruction of the 1794 U.S. Army fort was built, but in 2002, it was torn down, and a smaller but more detailed version fort as it appeared in 1802 was reconstructed.

Each fall, reenactors gather for the Fort Massac Encampment, which interprets life in the 18th century. A visitor center just north of the reconstruction includes a museum with Indian artifacts, mannequins in period clothing, and other exhibits that explain the history of the fort.[b]


  1. ^ Clark eventually captured all of Illinois Territory for the State of Virginia.
  2. ^ A scale model, built and donated by Mike Gaia of Paducah, KY, is displayed in the museum.


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ a b c "About Fort Massac State Park". Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  3. ^ Fort Massac State Park website Archived 2010-04-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Fort Massac Site: Lewis and Clark Expedition: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary". US National Park Service. Retrieved 25 December 2018.

Further readingEdit

  • Caldwell, N.W. "Fort Massac: The American Frontier Post: 1778-1805," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 1908
  • Rothert, Otto A. The Outlaws of Cave-In-Rock, Otto A. Rothert, Cleveland 1924; rpt. 1996 ISBN 0-8093-2034-7
  • Underwood, Thomas Taylor. Journal, Thomas Taylor Underwood, March 26, 1792 to March 18, 1800: an old soldier in Wayne's Army, Publisher Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Ohio, 1945

External linksEdit