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Full text of "Pioneers of Illinois : containing a series of sketches relating to events that occured previous to 1813 ; also narratives of many thrilling incidents connected with the early settlement of the West, drawn from history, tradition and personal reminiscences"

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presenting these pages to the public it be- 
comes necessary to make a few plain statements 
in order that the reader may understand the pur- 
" poses of the writer. The object of collecting the 
r early traditions of the country has been for the pur- 
pose of supplying the many missing links in history, 
and also to correct some of its errors. To gather 
these materials has been attended with much labor, 
the work of more than forty years, and various 
^* means of obtaining facts have been resorted to. In 
I these researches many new items have been devel- 
^ oped, errors in history corrected, but the work of 
-3 harmonizing all 'conflicting statements has not been 
L an entire success. 

While the Indians were still in the country I had 

^frequent interviews with them, and listened to their 

~ accounts of events which had come down through 

many generations. In order to obtain more of their 

^ early history I employed an educated half-breed of 

/' western Kansas to collect traditions among his peo- 

^- pie, especially of those whose ancestors formerly 

_^ lived along the Illinois River. 

At different times I visited the descendants of 
the early French pioneers now living on the Ameri- 



can Bottom, and heard their stories of past events 
which had come down through the third and fourth 
generations. I also visited places of early historical 
renown, at some of which relics of the past can still 
be seen, and the descriptions herein given of these 
localities are drawn from personal observations. 
Many of the incidents narrated in this book were 
obtained from persons who figured in them, and 
every statement not well authenticated has been ex- 
cluded from these pages. 

An account of the early French exploration of 
Illinois has been given in almost every county his- 
tory in the state, consequently I would like to omit 
this part entirely, but it cannot be done without 
doing injustice to the work. Therefore in giving 
a short sketch of these events, compiled from his- 
tory, I have added some of the French and Indian 
traditions relating thereto. These items have been 
collected at different times from various sources, 
compared and revised with much care, and for the 
first time given to the public. 

A few years ago I published two editions of a 
book entitled "French and Indians of Illinois 
River," relating to the same subject as this, and 
many of the incidents given in that volume have 
been revised, corrected, and inserted in this one. 

N. M. 




The Mammoth and the Mastodon. Topography 
of Illinois River. Illinois Indians. Massa- 
cre of Indians. Raid of the Iroquois. - 17 


Father Marquette. Discovery of the Missis- 
sippi River. The Yoyageurs at La Vantum. 28 


The cross raised on the bank of Chicago River. 
Mission of Immaculate Conception. 
Death of Marquette. Resurrecting of Mar- 
quette's bones. - - 38 


La Vantum, or great Illinois town. The great 
Western explorer. La Salle and friends 
western bound. French at Peoria Lake. 
Fort Creve-Co3ur. - 48 


La Salle in the Indian camp. Henri de Tonti. 

The French at La Vantum. Reception 

of evil tidings. Battle and Massacre. - 59 


Torturing prisoners. Death of Father Gabriel. 

A Scene of Horror. Starved Rock. - 72- 




Building of Fort St. Louis. Trade with the 
Indians. La Salle's success, failure and 
death. Fort St. Louis attacked by Iroquois. 
Return of Tonti's victorious army. - 83 


La Fort des Miainis. The last of Tonti. 
Fort St. Louis burned and colony broken up. 
Chassagoac, an Indian Chief. Louisiana 
Colony. French settlement around Fort St. 
Louis. - 93 


Jesuit Missionary of the West. Father Senat 
and comrades burned at the stake. Early 
French settlement of Illinois. Early settle- 
ment of St. Louis. British rule in Illinois. 107 


Tom Brady's wild adventure. Two expedi- 
tions against St. Joseph and one against 
Detroit. Pat Kennedy and comrades in 
search of copper mines. - 11 


Colonel Clark's conquest of Illinois. - 127 


Pontiac. An error in history. Massacre of 
a hunting party. The Ottawas ordered out 
of the country. The Indian council. Pon- 
tiac assassinated. A war of extermination. 137 


Rock of refuge* The besiegers and besieged. 
-Various traditionary evidence. A ghastly 
spectacle. - - 153 



Relics of the tragedy. Searching for gold. 
Fort St. Louis. Rock Fort and Le Rocher. 
Relics of Fort St. Louis. Indians and 
French relics. Father Buche's manuscript. 166 


Fort Massac. American Bottom. Prairie du 
Rocher. Cahokia. Kaskaskia. Kaskas- 
kia and Cahokia Indians. Peoria Indians. 180 


Indian tribes in Illinois territory. Monks of 
La Trappe. Old fort near Starved 'Rock. 
The ruined city of Aztalan. Ancient forti- 
fication of Marseilles. The ruined fort on 
Fox River. Medore Jennette, a fur trader. 193 


English and French relations with Indians. 
American Pioneers of Illinois. Early gov- 
ernment of Illinois. Disappearing of 
buffalo. Early history of Chicago. Jean 
Baptiste and Father Bonner. - 205 


Early settlement at Peoria. La ville de Millet. 
French inhabitants of Peoria. French cos- 
tumes and manners. French land claims. - 115 


Pierre De Beuro, an Indian trader. Tecumseh 
at Peoria. Indian depredations. Indian 
council at Cahokia. Illinois territory at 
the time of the British war. A false report 
circulated. 229 



Black Partridge, a noted Indian chief. Indians 
receiving the first tidings of war. Mrs. 
Helm's life saved by Black Partridge. 
Emissaries from Tecumseh. Unjust retribu- 
tion. - - 2i'J 


Lieutenant Helm ransomed by Black Partridge. 
Mrs. Basson's narrative. The French at 
Peoria regarded as enemies. Captain 
Craig's account of his attack on Peoria. 
Burning of Peoria. Domestic animal's left 
by the captives. - - 254: 


Indian raid on the settlement. Captivity of 
Amanda Wolsey. General Howard's expe- 
dition against the Indians. Black Partridge 
with his braves in defense of their country, 
Colonel Davenport's account of the block 
house. - 274- 


Building of Fort Clark Indians collect on 
Bureau. Lieutenant Robenson in search of 
the. enemy. Treaty of peace. - -284 


Descendants of the French settlers at Peoria. 
Perils of fur traders. Burning of Fort 
Clark. 293 



ARTIFICIAL mounds are found everywhere 
_X7\_ throughout the western country, but are more 
numerous along the Illinois River and its tributaries. 
These mounds vary in size, shape and general forma- 
tion. Some of them are only small elevations, called 
sepulchral mounds, in which are found human bones 
and different kinds of trinkets. Others are of various 
forms,' representing the figure of a man, birds, ani- 
mals, turtles, alligators, etc. Some of these mounds, 
from appearance, were intended for fortifications, 
others for sacramental purposes, and many of them 
the object for which they were constructed cannot 
be determined. 

Mounds and earthworks are generally found near 
the present center of wealth and activity, showing 
that the ancient race understood the advantage of 
locality as well as people of the present day do. These 
mounds are only found where the soil is rich, the 
scenery fine, and near large streams of water, but 
never appear in a poor, barren country. The 


mounds found throughout the west have been clas- 
sified as fortifications, temples, altars, sepulchers, 
signal stations and symbolic figures. 

Some of the small mounds may have been the 
work of Indians, and of comparative recent date, but 
the large ones undoubtedly belong to the prehistoric 
age, and built by people who have long since passed 
away. Among the largest of this class of mounds 
is Mount Monk, on the American Bottom, and Mount 
Joliet, on the Des Plaines River, near the city of 
Joliet. The former at the base is eight hundred 
ya?rds in circumference and ninety feet high. The 
latter nearly one mile in circumference and one hun- 
dred and fifty feet high, rising like a great pyramid in 
the midst of a plain. Some people.believe these large 
mounds were formed by some freak of nature, there- 
lore the subject of their formation belongs to geology 
rather than history. Others regard the mound build- 
ers as a myth, the offspring of fanatical antiquists 
claiming that nature and Indians did these works. 
But these skeptics are not posted in relation to the 
many thousand works of this kind found in the 
Mississippi Valley, which it must be admitted have 
been made by human hands, and could not have been 
the work of Indians. Who built these mounds, at 
what time, and for what purpose, opens a field of 
wild speculation. On this subject men of science 


have advanced many curious opinions without estab- 
lishing any reliable facts. 

There are many speculative theories advanced re- 
lating to the ancient people who at one time in- 
habited this country, but this mystery is buried in 
the unknown past, where in all probability it will 
forever remain. Who these people were, from 
whence they came, and what became of them, are 
questions often asked, but never satisfactorily an- 
swered. In the absence of any knowledge of these 
people, and for the want of a better and more appro- 
priate name, they are called Mound Builders. The 
cities built and temples erected by these people (if 
any) have long since disappeared, and the marvels 
alone remain to tell the story of the past. Unlike 
the ancient Egyptians they have left no monumental 
obelisks covered with hieroglyphics, nor a rosetta 
stone, as a key to the mysteries of past ages. 

A great deal of nonsense, under the name of 
science, has been written by late antiquarians in re- 
lation to mounds and mound builders without throw- 
ing any light on the subject. 

Some remarkable facts relating to antiquities in 
this section of the country will be found in another 
part of this book under the head of ancient fortifica- 
tions and ruined cities. 



At one time the gigantic mammoth and masto- 
don roamed at large over the prairies of Illinois, 
and left their bones in many places, sunk deep in 
the marshes. At what time these monsters inhab- 
ited this country, what their form, movements, and 
habits were, the time and cause of disappearance, 
will in all probability forever remain a mystery. 
Skeletons of different species of these animals have 
been exhumed from swamps and marshes in a good 
state of preservation, and now adorn the museums 
of this country. Many facts have been collected 
which leave no doubt that people lived in this 
country when these animals roamed at large. In 
exhuming the bones of one of these monsters some 
years ago near Beardstown, an arrow-head and a 
broken point of a copper spear were found among 
the bones, showing that the beast came to its death 
by the hand of man. Dr. Koch, who has supplied 
foreign museums with skeletons of mastodons from 
this western country, says : In exhuming the bones 
of one of these animals from a marsh where it had 
mired the skeleton was found, standing erect. A 
fire had been kindled against it, and ashes, pieces of 
charred wood, with arrow-heads, stone axes and 
other weapons, were found among the bones, showing 


conclusively in what way the beast came to its 

In 1773 James Douglass, the first white man 
that visited Big Bone Lick, in Kentucky, found a 
large number of mammoth bones lying on top of 
the ground in a good state of preservation. Some 
of. the rib bones he set upright, and spread a 
blanket on them, forming a tent to shelter him from 
rain and sun. 

According to tradition, at the time of the early 
French exploration of this country many large 
bones were found at a lick a short distance from 
Peoria Lake, and among them were two tusks ten 
feet in length. In the early settlement of this 
country large bones were occasionally found on top 
of the ground which could not have belonged to 
any animal known at the present time. As a rule 
bones on top of the ground will last only about 
fifty years, but instances are on record where they 
have remained sound after lying for many ages. 

Bones of the mammoth and mastodon are found 
everywhere on this continent, but in greater num- 
bers in the Valley of the Mississippi, but neither 
history nor tradition has left any account of them 
in a living state. These animals, judging from 
their bones, must have been of an enormous size ; 
the elephant of the present time in comparison to 


them would be a mere pigmy. The skeleton of one 
of these, now in the museum of the University at 
Rochester, N. Y., is sixteen feet high, twenty-six 
feet in length, with tusk fourteen feet long, and at 
the base one foot in diameter. 

In the spring of 1881 the bones of one of these 
monsters were found embedded in a slough two miles 
northeast of Princeton. Although the bones were 
much decayed, and not enough of them remained to 
form a skeleton, it is believed the animal to have 
been about fifteen feet high, and twenty-two feet in 


From the junction of the Kankakee with Des 
Plaines to the mouth of Illinois River, exclusive of 
windings, is two hundred and sixty miles, two hun- 
dred and ten miles of which is navigable for steam- 
boats. The Illinois is a sluggish stream; in two 
hundred miles it has only twenty-eight feet fall, 
about the amount of fall necessary for canal naviga- 
tion, and when the Mississippi is high it backs up 
the Illinois River seventy-two miles. The river bot- 
tom is from one to two miles wide, but at Beards- 
town it is twelve miles between the bluffs. The bot- 
tom lands are about equally divided between timber 
and prairie. The soil very rich, but much of it sub- 
ject to inundation. The bluffs are from one to two 


hundred feet high, and mostly covered with timber. 
At Starved Rock, and also at Marseilles, are exten- 
sive rapids, with a wide, shallow channel inter- 
spersed with many beautiful wood-clad islands. 

The scenery along the Illinois River is very beau- 
tiful; the broad stream dotted here and there with 
islands has attracted the attention and received the 
admiration of both savage and civilized people. The 
river banks are made attractive by alternate timber 
and prairie, and passes through a fertile country, 
which in former times abounded in game. For the 
possession of this country, according to tradition, has 
caused many a hard-fought battle, between savage 
tribes, and the bones of the victors as well as the 
vanquished have been left to decay on its banks. 

On the bank of the Illinois River the French 
established the first cariony in the Mississippi Valley, 
and here a nucleus was formed for settling the Great 
West. In former times its placid waters were navi- 
gated only by the bark canoes of savages, after 
which the little bateaux of the French were seen on 
its waters for about one hundred and forty years. 
These crafts, loaded with furs, and sails spread to the 
breeze, passed up the river from French villages, 
coasting along the lakes to Canada, and return with 
goods for the Indian market. At a later period the 
Mackinaw boat of the American Fur Company took 


the place of French bateaux. Following in the 
wake of these crafts came the sluggish keel boat, 
loaded with emigrants, which in their turn disap 
peared on the introduction of steam navigation. 


The Illinois Indians were of the Algonquin fam- 
ily, and consisted of five bands or semi-tribes, named 
as follows : Kaskaskias, Cahokias, Peorias, Tam- 
aroas and Michigamies. The three former bands 
occupied villages bearing their respective names, 
and the two latter the country north of Peoria Lake. 
According to the statement of early French ex- 
plorers, these Indians were the most numerous of all 
the tribes of the west, occupying almost the entire 
territory now included within the State of Illinois. 
Along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, from the 
mouth of Ohio to Lake Michigan, their villages were 
found at short intervals, and the vast country east 
and west of these rivers was their hunting-grounds. 
Over this country herds of buffalo, elk and deer 
roamed for their benefit, and the many rivers were 
navigated only by their bark canoes. From the 
many groves the smoke from their camp-fires was 
seen to ascend, and the lonely forest reechoed their 
wild war whoops. These Indians had many towns 
on the Illinois River, the largest and most important 


one, called La Yantum, located near the present 
site of Utica, an account of which will be given in 
the succeeding chapter. 

On account of abundance of game (Illinois being 
known as the buffalo country), neighboring tribes 
frequently made this their hunting-ground, and al- 
though the Illinois Indians were not a warlike 
people, still they would resent an encroachment on 
their rights, consequently many bloody battles were 
fought with the aggressors. 

More than a century ago the northern bands of 
the Illinois Indians became extinct, therefore most 
of their traditions are lost, still there are some things 
relating to them preserved by the French pioneers 
which are related by their descendants now living 
on the American Bottom. 


According to tradition, there was a large Indian 
village on the east side of the Illinois River, a short 
distance above the head of Peoria Lake. Near this 
village, on the bank of the river and partly sur- 
rounded by a bayou, was a place where the Indians 
held their annual religious feasts. On this ground 
was erected an altar, containing images of the differ- 
ent gods, and around which the Indians knelt in 
prayer while offering up sacrifices. At one of these 
feasts all the warriors of the village and many from 


neighboring ones were collected here engaged in 
religious exercises, while squaws and papooses stood 
looking on, and mingling their voices in songs of 
praise. The warriors, dispossessed of their arms, 
were engaged in devotion, the priests exhorting them 
in the ways of holiness, and receiving their annual 
offerings. While thus engaged they were suddenly 
attacked by a large body of Pottawatomies and most 
of them slain. Being taken by surprise, and un- 
armed, defense or escape appeared impossible, and 
many a brave warrior 'sang his death song and sub- 
mitted to his fate. A few escaped by swimming the 
river, but the most of them, including squaws and 
papooses, fell an easy prey to the victorious enemy. 

The victors collected all the valuables of the van- 
quished, including arms, clothing, camp equipage, 
furs, pelts, etc., loading them on ponies, and with 
their spoils left for their homes 'on the Wabash. 

The date of this tragical affair is not known, but 
it was before the advent of the French, or the r&ids 
on these Indians by the Iroquois. For some time 
after the French came to this country the ground 
where this massacre took place was strewn with 
human bones. 


The Iroquois Indians from the east made fre- 
quent raids on the Illinoisans, destroying their towns, 


killing squaws and papooses, and carrying away 
large quantities of pelts, furs, etc., which they sold 
to English traders. According to tradition, in one of 
those raids they carried off eight hundred prisoners, 
mostly squaws and papooses, and burned them at 
their village on the bank of Seneca Lake. The Iro- 
quois, having been in trade with the English at 
Albany, had armed themselves with rifles, which gave 
them great advantage over the Illinoisans, who used 
bows and arrows only. These frequent raids of the 
Iroquois were for spoil only, and not for conquest, 
as they made no effort to take possession of the coun- 
try. The Illinoisans were rich in ponies, furs, pelts, 
trinkets, etc., and the robbers would return loaded 
with spoil, and at one time they brought back three 
hundred ponies loaded with valuables. It is said the 
traders at Albany encouraged these robberies by 
furnishing the Iroquois with war implements, and 
buying the stolen goods. 

On account of the frequent raids on the Illinoisans 
they became reduced in numbers, which caused them 
to fall an easy prey to the neighboring tribes some 
years afterward. A little over a century ago a num- 
ber of tribes combined, forming an alliance against 
the Illinois Indians, which resulted in their annihila- 
tion, and the occupation of the country by the vic- 
tors, as will be shown in the sequel. 



A FEW years ago, while passing through the 
Vatican at Rome, my attention was called to 
a department entitled ' ' Portraits of North Ameri- 
can Jesuits." On entering this department I noticed 
a life-sized portrait of a man in the garb of a priest, 
with an open bible in his hands and a gold cross on 
his breast. This portrait represented a man in the 
prime of life, tall and well proportioned, with hand- 
some moulded features, and a countenance beaming 
with intelligence. Below this picture was a motto 
in Latin, and also the name of Father Jacques Mar- 
quette, a Jesuit priest of North America. 

Marquette was born at Leon, in the north part of 
France, of a wealthy and distinguished family. He 
was of fine personal appearance, a strong intellect, 
well educated, and, while young, became a magnet 
in his native city. At a proper age he was ordained 
a priest, and being enthusiastic about the conversion 
of heathens he sailed for America, forsaking home, 
friends and wealth to spend a life among savages in 



the New World. After remaining a short time at 
Quebec Marquette went west to Lake Huron, where 
he spent a number of years among the Indians, in- 
structing them in the ways of Christianity. While 
among these Indians he learned their languages, and 
it is said that he understood, and could speak, six 
different Indian dialects. 

Marquette went to Sault Ste. Marie, where Father 
Allouez had established a mission, and for a time 
traveled through the country visiting different tribes 
of Indians, and among them made converts wher- 
ever he went. His active spirit could not rest, caus- 
ing him to travel from place to place exposed to in- 
clement weather, wading through water and snow, 
spending days without shelter or fire, subsisting on 
parched corn, or moss gathered from rocks, some- 
times paddling his canoe up and down streams, or 
along the lake shore, and sleeping at night in open 
air. Said Marquette in a letter to a friend in France: 
"A life in the wilderness has its charms, and the 
rude hut of a savage is better adapted to a true dis- 
ciple of Christ than the palace of a king. My heart 
ofttimes swells with rapture as my canoe glides over 
strange waters, or while plodding my way through 
thick forests, among briers and thorns, in laboring 
for the cause of my Redeemer." 

Father Marquette founded a mission at Point 


St. Ignace, opposite the island of Mackinaw, and In- 
dians from different villages along the lake came 
thither for religious instruction. He built here on 
the bank of the lake a small chapel, dedicated to St. 
Ignace, and a few years afterward was buried be- 
neath its altar. 


For many years Indians from the far west, while 
visiting French trading posts in Canada, spoke of a 
great river that flowed into the ocean, but the course 
of this river and where it discharged its waters could 
not be learned. However, it was generally believed 
to empty into the Pacific Ocean, and through it a 
water communication could be obtained across the 
continent. The Governor of Canada, knowing the 
great advantage to be derived from this outlet to the 
west, selected Louis Joliet, a Canadian by birth, to 
make the necessary discovery. 

