The beginning of the history of Florissant is generally accounted to be coincident with the founding of the first Church about 1793 which was also called St. Ferdinand. The oldest record found for the church as of the turn of the century was a baptism dated August 4 1792.
The first Creelys to arrive were former residents of Kaskaskia, the French trading settlement further south on the east side of the Mississippi river. In 1794 Jean Baptiste Crélis (Creely) owned an entire square block of the village. His property was bounded by the Rues St. Denis, St. Pierre, St. Louis, and St. Jean Baptiste. He moved his family to Florissant where he died in 1833.
He was apparently the first of the name to settle in Florissant and the numerous residents in and around the town who bear the name are descended from him. He married Elizabeth Bienvenue Dit Delisle and records of baptism of their numerous offspring are scattered through the Kaskaskia, St. Louis, and Florissant parish registers. His daughter Elizabeth was married in 1799 to Pierre Paillant (Payant, Piant) Dit St. Onge in St. Ferdinand church. On February 4, 1812 two more of his children were married on the same day. A son, François, married Josette Laurin (Lorian, Loraine) and a daughter, Julie Crélis, married John James.
A younger son, Michel Crélis, who was born in 1802, married Angelique Ouimet, daughter of Amable Ouimet and Marie Anne Degerlais, on August 20, 1821. Michels son Samuel, born in 1840, is the writers great grandfather.
The original village was laid out on the right bank of the Rio Fernando (Cold Water Creek) in at least sixteen blocks, which in most cases, were three hundred twenty feet square. The streets were at right angles to each other but ran diagonally to the points of the compass. All the streets in the original survey were named for Catholic Saints. From the creek eastward the north and south streets were named Rue St. Charles, Rue St. Ferdinand, Rue St. Pierre, Rue St. Jean Baptiste, and Rue St. Jacques. Beginning at the north the east and west streets were in succession Rue St. Antoine, Rue St. Denis, Rue St. Louis, Rue St. François, and Rue St. Catherine.
In block twenty seven bounded by the Rues St. François, St. Catherine, St. Jean. and St. Jacques, was a spring known to the first inhabitants as Fontaine des Biches (Elks Spring), also as Fontaine Jaune (Yellow Spring). According to tradition the first settlers built a stockade around the spring to protect themselves from Indian attacks. The danger from Indians continued to be real until well into the nineteenth century. On August 25, 1793 the wife and son of Antoine Rivieré, the village blacksmith, were massacred by Indians in the vicinity of the village. The details of this incident were recorded in an interview in 1892 with Judge Samuel James who was a relative of Elizabeth Crélis. She witnessed the massacre.
The Judge begins:
"My aunts name was Creely. She afterward married John Piant. Her fathers name was Baptiste Creely. They lived across the street from here. My Aunt and Mrs. Riviere who lived nearby were out north of town picking plums when this Indian came along. Mrs. Riviere had a baby and had laid it down while she was gathering the plums. She and my aunt ran and hid in some bushes. The Indian came along and finding the baby tomahawked it. When Mrs. Riviere saw him kill the baby she cried out and the Indian hearing her ran to her and tomahawked her. My aunt lay still and he did not find her.
Well, the Indian was caught that same evening. I dont know how word reached home, but it did. My grandfather Creely took his gun and, tying a handkerchief around his head, started to the place. It was right over the hill where it happened. It is a part of the town now, and is only about one hundred yards from here. My aunt saw him but was so frightened she thought it was another Indian and he passed right close to her without seeing her. At last she knew him and came out.
They locked up the Indian in the jail which was a little square log house. Frank Riviere, the womans husband, said he would kill the Indian if twenty men stood between and he did. They kept the Indian three or four days and then were going to take him to St. Louis. When they opened the door of the jail he rushed out with a knife in each hand. It is not known how he got the knives. They searched him when they put him in. They had to break away and let him pass. He made straight to where some women were washing with some children, and everybody thought he was going to kill some of them, and I suppose he would have, but just as he was going out the gate -- there was a fence around the jail -- Frank Riviere shot him dead. He took the Indian's body and tied it to his horse and dragged it through the village. There was nothing done to him for shooting the Indian."