Valles Mines, Missouri, U S A
Founded in 1749 by Francois Valle in the French Upper Louisiana before Lewis and Clark. 275 years later the Valle Mining Company's 4000+ acre property every year absorbs 21,000 tons of carbon dioxide and generates
14,000 tons of oxygen, enough to meet the needs of 63,000 people. [USDA Forest Facts]
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Marianne Billeron, Daughter of the Mayor of Kaskaskia, Marries Francois Valle

Pioneer women had a lonely lot, not without danger. Calling 911 would not happen for 200 years.

Pioneer women had a lonely lot, not without danger. Calling 911 would not happen 
                for 200 years into the future.

Francois Valle, son of Charles LaVallee, 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 had heard in Haute-Louisiane the Indians had discovered lead on top of the ground and he wanted to buy it directly from them. But it was in an area far, far to the South near a French settlement called Kaskaskia, in the "Illinois Country" (about halfway between Quebec and New Orleans) in the "Upper Louisiana" or what he would have called the "Haute-Louisiane" in Nouvelle-France (New France).

So he came down the Mississippi River and took up residence in Kaskaskia and being familiar with commerce on the East Coast, traded and sent lead back to New York and Philadelphia. Valle's lead was used by the Continental Army in the American 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 west 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").

They lived in a log cabin built for them as a wedding present by her father Leonard Billeron. This log cabin (now 14115 Valles Mines School Road) currently houses centuries later and continually in use, our Lost History Museum. The rear of the house was added 124 years ago.

Eventually, gathering lead found poking out of the ground gave way to digging deeper, shallow mining close to the surface but perhaps 6 feet deep. The early mines that Valle operated were very shallow but eventually European deeper-mining practices would prove essential because the cave system holding the ores, got broken into segments by major earthquakes a hundred centuries before. Mining this cave segment at 20 feet deep, because of the slanting, became the next mining cave at 30 feet deep right next to it, as pictured in Principles of Mining 1907's "FIG. 7.". It soon became obvious that mining required more work than any one man could ever accomplish so Valle took to leasing the land to others. A village grew up and then a town and soon Valles Mines became a population center. Marianne and Francois now took up residence in Sainte Genevieve, 37 miles away and full of French culture, into their later years.

Meanwhile, a triangle of French civilization had grown up nearby made up of French Village, Valles Mines and Sainte Genevieve. To this day, Y-Highway connects Valles Mines to French Village which connects to Sainte Genevieve which connects to the Mississippi River. Lead was hauled from the Mines by ox-cart back then, over the Plank Road and the Selma Trail which goes across the Mining Company property near the Garotte Mine. By then trucks were common but the haul road went over the dam on the Upper Lake a hundred years later as mining practices could go deeper and deeper, with shafts reaching 100 feet.

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

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. At the end of the French And Indians War in 1763, the French Fort Kaskaskia was destroyed by the British, a fact that did not escape Valle's attention. The British had won the war effectively and taken the lands on the east side of the Mississippi. They were also winning in Europe.

"Having lost Canada, King Louis XV of France proposed to King Charles III of Spain that France should give Spain "the country known as Louisiana, as well as New Orleans and the island in which the city is situated."[1] Louis proposed the cession on November 13 and Charles accepted on November 23, 1762." See The Treaty Of Fountainebleau

The British Navy had adopted the latest techology of the day, John Harrison's "H4", the super-accurate Marine Chronometer which allowed their Navy's ships to arrive within 1 mile of their plotted destination anywhere in the world. And they were not about to share it. Meanwhile back in New France, Sainte Genevieve, founded in 1735 and almost directly to the west of Kaskaskia across the Mississippi in what would someday become Illinois, had grown into a French cultural center. It connected to Valles Mines by the French Village Road,[now Y-Highway]. Fears rose that New France would be colonized by the English as they had begun in Canada. By the time he was 63 Francois Valle had moved to Ste. Genevieve where he had become Commandant of its fort and militia and he saw his chance for payback for Fort Kaskaskia. Francois in 1780 saved his Spanish brothers and sisters in [what would be later] 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 King Charles of Spain decreed Francois Valle 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.