In the spring of 1673 Joliet was furnished with 
the necessary outfit for the voyage, and prepared 
himself to embark in this hazardous enterprise. 
Father Marquette, having acquired much fame among 
the natives on the shore of Lake Huron, was se- 
lected to accompany this expedition. This priest 
being an earnest votary of the Virgin Mary, and to 
do her bidding he was willing to make any sacrifice. 


His bold nature knew no fear, and he was prepared 
to suffer all deprivations, endure all hardships in 
discovering new lands and conquering new realms, 
to the honor and glory of her holiness. Before 
starting on his journey he wrote to a friend at Que- 
bec saying: " In making this voyage I place myself 
under the protection of the Holy Virgin, and if she 
grants me the privilege of seeing the great river of 
the west, and follow its course to the Pacific Ocean, 
I will name it to her honor The Immaculate Con- 

All things being ready, Joliet and Marquette, ac- 
companied by five companions, in two bark canoes, 
started on their journey. They carried with them 
a supply of smoked meat and Indian corn, besides 
a great variety of trinkets as presents to the Indians. 

After a tempestuous voyage in coasting along the 
shore of Lake Michigan, they arrived at Green Bay 
early in May. After giving the natives many pres- 
ents, and accompanied by an Indian guide, they con- 
tinued on their way westward. While rowing their 
canoes up the rapid current of Fox River they 
reached a village on its banks whose inhabitants 
advised them to go no farther on their journey, or 
their lives would be sacrificed. They told the voy- 
ageurs that the banks of the great river were in- 
habited by a ferocious tribe *of savages who put all 


strangers to death, and the stream was full of fright- 
ful monsters, some of them large enough to swallow 
a canoe with all its contents. They also said that in 
a high cliff of rocks by the side of the river lived a 
demon, whose roar was so loud as to shake the 
earth and destroy all canoes passing up or down 

These wonderful stories did not frighten the 
travelers, and after giving the Indians a few pres- 
ents they continued on their way. Passing up Fox 
Biver, and dragging their canoes across the portage, 
they floated down the Wisconsin. After a few days' 
journey the river bluffs on either side disappeared, 
and while viewing the wild scenery around them 
their canoe entered the broad Mississippi and they 
found themselves upon the Father of Waters. The 
voyageurs landed from their canoes, raised a cross on 
the bank of the river, and sang praises to the Holy 
Yirgin for her guidance and protection thus far on 
their journey. Father Marquette pronounced a bless- 
ing on the river and christened it with the most 
sacred name of "Immaculate Conception." 

After spending a day in fasting and prayers their 
canoes were again put on the water and they com- 
menced descending the river. While floating down 
stream they discovered on the east bank, near the 
present site of the city o*f Alton, a high cliff of rocks 


rising in bold relief from the water's edge. .This 
cliff for many years afterward was known as the 
"Ruined Castle," and is the site of a thrilling legend 
in Indian tradition. On landing here they beheld 
a sight which reminded them that the devil was lord 
of the wilderness. On the surface of rock next to 
the water was painted, in red, black and green, a 
pair of monsters, each of them as large as an ox, 
with horns like an elk, heads like a tiger, and with 
a frightful expression of countenance. The face of 
these monsters resembled that of a man, the body 
covered with scales like a fish, with tails so long as 
to reach three times around them. These terrible 
looking monsters (representing Indian gods) so 
frightened Father Marquette that he fled from the 
place in terror, and hastened on board of his canoe. 
As the travelers were passing down the river, 
conversing about the hideous painting on the rock, 
they were suddenly aroused to real danger. Here 
a torrent of muddy water came rushing across the 
clear current, boiling and surging, carrying in its 
course drift-wood, consisting of brush and uprooted 
trees. Their light bark canoes were whirled about 
on the dark, angry water, like a twig in a swollen 
brook, and with great difficulty their frail crafts were 
kept from swamping in the foaming billows. They 
had passed the mouth of the Missouri River, and 


with great rapidity their canoes floated down the 
swollen stream. 

The voyageurs descended the Mississippi River to 
its junction with the Arkansas, when they became 
satisfied that the great river emptied into the Gulf 
of Mexico, instead of the Pacific Ocean, consequently 
they turned their canoes up stream on their return 
homeward toward Canada. 


On a clear warm day in September, 1673, two 
bark canoes were seen slowly gliding up the Illinois 
River, whose placid waters had never before reflected 
the face of a white man. These canoes were pro- 
pelled up stream by sails and oars, and as they 
went forward the voyageurs caused the wild woods 
along the shore to, resound with songs of praise. 
On the sail of the foremost canoe was painted vari- 
ous devices, representing a coat-of-arms, a pipe of 
peace, and a cross, emblematical of power, friend- 
ship, and Christianity. The voyageurs were much 
delighted with the country along the placid stream, 
and made many comments on the beauty of the sur- 
rounding country. Large herds of buffalo were seen 
feeding on the green meadows, and at the sound of 
the oars elk, deer and antelope would rise from 
their lair, and bound away across the distant plains. 


Wild geese and swans were swimming in the river, 
while flocks of paroquets made merry the lonely 
waters with their songs. 

This party of travelers consisted of nine persons, 
Louis Joliet, Jacques Marquette, five oarsmen, 
and two Indian interpreters. While forcing their 
light crafts up stream they were surprised to come 
suddenly upon a large town on the left bank of the 
river, while back of it the great meadow was covered 
with camping-tents, and swarming with human 
beings. This was the great Illinois town called 
La Vantum, situated near the present site of Utica, 
and known in after years as the great landmark of 
the west. 

As the voyageurs approached the town the Indians 
in great numbers collected on the river bank to see 
these strange people, never before having looked 
upon the face of a white man. Warriors armed with 
war clubs, bows and arrows lined the shore, pre- 
pared to give the strangers battle if enemies, or 
greet them kindly if friends. The canoes came to a 
halt, when Joliet displayed the "wampum," a token 
of friendship, at the sight of which the warriors low- 
ered their weapons and motioned the voyageurs to 
come ashore. Father Marquette, with a pipe of 
peace in one hand and a small gold cross in the 
other, approached the Indians, who in astonishment 


collected around him, offering up mementoes to 
appease the wrath of the great Manitou, from whom 
they believed the strangers had come. The tourists 
left their canoes, being conducted to the lodge of 
the head chief, Chassagoac, where they were kindly 
entertained for the night. 

On the following day, in the presence of all the 
chiefs and principal warriors, Joliet took formal pos- 
session of the country in the name of Louis XIV, 
after which Marquette preached to this vast .assem- 
bly. Under Marquette's preaching many were con- 
verted, and baptized in accordance to the Catholic 
church. Among the converts was Chassagoac, the 
head chief of the Illinois Indians, who continued in 
the faith, and in after years was a friend of the early 
pioneers on the Illinois River. Marquette gave this 
chief a number of Christian mementoes, consisting 
of crosses, crucifixes, etc., all of which he wore on 
his person for more than fifty years, and at the time 
of his death they were buried with him. 

On the third day the canoes of the explorers 
were again on the river, and they continued their 
journey eastward. On reaching the mouth of the 
Chicago River Joliet, with three companions, con- 
tinued on his way to Canada to report to the gover- 
nor, while Marquette with two others went to Green 
Bay for the purpose of converting the Indians. As 


Joliet was passing down the rapids of the St. Law- 
rence River, near Montreal, his canoe upset, and his 
journal, with all other valuables, were lost. 

These explorers published no account of their 
travels, and the world was but little wiser for their 
journey, except to establishing the fact that the Mis- 
sissippi River did not flow into the Pacific Ocean, 
and Illinois was a rich country. 



MARQUETTE remained at Green 
-L Bay only a short time, his health being bad, 
and the Winnebago Indians, with whom he so- 
journed, were unwilling to abandon the religion of 
their fathers for Christianity. It being impressed on 
the mind of Marquette that his stay on earth would 
be short, and before departing hence, he felt it his 
duty to visit the Illinois Indians and again establish 
among them a mission in honor of the Holy Virgin. 
Late in the fall Marquette, accompanied by two of 
his countrymen, Pierre and Jacques, with two In- 
dians, left Green Bay for the Illinois River. The 
weather was cold, the wind high, and with great 
difficulty they coasted along the western shore of 
Lake Michigan. Frequently the travelers were com- 
pelled to land from the turbulent water, draw their 
canoe on the beach, and wait for the wind and waves 
to subside. After a long, perilous voyage the 
travelers reached the mouth of Chicago river, and 



ascended it about three leagues to a grove of timber. 
Here Marquette was taken very sick, and winter 
set in, the river froze up, and the prairie covered 
with snow and ice. Near the river bank Pierre and 
Jacques built a hut, covering and siding it with 
buffalo skins, and here in this rude tenement they 
lived about three months. 

Buffalo and deer were plenty, and the Indians 
from a neighboring village supplied them with corn, 
honey and maple sugar, so they did not want for the 
necessaries of life. For many days Marquette was 
prostrated by disease so he could not leave his 
couch, and his friends believed that his time of de- 
parture was nigh. Having a great desire to estab- 
lish a mission among the Illinois Indians before 
death overtook him, Marquette begged his two com- 
panions, Pierre and Jacques, to join him in nine days' 
devotion to the Virgin, and through her interposition 
his disease relented and he gained strength daily. 
Indians from a village two leagues distant frequently 
visited their hut, and Marquette, feeble as he 
was, preached to them, and many became converted 
to Christianity. Near their hut they built a tem- 
porary altar, over which was raised a large wooden 
cross. The converted Indians were instructed, while 
praying, to look upon this cross and thereby all 
their sins were remitted. 



The winter was now passed, snow and ice had 
disappeared from the prairie, and the warm sun of 
early spring not only animated nature, but it gave 
strength and vitality to Father Marquette. His 
cough had almost ceased, his tall, manly form, which 
had been bent by rheumatism, was now erect, and 
he sang songs of praise to the Holy Virgin for his 
restoration to health. After taking an affectionate 
farewell of the converted Indians Marquette, with 
his two companions in a bark canoe, left for the 
great Illinois town. 

With sail and oars the voyageurs urged their 
canoe down the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers,' 
while the surrounding woods reechoed their songs of 
praise. Birds were singing among the trees, squir- 
rels chirping in the groves, while elk and deer 
bounded away at the sound of the approaching 
canoe. Swans, pelicans and wild geese would rise 
from the water and fly squawking down stream, 
while beaver and otter were sporting in the water 
and diving under their canoe. Far and near the 
prairie was covered with herds of buffalo, some 
basking in the sun, while others were feeding on the 
early spring grass. 

When Marquette arrived at La Vantum the In- 
dians received him as though he was an angel from 


heaven, some of whom fell on their knees before 
him, asking forgiveness for past sins. Chassagone, 
the head chief, whom Marquette had baptized the 
year before, was so delighted at meeting the holy 
father that he embraced him, and wept for joy. On 
the following day after Marquette's arrival all the 
Indians, old and young, assembled on the meadow 
.above the town to hear good tidings from the great 
French Manitou, the name given to Christ. Around 
him were seated on the ground five hundred chiefs 
and old warriors, behind them stood one thousand 
five hundred young braves, while around these 
were collected all the squaws and papooses of the 
town. Marquette, standing in the midst of this vast 
assembly, displayed to them two pictures, painted 
on canvas, one of the Virgin, and the other of 
Christ, telling them of God, of heaven, of hell, and 
of a judgment to come, when all the Indians clapped 
their hands and shouted for joy. By Marquette's 
direction the Indians tore down the temple and im- 
ages erected to the god of war, and built a chapel on 
its site. "When the chapel was completed all the 
chiefs and old warriors assembled therein, when 
Marquette dedicated it in honor ,of the Holy Vir- 
gin, giving it the same name which he had already 
given to the Mississippi Kiver, "The Immaculate 


Each day the chapel was filled with converts, and 
Marquette preached to them, baptizing old and 
young ; a large number of converts were enrolled in 
the church book, and saved from perdition. On 
Easter Sunday the chapel was decorated with flowers 
and evergreens, representing crosses, anchors, cruci- 
fixes, etc. Incense was burned on the altar, and 
lights were kept burning during the day, according 
to the custom of the Catholic church. This day was 
a joyous one, and long remembered by the Indians, 
but with it ended the ministry of Marquette among 
the redmen of the west. 

Spring had now come, the groves were once more 
green, and the prairies again covered with grass and 
flowers, but it did not bring health and vigor to the 
failing priest. His disease had again returned in its 
worst form, and he felt that his life was fast passing 
away. After spending two days and nights in 
prayer, communing with Christ and the Holy Yir- 
gin, he concluded to return to Canada, where he 
could receive the sacrament from the hands of his 
brethren before he died. 

On the third day after Easter the natives were 
assembled in the chapel, when Marquette, pale and 
feeble as he was, preached to them, instructing his 
converts in the ways of Christianity, telling them 
that he was about to depart for Canada, but promised 


to send a priest to teach them in the ways of salva- 
tion. The Indians heard the news -in sadness, 
gathering around the holy father and begging him 
to remain with them. But he told his brethren that 
his work was ended, that a few weeks would close 
his pilgrimage here on earth, and before departing 
hence he desired to return to Canada and leave 
his bones among his countrymen. 

Marqnette's canoe was once more put on the 
water, and with his two faithful companions Ije com- 
menced his journey eastward. About five hundred 
warriors, some in canoes and others mounted on 
ponies, accompanied Marquette as far as Lake 
Michigan, and there received from him the parting 
blessing. After parting with the Indians, Marquette's 
canoe, with sails hoisted and oars applied, coasted 
near the shore around the head of the Lake. Pierre 
and Jacques with all their pofwer plied the oars to 
increase the speed, while the sick priest lay pros- 
trated in the bottom of the canoe communing with 
the Virgin and with angels. 


On the 19th of May, 1675, while near Sleeping 
Bear Point, Marquette felt that his time had come, 
and told his companions to land him on the beach of 
the lake, so he might receive the sacrament before he 


died. On a high point of land, at the mouth of a 
small stream which still bears his name, they built a 
bark hut, and carried thither the dying priest. 
"With his eyes fixed on a crucifix which one of his 
companions held before him, and while murmuring 
the name of Mary and Jesus, he breathed his last. 
His companions dug a grave on the bank of the 
stream near the place where he died, and buried him 
there. In obedience to his request they erected over 
his grave a cross made of bass-wood timber, on 
which were engraved his name and date of his 
death. After burying Marquette Pierre and Jacques 
again put their canoe on the water and continued 
their journey toward Canada, conveying thither the 
sad news of his death. Three years after Marquette's 
death a party of Indians from Point St. Ignace, who 
were converted under Marquette's preaching some 
years before, went to Lake Michigan, opened the 
grave, and took up the remains. After scraping off 
the putrid flesh, washing and drying the bones, they 
were placed in a box made of birch-bark and 
carried home with them. "With the remains of the 
holy father they turned their canoe homeward, sing- 
ing and chanting praises as they went on their way. 
Seven miles above Point St. Ignace they were met by 
a large delegation of Indians in canoes, who formed 
a procession to escort the remains to the mission. 


With their faces blacked, oars muffled, and singing 
a funeral dirge, the procession slowly approached the 
mission, and were met at the landing by priest- 
traders and Indians, all of whom wore badges of 
mourning. With a solemn ceremony the remains 
of Father Marquette were received at the mission, 
and buried beneath the altar of the little chapel of 
St. Ignace which he had built some years before. 

Two centuries have now passed away since the 
burial of Marquette, and long since the little chapel 
of St. Ignace has disappeared, but the spot where it 
stood was hallowed by the French and converted 
Indians, and continues to be pointed out to strangers 
visiting the place. 

For many years after the death of Marquette the 
French sailors on the lakes kept his picture nailed 
to the mast head as a guardian angel, and when 
overtaken by storm and perils at sea they would 
pray to the holy father beseeching him to calm the 
winds and still the troubled waters in order that they 
might reach port in safety. 


The old chapel of St. Ignace continued to stand 
guard over the remains of Marquette until the year 
1706, when it was burned down and the mission 
removed to the island of Mackinaw. For many 


years after the mission was removed from this old 
historic place religious enthusiasts were in the habit 
of visiting Point St. Ignace, and offering up prayers 
on this sacred spot. For ages the place where the 
chapel stood was hallowed by zealous Catholics, but 
no steps were taken to memorize the grave or recover 
the bones of the great missionary and explorer, until 
a few years ago this matter was brought to public 
notice. In the spring of 1877 Father Jocker, the 
village priest, began to agitate the subject of resur- 
recting the bones of Marquette, and everywhere it 
met with public favor. A time having been set 
for that purpose, people from a distance collected 
at Point St. Ignace, and amid a large assembly of 
enthusiastic persons the remains were exhumed. 

Excavations having been made on the site of the 
old chapel the relics of the altar of the Holy Yirgin 
were found and taken out. Beneath the altar, in a 
vault walled with red cedar, was found a large piece 
of birch-bark in a good state of preservation, and 
here too were found the remains of Marquette, where 
they had lain for over two hundred years. The 
bones, much decayed, some of them mouldered into 
dust when exposed to the air, were taken out in the 
presence of a large collection of people, and with 
proper ceremony buried in a cemetery nearby, over 
which a monument to his memory has been erected. 



rTIHE name of La Vantum was applied to the 
JL great Illinois town over a century ago by the 
French and half-breeds at Peoria. The name in the 
Indian language is said to mean a great place, a 
large town, capital for a tribe, etc. In letters written 
by Jesuits and early explorers of the west it is 
spoken of as the great town of Illinois, where chiefs 
and warriors from other villages met for council. 
Joliet called this place Kaskaskia, but by La Salle 
and subsequent explorers it is spoken of as the great 
Illinois town. The number of its inhabitants has 
been variously estimated by different explorers, 
ranging from five to eight thousand. Marquette 
said he found here five hundred chiefs and old war- 
riors, and fifteen hundred young braves. Seven 
years afterward Father Hennepin counted four hun- 
dred and sixty-eight lodges, each of which contained 
from two to four families. Others speak of it as a 
large town, occupying the river bank for a mile or 
more in length, and extending back some distance 
on the prairie. 



This great Indian town of the west has long since- 
disappeared, and like many of the ancient cities of 
the Old World both history and tradition fail to 
point out its exact location. Some antiquarians have 
located it near Buffalo Rock, others at the mouth of 
Little Vermillion, as many -Indian relics are found 
at each of these places. But in comparing the dif- 
ferent accounts given of this town, from its first dis- 
covery by Joliet to its final distruction by the allied 
forces, a period of nearly one hundred years, it is 
shown conclusively to have stood on or near the 
site of old Utica, and here relics of it are found in 
great quantities. History says it was on the north, 
bank 01 the river, in plain view of Fort St. Louis r 
and the French passed to and from it in their canoes. 
On the north side of the river is a large bottom 
prairie, extending from Buffalo Rock to the Little 
Vermillion, about nine miles long and one and a half 
miles in width. Near the middle of this prairie, be- 
low the foot of the rapids, the river is confined to a 
deep, narrow channel y and the bank rises gradually 
from the water's edge until it reaches high land in 
the rear, forming a sloping plateau, elevated above 
the floods of the Illinois, and for beauty of location 
is scarcely surpassed by any place on the river. 
IM early times this point was considered the head of 
navigation, and consequently it would be the fer- 


mination of the Illinois and Michigan canal. In 
1834 a town was laid off here by Simon Crozier, and 
people prophesied that it was destined to be a large 
city. Steamboats at St. Louis put out their sign for 
Utica, and travelers for the Lake country or eastward 
bound landed here, thence by stage to Chicago. 
Corn now grows on this town site. Two or three 
old dilapidated, unoccupied buildings only remain 
of this once great paper city, and Utica, like its pre- 
decessor, La Vantum, exists only in history of the 

Felix La Pance, a French trader at Peoria, fre- 
quently visited this town, it being on his route to 
and from Canada, and from 1751 to 1768 traded with 
the inhabitants, taking their furs on his annual trips 
east, and paying for them in goods on his return. 
Some account of this town is found among his papers, 
now in the possession of his descendants. This 
account speaks of a town containing five or six 
hundred lodges standing along the river bank, while 
back of these, on the prairie, were many camping- 
tents, occupied by Indians part of the year. On 
the river bank, near the middle of the town, stood 
their great council house, surrounded by stockades 
and various kinds of temporary fortifications. The 
town was shaded by a few outspreading oaks, and 
in the midst of them, and close to the river bank, 


was a large spring of cold water. This spring, 
spoken of by La Pance, cannot be found on the old 
town site, but whoever will take the trouble to ex- 
amine the river at this point when low will observe 
a short distance from shore the bubbles from a 
spring under water. Waba, an Indian chief of some 
note, who lived at a village on the south side of the, opposite Lake Depue, in speaking of this 
town said, in his youthful days there was a large 
spring of cold water here by the side of the trail, 
but afterward it sank and came out under the river 
as we now see it. 

