Edwards Trace

Edwards Trace: The trace (trail) dates to even before the first Native Americans inhabited this area. Herds of bison and other large mammals created the trail.

In 2019  landscape architect Layne Knoche learned from a farmer near Gillespie about a pond on his land – which he called “buffalo pond” and which has always been known as “buffalo pond” in his family across generations.  Layne’s field verification showed that the pond is on the alignment of Edwards Trace. Indeed, there are several low-lying ponds which would have been significant sources of fresh water for buffalo and thus important for Native Americans’ camp sites. It remains for archaeologists to do the subsurface reconnaissance that could well reveal Indigenous occupations. Happily, the farmer is so excited about the potential importance of his land to Illinois history that he wants to preserve the area. 

When Native Americans peopled this area they followed the seasonal migration of the herds and used the trace for hunting as well as trading and waging war.

Although one speaks about “Edwards Trace” there actual were many trails.

   Snow fills the depression that is a remnant of Edwards Trace outside Springfield.

Edwards Trace was important in aboriginal times in Illinois (see menu tab under “Native American”). It also was important to the early European settlers in the state, for instance as seen on this 1823 map.
Archaeologist Robert Mazrim’s research found that European-American settlers in the Springfield area used the trail frequently, both the Anglos and the French — the latter as early as 1711.

The best documented section of Edwards Trace ran from Kaskaskia to French Cahokia. When the French arrived they began to travel along the trace, which was an alternative to the waterways. The French were followed by the early American colonists who also used it.

Edwards Trace is named after Ninian Edwards who led 350 rangers against the Kickapoo Tribe, following the trail to Peoria. We recommend this 2003 article for those interested in the role of the trace in settler-Indian conflict: https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/trace-evidence/Content?oid=912310