Valles Mines, Missouri, U S A
Founded in 1749 by Francois Valle years before he became Commandante of the Fort of Sainte Genevieve and The King of Spain made him Don Francois Valle for saving their Fort San Carlos (now St. Louis).
270 years later as The Valle Mining Company, his 4000+ acre property every year absorbs 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide and puts out 14,000 tons of oxygen, enough to meet the needs of 63,000 people. [USDA Forest Facts]
Site Map

You Are Here:  Home : Our Historical Heritage : The Colonial Era

The Colonial Era

Valles Mines 1749

The Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of New France
See also: The Centre for French Colonial Life, "...the little known story of how in 1780 during the American Revolution, the British and their Native American allies attempted to take over Spanish-controlled St. Louis... They were stopped by American and Spanish-led forces, including 60 French Creole militiamen from Ste. Genevieve, who made up a significant part of the small force defending St. Louis..." [And a lot of lead from Valles Mines, courtesy of Francois Valle, Commandant of the Fort at Ste. Genevieve]
See also Defender of St. Louis

Marianne Billeron, the Mayor's Daughter

Francois Valle was born in Beauport, Quebec, Canada in 1716. His grandfather, Pierre LaVallee, a surgeon, had immigrated to Quebec in 1665 from St. Saens, Dist. of Rouens, France. Francois, son of Charles LaVallee, wanted to buy lead directly from the Indians who had discovered it on top of the ground in an area far to the South in what would later become known as the Louisiana Purchase. He came down the Mississippi River and took up residence in Kaskaskia, Illinois, a French settlement. Being familiar with commerce on the East Coast, he traded and sent lead back to New York and Philadelphia. Valle's lead was used by the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. Soon he was doing so well that he was able to marry the Mayor's daughter. And so Francois and Marianne Billeron Valle moved from Kaskaskia, due East across the Mississippi River to what would later bear their name, Valles Mines (in French that would mean "The mines of the Valles" or "the mines of the Valle Family"). As they say, the rest is history.

They lived in a log cabin built for them as a wedding present by her father Leonard Billeron who was at the time Mayor of Kaskaskia. This log cabin (14115 Valles Mines School Road) currently houses, some 259 years later and still in use, our "Lost History Museum".

Eventually, the gathering of lead from the surface gave way to digging and mining of lead below the ground. Early mines were very shallow. But European mining practices were advancing. It soon became obvious that there was more work to do than any one man could ever accomplish so Valle took to leasing land to others. A village grew up and then a town and soon Valles Mines was a population center.

War Party Indians were not what you wanted to see coming to your neighborhood.

The village of Kaskaskia was established by Jesuits in 1703 before there was a United States. Fort Kaskaskia was destroyed by the British in 1763, a fact that did not escape Valle's attention. Sainte Genevieve grew directly to the West of Kaskaskia across the Mississippi in the"Louisiana Territories", before there was a United States. When Valle eventually moved to Ste. Genevieve and became Commandant of its fort there in his old age, he had his chance for payback. Francois in 1780 saved his Spanish brothers and sisters in Saint Louis from being overrun and captured by the British and their Indian war parties as they had done to his father-in-law in Kaskaskia. This constituted one very brave act being outnumbered 3 to 1, for which the King of Spain made him a Don, a great honor. You can be sure the Indians thought twice about charging a garrison firing lead cannon balls instead of the British rocks and gravel.

The French 'Colonial Era' refers to the culture there in the 1700's and its connection all the way back to Europe. England, France, and Spain all wanted a piece of the New World and for good reason. And so the fighting began. Later Valles Mines would become part of the Louisiana Purchase under Jefferson (1803). Valles' Mines lies 30 miles west of Ste. Genevieve in the Lead Belt, founded and thriving well before St. Louis. The Mineral Area of Missouri may have passed out of its heyday but we have found residents of Valles Mines living as far away as Australia. If you know anything about the area or even if you don't, please stop by and add your 2 cents worth.

The French Colonial era uniquely defined the culture of the area for centuries. Thanks to the annual reenactments at Fort DeChartres in Illinois and the work of many dedicated reenactors, you can see for a few days an entire village reconstructed in historically accurate dress and habits from the Colonial Era. Maybe someday they will come to Valles Mines. The pictures shown above were donated by prize winning reenactors at Fort DuChartres, Prairie Durocher, Illinois and display the dress of the times with historical accuracy, all the way down to the Indian brave's facepaint.

Lost History Museum Exhibit:

Recent construction (1954) of Missouri Highway 67 through the Valle Mining Company property destroyed many original hand dug mines. One museum grade hand dug mine survived from that era, called 'The Rocky Digs'. Somehow it remains intact and open for spelunkers (guides available)

It lies on the hillside across the creek from Valle's original front door, a 10 minute walk from the Lost History Museum.

* VALLES' MINES started as Valle Mines when Francois Valle was single but in French when he married his name changed too. In English it goes like this: Just like the Jones' means belonging to the many Jones family members, so Valles' Mines came from The Valle Family's Mines or in the simpler French, Valles' Mines. Thank you, Rand McNally, for respecting the correct spelling on your maps.