A short distance from the river is a range of 
gravelly knolls, where the Indians had their caches 
or subterranean store-house for depositing corn. 
The remains of these caches were plain to be seen 
in the early settlement of the country, and in some 
places these relics still exist, notwithstanding they 
have been plowed over for many years. Back of 
the town, on high prairie, was their burying-ground, 
where the ashes of posterity mingled with those of 
their ancestors for many generations. Many small 
moiinds were found here in the early settlement of 
the country, but have been mostly leveled down in 
searching for treasures. These mounds are supposed 
to have been raised over the remains of chiefs and 
great warriors, and are said to have contained some 


of the valuables of the deceased. About sixty years 
ago, Waba, the Indian chief above referred to, took 
from one of these mounds many trinkets, among 
which was a silver medallion head of Louis XIV, 
bearing date 1670, being three years before Mar- 
quette's first visit to this place, and in all probability 
it was given to a convert by that missionary. 

I am informed by James Clark, the owner of the 
land around old Utica, and also by one of his ten- 
ants, that every year many Indian relics are plowed 
up. These relics consist of human teeth and frag- 
ments of small bones, with flint arrow-heads, stone 
hatchets, and various kinds of trinkets. 


Seven years after Joliet and Marquette discovered 
the Upper Mississippi, La Salle obtained a patent 
from the King of France authorizing him to ex- 
plore and take possession in the king's name all the 
country west of the great lakes. La Salle's success 
and failure in this great enterprise is a matter of his- 
tory, and much of it foreign to our purpose, but as 
he was identified with the early settlement of Illi- 
nois a few facts relating to him may interest the 

TCobert Cavalier iLa Salle being only a title) was 
born in the city of Rouen, France, in the year 1643, 

r u \mo\s 


of wealthy parents, and educated for the priesthood. 
In person he is said to have been large and mus- 
cular, of an iron constitution, possessing a fine in- 
tellect, and well qualified for the enterprise in which 
he embarked. He inherited from his ancestors a 
large fortune, which was used in advancing his enter- 
prise, but squandered in consequence of misplaced 
confidence in those with whom he associated. Al- 
though La Salle made his mark in history, his life 
was one of hardship, exposure and deprivations, and 
he finally died by the hand of an assassin in the 
wilds of Texas. 

A few years ago, while strolling through the city 
of Rouen, my guide pointed out an old palace stand- 
ing on high ground, and overlooking the river Seine. 
For beauty of architecture and antique appearance this 
palace has no equal in the old Norman capital. This 
old palace, said my guide, was once the residence of 
the Duke of Normandy, better known as William 
the Conqueror, and from its portico this great war- 
rior addressed his lords and nobles on the day he 
left Normandy for the conquest of England. In this 
palace, continued my guide, now lives Count Cava- 
lier, a descendant of the family of La Salle, and near 
by, in an antique looking house, is pointed out as 
the birth-place of the great explorer, and is now occu- 
pied by a descendant of his family. 



In the summer of 1679 La Salle built a vessel at 
the head of Niagara River for the purpose of navi- 
gating the Upper Lakes. This vessel was of sixty 
tons burden, carrying lateen sails, and called the 
Griffin. It was armed with a number of small can- 
non, and a large wooden eagle surmounted its prow, 
while the monster for which it was named, according 
to Grecian mythology, was painted on its canvas. 
In La Salle's party was an Italian officer, second in 
command, named Tonti, also three Jesuit priests, 
Hennepin, Gabriel and Zenche, the former known 
by his surname, and the two latter by their given 
names only. 

All things being ready the cannons fired a salute, 
the sails spread to the breeze, and the Griffin moved 
forward, plowing through the maiden waves of Lake 
Erie. After many days' sail the vessel passed through 
a small lake, which La Salle gave the name of St. 
Clair, in honor of that saint, whose name appeared 
that day in the calendar. After a voyage of four 
weeks the Griffin arrived at Mackinaw, and was 
safely moored in its harbor. The goods brought by 
the Griffin were exchanged for furs at a large profit, 
and the vessel loaded with pelts and furs started 
back for Niagara, but was never heard of afterward. 


Late in November, La Salle, accompanied by 
fourteen persons, left Mackinaw in four canoes and 
coasted along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. 
They carried with them a blacksmith's forge, car- 
penter tools, and other utensils required in building 
a fort, besides a large amount of merchandise to 
trade with the Indians. On the second day out they 
were overtaken by a storm, which compelled them 
to land, drag their canoes on the beach, where they 
remained four days waiting for the waves to subside. 
Again trusting their frail barks to the waters of the 
lake, they were overtaken on the following day by a 
severe gale, and amid the lashing of waves their 
canoes drifted on a barren, rocky island some dis- 
tance from the main-land. Here they remained two 
days without shelter or fire, while their blankets 
alone protected them from the cold winter blasts. 
At last the voyageurs reached the mouth of St. 
Joseph River, and remained here some days waiting 
for Tonti and his thirty-five companions, who came 
through the wilderness of .Michigan. In bark canoes 
La Salle and his command commenced ascending St. 
Joseph River, crossing the portage and down the 
Kankakee to its junction with the Des Plaines. 

It was midwinter when the travelers reached La 
Yantum, the great Illinois town, and they found it 
deserted, the inhabitants having gone off' on the 


winter hunt, according to their custom. Being in a 
starving condition, La Salle ordered one of the caches 
opened, and they took therefrom twenty minots of 
corn, hoping at some future time to compensate the 
Indians for this robbery. After spending two days 
in desolated lodges of the town the party again 
boarded their canoes and continued on their way 
down the river. About five leagues below La Van- 
turn, at the mouth of a stream supposed to have been 
Bureau Creek, the voyageurs landed and sent out 
their hunters in search of buffalo. The following 
day being New Year, 1680, it was agreed to spend 
it in camp, saying mass and taking the sacrament in 
accordance to an old custom in the Catholic church. 
Before leaving Canada Father Hennepin provided 
himself with a miniature altar, which folded up like 
an army chair and could be carried on the back the 
same as a knapsack. With this altar on his back 
Father Hennepin started off through the woods in 
search of a suitable place for worship, followed by 
the other priests and the rest of the party. A place 
was selected, a cross raised, the altar erected, and the 
holy father preached to his companions, causing the 
wild woods to resound with exhortations arid songs 
of praise. After preaching and saying mass the 
sacred emblems were placed by the side of the altar, 
preparatory to taking the sacrament. But great was 


Father Hennepin's astonishment to find the wine 
vessel empty, as one of the party, a blacksmith by 
trade, nicknamed La Forge, had drank it up while 
on the road. For this act of sacrilege Father Henne- 
pin pronounced against him a curse equal to the one 
the Pope pronounced against Martin .Luther. 


According to history, on the 3d of January, 1680, 
the inhabitants of an Indian village situated on the 
west bank of Peoria Lake were surprised to see 
eight canoes filled with armed men opposite their 
to\vn. These canoes were all abreast, presenting a 
formidable appearance, and the men seated in them 
held guns in their hands ready for an attack or de- 
fense. The canoes rounded to and landed at the 
village, causing a great panic among the Indians, 
some of whom fled in terror, while others seized 
their arms and were prepared to defend themselves. 
Amid the confusion that followed La Salle sprang 
ashore and presented to the astonished -natives the 
calumet (a token of friendship), while Father Hen- 
nepin caught several frightened papooses and 
soothed their fears with kindness and small presents. 

The French pitched their tents in the Indian vil- 
lage and remained there for some days ; but discon- 
tentment among the men, and fearing treachery of 


tHe Indians, caused La Salle to remove to a place of 
greater security. A site to build a fort was selected 
and all the valuables at the camp transferred thereto. 
On account of the gloomy prospect, the discontent- 
ment and desertion of some of the men, La Salle 
named this fort Creve Coeur, which in English is 
Broken Heart. 


Father Hennepin, in his journal, says in Jan- 
uary, 1680, he went with La Salle down the river in 
search of a suitable place to build a fort. An emi- 
nence on the south side of the river being selected, 
which was defended on two sides by ravines cut deep 
by rains, and on one side by a steep bank, so the site 
was accessible from only one way. A ditch was dug 
on the land side connecting the two ravines, and the 
site inclosed by palisades. The soldiers were lodged 
in huts within this inclosure, and two cabins built, 
one for La Salle and Tonti, and the other for the 
three friars. 

Much has been written about the site of Fort 
Creve Creur, but the only place in this vicinity an- 
swering the above description is at the village of 
Wesley, which is located on the east side of the 
river, three miles below Peoria, and this is generally 
conceded to have been the site of the old fort. 

Father Hennepin lamented the loss of wine, which 


prevented him from administering the sacrament, 
but each morning and evening all the occupants of 
the fort were summoned to his cabin for prayers. 
Fathers Gabriel and Zenobe spent most of their time 
in the Indian village, preaching and instructing the 
natives in the ways of Christianity, but they made 
but few proselytes. 

About the 1st of February Father Hennepin, 
in a canoe, accompanied by two of his countrymen, 
left the fort on a voyage of discovery ; passing down 
the Illinois River to its mouth, they ascended the 
Mississippi to the Falls of St. Anthony ; here Hen- 
nepin and his comrades were made prisoners by the 
Indians, and remained in confinement for several 
months, but afterward they were liberated and re- 
turned to Canada. On arriving at Montreal Father 
Hennepin sailed for France, and published a book 
of his adventures in the new world. 



WAR having existed for a long lime between the 
Illinois and Iroquois Indians, La Salle had 
now to use his influence to make peace between the 
contending parties, as this hostility would endanger 
his enterprise. The Illinois Indians regarded this 
interference on the part of La Salle as treachery to 
them, and in council they had decided to put him 
and his comrades to death. On learning of this de- 
cision of the Indians, La Salle formed and executed 
a bold and hazardous project, of going alone, un- 
armed, to the Indian camp, for the purpose of vindi- 
cating his conduct. His bravery and eloquence 
astonished the natives, and completely changed their 
purposes. The calumet was smoked, presents ex- 
changed, and a treaty of amity concluded between 
the French and Indians. 

In March, La Salle, accompanied by two of his 
countrymen, returned to Canada to obtain supplies, 
as he was now convinced that the Griffin, with her 
cargo, had been lost. While they were forcing their 
canoe up the rapid current they noticed on the south 



bank a remarkable cliff of rocks rising from the 
water's edge and towering above the forest trees. 
Landing from their canoe they ascended this rock 
and found it to be a natural fortress, where but little 
labor would be required to make it impregnable, so 
that a few soldiers could hold it against a host of 
savages. When La Salle arrived at Mackinaw he 
sent word back to Tonti to fortify this rock and 
make it his stronghold. Although circumstances 
prevented Tonti from obeying the orders of his 
superior, nevertheless a fort was built here two 
years afterward, and around it clustered the first 
colony in the Mississippi Valley. 

When La Salle left for Canada Tonti took com- 
mand of the fort, which he was expected to hold 
until the return of his superior. Mutiny arose 
among his command, and a short time after La Salle 
left, all the soldiers except three deserted and made 
their way back to Canada. Tonti being left with 
only three soldiers and two Jesuit priests, abandoned 
Fort Creve Coeur, and it was never occupied by 
troops afterward. 


Among the many adventurers who accompanied 
La Salle to America, and took in exploring the 
wilds of the west, was a young Italian of noble birth 


by the name of Henri de Tonti. Young Tonti with 
his father's family were banished from Italy on ac- 
count of having taken part in a revolution of that 
country, and they found a home at Rouen, France. 
Tonti having a military education joined the French 
army and served five years, part of the time as cap- 
tain of National Guards. At the close of the war 
he was discharged from service, came to America 
with La Salle, and took part in his enterprise. La- 
Salle made Tonti his lieutenant, second in command, 
and the sequel shows that he was worthy of the 
trust placed in him. 

Part of Tonti's right hand having been shot off 
in the Sicilian war its place was supplied by an iron 
one, which he always kept covered with a glove. 
With this iron hand Tonti on two different occasions 
broke the heads, or knocked out the teeth, of disor- 
derly Indians, which caused them to believe that he 
possessed supernatural power. Tonti brought with 
him from France a large sum of money, which was 
used in common with La Salle in exploring and 
taking possession of the country, and also in trade 
with the Indians. 

The late Dr. Sparks says history never can do 
ample justice to Tonti, as his life was one of patriot- 
ism, self sacrifice, and the discovery and settle- 
ment of the Great West belongs mainly to him. 


Forty years of Tonti's life was spent in the wilds 
of the west, enduring hardships, dangers and depri- 
vations, associating with savages, and without the 
benefits or comforts of civilization. His fortune 
squandered, his health and manhood sacrificed, 
stripped of his hard-earned laurels, he became a wan- 
derer along the Gulf of Mexico, but at last returned 
to die at Fort St. Louis, and his bones now rest on 
the bank of the Illinois River, at the west end of 
Starved Rock. 

In one of the Louvre picture galleries in Paris 
can be seen a full length portrait of a youthful look- 
ing man, dressed in a French uniform, with epaulets 
on his shoulders and an eagle on his breast. His 
left hand holds a sword, while the right one presents 
a singular appearance, as though deformed, but hid- 
den by a glove. This tall, graceful figure, and the 
piercing black eyes, never fail to attract the attention 
of strangers, and inquiry would naturally arise for the 
history of the person here represented. Below this 
portrait is painted, in large letters, the name "Henri 
de Tonti, la voyajeur des Amerique." 


Soon after the troops deserted their post at Fort 

Creve Cceur, Tonti, with those remaining, consisting 

of Fathers Gabriel and Zenobe and three soldiers, 

abandoned the place. All the valuables in the fort 


were put into two canoes, when the party ascended 
the river as far as La Yantum, and here they found 
quarters among the Indians with the intention of 
awaiting La Salle's return from Canada. Tonti ap- 
plied himself in learning the Indian languages, the 
two priests were engaged in preaching to the In- 
dians, while the soldiers spent the honeymoon with 
their squaws, whom they had recently married. 

About three miles from the town, in the midst of 
a thick grove of timber, Fathers Gabriel and Zenobe 
erected a temporary altar, and every third day they 
repaired thither for prayer and meditation. Here 
in this lonely spot, far away from the noise and 
bustle of the town, the two holy friars would spend 
long summer days from early morning until late at 
night communing with the Yirgin, and with saints 
and angels. Notwithstanding these priests preached 
and prayed with the Indians almost daily, promising 
them great success in war, hunting, etc., if they 


would embrace the Christian religion, but few con- 
verts were made. Chassagoac, the head chief, hav- 
ing been converted several years before under the 
preaching of Marquette, still continued in the faith. 
This chief with his family and a few of his friends 
had taken the sacrament from the hands of the 
priests, but all other chiefs and warriors adhered 
to the religion of their fathers. 


The wine brought from Canada for sacramental 
purposes having been drank by La Forge, as pre- 
viously stated, it became necessary to procure 
a substitute, as the administration of the sacred 
rites could not be dispensed with. During the 
winter the priests gathered a quantity of wild 
grapes, pressed out the juice, and put away in the 
sacramental cask for future use. This wine an- 
swered the purpose very well so long as the 
weather remained cool, but during the summer it 
soured and became unfit for use. When the time 
came to administer the sacrament Tonti, the three 
soldiers with their wives, Chassagoac and family, 
with a few of his friends, were assembled in the 
council-house on the Sabbath day to receive the 
sacred embiems. Father Gabriel, wrapped in his 
long black robe, with a gold cross suspended from 
his neck, preached to them, telling them of Christ, 
of the Virgin, of the apostles, saints, and of the 
kingdom to come. After preaching all knelt around 
the altar, engaged in prayer, while Father Gabriel 
made preparations to administer the sacrament, but 
was horrified to find the wine sour, and the miracle 
of transubstantiation, that is, converting the wine 
into the real blood of Christ, could not be per- 
formed, consequently the sacramental service for the 
present had to be dispensed with. 


Time hung heavy with the French, days and 
weeks passed away, spring was gone, the summer 
almost ended, and still no news from La Salle. In 
an Indian village, where there is neither hunting, 
war parties to fit out, nor national festivals to keep 
rip an excitement, it has a^dull, monotonous appear- 
ance. Warriors lay under shade-trees sleeping, or 
amusing themselves in games of chance, while 
squaws were at work in cornfields, or preparing food 
for their families. Naked papooses were playing 
on the green or rolling in the dirt, while young 
maidens with their lovers were gathering flowers in 
the grove, fishing on the river bank, or rowing their 
canoes across its waters, unconscious of the great 
calamity that was about to befall them. 


It was near the close of a warm day in the latter 
part of the summer when a scout arrived with his 
pony in a foam of sweat, shouting at the top of his 
voice that the Iroquois were marching against the 
town. All was now excitement and confusion, 
squaws screamed, papooses quit their plays on the 
green and ran away to their homes, warriors caught 
their weapons, and preparations for defense. The 
warriors greased their bodies, painted their faces, 
and ornamented their heads with turkey feathers, 


and spent the night in singing and dancing. Morn- 
ing at last came, and with it came the savage Iro- 
quois armed with rifles and other implements of war- 
fare. On receiving notice of the approaching enemy 
a crowd of excited savages collected around Tonti 
and his three companions, whom they had previously 
suspected of treachery, and charged them with being 
in league with the Iroquois. A report having 
reached them that a number of Jesuit priests and 
La Salle himself were with the enemy leading them on 
to the town. The enraged warriors seized the black- 
smith forge tools, with all the goods belonging to the 
French, and threw them into the river. One of the 
warriors caught Tonti by the hair of the head, and 
raised his tomahawk to split open his skull, but a 

friendly chief caught the savage by the arm, and 
thereby his life was spared. Tonti, with boldness 
and self possession which was characteristic of him, 
defended himself against these charges, and in order 
to convince them of his good faith offered to accom- 
pany them to battle. 

Fathers Gabriel and Zenobe at the time of the 
alarm were away at their altar spending the day 
in prayer and meditation, and had no warning of 
the danger that awaited them. On their return 
home late at night they were surprised to find the 
town in a whirlpool of excitement, squaws crying, 


bewailing their fate, warriors dancing, yelling, bran- 
dishing their war-clubs to keep up their courage, 
and offering up sacrifices to the Manitou of battle. 
On the arrival of the two priests the savages charged 
them with treachery, and of being the cause of 
the Iroquois invading their country. The priests 
with uplifted hands called God to witness their inno- 
cence of the charge, but their denial did not change 
the minds of the excited Indians. A loud clamor 
was raised for their blood, when a number of war- 
riors sprang forward with uplifted tomahawks to 
slay them, but as they drew nigh and about to strike 
the fatal blow Father Gabriel drew from his bosom 
a small gold image of the Holy Virgin, and held 
it before the faces of the would-be murderers. On 
seeing this sacred talisman in the hands of the priest 
the executioners paused a moment, and then 
returned their tomahawks to their belts. Father 
Zenobe in after years said this was only one of the 
many instances of the Holy Virgin protecting the 
Jesuits of North America. 

During the night all the squaws and papooses, 
with the aged warriors unable to bear arms, were 
placed in canoes and taken down the river about 
three leagues, to a large, marshy island. About sixty 
warriors were left here for their protection, and all 
of them secreted themselves among the reeds and 


high grass, but the sequel shows their hiding place 
was discovered by the enemy, and this place of sup- 
posed safety became their tomb. 


At the time of the Iroquois invasion there were 
only about five hundred warriors in La Yantum, 
the head chief, Chassagoac, and a portion of his 
braves having gone to a distant village for the pur- 
pose of attending a religious feast. But this band, 
small as it was, boldly crossed the river at daylight 
and met the enemy, whose number was five times 
their own. While they were ascending the bluft a 
scout met them saying the enemy were crossing the 
prairie close at hand, and as the invaders approached 
the river timber they were surprised to meet the 
Illinoisans who were lying in ambush, and received 
them with a deadly fire. At this unexpected attack 
the Iroquois were panic-stricken, and fled from the 
field, leaving the ground covered with their dead 
and wounded. But they soon rallied and the fight 
became bloody, arrows and rifle balls flying thick 
and fast, while the woods far and near resounded 
with the wild whoops of contending savages. In 
the midst of the fight Tonti undertook the perilous 
task of mediating between the contending parties. 
Laying aside his gun, and taking a wampum belt in 


his hand, holding it above his head as a flag of truce, 
and amid showers of arrows and rifle balls, he 
walked boldly forward to meet the enemy. As he 
approached the Iroquois warriors collected around 
him in a threatening manner, one of whom at- 
tempted to stab him to the heart, but the knife 
striking a rib made only a long, shallow gash. As 
the savage was about to repeat the blow, a chief 
came up, and seeing the victim was a white man,, 
protected him from further assaults, and applied a 
bandage to the wound to stop the bleeding. The 
fighting having ceased, a warrior took Tonti's hat, 
and placing it on the muzzle of his gun started 
toward the Illinoisans, who on seeing it supposed 
the owner was killed, and again renewed the fight. 
While the battle was raging a warrior reported that 
three French men, armed with guns, were with the 
Illinoisans and firing on them. On making this an- 
nouncement the Iroquois warriors became enraged 
at Tonti, and again gathered around him, some for 
killing and others for protection. One of the war- 
riors caught him by the hair of his head, raising it 
up, and with his long knife was about to take off his 
scalp, when Tonti, with his iron hand, knocked 
down his assailant. Others attacked Tonti with 
knives and tomahawks, but he was again rescued 
from death by the principal war chief. For a long 


time the battle raged with fearful strife, many of the 
combatants on both sides being slain, but at last the 
Illinoisans were overpowered and driven from the 
field. The vanquished fled to their town with the 
intention of defending it or perish in the attempt. 

