Jean Baptiste Choisser

of Kaskaskia and Gallatin County (1784-1860)

by Aubrey Starke


There is a hint of pride in the inscription on John Choisser's tombstone, - "Born in Kaskaskia." When John Choisser died in Saline County, Illinois, in 1860, Kaskaskia had long since ceased to be an important settlement of the Mississippi Valley, and its destruction by the Mississippi River had already been begun. But Kaskaskia had been an important town, a seat of culture and education, in comparison with which the villages of Gallatin and Saline Counties, in which John Choisser had passed his adult years, were drab and rude. The inscription, whether put on the tombstone at John Choisser's command or by children as proud as himself of their father's origin, is probably responsible for a curious legend about John Choisser that is glibly repeated today by many of his descendants. This is the claim that John Choisser was "the first white child born in Illinois". Too palpably untrue to dignify with refutation, the statement does raise doubts about other stories told of him; for traditions concerning an unhappy childhood, a return to Canada, and the operation of the salt works at Equality, have become garbled until they fit into no accepted historical pattern. The old French family Bible, which is remembered by his grandchildren, and which might have answered many questions about him, disappeared long ago.

Still, records are not wanting. In the Registre des Batêmes dans L'Eglise de Notre Dame L'Immaculée Conception aux Cascakias, preserved today casually and almost carelessly in the library of St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, is the record of his baptism, with other records concerning both his father and his mother. In the beautifully preserved records of the Church of St. Louis of France, the Old Cathedral of St. Louis, is the record of the marriage of his parents, with a full statement concerning the parentage of those parents. And in the monumental Dictionnaire Genealogique des Familles Canadiennes 2, of the Abbé Cyprien Tanguay, are the summaries of church records from Canada, by which the story of a family settled on Illinois soil almost two hundred years is extended another hundred years, to the foundations of New France, and to the establishment of European civilization on the North American continent.

    2.  Montreal, 1871-1890.

Table of Contents

Preface - An introduction by Bill Choisser
Introduction - Aubrey Starke's introduction to his work
Part I - A brief look backward
Part II - The ancestors in Montreal
Part III - The brothers Jean and Jean Baptiste Choisser
Part IV - Marianne La Buxiere and her ancestors
Part V - John Choisser and his family

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