Fort de Chartres—what’s left of it—where Franklin Meeks dwelled, is located 4 miles west of Prairie du Rocher, about an hour drive south of St. Louis.  Built by the French it was destroyed by the Mississippi River twice.  What’s left of the stone fort that now stands handed over to the British after the end of the French and Indian War, but the British abandoned the fort and moved their outpost further in to the Kaskaskia.  It’s a historical site now for travelers of the American Bottom, and in 1947 when David Threnody came to that crossroads to meet Franklin Meeks what he found was a man that lived on the trains—the railroad that passed through there—homeless, existing on campfires and beans and supplies gathered from his visits to nearby towns…  In 1913 the Illinois legislature authorized the purchase of the old stone fort site and the powder magazine was restored about 1917. In the 1920’s portions of the building and wall foundations were exposed, and in the 1930’s the Works Progress Administration reconstructed the gateway and two stone buildings. Today visitors will find a partially rebuilt eighteenth-century fort. The north wall contains bastions, a gatehouse, musket ports, embrasures for cannon, and the restored powder magazine. The King’s Storehouse is home to a museum, which uses items discovered during archaeological research near the fort, other artifacts, and exhibits to interpret life in Illinois during the colonial period. The East Barracks and the Government House have been outlined by wood frames, a technique called ghosting, to provide a sense of their original size and form.  And maybe that’s what Franklin Meeks was—a ghost.  He provided a sense of the original, his ancestors, the Native Americans that traded with the French and the British—seen in his face, like the wrinkles in his cheeks, the crow’s feet around his eyes—a stamp of that time, that history.  Those poor relations of the new world meeting the old, and the gold thought to be found…  Now it is celebrated.  In June of every year.  A Fort de Chartres Rendezvouz, based on the traditional French fur trapper’s rendezvouz where trappers and traders would meet at a predetermined location to trade furs for necessities.  And it just so happened that’s what David Threnody gave—the clothes off his back—or rather his hat.  That’s what Franklin Meeks wanted when David came to that river bottom looking for him.  David following the smoke.  To the form that awaited him there—a ghost—what David felt finding him.  No words first.  The eye contact brief.  Just Meeks motioning to the hat David was wearing as he sat in the smoke of fire built in the ditch of a levee near the railroad tracks.  A gesture that he wanted to try it on.  As a shield for his eyes from the sun if he was to look at this man coming to see him, if he was to see David Threnody and listen to what he wanted…

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