On the river bank, near the center of the town, 
stood their great council-house, surrounded by earth- 
works and stockades, forming a kind of fortification. 
To this place the remnant of the warriors fled, and 
in great haste tore down some of the lodges and 
used the material in strengthening their works of 

The Illinoisans had crossed the river in canoes, 
but their pursuers, having no means of crossing at 
this point, were obliged to go up the river to the 
rapids to ford it. In a short time the enemy attacked 
the town, setting fire to lodges and fortifications, 
which were soon a mass of flames. Many of the 
besieged were burned, others slain or made prisoners 
as they escaped from the flames, and only a few 
succeeded in making their escape. 

When the victory was completed the conquerors 
bound the prisoners hand and foot, and commenced 
torturing them to make them reveal the hiding place 
of the squaws and papooses, and on obtaining the 
necessary information a party of warriors went in 
search of them. While these defenseless beings 


were secreted among the reeds and sage grass of 
the island, they were discovered by the savage Iro- 
quois, and all of them slain. The sixty warriors 
left as guards fled on approach of the enemy, and 
some of them succeeded in making their escape. 




ON the following day after the battle the victors 
made preparations to torture the prisoners, and 
their acts of barbarity probably have never been 
equaled by any other savages of the west. The 
warriors were formed into a large circle, and the 
prisoners, bound hand and foot, conveyed thither ; 
when the work <>f. torture commenced the doomed 
victims were seated on the ground awaiting their fate, 
some of whom were weeping or praying, others en- 
gaged in singing their death song. The executioner, 
with his long knife, cut off the nose and ears and 
pieces of flesh from the body while the prisoners sat 
writhing with agony, and the ground around them 
red with human gore. This work of torture contin- 
ued for some time, limbs and pieces of flesh were cut 
from different parts of the body, and in some cases 
the bowels were taken out and trailed on the ground, 
while the groans and screams of the victims in their 
agonies of death were terrible to witness. Tonti 
and his companions looked on in horror at these 



barbarous acts of the Iroquois, but dare not remon- 
strate, as they, too, were prisoners, and did not know 
but a like fate awaited them. 

While the torture was going on the two priests 
were engaged in baptising tl e victims in order to 
absolve them from past sins, and as each one was 
about to expire they held the crucifix before his 
eyes so he might look on it while giving up the ghost, 
and through its divine efficacy his soul would be 
saved from perdition. 

When the prisoners were all dead the warriors 
cut out their hearts, roasted and ate them so as to 
make them brave. 

For a number of days the Iroquois continued to 
rejoice over their victory, spending the time in sing- 
ing and dancing around the scalps, causing the 
timbers and surrounding bluff to re-echo with their 
wild whoops and yells. 


Two days after the Iroquois' victory, the French 
were set at liberty, and they departed eastward in 
an old leaky canoe. After going about six leagues, 
they stopped at the mouth of a creek to repair the 
canoe and dry their clothing; while thus engaged, 
Father Gabriel, who was always fond of solitude, 
wandered off among the thick timber for the purpos6 


of prayer and meditation. When the canoe was 
repaired, clothes dried, and the time of departure 
came, Father Gabriel being absent search was made 
for him, but he could not be found. During the 
night fires were kept burning along the river bank, 
and guns discharged to direct him to camp, but all 
in vain. During the tollowing day they searched 
the woods far and near for the missing priest, but all 
to no purpose, so they gave him up for lost, and 
continued on their journey. For clays they mourned 
the loss of the holy father, as he was an old man of 
nearly three score and ten, and much devoted to the 
interest of the church. 

It was afterward ascertained that Father Gabriel 
was taken prisoner by Indians, carried off to their 
camp to be executed, and while his friends were 
searching for him these savages were dancing around 
his scalp. While Father Gabriel was at prayer in 
the thick timber two Indians approached him in a 
threatening manner, and with his head uncovered 
he arose to meet them. In vain he told the savages 
that he was their friend, having come from afar 
across the big waters to teach them in the ways of 
truth and happiness; but regardless of his entreaties, 
they bound his hands behind his back and led him 
off a prisoner to their camp. A council was held 
over the captive, and it was decided that he should 


die. A stake was driven into the ground, and 
Father Gabriel, with his hands and feet pinioned, 
tied to it. Here he sat on the ground, bound to the 
stake, with his long hair and flowing beard, whitened 
with the snows of seventy winters, waving to and 
fro in the wind.' The Indians formed a circle around 
their victim, singing and dancing, and under re- 
peated blows of the war-club he fell to the ground 
and expired. Thus perished Father Gabriel, the 
only heir of a wealthy I'urgundian house, who had 
given i.p a life of ease and comfort in the old world 
to preach the gospel to the heathens of the west, 
and who, at last, became his murderers. 

Four years after the tragedy above narrated a 
trader at Fort St. Louis bought of an Indian a 
small gold image of the Virgin Mary, with Father 
Gabriel's name engraved thereon. This image had 
been presented to the holy father by the bishop of 
Normandy, on the day he sailed for America, and 
he had carried it in his bosom near his heart until 
the day of his death. Many years after the recovery 
of this golden image it was carried back to France, 
and is now to be seen in the museum of Rouen. 


It was midwinter, three months after the mas- 
sacre of the Illinois Indians, when La Salle with 


twelve companions returned from Canada to I6ok 
after his little colony, on the Illinois River. As the 
canoes passed rapidly down the swollen stream the 
eyes of the travelers were directed to Starved Rock, 
where they expected to tind Tonti within his fortifi- 
cation. But no palisades were there; no smoke 
ascended from its summit, nor signs of human habita- 
tion could be seen. Passing down the rapid current 
a mile and a half, the travelers were surprised to find 
the great town of the west had disappeared. The 
large meadow formerly covered with lodges and 
camping-tents, and swarming with human beings, 
was now a lonely waste, a fit representative of death 
and desolation. On the charred poles which had 
formed the framework of lodges were many human 
heads partly robbed of flesh by birds of prey. Packs 
of wolves fled at their approach, and flocks of buz- 
zards raised from their hideous repast and flew 
squawking away to distant trees. E\ en the bury ing- 
grounds showed marks of the vindictive malice of 
the victors having made war on the dead as well as 
the living. Graves had been opened and bones 
taken out and piled up in heaps, or broken into frag- 
ments and scattered about over the prairie. The 
scaffold containing the dead had been torn down 
and their contents thrown hither and thither on the 
meadow. Everywhere the ground was strewn with 


mangled bodies and broken bones of the unfortunate 

In the midst of the ruins the conquerors had 
erected an altar to the god of war, and the poles sur- 
rounding it were capped with heads of victims, whose 
long hair and ghastly features were sickening to look 
on. The stench arising from putrefaction was so 
offensive, and the scene so horrifying, that La Salle 
and his party turned away from it and encamped for 
the night on the opposite side of the river. During 
the long winter night the loneliness was made in- 
tolerable by the howling of wolves, and buzzards 
winging their way back and forth through the dark 

On the following morning La Salle returned to 
the ancient town and examined the skulls of many 
of the victims to see if he could find among them 
the remains of Tonti and his party, but they all ap- 
peared to have been the heads of Indians. On the 
bank of the river were planted six posts painted 
red, and on each of these was a figure of a man 
drawn in white. La Salle believed these figures 
represented six white men, prisoners in the hands 
of the Indians, it being the number of Tonti's party. 

La Salle and his comrades again boarded their 
canoes and started down the river, hoping to learn 
something in relation to the fate of their country- 


men, but nothing was discovered. As the travelers 
passed down the river they saw on the island where 
the squaws and papooses had taken refuge many 
human figures standing erect but motionless. With 
great caution they landed from their canoes to ex- 
amine these figures, and found them to be partly 
consumed bodies of squaws who had been bound to 
a stake and then burned. Fires had been made at 
their feet, consuming the flesh off their legs and 
crisping their bodies, but leaving the remains bound 
to the stake, standing erect as though in life. Poles 
were stuck into the marsh and papooses placed 
thereon, while others were hanging by the neck 
from limbs of trees, with the flesh partly eaten off 
their bodies by birds of prey. The sight of these 
dead bodies was so revolting to look upon that the 
French turned away from them in horror, and con- 
tinued on their way down the river. 


This remarkable rock is so closely identified with 
the early history of the Illinois country, and so 
often referred to in our story, the reader will par- 
don me for this digression from the narrative in 
describing it. 

On the south bank of the Illinois River, eight 
miles below Ottawa, and near the foot of the rapids, 


is a remarkable cliff known as Starved Rock. This 
rocky cliff rises almost perpendicularly from the 
water's edge to the height of one hundred and 
thirty-six feet, and is separated from neighboring 
cliffs by a wide chasm, which shows signs of hav- 
ing been produced by some convulsion of nature. 
Three sides of this rock rise like a watch-tower, but 
the fourth, side, next to the bluff, recedes inward, 
and at one place can be ascended by a steep, rocky 
pathway. The walls of this cliff consist of grey 
sandstone, partly hid by forest trees, and when 
viewed from a distance has the appearance of an 
old castle of feudal times. 

Starved Rock is of a circular form, and in view- 
ing it from every standpoint it has a bold, majestic 
appearance. On the north side, next to the river, 
the cliff is perpendicular, rising in towering masses, 
one rock upon the other, and overlooking the rapid 
stream which flows at its base. In some places the 
walls of this cliff are smooth, and thick layers of 
rock look like the work of art, while at other places 
they are rough with overhanging crags, under which 
are many dark, dismal looking caverns, at one time 
the abode of wild animals. Out of the many crev- 
ices in the rocks stunted cedars grow, and under 
their branches can be seen patches of cactus and 
mountain ivy. 


The summit of Starved Rock contains about 
three-fourths of an acre, some of it smooth sand- 
stone, on which are engraved many names of visit- 
ors; but the larger portion is covered by earth, with 
grass and small evergreen trees growing thereon. 
Here, by the river side, stands this high, isolated 
rock, the same as it stood centuries ago, overlooking 
the broad plain below and the many . wood-clad 
islands which divide the swift current of the Illinois 
River, and here it will continue to stand, a monu- 
ment of past ages and the admiration of the present. 
Its bold, towering walls, its high, majestic summit, and 
its isolated position, make it the most picturesque 
object on the Illinois River, and for historic remini- 
scences it is without a parallel in the western country. 

The view from the summit of Starved Rock is 
very fine, and will remind a person of a grand land- 
scape painting or a beautiful panorama. To the 
north and west is a large bottom prairie, bounded 
on each side by bluffs covered with forest trees. 
Through tlys great meadow flows the Illinois River, 
which can be seen many miles distant winding about 
in its serpentine course. On looking down into the 
river at the base of the rock catfish and turtles can 
be seen sporting over the sand and rocks in the 
clear, shallow stream, while shoals of pike and red 
horse ascend the swift current. 


By the early French explorers Starved Rock, 
known as Le Rocher, has figured extensively in the 
early history of western discoveries. Two centuries 
ago La Salle built a fort on its summit, the relics of 
which are still to be seen, and around this fort was 


clustered the first colony in the Mississippi Valley. 
The summit of this rock was at one time the abode 
of gay and joyous French, where balls, gay parties 
and wine suppers were held, and here, too, was 
heard, morning and evening, the songs of praise 
from the lips of devout Jesuit priests. At another 
time it was a scene of strife, carnage and desola- 
tion, stained with human blood and covered with 
the bodies of the slain. Of late years pleasure 
parties have frequent dances on this rock; but they 
do not consider that here was once the dance of 
death, where the infant, the mother, the young 
maiden, the brave warrior and aged chief suffered 
ami died, and their bones, bleached white by rain 
and sun, could be seen for many years afterward. 
Two hundred years has made but little change 
in the appearance of Starved Rock. The same fort- 
like walls remain, and probably the same stunted 
cedars . crown its summit ; but the surroundings 
have undergone a great change. The great meadow 
which it overlooks, once covered with grass and 
wild flowers, and sometimes blackened with herds 


of buffalo, is now occupied by farms in close suc- 
cession. To the north, across the wide bottom 
prairie, is seen the village of Utica, with its cement 
mills and warehouses, by the side of which pass 
the canal and railroad. To the west, five miles^ 
below but in plain view, are the flourishing cities 
of Peru and La Salle, with their church steeples 
glittering in the sunbeams. Steam and canal boats 
are seen in the river, and trains of cars passing and 
repassing on the different railroads. Evidences of 
agriculture, commerce and civilization are now seen 
from the summit of this rock, and the familiar 
peals of church and school bells are heard, instead 
ot the wild war-whoop of savages while engaged in 
a bloody strife, leaving the great meadow below 
strewn with the dead, as in former times. 



LA SALLE met Tonti and his comrades at Macki 
naw, and with them descended the Mississippi 
to its mouth, after which they returned to build a fort 
on the Illinois River. In the fall of 1682 La Salle, 
with about forty soldiers under his command, built a 
fort on the summit of Starved Rock. The place of 
ascending this rock was improved by breaking off 
projecting crags and cutting steps in the steep, rocky 
pathway. The stunted cedars that crowned the 
summit were cut away to make room for fortifica- 
tions, and the margin of the rock for about two- 
thirds of its circumference was encircled by earth- 
works. Timbers were cut on the river bottom 
below, and by hand dragged up the stair-like pathway 
to build a block-house, store-house and dwelling, also 
to protect a large portion of the summit of the rock 
with palisades. They built a platform on the trunk 
of two leaning cedars which grew on the margin of 
the cliff, on which a windlass was placed to draw 
water out of the river to supply the garrison. The 


two small cannon brought from Canada in a canoe 
were mounted on the wooden ramparts, and all the 
arms, stores, etc., belonging to the French, were 
carried here and placed within the stockades. When 
the fort was completed, and the French flag swung to 
the breeze, the cannons fired three salutes in honor of 
Louis XIV, and all the soldiers shouted vive le roi. 

The fort was named St Louis or Rock Fort, and 
in its dedication Father Zenobe called on the Hoi j 
Virgin to bless and keep it in the true faith, and 
protect it from the enemies of the cross. 

From the wooden ramparts of Fort St. Louis, 
which were as high and almost as inaccessible as an 
eagle's nest, the French could look down on the 
Indian town below, and also on the great meadow 
which lay spread out before them like a map. Two 
years before this meadow was the scene of carnage, 
a waste of death and desolation, blackened by fire, and 
strewn with the ghastly remains of the slain in the 
Iroquois victory. But now it was changed: Indians 
to the number of six thousand had returned, and the 
river bank for a mile in extent was covered with 
lodges. Many of the inhabitants of other villages 
came here to trade, bringing with them venison, buf- 
falo meat, furs, pelts, etc., to exchange for goods. 
At one time there were encamped around the fort 
not less than twenty thousand Indians, who came 


here to trade and seek protection from their much 
dreaded enemies, the Iroquois. Emigrants from Can- 
ada came here and built cabins near the fort, some of 
whom married squaws, lived in the village with the 
Indians, and adopted their dress, habits and cus- 
toms. The colony was called Louisiana, in honor of 
the king of France, and according to maps drawn at 
that time it included all of the Mississippi Valley. 


La Salle being now established within his stockades 
he turned his attention to trading with the Indians, 
supplying them with goods, and taking furs in ex- 
change. He claimed dominion over all the country 
west of the lakes by virtue of his patent, and he 
divided it out among his friends by giving them per- 
mits to trade with the Indians. He authorized 
Richard Bosley to establish a trading pose at Caho- 
kia, and Phillip de Beuro one at Green Bay, but 
compelled them to pay him a royalty on all goods 
sold and furs bought. 

Indians from different parts of the country came 
to the fort for the purpose of trade, carrying with 
them large quantities of furs, which were exchanged 
for goods at a large profit to the trader. Toma- 
hawks, axes, knives, etc., made of flint, were super- 
seded by those of steel, guns took the place of bows 


arid arrows, and blankets as a wearing apparel the 
place of heavy buffalo robes. Blankets worth three 
dollars in Montreal would bring one hundred dollars 
in furs, and a tomahawk that cost fifty cents sold for 
twenty dollars among the Indians. 


Two years after Fort St. Louis was built La Salle, 
leaving Tonti in command, returned to Canada, and 
from thence sailed for France. Obtaining assistance 
from the court of France La Salle in the following 
year, with three ships loaded with emigrants, sailed 
for the mouth of the Mississippi River, with the in- 
tention of establishing a colony there. Being 
unsuccessful in finding the mouth of the Mississippi 
he landed in Texas, and while traveling across the 
country on his way to the colony on the Illinois 
was assassinated by his own men. 

In the summer of 1686 Tonti with forty men. in 
canoes, descended the river to the Gulf of Mexico in 
search of La Salle, but found no traces of him. 
Again in 1669 he made a like tour in search of the 
remnant of the colony, and for the purpose of finding 
the bones of the great explorer in order to carry 
them back with him to Fort St. Louis, but this ex- 
pedition, like the first one, proved a failure. 

Although La Salle was dead his colony on the 


Illinois River continued to flourish, and the fur 
trade became a source of great wealth. For eighteen 
years this trade was conducted by Tonti and La- 
Frost, the former living at Fort St. Louis, and the 
latter in Canada. 


Two years after the building of Fort St. Louis it 
was attacked by two thousand Iroquois warriors, and 
by them held in siege six days. At that time Tonti 
was in command of the fort, which contained only 
fifty soldiers and one hundred Indian allies, and 
with this small force he put the besiegers to flight. 

On a bright, clear day in the latter part of May 
the great meadow was green with grass, intermixed 
with flowers of various hues, the forest trees were in 
full leaf, and the air made fragrant with blossoms of 
the wild plum a id crab-apple. Birds were singing 
among the branches of trees, and squirrels chirping 
in the thick river timber, while at a distance was 
heard the musical notes of the robin and meadow- 
lark. In the shade of willows and outspreading 
elms, along the bank of the river, lay the doe and 
her fawn, lulled to slumber by the hum of the wild 
bee and grasshopper. All was quiet at Fort St. 
Louis, and the occupants were delighted with the 
beauty of the surrounding scenery. To the west, in 


plain view, lay the great town of LaVantum, with its 
hundreds of lodges built along the bank of the river, 
and around which were passing masses of human 
beings. On the race-track above the town warriors 
mounted on ponies were practicing horsemanship, 
while far in the distance squaws were seen at work 
in their corn fields or gathering greens for the family 

It was Sabbath morning, the fourth after Easter; 
all the inmates of the fort were dressed in their best 
apparel and seated under the shade of cedars 
awaiting religious services. Father Zenobe, dressed 
in his long black robe, with a large gold cross hang- 
ing from his neck, was about to commence services 
when a lone Indian was seen on the bottom prairie 
going westward, and urging his pony forward at the 
top of its speed. Father Zenobe after concluding his 
sermon was about to administer the sacrament when 
the sentinel at the gate fired his gun to give an 
alarm. At this unexpected signal the meeting broke 
up, and every one ran to his post thinking the fort 
was about to be attacked. On looking in the direc- 
tion of the town everything appeared in commotion, 
warriors mounted on ponies riding back and forth at 
full gallop, squaws and papooses running hither and 
thither in wild confusion, drums beating, chiefs yell- 
ing in giving command, while the cries and lamenta- 


tions of the frightened people could be heard even 
at the fort. Tonti, with three companions, came 
-down from the fort, boarded a canoe, and with all 
haste proceeded down the river to ascertain the 
cause of this excitement, when the mystery was ex- 

A scout had arrived with the intelligence that a 
large body of Iroquois were only ten leagues distant, 
.and marching on the town. The tragedy of four 
years previous was fresh in their minds, and fearing 
a like result caused them to go wild with terror. 
The chiefs and warriors collected around Tonti 
beseeching him to protect them from the tomahawks 
.and scalping knives of their enemies in accordance 
with La Salle's promise. In reply Tonti said his 
force was not sufficient to afford them protection, 
but advised them to collect their warriors and 
defend the town. The French who lived in the 
town with their families, and a few Indian friends, 
fled to the fort, while the inhabitants being panic- 
stricken left in great haste down the river. Soon 
after their departure the invaders came, but found a 
barren victory, as not one living soul was left in the 

When the Iroquois found their intended victims 
had fled they attacked the fort, and held it in siege 
six days. For a number of days the Indians contin- 


ued to fire on the fort from the neighboring cliffs, 
but without producing any effect. The occupants of 
the fort not returning the fire emboldened the as- 
sailants, and each day they came closer and secreted- 
themselves in the timber near the base of the rock, 
with the intention, no doubt, of making an assault ; 
but when they came in close range the guns were 
brought to bear on them, receiving the fire of' both 
musket and cannon. Many were killed, others 
wounded, while the survivors, being panic-stricken, 
fled in all haste, leaving their dead and wounded 
behind. For many days after the Indians were 
repulsed the French remained within their fortifica- 
tions, and did n'ot venture down from the rock until 
convinced that the enemy had left the country. 

