By the time the early French arrived, the Mississippi had laid layer upon layer of rich silt on the land for decades. They copied the Indian way of planting corn in the spring, forgetting about it, and harvesting it in the fall. Since there was no need to till the soil, the populace had leisure time. Why the Indians did not build a great culture can be explained partially through the humid climate.
The American Bottom is humid and moist which produces a lassitude and inertia that hangs heavy over the valley. Consequently, creative work is to a large extent inhibited. Visitors to Prairie du Rocher who sleep in the bottoms often comment how difficult they find it to rise in the morning, and how this sluggishness increases with the heat of noon. Exhaustion from this languor is soon dispersed with as the visitor returns homeward. The climate is partially responsible for the preservation of many old interesting buildings; moreover, for the calmness, and peacefulness which is characteristic of its inhabitants.
Strangely enough the French settled at Prairie du Rocher before the Metchigamias Indians with whom we associate this area.
Illinois consisted of at this time five basic Indian tribes known as the “Illinois Confederacy”:
- The habitat of the Metchigamis was originally west of the Mississippi and they really became a part of the confederacy by adoption when they migrated to Prairie du Rocher between the years 1718—1723. They have impressed their name on the lake and state of Michigan.
- The habitat of the Kaskaskias was the region between Lake Michigan and Lake Peoria. They have impressed their name on the village and river of Kaskaskia and the mound in Clinton County.
- The habitat of the Peorias was the region of Lake Peoria. They have impressed their name on the lake and city of Peoria.
- The habitat of the Cahokias was the region of Cahokia and the American Bottom. They have impressed their name on the village, creek, and mound of Cahokia.
- The habitat of the Tammarois was the region of southeastern Illinois. They have impressed their name on the town of Tamaroa.
The Metchigamis were a small tribe of about one hundred. They have never made much of a name for themselves, for they were a peaceful languid people who were content with little, had no great ambitions and rather enjoyed having the French around.
History traces three small villages in the immediate area. Just as one comes into town on Route 155 from Ruma, there was a village at now where is a concrete bridge crossing a creek. There was a second village on the bluffs just south of town, and another to the west.