I love finding history nearby, and Center Park is along East Lake Drive at Springfield, Illinois’ southern edge. Here you will find some ancient history. This history is the Edwards Trace, an ancient trail little known and little documented. Yet in this park near a picnic area is a sign. This sign reminds us that this trail is part of our heritage. If you look hard enough you can even see the impression of the bed of the trail in the green grass!
Along Lake Shore Drive there is a historical marker documenting Edwards Trace and the sign and location of the depression where the trail can be seen.
What is the Edwards Trace?
Trace is another word for trail. Edwards Trace which was first known as “the old Indian Trail” is a very old trail. It dates to before the time when Native Americans lived in Central Illinois. Herds of bison and other large mammals created the trail, then later, Native Americans followed the trail when the animals migrated. They used the trail to hunt, trade and according to the Mythic Mississippi Project event to wage war.
History along Edwards Trace
It is fascinating to learn that Edwards Trace was later used by European and American settlers as they came to central Illinois. Historian Robert Mazrim documented a Jesuit Priest using the Trace as early as 1711.
The Edwards Trace in Illinois ran from Kaskaskia to French Cahokia. There is a lot of wonderful French history in the Cahokia area to visit and tour!
David Brady discoveries
Dave Brady, a classmate of my husband Keith from Divernon was a primary researcher in Edwards Trace. According to an article in the Sangamo Link, ” “David Brady has found, the trace went through the present-day areas of Cahokia, Edwardsville, Springfield, and Elkhart before swinging northwestward to Peoria.”
It is pretty cool to actually know someone that has made such a significant discovery.
The name came from a famous Springfield citizen with ties to Abraham Lincoln. Edwards Trace is named after Ninian Edwards , who later became Illinois’s 3rd Governor. Edwards led 350 rangers against the Kickapoo Tribe, following the trail to Peoria. This battle was in retaliation for a massacre carried out by the Kickapoo. During the battle, the village was burned and two dozen warriors were killed in the battle.
The Trace today
As more settlers came to the area the Trace got more traffic. One YouTube video offers a great documentation of the story. In 1821 the narrator even says the Trace gained the name of the St. Louis Road. Later when traffic patterns changed, the Trace was no longer widely used.
Over the years though, because it was so heavily used, parts of the trace became worn down. Today some of those depressions remain visible. This depression at Center Park is an example of what is left of Edwards Trace today. Other areas of the Trace have been plowed under and some may lie below Lake Springfield.
But I wanted to point out the importance of this once great trail. Let me know if you have more to add!