No Iroquois Indians were ever seen in that vicin- 
ity afterward, and they never made another raid on. 
the Illinoisans. 


In 1687 Tonti, with fifty French soldiers and two 
hundred Illinois warriors, went to Canada and 
joined Gen. Denonville in an expedition against the 
Indians south of Lake Ontario. This army was vic- 
torious; many towns along the Mohawk River were 
burned, and a large number of scalps taken. After 
completing the victory the army returned to Canada, 


when Tonti with his soldiers and Indian allies left 
for Illinois. On their return they were accompanied 
by a number of emigrant families, among whom were 
wives, sons and daughters of soldiers and fur 
traders belonging to the colony. For many weeks 
the voyageurs in their bark canoes coasted along the 
lake shores, at night dragging their frail barks on 
the beech and sleeping in the open air. On reaching 
the mouth of Chicago River they ascended it ; then 
crossed the portage into Des Plaines, and down the 
Illinois River to their destination. 

It was a bright, clear morning in midsummer, the 
silver rays of the sun reflected from the rippling 
waters of the river as it glided swiftly by. The 
fresh morning breeze was cooled by passing through 
branches of forest trees, and the songs of birds added 
enchantment and loveliness to the surrounding 
scene. The occupants of Fort St. Louis, after the 
morning prayer and an exhortation by Father Allo- 
uez, were collected along the brink of the rock 
watching the finny tribe as they sported over the 
sand and rocks in the clear, shallow wafer. While 
thus engaged they were startled by hearing the 
sound of a bugle up the river, and on looking in 
that direction they saw the broad stream covered 
with canoes all filled with human beings. On came 
this fleet of canoes, with flags flying, drums beating, 


: and the loud cheering of both French and Indians 
announced the return of Tonti's victorious army. 
As this large fleet of canoes passed rapidly down the 
swift current the cannons on the fort boomed forth 
loud peals of welcome to returning friends. 

There was great rejoicing at Fort St. Louis, 
wives and children of soldiers and fur traders had 
come thither to join husbands and fathers after 
many years of separation, and the meeting was an 
affecting one. 

On the following night a ball and wine supper 
was given in honor of the occasion, and the great 
hall of the fort rang with martial music, songs, toasts, 
with various demonstrations of joy. Ladies from 
fashionable society of Montreal gave an air of refine- 
ment to the ball, and such a gay party was never 
before witnessed in the wilds of the west. Much 
wine was drank, the sound of music and joyous 
laughter of the dancers rang forth on the clear night 
air. Father Allouez, having spent twenty years 
among savages in the west without mingling in 
refined society, became so overjoyed by the gay 
party and effects of the wine that he passed to and 
fro among the ladies, encircling their waists with his 
arms and offering to bestow his blessings upon 



IN the year 1684 La Barre, governor of Canada, 
being jealous of La Salle's power and influence, 
concocted a plan to defeat his enterprise, and there- 
by appropriate to himself and friends the great 
wealth to be derived from the fur trade, under a plea 
that La Salle had forfeited his charter by granting 
other parties permits to trade with the Indians. He 
sent an army officer, Capt. De Bougis, to Illinois 
with authority to take command of Fort St. Louis. 
Tout! being in command of the fort at the time, sur- 
rendered it to the usurper, who took possession of 
all the goods and furs at the trading-post also. A 
few months after Capt. De Bougis assumed com- 
mand he became convinced that he was holding the 
fort without authority, consequently he gave it up to 
Tonti and returned to Canada. 

On the following year after De Bougis returned 
to Canada Capt. Richard Pilette made his appear- 
ance at Fort St. Louis. Pilette remained at the fort 
a number of days without letting his business be 



known, but when the proper time came he drew 
from his pocket a commission under the Governor's 
seal authorizing him to take command. Tonti 
denied the power of the Governor to appoint a com- 
mander, as the fort was private property, having 
been built and maintained by La Salle at his own 
expense in accordance with a charter from the King 
of France. In a pompous manner Pilette proclaimed 
himself commander of the fort by virtue of his com- 
mission, and addressing the soldiers in a tone of 
authority ordered them to lay hold of Tonti and 
place him under guard. Tonti with his iron hand 
knocked down the would-be commander, relieving 
him of three front teeth, and before the usurper 
could regain his feet the soldiers carried him outside 
of the gateway, setting him on the rock and giving 
him a start downward. The rock being covered 
with sleet Pilette could not recover his footing or 
stop his descent, and in that position slid to the bot- 
tom, tearing his pantaloons into fragments and 
bruising himself on the sharp crags of rocks. Capt. 
Pilette, bruised and bleeding, made his way to La 
Vantum, where he found sympathy among his coun- 
trymen and their Indian friends. With eighteen 
Frenchmen and fifty warriors he went to Buffalo 
Rock, and on its summit commenced building a fort 
in defiance of La Salle's charter or Fort St. Louis. 


Here he built a block-house, a store-house, and sur- 
rounded it with earthworks and palisades. Indians 
to a large number came here, and built lodges with- 
in the stockades, and it became a large town. The 
place took the name of Le Fort des Miamis, and was 
occupied by the Indians long after the French left the 
country. The remains of this fort were plain to be 
seen in the early settlement of the county, and were 
mistaken for the relics of Fort St. Louis.* 

For many years Pilette traded with the Indians, 
but was compelled to pay a duty to Fort St. Louis 
in accordance to La Salle's charter. Having married 
a squaw he raised a family of half-breed children, to 
whom he left a large fortune, made in the fur trade. 
After his death the family removed to Peoria, and 
one of his grandsons, Louis Pilette, was a claimant 
for the land where the city now stands. Hypolite 
Pilette, a great-grandson of the captain, who is now 
living on the American Bottom, has in his posses- 
sion many articles that once belonged to his distin- 
guished ancestor. From Hypolite Pilette I obtained 

* Fifty years ago the relics of this fort were plain to be seen on the summit 
of Buffalo Rock, and were pointed out by early settlers as the remains of Port 
St. Louis. These remains consisted of low earthworks enclosing three sides of 
about one acre of land, the margin of the rock forming the fourth. The many 
raids of the Iroquois caused the Indians to take refuge on Buffalo Rock, where 
they would be secure within the stockades of the fort. 

A short distance from the fort were a number of sepulchral mounds, the 
largest of which, according to tradition, was raised over the grave of Capt.Pilette. 

These old relics have been plowed over for many years by Mr. A. Betger, 
the owner of the land, and most of them leveled down, but still their outlines 
-can be traced out. 


most of the traditionary account of Le Fort des Mia- 
mis, as well as many other items relating to the 
French and Indians of former times. 


For fifteen years after the death of La Salle the- 
fur trade was carried on by Tonti and La Frost. The 
latter spent most of his time in Canada, and the for- 
mer at Fort St. Louis, shipping 'each year a large 
quantity of furs, and receiving goods in exchange. 
In 1702 the Governor of Canada, claiming that: 
the traders had forfeited their charter by collect- 
ing furs at various points on Lake Michigan, and by 
force of arms took possession of Fort St. Louis, con- 
fiscating to the Government all their stock in trade. 
By this act of injustice Tonti was not only deprived' 
of his right to command the fort but ruined in for- 
tune. Calling his friends together he took leave of 
them, saying that he was about to depart from the 
country never to return. Both French and Indians 
collected around Tonti beseeching him to remain. 
with them, but he had decided to do otherwise, and 
with many tokens of friendship he bade them r.dieu. 
Accompanied by two companions he boarded a canoe 

* For the two sketches relating to the death of Tonti and burning of Fort 
St. Louis I am indebted to Jacques Matte, whose great -grandfather was a sol- 
dier in the fort and was present at Tonti's death and burial also when the- 
fort was burned by the Indians a few months afterward. 


and started down the river in search of new adven- 

On reaching the lower Mississippi country Tonti 
joined D'Iberville, and assisted him in establishing 
a colony. For sixteen years he remained south, 
part of the time entrusted with an important mission, 
but when the colony was broken up by sickness and 
Spanish invasion he became au outcast and a wan- 
derer. Broken down in health, forsaken by friends, 
and feeling that his end was nigh, he employed two 
Indians to take him to Fort St. Louis so he could 
once more look upon the scene of his vigor and man- 
hood, and leave his bones among people by whom 
he had long been honored and obeyed. 

On a warm afternoon in the summer of 1718, 
while the occupants of Fort St. Louis were lounging 
around under the shade of evergreens, they discovered 
a canoe coming up the river rowed by two Indians. 
In the bottom of the canoe a man lay on a buffalo 
robe but on nearing the fort he raised himself into 
a sitting position, and gazed wildly around him. 
The canoe landed at the base of the rock, and the 
travelers commenced ascending it. Between the 
two Indians was a feeble old man whom the conduct- 
ors held by each arm, and slowly assisted him up 
the rocky pathway. On reaching the summit the 
old man was placed on a bunk, where he lay for some 


time overcome by fatigue and- unable to speak. 
After taking some stimulants he revived, and in- 
quired of those around him who commanded the 
fort. On being told it was Captain La Mott he gave 
a sigh saying La Mott was a usurper, and himself the 
rightful commander. Those in attendance thought 
him crazy, or his mind wandering, and they bathed 
his head with cold water. When sufficiently recov- 
ered from exhaustion he told them that his name 
was Tonti, and he had returned here to die. 

Sixteen years had made a great change in the ap- 
pearance of Tonti, and he was scarcely recognized 
by his most intimate friends. His tall, manly form 
was bent by disease, his piercing black eyes were 
dimmed with age, and his raven locks were as white 
as snow. News of Tonti's arrival spread throughout 
the country, and French and Indians from distant 
villages came to see him. But those who knew him 
while in the vigor of manhood could scarcely be con- 
vinced that the feeble old man was the proud, brave 
and fearless Tonti of former years. A few days 
after Tonti arrived at the fort lie took the sacra- 
ment at the hand of a priest, and while looking 
upon a gold crucifix which was held before his face 
he breathed his last. A grave was dug on the river 
bank, at the west end of Starved Rock, in which his 
remains found a resting-place. 


For many years after Tonti's death both French 
and Indians, while passing up and down the river, 
would stop to visit the grave, sometimes placing 
flowers or mementoes on it in memory of him who 
sleeps beneath. 


So long as the fur trade was conducted by Tonti 
and La Frost the Indians were well pleased, but 
when it came under the supervision of the Governor 
of Canada they became dissatisfied. The Gov- 
ernor appointed unscrupulous agents to conduct the 
trade, who swindled the Indians by selling them 
worthless articles such as counterfeit jewelry, knives, 
tomahawks, etc., made of pot metal, but the princi- 
pal cause of ill feeling was on account of their social 
relation. A Frenchman having married a young 
squaw would put her away as soon as he found one 
more attractive, thus changing his wife at will ac- 
cording to his fancy. Although the priest would 
not tolerate bigamy among their countrymen, yet 
they were willing to accept a marriage fee once a 
month or as often as the applicant desired a new 
wife. It was the height of a young squaw's ambition 
to marry a white man, notwithstanding they were 
liable to be put away at any time. Under the 
Indian code of morals if a squaw was found unchaste 


she was punished by cutting off one ear, or branded 
on the forehead, but there was no law to prevent 
them from marrying once a week, or as often as an 
opportunity occurred. 

Captain La Mott commanded the fort, and being 
a man devoid of conscientious scruples converted it 
into a regular harem, in open violation of both 
French and Indian code of morals. Young Indian 
maidens were in the habit of spending nights at the 
fort under the pretext of being married to the sol- 
diers, returning home in the morning with their 
heads adorned with worthless trinkets, and their 
minds poisoned by vile associations. The squaws 
became so fascinated with the French that many 
refused to marry among their own people, having 
come to the conclusion that children were not worth 
raising unless they had white blood in their veins. 
Things had come to such a state in their social rela- 
tion that the head chief, Jero, called a council of 
chiefs and warriors, at which it was decided to expel 
the French from among them. 

On a bright morning in the latter part of the sum- 
mer of 1718, while the occupants of Fort St. Louis, 
after a night of revelry and debauch, were still 
asleep in their bunks, they were aroused from slum- 
ber by the presence of savages. Captain La Mott on 
awakening from his morning nap was astonished on 


being confronted by some 300 warriors armed and 
painted for war. r l he Captain inquired of Jero, the 
head chief, the object of their visit, who in reply 
said they had come to burn the fort. The chief or- 
dered the warriors to fire the buildings, and in a 
few minutes the block-house, store-house and dwell- 
ing were in flames, all of which were consumed. 
Thus Fort St. Louis was destroyed, after standing 
thirty-six years, and during that time it was the 
head center of the French settlement in Illinois. On 
the destruction of the fort the colony was broken up, 
some of the settlers returned to Canada, others to 
Peoria and Cahokia, a few only who were identified 
with the Indians by marriage and half-breeds con- 
tinued to live in the town. 

Three years after the burning of Fort St. Louis, 
in 1721, Charlevoix, a Jesuit priest, visited Illinois 
and found the palisades still standing but no French- 
men living here. 


For forty years Chassagoac, the head chief of 
the Illinois Indians, was identified with the French 
colony, and became celebrated as a friend of the 
white man. He embraced Christianity under the 
preaching of Marquette, and continued in this faith 
until the time of his death. On account of his re- 


ligious faith and fidelity to the French the Bishop 
of Rouen sent him many presents, consisting of 
gold images, crosses, crucifixes, with many other 
emblems of the Christian religion. These presents^ 
were kept sacred, many of them worn on his per- 
son, and at his death they were buried with him. 

In a gallery of the Jesuit collections in the city 
of Rouen, France, can now be seen a life-size por- 
trait of Chassagoac, which shows him to have been 
a fine specimen of his race, physically as well as 
mentally. Whether the artist painted this portrait 
from life or description is not known, but it is a 
good representation of the person described in his- 
tory. This chief died in the year 1714, and a large 
mound raised over his grave, on which Father Felix 
erected a cross. Back of the old town of Utica 
the mound supposed to have been raised over this 
noted chief can still be seen, as well as the cavity 
in the earth near by from which the dirt was taken 
to erect it. About sixty years ago "Waba, an In- 
dian chief of some note, learning from tradition that 
valuable trinkets had been buried in this mound, 
opened it and robbed it of its treasures. 

This colony, as has been previously stated, was 
founded by La Salle at Fort St. Louis in the year 
1682 under a charter from Louis XIV, and called 


Louisiana in honor to his name. The colony re- 
mained here until 1718, a period of thirty-six years, 
and had it continued permanently La Salle county 
would have been the oldest settled place in the 
Mississippi Yalley. 

In 1711 the King of France gave Crozat a pat- 
ent covering all of the Louisiana country, over 
which he was to have control for twenty years. 
Col. La Mott, an agent of Crozat, took possession 
of the country, assuming the title of governor, 
and made Kaskaskia the capital. A large corps of 
miners came from France, and two years were 
spent in the northern country in searching for gold 
and silver, but without success. Copper and lead 
were found in great abundance, but none of the 
precious metal for which they were in search. 
After five years' experience in mining and trading 
with the Indians Crozat found it unprofitable, con- 
sequently he surrendered his patent to the crown, 

and Col. La Mott with many of the miners re- 
turned to France. 

In 1717 a new patent was granted to a Louis- 
iana company, with George Law, a Scotch banker 
of Paris, at its head; and by this company Fort 
Chartres was built. This company issued large 
grants of land to each village, including many 
thousand acres known as common field and com- 


mons. They also made and enforced just laws 
regulating village ordinances, which superseded 
some of the arbitrary code brought about by the 
Jesuit priests. 


According to tradition, a number of cabins were 
built around the base of Starved Rock and occu- 
pied by people engaged in the fur trade. In my 
researches among the descendants of the early pio- 
neers I found three families whose ancestors lived 
at Fort St. Louis, and from whom I obtained many 
of the items given in this sketch. When the fort 
was burned in 1718 all the settlers left for other 
places ; the cabins rotted down, but the under- 
ground furnaces for heating them still remain, nine 
of which have been discovered within the last few 

By an order of Father Zenobe, all persons be- 
longing to the colony, both soldiers and civilians, 
were required to assemble once a day in the chapel 
of the fort for prayers, and for that purpose men, 
women and children each morning were seen as- 
cending the Rock. 

The cemetery was located on the river bank at 
the west end of the Rock ; and here on this ro- 
mantic spot, shaded by outspreading oaks, over- 


looking the broad, rapid stream, Henri de Tonti, 
two Jesuit priests, with a number of soldiers and 
civilians, found a long resting-place. In the early 
settlement of the country human bones were seen 
sticking out of the river bank at this place, where 
the dirt had been washed away by a flood. 

The French settlers cultivated an island in the 
river and a field on the prairie north of it, also a 
small piece of ground west of the Rock, between 
the river and bluff, showed unmistakable marks of 
having been cultivated. A large portion of the 
grain and vegetables to supply the garrison were 
raised by the French and half-breeds on the Indian 
fields at La Vantum, while the meat, which con- 
sisted of buffalo, elk and deer, was furnished by 
Indian hunters. 

On the north side of the river, a short distance 
above Starved Rock, are three sulphur springs, one 
of which is large, boiling up among white sand 
and sending forth an immense volume of water. 
Indians from a distance came here to be healed of 
their maladies, and during the summer the springs 
were surrounded with camping-tents. These poor 
benighted people entertained the same foolish no- 
tions as people of the present day regarding the 
medical qualities of mineral water 

In 1853 a large stone building, called ''Sulphur 


Spring Hotel," was built here, with the expecta- 
tion of making it a great watering-place. Notwith- 
standing a large amount of money was spent in 
building and advertising by those interested, they 
did not succeed in making it a Saratoga or a Hom- 



Jesuit missionaries in their zeal abandoned 
-L home, friends and all the comforts of civiliza- 
tion for the purpose of converting heathens. Gov- 
erned by religious fanaticism they carried their faith 
and works to the most remote parts of the west, and 
among the lowest degraded savages. -They were 
found along the ice-bound shores of Lake Superior, 
clothed in deer or buffalo skins, and with snow-shoes, 
struggling through thick timber, or crossing wide 
prairies, to lodge in a filthy, smoky den with sav- 
ages. Again at the south among bogs and swamps 
filled with vermin and wild beasts they adminis- 
tered the sacrament to painted and plumed pros- 
elytes. To accomplish their purposes they traveled 
through various parts of the country from Canada 
to the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes suffering from 
cold and hunger, deprived of all the luxuries of civil- 
ized life, all for the purpose of converting the hea- 
then and saving their souls from eternal perdition. 
These enthusiastic priests with their black robes 



could be seen toiling with half naked natives build- 
ing lodges, or forcing their canoe up the rapid 
stream ; sometimes carrying their baggage on their 
backs to and from distant villages, or lounging 
around a camp-fire on a bear or buffalo skin amid 
scores of squalling papooses and half famished dogs. 
The stories of their labors are replete with romance, 
miracles of heroic self-sacrifices, and with daring 

Everywhere these priests were the pioneers of 
the French settlements in the west, keeping in 
advance of civilization, and preparing the way for a 
friendly intercourse between the white and red man. 
Many of these missionaries were well educated, with 
superior mental ability, possessed of wealth, which 
made them efficient bearers of the cross, and whose 
whole life was spent in converting heathens. 

Father Marest in his correspondence says, "Our 
life is spent in rambling through thick timber, among 
briers and thorns, crossing wide prairies, climbing 
over hills, or paddling a canoe across lakes or up 
rapid rivers, to save the poor benighted Indian 
from eternal perdition." 

Father Nicollet lived twenty years among sav- 
ages, most of the time without meeting a white man, 
and became an Indian in dress, habit and language. 
Still he remained a zealous Catholic, and at last 


returned to civilization because he could not live 
without the sacrament. 

