Kaskaskia (kăskăsˈkēə) [key], small village, Randolph co., SE Ill., on Kaskaskia island in the Mississippi River where it is joined by the Kaskaskia River. The settlement was established (1703) by Jesuit missionaries and named for a local Native American group of the Illinois. The French built a fort there in 1721, which was destroyed when Kaskaskia was taken over (1763) by the British. During the American Revolution, George Rogers Clark took (1778) U.S. possession of the village. It thrived as the capital of Illinois Territory (1809–18) and state capital (1818–20); the first Illinois newspaper started there in 1814. The community declined after the capital was shifted (1820) to Vandalia; flooding from the Mississippi in the late 19th cent. further discouraged growth. Fort Kaskaskia State Park was set aside in 1927 across the Mississippi River near Chester, Ill.
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