At long last, the Sieur de Vincennes will soon get his coat of bronze.
With the funding in place, Joy Biggs, a founding member of the Friends of Vincennes’ Heritage group, said on Monday that sculptor Bill Wolfe has signed the contract for the work he’s done to create a likeness of the man credited with the founding of Vincennes in 1732.
The clay statue of Francois Marie Bissot will now be sent off to a foundry in Indianapolis so it can be cast in bronze, a three-month process.
“To Bill’s credit, he has finished the clay model without any payment, working on it since 2015,” Biggs said. “Now, all we need is the pedestal.
“It doesn't get any better than this.”
The Friends group has been working since 2013 to raise a little over $50,000 to bronze the clay likeness of Bissot, which will likely be placed at the Riverwalk. The grand total of the project, including the bronzing as well as a pedestal to place the statue on, amounts to roughly $67,000.
The Friends group has decided on an Indiana limestone pedestal.
Toward the end of January, there was about $5,400 in the coffers. Donations have poured in since then, and now, thanks to the contributions of many — including the Lilly Foundation, the city’s Urban Enterprise Association and the Vincennes Rotary Club — the Friends’ dream will become a reality.
"The best part is that we now only need an additional $4,000 to complete the whole project," Biggs said. "We need just a few more donations."
An unveiling of the statue could potentially be scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.
“We can't wait to start planning the unveiling, it will be an historic event,” Biggs said. “Bill has made some beautiful changes and additions to the statue, so I want to keep it under wraps until we do the unveiling, so everyone will see the finished statue for the first time all together.
“I want people to be surprised.”
WHO WAS THE SIEUR DE VINCENNES?
Bissot was born in Montreal in 1700 and rose through the ranks of the French marines. In 1730, the French turned to Bissot when they needed a way to stop English traders from penetrating further into the Ohio River Valley.
At the time, Bissot was an officer in what today is the Lafayette and Fort Wayne area. To help him with the mission of establishing a fort, he was able in about 1730 to persuade part of the Piankeshaw tribe near Terre Haute to move downriver with him and establish a fort. He likely arrived that same year, though 1732 is considered to be the year that the Poste de Vincennes was officially up and running.
Bissot brought his wife, Marie Philippe Dulongpre, here to the fledgling fort and they had two children who were probably born at the post, likely making them the first European family of the Vincennes community.
In 1736, the 36-year-old Frenchman was burned at the stake in a failed joint French-Indian expedition against Chickasaw villages in present-day Mississippi.
Donations to help finish off the statue project may be sent to the Vincennes Historical and Antiquarian Society, P.O. Box 487, Vincennes, IN 47591. Checks should be made payable to the VHAS-Statue.
"If anyone is looking for that end-of-the-year donation for a write-off, all donations are tax-deductible, and donors of $1,000 and more will be recognized on a bronzed plaque," Biggs said.
For more information about Bissot and his statue, visit the "Friends of Vincennes' Heritage" Facebook page or statuevincennes.weebly.com/.