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ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES


The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911

A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives


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DOCUMENT 27
PREEMPTION CLAIM OF ALPHONSO MONTUORY FOR THE CATHOLIC CONGREGATION AT LA SALLE
May 25, 1848




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Explanation

With the canal's completion in April, the trustees were anxious to capitalize on this success by selling adjacent canal lands made all the more valuable by the reality of the canal itself (see document 32). But many of these unsold parcels had been improved and preemption laws gave settlers the privilege of buying their land below market prices.

Father Montuory made a preemption claim for the Catholic congregation to lots 1 and 2 in block 99 of the town of La Salle. The land in question had first been improved in the spring of 1838 when Father Raho had come to establish a parish. Most of the area Irish canal laborers were dedicated Catholics and contributed generously to build a church. Contractors and canal supervisors gave as well because the church with its priests was the one moral authority most of the workers respected. Although many lacked knowledge of the subtleties of church doctrine or even the strictures of moral conduct, most considered themselves faithful and loyal Catholics. On more than one occasion a priest's intervention had prevented a riot of canal laborers. And their daily presence along the line had helped to lessen antagonisms between employees and employers (see document 11 and document 18). It was not uncommon for ethnic Italian Catholic priests to be sent to minister to Irish congregations when no Irish priests were available.

Points to Consider

Why was Alphonso Montuory making this statement?
Why had the Catholic Church established a parish at La Salle?
Was Father Montuory Irish? If not, why not?
What role did the Catholic Church play in the building of the I and M Canal?


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