From the Jesuit missionaries the Indians learned 
the story of Christ's crucifixion, and with a trem- 
bling voice repeated it to their friends. They not 
only received baptism from the hands of the priest 
but allowed themselves to be sprinkled with holy 
water', which they were taught to believe blotted out 
all past sins, and saved them from everlasting punish- 
ment. The medals, crosses and crucifixes which the 
priest gave the warriors pleased their fancy, as they 
were fond of adorning their persons with glittering 
trinkets, and with these representations of man's 
salvation suspended from their necks they remain 
heathens still. In addition to decorating their per- 
sons with emblems of Christianity some of the war- 
riors wore a necklace made of dried skeleton fingers 
taken from an enemy whom they had slain in battle. 
The former trinkets represented their religion, and 
the latter their patriotism. 

Father Meurain, the last of the Jesuit priests in 
Illinois, died at Prairie du Rocher in 1778, and the 
monument over his grave can still be seen. In 
France and her territories the order of Jesuits was 
suppressed in 1764, when most of the priests in Illi- 
nois returned to their native country. But by the 
solicitation of the Indians, with whom he had labored 


for a long time, Father Meurain consented to remain, 
and among them he ended his days. Father Meu- 
rain was a man of fine literary attainments, and wrote 
a manuscript dictionary of the French and Indian 
languages, which is preserved in the antiquarian col- 
lection at Rouen. 


One of the most devoted Jesuit priests in Illi- 
nois was Father Senat, who spent a long life among 
savages for the purpose of converting them to 
Christianity, and at last fell a victim of these ruth- 
less barbarians. This zealous priest lived many 
years at Peoria, where he built a chapel and dedi- 
cated it to the Holy Virgin. He preached at dif- 
ferent villages along the river, where he had many 
converts, and exercised great influence over his red 
brethren. While on a visit to a neighboring vil- 
lage a war party returned from the battle-field with 
a number of prisoners, and made preparation to 
burn them at the stake in accordance to Indian 
custom. Father Senat, on finding all efforts to 
save the prisoners from the flames a failure, offered 
himself a sacrifice to die in their stead a ransom 
for the captives. This proposition had the desired 
effect. The prisoners were liberated, furnished with 
many presents, and returned to their people. 


In the spring of 1736 D'Artaguette, Governor 
of Illinois, collected all the French troops in the 
territory, with about one thousand Indian allies, 
and with them went to Louisiana to assist Gov- 
ernor Bainville in- prosecuting a war against the 
Chickasaw Indians. Among these recruits was 
Capt. Yincennes with a small company of soldiers 
from St. Vincent on the Wabash, which place now 
bears the name of the valiant captain. Among the 
Indian allies from the Illinois River were many of 
Father Senat's converts, and he was prevailed upon 
to accompany them in their excursion to the south. 

This expedition descended the Mississippi River 
to the lower Chickasaw ' bluffs, from which they 
crossed the country to Tallahatchie River, where 
they expected to meet the army under Bainville 
from Louisiana. But these troops failed to come 
to time agreeable to appointment, and d'Artaguette, 
not being able to restrain his Indian allies any 
longer, was forced to attack the enemy. The army 
was defeated, the Indian allies fled, while the French 
were taken prisoners and burned at the stake. 
While the flames encircled their bodies Father 
Senat passed from one to the other amid blazing 
fagots, exhorting his friends to die as became 
Frenchmen and Christians, and while they were 
racking with torture he administered to his dying 


countrymen the last rites of the Catholic church. 
The Indians offered to liberate Father Senat, but 
he disdained their clemency, telling them his work 
in this world was done, and he desired to be sacri- 
ficed for his Master's sake. 


The first permanent settlers in Illinois came from 
Canada, and they were connected either with the 
Jesuit mission or fur trade. In after years emi- 
grants came direct from France by the way of New 
Orleans, and established colonies in different In- 
dian villages on the American Bottom. All the 
settlers lived in villages, and their farms were in 
a common field, in accordance with the custom of 
their native country. The leaders of the French 
colonies were men of education and energy of char- 
acter, while the masses were illiterate and ignorant, 
having no enterprise and but little property; never- 
theless they were frank, open-hearted, happy peo- 
ple. They took possession of so much of the va- 
cant land aroimd them as they could till, but no 
more, and appeared to have had no desire to accu- 
mulate wealth. Their agricultural implements were 
rude, mostly of their own manufacture, and the 
same kind of tools are now in use by some of their 
descendants. The early settlers lived in harmony 


with the Indians, intermarrying among them, and 
in part adopting their habits and customs. For 
forty years they built no forts, and those erected 
in after years were not intended for protection 
against Indian hostilities but from the fear of Span- 
ish invasion, France and Spain being then at war. 

The oldest document found in Kaskaskia (except 
the church records) is dated June 18, 1725, and con- 
tains the signatures of fifty persons, who are repre- 
sented as heads of families. This old document is 
in the form of a petition to the King of France for 
assistance, setting forth the suffering condition of 
the people on account of the great flood the year be- 
fore, which washed away most of the improvements, 
and obliged the people to flee to the bluffs. 

By the Louisiana Company horses were brought 
from the Spanish settlements in Mexico to take the 
place of Indian ponies, and cattle, hogs, sheep, and 
chickens were brought from Canada. Wild geese, 
ducks and turkeys were domesticated, and from this 
stock most of the fowls of the present day sprang. 
It is said two pigs were brought from Montreal to 
Cahokia in a canoe, and from these pigs hogs to 
supply the different settlements originated. Many 
efforts were made to domesticate buffalo, but it 
proved a failure, as the tame ones would go off with 
wild herds. But they succeeded in crossing them 


with cattle, and at the present time some of the 
progeny show strong marks of buffalo origin, and 
their pelts are tanned for robes. Horses ran in large 
droves in the canebreaks along the Mississippi River, 
became wild, and in after years many of them were 
caught with a lasso and brought into use. 

In 1721 Phillip Raynault brought five hundred 
slaves from St. Domingo to Fort Chartres, and by 
this means slavery was introduced into Illinois. 
Raynault with a large number of slaves and a few of 
his countrymen ascended the .Mississippi River to 
the lead mines, and erected a furnace for smelting 
lead on or near the present site of Galena. A por- 
tion of this lead was shipped to New Orleans, and 
sold to the Spaniards in Mexico. 

Father Vevier, a Jesuit missionary, writing from 
Prairie du Rocher under date of June 10, 1750, says 
"there are between the Mississippi and Ivaskaskia 
Rivers, within twenty-one leagues, five French and 
three Indian villages. Most of the French settlers 
till the soil, raising wheat, maize, with various other 
products, some of which are shipped to !New Or- 
leans, where it finds a ready market." 

In the early settlement of the country the French 
made wine from the wild grape, but in after years 
they cultivated vineyards, and built wine-presses. 
The buffalo was of great service to the early pio- 


neers ; the flesh they used for food, the hides for 
robes or tanned into leather, and the hair they spun 
and wove into a fine fabric for clothing. 

The Royal Louisiana Company gave large tracts 
of land to each village which belonged jointly to the 
inhabitants, and this title has been confirmed by 
subsequent laws. These grants were divided into 
two tracts, known as Common Field and Commons, 
and included many thousand acres to each village. 
The common field consisted in farm land all fenced 
into one field, the boundaries of each person's prem- 
ises were designated by landmarks, and these tracts 
belonged to the occupant in fee simple, and could 
be bought and sold the same as other landed prop- 
erty. A village ordinance was in force regarding 
making and repairing fences, the time of excluding 
stock in the spring, gathering the crops, and open- 
ing the field for pasture in the fall. The commons 
was a tract of land granted to each town for wood and 
pasture, of which every owner of a village lot has an 
interest. The French villages at the time of early set- 
tlement were governed by the priest, who, besides at- 
tending to their spiritual wants, dispensed justice, and 
from his decision there was no appeal. Although 
the authority of the priest was absolute there appears 
to have been no abuse of this power, as the holy 
father watched over his flock with paternal care. 



In 1763 Pierre Laclade obtained from the gov 
ernor of Louisiana a charter giving him the exclu- 
sive right to trade with the Indians on the west side 
of the upper Mississippi River. Laclade organized 
a company at New Orleans under the title of La^ 
clade, Maxon & Co., and aboard of boats loaded with 
goods for the Indian market ascended the river in 
search of a suitable place to locate. On reaching 
Fort Chartres the goods were stored, and Laclade 
with some of his party, accompanied by two young 
men named Pierre and Aguste Chouteau, ascended 
the river in a canoe in search of a good site for a 
town, and on the 15th of February, 1764, their tents 
were pitched at St. Louis, which was the commence- 
ment of the great city in the west. Here a cluster 
of cabins was built, enclosed by stockades, and 
occapied by traders and hunters. Many of the 
inhabitants of Illinois towns crossed the river and 
located at St. Louis in order to be under the rule of 
their native country. 

AVhen Captain Stirling, in accordance with a 
treaty, took possession of Fort Chartres in July, 
1765, its former commander, Captain St. Ange, with 
the French troops and military stores, removed to- 
St. Louis, and for a number of years the colony was; 


under French rule, notwithstanding the country had 
been ceded to Spain some time before. . 

In 1780 St. Louis was attacked by a large body 
of Indians, accompanied by a few British soldi.ers 
from Detroit, but they were repulsed by the citizens 
and soldiers. 


In the summer of 1764 Major Loftus with three 
hundred British soldiers ascended the Mississippi 
River in boats from Bayou Manchea to take posses- 
sion of Illinois, as France had ceded it to England a 
short tilne before. While these troops were on their 
way up the river, and before reaching their destina- 
tion, they were attacked and defeated by a body of 
Indians, which compelled them to abandon the enter 
prise and return to the fort at Bayou Manchea. 

In the spring of 1765 an expedition under Captain 
Croghan left Fort Pitt to take possession of Illinois, 
but on reaching the mouth of the W abash they were 
taken prisoners by the Shawnee Indians, and carried 
to a village near Yincennes. In the following fall the 
third expedition against Illinois left Fort Pitt, under 
the command of Captain Stirling, who took pos- 
session of the country without opposition, and from 
that time the British flag waved over Fort Chartres. 
In the following year Captain Stirling died, and 
different ones at short intervals acted as governors 


of Illinois, the last one, M. Rocheblaue, was in com- 
mand when Colonel Clark took possession of the 
country. The British rule was very unpopular with 
the French, many of them went west of the Missis- 
sippi so they could be under the laws of their native 
country. This change of government displeased the 
Indians, and they would have attacked the British 
for the purpose of driving them out of the country if 
their friends among the French had not counseled 
otherwise. When the British took possession of 
Illinois Captain Pitman, of the army, by the au- 
thority of his government visited all the French vil- 
lages except Peoria, and gave a description of them, 
including population, trade, public buildings, etc. 
The French inhabitants were living in six villages, 
all except one on the American Bottom, and estimates 
the inhabitants at three thousand, the most of whom 
were engaged in agricultural pursuits. 



THOMAS R. BRADY, better known as Tern 
Brady, was a native of Pennsylvania, and a 
brother of Captain Samuel Brady, who distinguished 
himself as an Indian fighter in the border wars of 
Ohio. Brady was a reckless fellow, fond of wild 
adventures, a great hunter (spending much of his 
time in the woods in search of bear and panthers;, 
and occasionally exchanging a shot with an Indian. 
In the summer of 1YT6 Tom Brady went to Cahokia 
accompanied by three other young men as wild and 
reckless as himself, and who were willing to accom- 
pany him in any enterprise he might undertake. 
On the following summer Brady fitted out an expe- 
dition, consisting of sixteen soldiers including him- 
self, for the purpose of capturing the British garri- 
son at St. Joseph. This little band of adventurers 
he called the western division of the Continental 
army, and with it he intended to attack and capture 
the British garrison. Among those who took a part 
in this remarkable expedition was M. Boismenue, a 


native of Caliokia, and to whose grandson I am 
indebted for many incidents given in this nar- 
rative. Many of Brady's recruits were French half- 
breed members of the Catholic church, and they 
were unwilling to embark in so hazardous an enter- 
prise unless accompanied by a priest to absolve them 
from their sins. Father Beson, an old, bald-headed 
priest, was prevailed on to accompany the troops, 
and before leaving Cahokia he offered up prayers to 
the throne of grace for their success. 

Brady's little band, armed and equipped for war, 
on board of three canoes left for St. Joseph, 
about four hundred miles distant. On reaching an 
elevated piece of ground, on the west side of the Illi- 
nois River, below the mouth of Bureau Creek, where 
tradition says a century before Father Hennepin 
landed from his boat, raised a cross, and consecrated 
the place to the Virgin Mary. Father Beson could 
not be prevailed upon to pass this hallowed spot 
without offering up prayers and saying mass. 
Here the adventurers landed from their canoes, and 
a day was spent in preaching, praying, taking the 
sacrament, and singing songs of praise, causing the 
wild woods to resound with their melody. On 
reaching the mouth of Chicago River the party spent 
another day in religious exercises around a large 
wooden cross, said to occupy the spot where Father 


Marquette erected one more than a century before. 
After many weeks of toil and exposure in forcing 
their frail crafts up the Illinois and Des Plaines 
Rivers, and buffeting the angry winds and waves 
on Lake Michigan, they reached their destination. 
The fort at St. Joseph was garrisoned by twenty-one 
soldiers, while the attacking party consisted of only 
sixteen ; but Brady, relying on the prestige of sur- 
prise, felt confident of success. Accordingly they 
attacked the fort during the night while all were 
asleep, and the astonished soldiers, without making 
any resistance, surrendered themselves prisoners 
of war. 

A few days after taking possession of the fort at 
St. Joseph the victors learned that two companies of 
British soldiers with many Indian allies were march- 
ing upon it. On receiving this intelligence Brady 
and his comrades in all haste loaded their canoes 
with furs and merchandise (taken out of the fort) 
and left for home ; but on reaching the mouth of 
Calumet River they were overtaken by three hun- 
dred British and Indians. Here a battle was fought, 
at which Brady's army was defeated, having two 
killed and two wounded; one made his escape, while 
the remainder were made prisoners and carried back 
to St. Joseph. Some time after, becoming a pris- 
oner, Tom Brady made his escape, and' on foot, and 


alone, he traveled through the forest back to his 
former home in Pennsylvania. 

After reaching his old home in Pennsylvania 
Tom Brady raised a company of scouts, and with 
them made many excursions into the Indian coun- 
try, in one of which he was severely wounded. He 
joined Colonel Crawford's expedition against the 
Indians on the Sandusky River, and participated in 
that disastrous affair. On arriving in the enemy's 
country Colonel Crawford sent Brady, accompanied 
by two companions as daring as himself, forward to 
reconnoiter while the army remained in camp await- 
ing their return. AVhen the scouts came near the 
Indian village on the bank of the Sandusky River 
they heard loud whoops and yejls, and occasionally 
firing of guns. With great caution the scouts 
crawled on their hands and knees through the thick 
underbrush until they came in plain view of a large 
body of warriors engaged in a scalp-dance. By the 
side of these dancers* were seen three white men on 
horseback looking on and enjoying the sport. These 
men were recognized by the scouts as Alexander 
McKee, Simon and James Girty, three noted des- 

At one time the Girtys lived in the same neigh- 
borhood with Brady, and consequently he was well 
acquainted with them. As Tom Brady looked at 


Simon Girty he was reminded of the many raids in 
which that cut-throat had led the Indians into his 
own neighborhood, murdering defenseless women 
and children. In one of these raids Brady's father 
and one of his brothers were killed, and bringing a 
rifle to his shoulder was about to shoot him from his 
horse. But before Brady could effect his bloody 
designs one of his comrades caught the gun and 
thereby prevented the rash act, as it would have been 
certain death to all of the party. After the war 
closed Tom Brady returned to Illinois, again became 
a resident of Cahokia, and in the year 1790 was 
sheriff of St. Clair county. 

On a recent visit to Cahokia I spent some time 
among the tombs in the old church-yard where so 
many distinguished early pioneers were buried. 
Among the graves distinguished by sandstone slabs 
was one to the memory of Thomas R. Brady. 


In the spring of 1778, two months before the 
country was invaded by Virginians under the com- 
mand of Colonel Clark, a Frenchman named Puelette 
Maize, of Kaskaskia, enlisted about three hundred 
men in different French towns, and marched through 
the country to St. Joseph, which they took by sur- 


prise. All the fur, pelts and merchandise found at 
the fort and trading-houses were carried off as tro- 
phies of war, and divided among the soldiers. After 
collecting all the valuables to be found at the post 
the victors with their spoil returned home, and were 
disbanded. It is generally believed that this expe- 
dition was fitted out more for plunder than patriot- 
ism, as Congress in after years refused to recom- 
pense those engaged in it. 

In the fall of 1780 LaBalme, a native of France, 
raised a small company of soldiers at Kaskaskia for 
the purpose of taking Detroit. At Yincennes they 
were reinforced by a few of their countrymen, and 
from here they marched direct for the British post. 
While encamped on the Maumee River they were 
attacked by a large body of Miami Indians, led by a 
British officer, when La Balme and many of his sol- 
diers were killed, and the rest taken prisoners. 

In June, 1781. Don Eugenie Pierre, a Spaniard of 
St. Louis, with sixty-five soldiers, most of whom 
were French who lived at Cahokia, marched against 
St. Joseph, as England and Spain were then at war. 
The fort was taken without resistance, when the 
commanding officers went through with the cere- 
mony of taking possession of all the lake country in 
the name of the King of Spain. A few days after 
performing this idle ceremony the Spanish com- 


mander* learned that British troops were on their way 
from Detroit to reinforce St. Joseph, consequently 
the troops left the conquered territory in all haste, 
and returned to St. Louis. 


For many years the citizens of Kaskaskia and 
other French towns believed' there were copper 
mines somewhere in the upper Illinois country, as 
specimens of pure metal, in a native state, were fre- 
quently brought there for sale by the Indians. On 
July 23, 1773, Kennedy, with a party of adventurers, 
left Kaskaskia in a boat and ascended the Illinois 
River in search of copper mines. On the 7th of 
August they reached Peoria, where they found the 
stockades of the fort burned, but the block-houses 
still standing. On arriving at the foot of the rapids, 
and finding the current too strong to ascend, they 
left their boat and proceeded up the river on foot 
forty-five miles further. Before reaching the mouth 
of the Fox River they noticed a number of high, 
rocky cliffs, one of which (Starved Rock ^ has figured 
extensively in the history and traditions of the coun- 
try. On an island thirty miles above the mouth of 
Fox River they fell in with a party of French traders, 
who brought them down the river in their canoes to 
the place where their boat had been left. While at 


the foot of the rapids they fell in with a Frenchman 
by the name of Jenriette. who piloted them in an 
excursion through the country in search of copper 
mines, but finding none these adventurers went 
aboard of their boat and returned to Kaskaskia, after 
being absent about four months. 

Kennedy published a journal of his travels up the 
river, which contains many things of interest and 
confirms some of the traditions given elsewhere. 
This journal gives a geographical and topographical 
description of the country, size and names of rivers, 
lakes, bluffs, rapids, etc. It speaks of a saline 
spring by a lake, where the French and Indians 
were engaged in making salt; also refers to a cliff of 
rocks near the mouth of Fox River, from which the 
French obtained their mill stones. On the large 
meadows were seen herds of buffalo, elk and deer, 
while pelicans, swans, geese and ducks were swim- 
ming in the rivers and lakes. The journal refers to 
Peoria Lake, town and fort, but throws no light on 
the history of the French settlement at this place, 
says nothing about the size of the town, nor its gen- 
eral appearance at that time. 



ON the 4th of July, 1778, during the shades of 
the night, the citizens of Kaskaskia were aston- 
ished by hearing it proclaimed throughout the town 
"If any man enter the streets he shall be shot." 
Next morning soldiers were seen along the^ streets of 
the town, and the stars and stripes instead of the 
lion and unicorn waived from the flag-staff on Fort 
Gage. The people were in a transport of joy, bells 
rang, patriotic songs were sung, while demonstra- 
tions of rejoicing with tokens of mirth and gayety 
reigned throughout the town. The annals of ro- 
mance furnish nothing more remarkable than the 
achievement of this bloodless conquest of Illinois. 
The origin of this expedition, the long, tedious jour- 
ney performed by the adventurers, with its perils 
and hardships, the manner of attack on the British 
garrison, and its final success, appears more like a 
story of fiction than of reality. 

