HISTORY OF DUPO
Dupo is an interesting mélange of culture – prehistoric Native American, French, German, and modern American. Paleo Archiac Native Americans lived
in this resource rich area as far back as 8,000 B.C.E. The Mississippian Native Americans developed the resources of this valley from C.E. 850 to C.E.
1500 only to disapperar until archeologists uncovered their huge complex. In turn, the Illinois or Illiniwek natives from the Tamoroa, Michigamea,
Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Peoria, and Moingwena tribes lived in the area when the French arrived. Each culture overlaid the previous ones, but the bottom
layers slowly seeped through to influence the ones on top.
While French Europeans settled in the area shortly after the founding of Cahokia in 1699, a definite
community of about fourteen families formed in the Prairie du Pont region in the 1760s to be closer to their farmlands. The French had a log bridge over
the Cahokia Creek between the Cahokia and Prairie du Pont settlements, which gave the settlement its name – prairie across the bridge. The settlers
incorporated into a school district but never incorporated as a town. In the 1800s the settlement had fifty people, a mill and a store. The specific area
known as Prairie du Pont is still between the railroad tracks and the canal bridge and is home to the oldest know house in Illinois – the Boismenue
St. Clair County was formed in 1790 with Cahokia as the first county seat. Later the seat moved to Belleville for its central and
permanently dry location.
The town of East Carondelet also had early French development. When the flood of 1844 cut off Cahokia from the river,
East Carondelet became a busy ferry town and industrial center by the 1850s. Once called Morganville and Henryville, the town was renamed East
Carondelet because it was opposite the town of Carondelet just across the river. East Carondelet was incorporated in 1872. The ferries lasted until
Jefferson Barracks Bridge was built in 1944.
The small town known as Bixby developed in 1905 in response to the incorporation of the St. Louis Valley Railroad, which ran through the town.
In 1903 the St. Louis Iron Mountain Railroad Company bought all of the property of the St. Louis Valley Railroad. Later, Missouri Pacific, owned
by Jay Gould, added the Iron Mountain Railroad to its corporation and its employees lived between Bixby and the Prairie du Pont region. When
the Bixby area became too small, the company decided to build a larger complex and opened its new facility in 1910 on land once owned by the
Beckers, the Adamses, the Thielemanns, the Lindemans, and others. The town of Dupo was laid out in 1905 and grew from a small settlement as
Missouri Pacific shifted its operations there. Dupo was incorporated in September of 1907. Several people moved their houses, and Phelps moved
his grocery store from Bixby to Prairie du Pont. When the railroad wanted a shorter name, Lous Dryoff shortened Prairie du Pont to Dupo. When
Dr. Barney Marxer “walked from East Carondelet to Dupo passing under the ‘hump’ and seeing the roadhouse, power house, many locomotives
and cars running over the hump like tumblebugs, “[he commented] “I received my first impression of Dupo, the ‘beehive of St. Clair County.’”
The first post office and school district were established in 1906. The first elementary school was opened in 1907 but burned. It was replaced by the
older of the two halves of Dupo Grade School. The first church was the First Congregational U.C.C. formed in 1909. The Farmers Fountain Telephone
was founded in 1909, and the Village Hall was built in 1910. The Dupo State Savings Bank opened in 1913. The Dupo Y.M.C.A., built with money
donated by Miss Helen Gould, opened in 1906 under the direct supervision of the railroad, and Dupo’s town life focused on its activities. Different
businesses opened and closed over the years as the town and railroad grew. Many of Dupo’s businesses tried to retain some of the old ambience of
Dupo’s early days.
Dupo has survived many floods – 1993, 1973, 1947, and 1943, as everyone pitched in to build dams or to reinforce levees. The community spirit seems
to shift to a higher level when a catastrophe hits. Hough Grade School, united the three communities as the students then attended Dupo High School.
With its choral and band concerts, with its plays, with its school picnic days, with the Jr. ROTC, and with its many other activities, District #196 was a
stabilizing force to the whole community. Today, the street scene is quite different from the excitement of those early years. People have visions of a
renaissance, which can get Dupo back on track. Across the country, the new trend of redevelopment is rebuilding old towns while retaining a small town
atmosphere. We already are blessed with that friendly small-town feeling, and if we all become involved, we can welcome the challenges of the next
– D.S. Raker
– J.B. Spasovich