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Land Commissioners of the Commons of Kaskaskia - RG 363 | Illinois State Archives

Name: Land Commissioners of the Commons of Kaskaskia - RG 363
Variant Name: President and Trustees of the Commons of Kaskaskia

Historical Note:

On August 14, 1743 the French government issued a patent to the inhabitants of Kaskaskia for a commons which first had been granted to them ca. 1720. (Patent recorded in TRANSCRIPTS OF DOCUMENTS COLLECTED BY THE BOARD, RS 952.004, Vol. A, pp. 343-344.) The rights of the Kaskaskia inhabitants subsequently were confirmed by the British in 1763 and by the U.S. Congress in 1810. The congressional confirmation was based on a recommendation submitted in 1809 by the Board of Commissioners created to review claims at the Kaskaskia Land District Office.

When Illinois was admitted to the Union its first constitution similarly confirmed the grant and also prohibited the lease, sale, or division of the commons in any manner. The Constitution of 1848 reversed this stand, however, allowing it to be leased, sold, or divided when requested by a petition of a majority of the qualified voters interested in the commons.

In 1851 the General Assembly created a corporation called the President and Trustees of the Commons of Kaskaskia which was composed of five citizens of the village elected biennially by its inhabitants (Priv. L. 1851, p. 5). The corporation was to survey and divide the commons, record the plat of such survey, and lease the lots at public auction for a period not to exceed fifty years. Proceeds of the leases were to be applied toward the education of the children of Kaskaskia, including the erection or purchase of one or two buildings for schools, the employment of teachers, and the establishment of a library for the schools.

Surveys of the commons were conducted in 1855, 1867, 1889, 1890, and 1901 respectively; and the land surveyed under each was subsequently leased. In 1905 when the fifty-year leases made on the lots surveyed in 1855 expired the President and Trustees of the Commons of Kaskaskia made several controversial decisions regarding the methods of re-leasing the lots. A suit was brought in the Illinois Supreme Court in 1909 charging fraud and collusion between the trustees and the residents of the village in making the re-leases as well as charging misappropriation of funds (Stead v. Commons of Kaskaskia, 243 Ill. 239). The court upheld the charges and determined that the power to authorize a sale of land rested with the State of Illinois.

As a result an act passed in 1909 instructed the Governor to appoint three Land Commissioners of the Commons of Kaskaskia to sell the commons and create a permanent school fund for the inhabitants of Kaskaskia from the proceeds of the sales (L. 1909, p. 425). The land commissioners were to take possession of all records and real and personal property relating to the commons from the president and trustees of the commons and were to have the area resurveyed and platted. They were then to appraise the lands and file a certified copy of the appraisals and plats with the Auditor of Public Accounts, along with a list of lessees and persons in possession of said lots and a brief description of the leases.

Lessees were allowed preemption rights for the purchase of the lots; if not sold to the lessees, the lots then were to be sold at public auction. The Commissioners also were to lease unleased and unsold lots and collect rent thereon. When the sales were completed and all work finished in January 1913, the commissioners made a final report to the Governor and turned over all proceeds to the State Treasurer to be kept in the separate Kaskaskia Commons Permanent School Fund. All notes, mortgages, securities, plats, and other records were turned over to the Auditor of Public Accounts.

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