Kaskaskia at the time of the revolutionary war 
contained about 250 houses, being the largest and 



most important town west of the Alleghany moun- 
tains, and not only the seat of government of Illi- 
nois but the center of trade, wealth and political 

Although an account of Colonel Clark's conquest 
of Illinois has been written many times, and appears 
in almost every western history, nevertheless a very 
important matter has been overlooked, and the real 
facts relating thereto have never been published. 
The early historian, probably ignorant of the facts, 
fell into an error, and subsequent ones copied after 
him. Pepple are now living in Randolph county 
whose ancestors were a party to the secret move- 
ments of the patriots of Illinois, and whose tradi- 
tions to some extent supply the missing links in his- 
tory, as well as correct its errors. The people in 
Illinois being far away from the seat of war knew 
very little of what had transpired at the east, but 
they hated the British yoke, embraced the first op- 
portunity to throw it off, and their manner of doing 
it will be shown in the sequel. 

In the summer of 1777 John Duff, a resident of 
Martinsburg, Virginia, in his rambles in the west 
came to Kaskaskia and remained here for some 
months engaged in hunting along the river. Duff 
being of French descent spoke that language, min- 
gled freely with the people, and found them very 


much dissatisfied with the British rule, and only 
waited for an opportunity to change the government. 
Late in the fall Duff returned home, and while on 
his way, at the falls of Ohio, he fell in "with George 
Roger Clark, a Kentucky pioneer, and told him of 
the state of affairs in Illinois. Clark became fired 
with enthusiasm. Seeing an opportunity, as he 
thought, of immortalizing himself, he accompanied 
Duff to Williamsburg, and together they laid the 
case before Patrick Henry, then Governor of Vir- 
ginia. The governor and his counselors after hear- 
ing Duff's statements agreed to send an armed force 
to that distant country to take possession of the 
British post. Clark received a commission of lieu- 
tenant-colonel, appointed commander in chief of this 
expedition, and authorized to enlist 500 men for that 
purpose. Colonel Clark commenced enlisting his 
men for, as he represented it, the defense of Ken- 
tucky, keeping the true destination a secret. The 
governor issued orders to the commander of Fort 
Pitt for arms, military stores, and boats for trans- ' 

In the spring of 1778 three companies of volun- 
teers were collected at Fort Pitt, and in four boats 
they descended the river to the Falls of Ohio, where 
they expected to be joined by a company of Ken- 
tuckians. Being detained here some time waiting 


for. recruits a part of one company deserted, and it 
was the middle of June before they were ready to 
proceed on their journey. Clark's army consisted 
of four companies in all, one hundred and fifty- 
three men, and when their true destination was an- 
nounced it created much enthusiasm among the 
volunteers. After dispatching a messenger to Will- 
iamsburg notifying Governor Henry of their depart- 
ure the troops went aboard of their boats and pro- 
ceeded down the river. 

John Duff returned to Illinois early in the spring 
to prepare the way for Clark's reception, and also to 
make arrangements to meet the army with a com- 
petent guide at the mouth of Tennessee River, On 
Duff's arrival at Kaskaskia a consultation was held 
with a few leading patriots, M. Gibault, the priest, 
among the number, when it was agreed to keep 
everything a secret, leaving the masses in ignorance 
of what they expected to transpire. Duff, with John 
Saunders, a noted hunter, and two Frenchmen, pro- 
vided with tents, arms, provisions, etc., left Kaskas- 
kia in a canoe, leaving the impression among the 
people that they were going to hunt bear and elk 
along the Ohio River. The hunters descended the 
Mississippi, and forced their frail barque up the swift 
current of the Ohio to the mouth of the Tennessee 
River, where they awaited the arrival of the army. 


Here on the bank of the river they erected a bark 
shanty, occupying their time hunting during the 
daytime, and keeping up a bonfire at night so the 
boats might not pass without knowing of their pres- 
ence. Days passed away without hearing anything 
from the army, and the hunters had about come to 
the conclusion that the project had failed when four 
boats filled with soldiers, and flags flying, came 
around a bend in the river. The hunters fired a 
salute, which was returned by the soldiers, who with 
martial music, loud cheering, rounded to their boats 
and came on shore. After passing down the river a 
few miles farther, near the ruins of old Fort Massac, 
they secreted their boats in the mouth of a creek, 
and taking all their baggage on their backs they 
proceeded across the country to Kaskaskia, one hun- 
dred and twenty miles distant. 

John Saunders acted as guide for Clark's army, 
but in passing through the country among the lakes 
and swamps of Cache River he lost his reckoning, 
and days were spent in rambling through thick tim- 
ber, among bogs and briers, without knowing where 
they were. 

Some of the soldiers believed the pilot a traitor, 
and threatened to put him to death, but he asserted 
his innocence, and asked for an escort to accompany 
him in searching out the way. After rambling 


about all day through groves and prairies Saunders 
at last exclaimed " I know that point of timber, and 
beyond it is Kaskaskia." 

Fort Gage, at Kaskaskia, was garrisoned at that 
time by twenty soldiers under the command of Gov- 
ernor Rocheblave, but no sentinels were kept on 
duty; being, as they believed, far away from the 
enemy, it was thought unnecessary. 

Colonel Clark on coming within a few miles of 
Kaskaskia, in the afternoon, remained secreted in. 
the thick timber until late at night, when he divided 
his army into three parts, two of which took posses- 
sion of the town, while the third, commanded by 
himself, marched on the fort. A soldier who was in 
sympathy with the Americans, and entrusted with 
the secret, conducted the troops through a back gate 
into the fort, where they found a light burning but 
all the inmates asleep. The commander had no 
knowledge of what was going on until awakened 
by Captain Kenton informing him that he was a 
prisoner. The soldiers rejoiced at this turn of 
affairs, all of whom took the oath of allegiance to the 
United States Government, and a number of them 
joined Clark's army. Governor Rocheblave was 
probably the only royal person in Illinois. Being in 
a bad humor he cursed the Yankees, the treacherous 
French, and his disloyal soldiers. The refractory 


governor was put in irons, and under the charge of 
Captain Montgomery carried to William sburg, the 
capital of Yirginia, where he was kept a prisoner of 
war until exchanged. His slaves were sold by 
Colonel Clark, and the proceeds being considered 
prize money was divided among the soldiers. The 
wife of Governor Rocheblave, on the night the fort 
was taken, destroyed all the public papers, including 
the archives of the territory, which gave people 
much trouble in after years. She remained at Kas- 
kaskia for some time after her husband was made a 
prisoner, and Governor Henry wrote to Colonel Todd 
to see that she was provided for. 

Colonel Clark dispatched a company of men under 
the command of Captain Bowman, accompanied by 
many citizens of Kaskaskia, to Prairie du Rocher, 
Cahokia, and other villages, and everywhere the in- 
vaders were received with acclamations of joy. 

Ten days after Clark's army arrived at Kaskaskia 
M. Gibault, the village priest and leader of the pa- 
triots in Illinois, accompanied by a few friends, went 
to Yincennes, and explained to his French country- 
men the state of affairs in Illinois. All the people 
of the village assembled at their church, headed by 
their priest, and agreed to throw off the British rule, 
taking the oath of allegiance to the United States 
Government and the commonwealth of Virginia. 


There was no garrison at the fort, the troops having 
been removed a short time before, consequently a 
commander was appointed from among the church 
communicants, the British flag taken down, and the 
stars and stripes put in its place. 

On the first of August M. Gibault and party re- 
turned to Kaskaskia, after an absence of fourteen 
days, with the joyful intelligence of having adjusted 
everything at Vincennes in favor of American 
interests, which caused much rejoicing among the 
people. Colonel Clark sent Captain Helm to Vin- 
cennes to take charge of the fort, but a short time 
afterward the British troops, commanded by Colonel 
Hamilton, took possession of the place and made 
Captain Helm and a private named Henry prisoners 
of war. 

In February following Colonel Clark, with the 
combined forces of Virginians, French and Indians, 
retook the place, and again the stars and stripes 
waived from the flag-staff of the fort, all of which 
is a matter of history. 

France at that time was an ally of the United 
States, the first nation to acknowledge her independ- 
ence, and all the inhabitants of Illinois were in 
union with the mother country. The patriots of Illi- 
nois had already fitted out two expeditions, one 
commanded by Tom Brady and the other by Pue- 


lett Maize, both of which captured the British post 
at St. Joseph. The people everywhere through the 
French settlements hailed Colonel Clark as a libera- 
tor, and furnished his army with provision free of 
charge as he had no money to pay for supplies. 
Many of the French joined his army; a company 
was raised at Kaskaskia commanded by Captain 
Charlesville, and another at Cahokia under Captain 
McCarty, and both of these companies rendered 
good service on the "Wabash in retaking the British 
post at Vincennes. 

While Colonel Clark was engaged in reorganizing 
his army for the purpose of marching against Vin- 
cennes an unexpected trouble arose which for a time 
threatened to defeat his enterprise. The Indians 
had always been opposed to the British rule in Illi- 
nois, and would have made war against them had 
not the council of their French friends prevailed. 
When Clark's army came into the country the Indi- 
ans w.ere told that the Americans were the friends 
and allies of the French, and they would live together 
as one people. For awhile this appears to have 
given satisfaction, but the stars and stripes continued 
to float from the flag-staff of the forts at Kaskaskia, 
and Cahokia, and the Indians insisted that these 
should be taken down and French flags put in their 
place. In order to reconcile the Indians a council 


was called at Cahokia for the purpose of effecting a 
compromise, but the leading chiefs insisted that the 
French should be reinstated in authority. For a 
time the Indians refused to accept of any compro- 
mise that did not put the French in authority, and 
an attempt was made among the leaders to assassinate 
Colonel Clark. Previous to the meeting of this 
council Colonel Clark had sent Captain Helm to the 
great chief Grand Door, for the purpose of effecting 
a compromise, and he agreed on conditions that if his 
band were furnished a certain amount of goods at a 
given time the Americans would not be molested. 
A messenger arrived at the council with the intelli- 
gence of Grand Door having consented to let the 
Americans keep possession of the country, the chiefs 
of other bands acquiesced, and a reconciliation was 

As soon as the Indian trouble was settled Colonel 
Clark collected his forces, marched to the "Wabash, 
and took possession of Vincennes. 

Colonel Clark has been much eulogized for brav- 
ery and heroism in the conquest of Illinois, but the 
fact is, no enemy opposed him, therefore he took 
possession of a country occupied by friends, as has 
already been shown. 



ROB A ELY no North American Indian has 

acquired such fame and notoriety, and whose 
power was so much felt by the early settlers of the 
country, as Pontiac. This Indian, so often referred 
to by historians, was born and raised near Detroit, 
and for many years head chief of the Ottawa In- 
dians. Like Phillip of Mount Hope his power and 
influence extended over neighboring tribes, which 
made him more like a king than a chief. So long 
as the French controlled the fur trade of the lake 
country Pontiac lived on friendly terms with his 
white neighbors, but when the English took pos- 
session of the country he denounced them as ene 
mies. While Major Rogers, of the British army, was 
marching westward with a regiment of soldiers to 
take possession of Detroit he was met by Pontiac, 
who inquired of the commander by what authority he 
invaded the country. "With his tall figure raised to its 
full height, and holding his right hand before the face 
of Major Rogers, said to him "I stand in your path, 
and you can go no farther without my permission." 



However, Pontiac allowed the English to take 
possession of the French trading-posts along the 
lakes, and for a time appeared friendly, but a few 
years afterward he made war on the invaders with 
the intention of driving them from the country. He 
united with him many of the neighboring tribes, form- 
ing with them an alliance, which is known in his- 
tory as "Pontiac's Conspiracy," and a long, bloody 
war resulted from it. In order to carry on the war 
successfully he issued checks cut out of birch bark, on 
which were painted a picture of an otter, and calling 
for various amounts payable in furs or pelts. These 
checks were taken by diiferent tribes in payment for 
munitions of war, and all of them redeemed accord- 
ing to promise. 

Pontiac, according to accounts, was an -Indian of 
gigantic stature, with a towering intellect, and exer- 
cised almost unlimited power over his people. He 
pretended to commune with the Great Spirit, who 
on one occasion said to him " Why do you let these 
dogs in red clothing take possession of your coun- 
try ; rise in your might and drive them from the 
land." At another time, in addressing his warriors, 
said: "Although the red-coats have conquered the 
French they have not conquered us ; we are not 
slaves nor squaws, and as long as the Great Spirit is 
our ruler we will maintain our rights. These lakes 


and these forests were given us by our fathers, and 
we will part with them only with our lives." 

For a time Pontiac was victorious, but eventually 
the fortune of war turned against him, many of the 
allies abandoned the cause, which compelled him 
to make overtures for peace. In 1766 he attended 
the great Indian council at Oswego, brought about 
by Sir William Johnson, and here signed a treaty of 
peace, in which he agreed to bury the tomahawk 
forever. On returning from this council to his native 
forest in Michigan Pontiac prevailed on many of his 
friends to accompany him westward, telling them he 
could not think of living neighbors to these red- 
coated dogs, meaning the British. About two 
hundred warriors with their families consented to 
emigrate, and with this little band of followers the 
great chief left forever his native land. "With this 
remnant of his tribe Pontiac came to Illinois, and 
located a village on the Kankakee River. This 
band formed an alliance with the Pottawatomies, 
who occupied at that time the lake and "Wabash 
countries, and from that time they became as one 


The great mistake made by early historians in 
relation to the fate of Pontiac has been copied by 
every writer of western annals, but when all the 


facts are examined this error must be admitted by 
every candid reader. I have given this matter much 
attention by collecting the traditions both among the 
French and Indians relating to it, and these accounts 
are susceptible of only one conclusion. 

In the fall of 1769 a large, prepossessing Ottawa 
Indian, dressed in a French uniform, with a big white 
feather in his cap, came to St. Louis, and repre- 
sented himself to the commander of the fort, Captain 
St. Ange, as Pontiac. For a number of days this 
Indian remained at the fort, drinking whisky, boast- 
ing of his great exploits, and telling of the many 
scalps taken by his own hands. Pierre Chouteau, a 
young Indian trader of St. Louis, became very much 
interested in this pompous chief, made him many 
presents, and in return for these articles the chief 
promised that in future his people should trade only 
with Chouteau's agents. 

This Indian after remaining some days at St. 
Louis took a canoe and went to Cahokia, where he 
was much lionized by French Indians and half- 
breeds, all of whom believed him to be the great 
Ottawa chief, Pontiac. Indians from a neighboring 
village came to see him and listen to his boasting 
harangues, in which he stated his plans of uniting 
all the tribes of the west in a war, drive the British 
from the country, and restore to the French all their 


former trading-posts. An English trader at Caho- 
kia, named Williamson, being afraid that the reputed 
Pontiac would persuade his new-made friends to 
destroy his stock-in-trade, gave a drunken Indian a 
barrel of whisky to assassinate him, and while the 
pompous Indian was sitting on the ground at the 
root of a tree in drunken revelry, explaining to those 
around him the plans by which he intended to drive 
the red-coats from the country, this assassin em- 
ployed by Williamson came up behind him and 
buried his tomahawk in his skull. After the assas- 
sination Captain St. Ange caused the remains to be 
brought to St. Louis and buried near the fort. Pierre 
Chouteau, out of respect for the fallen chief, caused 
a mound to be raised over the grave in accordance 
with Indian custom, on which was placed a stone 
with the inscription of the name, time of his 
death, etc. 

Many years after the event above related Pierre 
and his brother, Auguste Chouteau, having extended 
their trade into the upper Illinois River country, 
learned from the Indians the true fate of Pontiac, and 
0:1 being convinced that the Indian buried at the fort 
was an impostor removed the stone placed to his 
memory and leveled down the mound. 

An account of the killing of Pontiac at Cahokia 
found its way into newspapers of that day, and the 


chief coming to his death about the same time ac- 
counts for this error in history. 

Both history and tradition agree thai; the war 
against the Illinois Indians grew out of the assas- 
sination of Pontiac, but the former fails to show any 
connection between the two events. History says 
Pontiac was killed by a Kaskaskia Indian in a 
drunken row at Cahokia, and in avenging this crime 
a war was inaugurated against the Illinois Indians. 
The Kaskaskia Indians were not engaged in the war 
with the allied forces which terminated so fatally to 
the northern bands, and they continued to live in 
the country for more than fifty years after that occur- 
rence. The Kaskaskia and Cahokia bands spoke the 
same language as those at the north, and by some his- 
torians called Illinoisans, but it is a well-known fact 
that these bands were not engaged in the many wars 
with the Iroquois before and after the French came 
to the country, and they took no part in the war 
that followed the assassination of Pontiac. The 
Illinois Indians proper, against whom the allies made 
war, included only those bands living between the 
Sungamon Kiver and Lake Michigan. It was against 
these northern bands that the different tribes made 
war, which terminated in their annihilation, the last 
of whom perished on Starved Rock, an account of 
which will be narrated in a subsequent chapter. 


According to history Pontiac was killed in the 
fall of 1769, and the traditions of both French and 
Indians agree that the Starved Rock tragedy oc- 
curred in the fall of the same year. All accounts 
agree that a bloody war intervened between the for- 
mer and latter events, and this establishes a connect- 
ing link between the two. For the purpose of show- 
ing that the Indian killed at Cahokia was not Pontiac 
I give the statement of an old gentleman, still liv- 
ing, who was born and raised where this event oc- 
curred, and his statement harmonizes with others. 

Auguste Binet says in his boyhood days a party 
of Indians were in the habit of making almost daily 
visits to Cahokia for the purpose of trade, drinking 
whisky, etc. Among these visitors was an old In- 
dian who witnessed the assassination of the reputed 
Pontiac, and made many statements in relation to 
it. He said the Indian killed at Cahokia was a petty 
Ottawa chief from Michigan who is said to have re- 
sembled Pontiac both in face and form. This In- 
dian representing himself to be Pontiac had spent 
some time at St. Vincent, on the "Wabash, in trying 
to raise a force for the purpose of capturing the Brit- 
ish garrison at that place. But failing in this he 
came to St. Louis, and offered his services to Cap- 
tain St. Ange in retaking of Illinois by enlisting a 
large band of warriors to capture Fort Chartres, but 


meeting with no encouragement from the commander 
he left for Cahokia, where he was assassinated a few 
days afterward. 

The assassin was a drunken, worthless vagabond 
name Spawse, who suffered the penalty of his crime, 
being condemned and executed according to law. 
Williamson, who was accused of being accessory to 
the murder, sold out his stock-in-trade a few days 
after the assassination, and fled from the country to 
escape punishment for his crime. 


It has already been stated that Pontiac with a 
remnant of his band established a village on the 
Kankakee River, and here the great warrior, hero 
of many battles, intended to end his days in peace 
and quiet far away from the English, whom he so 
much hated. But the country of his adoption be- 
longed to the Illinois Indians, who regarded the 
Ottawas as intruders. Kineboo, the head chief of 
the Illinoisans, accompanied by a retinue of warriors 
all mounted on ponies, went to the Ottawa camp, 
and found the new-comers engaged in building 
lodges and making preparations to plant corn. The 
chief notified Pontiac' s band that they were tres- 
passers, and gave them two moons to leave the 
country, and if found there at the expiration of that 


time he would remove them by force. But when 
the Illinoisans learned that the Ottawas were backed 
by the powerful tribe of Pottawatomies they did not 
molest them.* 


On account of the green-headed flies the buffalo 
would leave the W abash country and range west 
and north of the Illinois River during the summer 
months. In the east part of the state buffalo were 
seldom seen, while the prairie westward for miles in 
extent was frequently blackened by large herds of 
them. On this account the Pottawatomies and Ot- 
tawas were in the habit of hunting west of the river, 
which gave offense to the Illinoisans, who regarded 
it as a trespass on their rights. 

A party of about thirty Ottawa hunters, among 
whom was Pontiac, had been killing buffalo during the 
day on the prairie eight leagues west of La Yantum. 
At night the hunters camped in a grove of timber, 
with the intention of renewing the hunt on the fol- 

* The above facts relating to Pontiac I obtained from Shaubona, a cele- 
brated chief who was well-known in this part of the country, and whose verac- 
ity has never been questioned. Shaubona's father belonged to Pontiac's band, 
came to Illinois with them, and here at this village on the Kankakee River the 
old chief was born. Rev. David K. Foster, an educated half-breed now living 
in Allegan county, Michigan, is a nephew of Shaubona, and has furnished me 
many items in relation to his grandfather. He says his grandfather was a 
chief under Pontiac, also engaged in subsequent wars, and one of the signers 
of the treaty at Greenville in 1795. The speech made at that time by him has 
been handed down by tradition, of which Foster has written out in full and 
furnished me with a copy of it. 


lowing day. Next morning while the hunters were 
sitting around a camp-fire unconscious of danger 
they were attacked by a large party of Illinois war- 
riors, and many of them slain. Pontiac was wound- 
ed., but by the swiftness of his pony made good his 

A bloody war followed this massacre, and for a 
time both parties met with victories and defeats. 
The Pottawatomies and Ottawas would send war 
parties into the Illinois country, burn their towns, 
destroy corn, kill squaws and papooses, and carry 
off ponies, furs, etc. Then the Illinoisans would 
retaliate on their enemies by making raids into their 
country, killing defenseless squaws, burning and 
destroying everything that lay in their way. After 
this war had continued for some time the Illinoisans 

* The grove referred to is supposed to have heen the head of Bureau tim- 
ber, near the village of La Moille. and known in the early settlement of the 
country as Dimmick Grove. In the spring of 1830 Daniel Dimmick made a 
claim here, and built a cabin near the head of the grove, on what is now known 
as the Collins farm. He lived on this claim about two years, until the begin- 
ning of the Black Hawk war, when he left it and never returned, but for many 
years the grove bore his name. 

A short distance below Dimmick's cabin, near the bank of Pike Creek, and 
by the side of a spring, was an old Indian camping-ground, and during the fall 
and winter hunting parties were frequently found here. In the winter of 1830- 
31 a party of Indians from the Illinois River, among whom was the noted chief 
Shick Shack, were encamped here for many days, while hunting deer in the 

Shick Shack said to Dimmick, while in conversation, that a long time ago a 
hunting party of Ottawa Indians were encamped on this very spot, when they 
were attacked by the Illinoisans, a large portion of them killed, and their great 
war chief, Pontiac, wounded. From that time, continued the old chief, the tribes 
were at, war with each other, which continued until all the Illinoisans were slain, 
the last of whom perished on Starved Rock. 


sued for peace, and a council was called by the con- 
tending parties to agree on terms. 


A council met at the great mound on the Des 
Plaines River, near the present site of Joliet, and was 
attended by all the principal chiefs of the respective 
tribes. For a time the deliberations of the council 
were harmonious, but when the allies claimed a part 
of the Illinois territory as the only condition of 
peace, ill feelings were, manifested. Kineboo, the 
head chief of the Illinoisans, in a speech said: 
" Rather than submit to these terms we will sacrifice 
the last drop of blood in our veins, and leave our 
squaws and papooses to be tomahawked and scalped 
by a barbarous enemy." Pontiac next addressed 
the council, and great attention was given to what 
he said. His tall, manly form, unimpaired by age, 
was an object of admiration, and his sprightly elo- 
quence carried all his friends with him. With much 
enthusiasm he called on his brother chiefs to stand 
by him, and never lay down the tomahawk until 
their terms were acceded to. . "While Pontiac was 

. The assassination of Pontiac, the war which followed it, and the 
tragedy of Starved Rock, are compi'ed principally from traditionary accounts 
recently collected among the Pottawatomies and Ottawas of western Kansas, 
whose ancestors lived on the Illinois River. The accounts given of these events 
were gathered by Colonel Joseph N. Bourassa, an educated half-breed of Silver 
Lake Kansas, expressly for this book, and there can be no doubt about the 
principal facts. 


thus speaking Kineboo drew his scalping-knife and 
stabbed him to the heart. Thus perished the greatest 
warrior of his day. 

Over the remains of Pontiac the warriors held a 
council, at which it was agreed to avenge his death, 
and they made preparations for its execution. They 
cut off the head and legs of the dead chief, boiled 
them to separate the flesh from the bones, and with 
the skull and cross-bones placed on a pointed pole 
they were prepared to go forth to victory. Miamis, 
Kickapoos, Shawnees, Chippewas, and other tribes 
who had fought with Pontiac, came forward to avenge 
his death. Even the white outlaw Bernett, who had 
long since become a savage and chief of a small band, 
marshaled his warriors and took a part in the bloody 
strife. The combined forces of these tribes consti- 
tuted the most formidable Indian army ever collected 
in the west, and for savage brutality it has no parallel 
in the annals of Indian warfare. Their motto was 
victory or death, no quarter to the enemy, and never 
lay down the tomahawk until the Illinoisans were 


The allied forces attacked and destroyed all the 
villages along the Illinois River, killing and scalping 
defenseless squaws and papooses, but the principal 


town, La Yantum, which was fortified and defended 
by the bravest warriors, they had not molested. At 
this town the remnants of the different bands were 
collected, and here they intended to make their last 
defense against the victorious invaders. Small tim- 
bers and brush were brought from a neighboring 
grove with which barricades had been erected around 
three sides of the town the river bounding the fourth. 
Inside this fortification ' were collected from many 
distant towns all that was left of the Illinois Indi- 
ans, numbering perhaps about ten thousand, of 
whom two thousand were warriors. 

Days and weeks passed away, the summer almost 
ended, and the enemy had not appeared, and it was 
thought they had left the country. Preparations 
were made for holding a great feast, offering up sac- 
rifices to the gods of war for deliverance from their 
enemies. Music and dancing were again introduced 
into the great Illinois town, and people old and 
young gave themselves up to enjoyment as in former 
days. The warriors brought forth scalps taken from 
the enemy, and in merry glee danced around them. 
Naked papooses played in the dirt, running to and 
fro in their childlike sports. Young maidens and 
their lovers amused themselves with songs and 
dances, and talking of happy days in the future. 
Thus for many days the Indians gave themselves up 


to feasting and amusements, unconscious of the great 
calamity which was about to befall them. 

It was near the close of a warm day in the early 
part of Indian summer when the Indians, old and 
young of both sexes, were arrayed in their best ap- 
parel, ornamented with beads, feathers, rings, etc., 
were collected on an open square to celebrate the 
marriage of the head chief's daughter. But while in 
the midst of gaiety they were horrified to see the 
great meadow to the east covered by the enemy, who 
were moving on them with great rapidity. In front 
of tlie invaders on a red pole was carried the skull 
and cross-bones ot Pontiac, showing that no quarter 
would be given. The drums beat, warriors grasped 
their arms and in a moment were ready for battle, 
while a wail of lamentation was raised by the fright- 
ened squaws and papooses. On came the allied 
forces with such rapidity that a large number of 
them scaled the breastworks, and entered the town 
without opposition. But here the assailants were 
met by the defenders, and most of them slain before 
they could recross it to join their comrades. When 
the invaders witnessed the fate of their comrades they 
were spell-bound, and before recovering from the 
panic the Illinoisans with a large force attacked 
them, when in confusion they fled, leaving behind 
them their dead and wounded. 


The invaders, having been repulsed with great 
slaughter, retired to Buffalo Rock, where a con- 
sultation was held, at which they agreed to renew 
the attack in the morning and continue the fighting 
until the Illinoisans were exterminated. Morning 
came, and with it also came blood and carnage un- 
equaled in Indian warfare. 

After the invaders were repulsed the victors 
spent the night in dancing over the scalps, and offer- 
ing up sacrifices to the Great Manitou for success in 
battle. Having spent the night in rejoicing they 
were found asleep in the morning, and while slum- 
bering they were again attacked, and before they 
could marshal their hosts the invaders in large num- 
bers entered the town, killing all that lay in their 
way, sparing neither squaws, papooses, aged or in- 
firm. But the assailants were again met by brave 
warriors, and repulsed with great slaughter. Again 
and again the town was entered, when a hand-to- 
hand conflict raged with fearful strife, the allies fall- 
ing back only for reinforcements. For twelve long 
hours the battle raged, a large portion of the Illinois 
warriors were slain, and hundreds of squaws and 
papooses lay lifeless in their bloody gore. Night at 
last came, but the battle continued. Against the 
large invading force the defenders could make but a 
feeble resistance, and soon all must be slain. But 


fortunately a heavy rain-storm came on, and in the 
darkness of the night it became impossible to distin- 
guish friends from foes, consequently for a time fur- 
ther slaughter was suspended. ' 



DURING a rain-storm, and in the darkness of 
the night, the Illinoisans launched their canoes 
across the river, and ascended Starved Rock. Here 
on this rock were collected the remnant of the Illinois 
Indians, consisting of about twelve hundred, three 
hundred of whom were warriors. On the summit 
of Starved Rock the fugitives felt secure from their 
enemies, and they offered up prayers and sang- 
songs of praise to the Great Manitou for their safe 
deliverance. Many years before, Tonti with fifty 
French soldiers and one hundred Indian allies held 
this rock when attacked by two thousand Iroquois 
warriors, and put them to flight, consequently on 
this spot they felt secure from their enemies. 

Morning came, and with it a clear sky and a 
bright sun, and from their elevated position they 
looked down on their enemies encamped on the 
groat meadow below. Soon the allied forces were 
in motion, moving on the town to complete their 
bloody work, but soon discovered their intended vic- 



tims had fled. The wounded, sick, and infirm by 
age, who could not escape with their friends, were 
slain, the town burned, and the dead bodies left un- 
buried, where their swollen and distorted remains 
were found many days afterward. 

The allied forces forded the river on the rapids, 
surrounded Starved Rock, and made preparations to 
ascend it to complete their victory. With deafening 
yells the warriors crowded up the steep, rocky path- 
way, but on -reaching the summit they were met by 
brave Illinoisans, who with war-clubs and toma- 
hawks sent them bleeding and lifeless down the 
rugged precipice. Again and again the assailants 
rallied, and rushed forward to assist their friends, 
but one after another were slain on reaching the 
summit, and their dead bodies thrown from the rock 
into the river below. On came fresh bands of assail- 
ants. The fearful struggle continued until the rock 
was red and slippery with human gore, and the yells 
of the victors could be heard above the shrieks and 
groans of the dying. Connected with this bloody 
battle on Starved Rock is a romantic story, which 
was current at the time among the French and half- 
breeds at Peoria,. and is now narrated by their de- 
scendants. A .young warrior named Belix, a half- 
breed, who. had distinguished himself in previous 
battles, and wore on his breast a badge of honor, 


which designated him the bravest of the brave. This 
young warrior having wooed and won a beautiful 
maiden, a daughter of the head chief, Kineboo, and 
the time had arrived to celebrate the marriage rites. 
But in the midst of the marriage festival, and before 
the bride was given away, the ceremony was brought 
to a close by the alarm of approaching enemy, as 
previously stated. When the allied forces assaulted 
the fugitives on Starved Rock foremost among the 
warriors in repelling the assailants was young Belix, 
and with his war-club cleaved the skulls of many of 
the enemy. During the fight his fancied bride 
stood near by witnessing the bloody strife as one 
after another fell before his magic war-club, but at 
last saw her lover's skull split open with a tomahawk. 
With a wild scream she sprang from the rock down 
the fearful precipice, her body falling from crag to 
crag until it landed mangled, bleeding and lifeless 
in the river below. 


On a high, rocky cliff south of Starved Rock, 
known as Devil's Nose, the allied forces collected 
during the night small timbers, with which they 
erected a temporary breastwork. From this breast- 
work they fired on the besieged, killing some and 
wounding others, and among the latter was Kineboo, 


head chief of the tribe. The fortification protecting 
the south side of Starved Rock had fallen into de- 
cay, fifty-one years having elapsed since the French 
abandoned Fort St. Louis. The palisades had rotted 
off, and earth-works moulded down to one-half their 
original height, consequently they afforded but little 
protection. To remedy the defect the besieged cut 
down some of the stunted cedars that crowned the 
summit of the rock, with which they erected barri- 
cades along the embankment to shield themselves 
from the rifle-balls and arrows of the enemy. 

The besieged were now protected from the mis- 
siles of their assailants, but another enemy still more 
dreadful that of hunger and thirst began to 
alarm them. When they took refuge here on the 
rock they carried with them a small quantity of pro- 
vision, but this supply was now exhausted, and star- 
vation stared them in the face. At first this rock 
was thought to be a haven of safety, but it now ap- 
peared likely to be their tomb, but without a mur- 
mur brave warriors made preparations to meet their 
fate. Day after day passed away, mornings and 
evenings came and went, and still the Illinoisans 
continued to be closely guarded by the enemy, leav- 
ing them no opportunity to escape from their rocky 
prison. Famishing with thirst caused them to cut 
up some of their buckskin clothing, out of which 


they made cords to draw water out of the river, but 
the besiegers had placed a guard at the base of the 
rock, protected by a projecting crag, and as soon as 
the vessel reached the water cut the cord, or by giv- 
ing it a quick jerk pulled the water drawer over the 
precipice, and his body fall headlong into the river 

As days passed away the besieged sat on the rock 
gazing on the great meadow below, over which they 
had ofttimes roamed at pleasure, and they longed for 
freedom once more. The site of their town was in 
plain view, but instead of lodges and camping-tents 
with people passing to and fro, as in former days, it 
was now a lonely, dismal waste, blackened by fire, 
and covered with the swollen and ghastly remains of 
the slain. Buzzards were hovering around, flying back 
and forth over the desolated town, and feasting on 
the dead bodies of their friends. At night they looked 
upon the silent stars toward the spirit land, and in 
their wild imagination saw angels waiting to receive 
them. While sleeping they dreamed of roaming over 
woods and prairie in pursuit of game, or cantering 
their ponies across the plains, but on awaking from 
their slumber they found it all a delusion. Their sleep 
was disturbed by the moans and sighs of the suffer- 
ers, and when morning came it was but the harbin- 
ger of another day of torture. From their rocky 


prison they could see the ripe corn in their fields, 
and on a distant prairie a herd of buffalo were graz- 
ing, but while in sight of plenty of food they were 
famishing with hunger. Below them at the base of 
the rock flowed the Illinois River, and as its clear, 
rippling water glided softly by it appeared in mock- 
ery to their burning thirst. 

They had been twelve days on the rock, closely 
guarded by the enemy, much of that time suffering 
from hunger and thirst. Their small stock of provi- 
sion had long since become exhausted, and early 
and late the little ones were heard crying for food. 
The mother would hold her infant to her breast to 
soothe its wailing, but alas, the fountain that sup- 
ported life had dried up, and the little sufferer would 
turn away with a feeble cry. Young maidens whose 
comely form, sparkling eyes and blooming cheeks 
were the pride of the band, became pale, feeble and 
emaciated, and with a feeling of resignation they 
looked upward to their home in the spirit land. One 
of the squaws, the companion of a noted chief, while 
in a fit of delirium caused by hunger and thirst threw 
her infant from the summit of the rock into the river 
below, and with a wild, piercing scream followed it. 
A few brave warriors attempted to escape from their 
rocky prison, but on descending were slain by the 
vigilant guards. Others in their wild frenzy hurled 


their tomahawks at the fiends below, and singing 
their death song laid down to die. 

The last lingering hope was now abandoned, hun- 
ger and thirst had done their dreadful work, the cries 
of the young, and lamentations of the aged, were 
heard only in a whisper, their tongues swollen and 
their lips crisped from thirst so they could scarcely 
give utterance to their sufferings. Old white-headed 
chiefs, feeble and emaciated, reduced almost to a 
skeleton, crept away under branches of evergreens 
to breathe their last. Proud young warriors pre- 
ferred to die upon this strange rocky fortress by star- 
vation and thirst rather than surrender themselves 
to the scalping knives of a victorious enemy. Many 
had died, their remains lying here and there on the 
rocky summit, and the effluvium caused by putrefac- 
tion greatly annoyed the besiegers. A few of the 
more hardy warriors for a time feasted on the dead, 
eating the flesh and drinking the blood of their com- 
rades as soon as life was extinct. 

A party of the allied forces now ascended the 
rock and tomahawked all those who had survived 
the famine, scalping old and young, and left the re- 
mains to decay on the rock, where the bones were 
seen many years afterward. Thus perished the 
large tribe of Illinois Indians, and with the exception 
of a solitary warrior they became extinct. 


Near the close of the Starved Rock siege a young 
warrior during a severe rain-storm and darkness of 
the night took a buckskin cord, which had been used 
for drawing water, and fastening'it to the trunk of a 
cedar tree let himself down into the river, and thus 
made his escape, being the only survivor of this fear- 
ful tragedy. This young warrior was partly white, 
being a descendant, on his father's side, from the 
French, who lived at Fort St. Louis many years be- 
fore. Being alone in the world, without friends or 
kindred, he went to Peoria, joined the colony, and 
there ended his days. He embraced Christianity, 
became an officer in the church, assuming the name 
of Antonia La Bell, and his descendants are now liv- 
ing near Prairie du Rocher, one of whom, Charles 
La Bell, was a party to a suit in the United States 
court to recover the land where Peoria now stands. 


Colonel Joseph K. Bourassa, of Silver Lake, 
Kansas, who collected from among his people, whose 
ancestors lived on the Illinois River, a large amount 
of traditionary matter relating to the massacre on 
Starved Rock, says no incident in Indian warfare 
made so lasting an impression on their minds as this, 
and the main facts relating thereto will be kept in 
remembrance for many generations to come. The 


many accounts collected by Colonel Bourassa differ 
somewhat in detail, but all agree on the principal 
events that it occurred in the fall of 1T69, and the 
Illinoisans were all annihilated. Bourassa says when 
a boy he heard two aged warriors, who had partici- 
pated in the massacre of Starved Rock, narrate many 
incidents which took place at the time, and this ac- 
count corresponds with other stories that have come 
down through several generations. 

In the early settlement of the country an old In- 
dian named Mashaw frequently visited the trading- 
houses at Hennepin and Ottawa, and through an in- 
terpreter made various statements in relation to the 
Starved Rock tragedy. He said at the time it oc- 
curred he was a small boy, accompanying his father; 
was present at the siege, and saw the destruction of 
the Illinois Indians. He said after many days' fight- 
ing a number of warriors during the night descended 
from the rock, and attempted to fight their way 
through the lines, but were all slain except seven, 
who succeeded in effecting their liberty. 

As late as 1828 a small band of Indians had a 
village on the north side of Lake Depue, and raised 
corn on a little bottom prairie now included in the 
farm of Charles Savage. Among these Indians was 
a very old man, who frequently accompanied his 

grandson in a canoe to Hartzell's trading house near 


the present site of Hennepin. This old Indian said 
he was born on the Wabash, and was ten years old 
at the time of the Starved Rock tragedy. His father 
participated in this affair, and two of his uncles were 
killed in the fight before the Illinoisans took refuge 
on the rock. He said the fight at the town lasted 
two days, and hundreds of warriors on both sides 
were slain. Two years after this affair the band to 
which this old Indian belonged emigrated to Illinois, 
and built a town on the south side of the river op- 
posite Lake Depue. At that time, and for many 
years after, where the great battle was fought acres 
of ground were covered with human bones, and the 
summit of Starved Rock almost covered with skulls 
and bones of the victims. Medore Jennette, an em- 
ploye of Auguste and Pierre Chouteau, fur-traders 
at St. Louis, lived many years in an Indian village 
at the mouth of the Fox River, and has left his 
numerous descendants many traditions relating 
to early times. Jennette came to the country in 
1772, three years after the Illinois Indians were an- 
nihilated, and found the summit of Starved Rock 
covered with human bones. The Indians believed 
an evil spirit stood guard over these bones, and on 

account of this superstitious notion they could not be 


prevailed on to go near the rock. 

A short distance below Starved Rock, on what 


was then known as the great battle-field, many acres 
of ground were whitened by bones and skulls. 

An old Indian called Shaddy, who was born and 
raised on the Illinois River, went west with his 
band in 1834. Two years afterward he came back 
to look once more upon the scenes of his youth, and 
during the winter of 1836-7 hunted in the river tim- 
ber and along Bureau Creek. In conversation with 
this old Indian I obtained many interesting items in 
relation to past events. He said his father was at 
the siege of Starved Rock, and all the Illinois In- 
dians perished except one. This was a young half- 
breed who let himself down into the river by a buck- 
skin cord during a severe rain-storm, and in the 
darkness of the night made his escape. 


A few days after the destruction of the Illinois 
Indians a party of traders from Peoria, among whom 
were Robert Maillet and Felix La Pance, while re- 
turning from Canada with three canoes loaded with 
goods, stopped at the scene of the late tragedy. On 
approaching Starved Rock they noticed a cloud of 
buzzards hovering over it, and at the same time were 
greeted with a sickening odor. On landing from 
their canoes and ascending the rock they found the 
steep, rugged pathway leading thereto stained with 


blood, and among the stunted cedars that grew on 
the cliff were a number of human bodies partly de- 
voured by birds of prey. But on reaching the sum- 
mit they were horrified to find it covered with dead 
bodies, all in an advanced state of decomposition. 
Here was the aged chief with silver locks, lying by 
the side of young warriors whose long raven hair 
partly concealed their ghastly and distorted features. 
Here, too, were squaws and papooses, the aged grand- 
mother, and the young maiden, with here and there 
an infant still clasped in its mother's arms. Some 
had died from thirst and starvation, others by the 
tomahawk or war club ; of the latter their remains 
were partly enveloped in a pool of clotted blood. All 
the dead, without regard to age or sex, had been 
scalped, and the remains divested of clothing. 

The swollen and distorted remains of the slain 
were hideous to look upon, and the stench from them 
so offensive that the traders hastened down from the 
rock, and continued on their way down the river. 

On reaching La Vantum, a short distance below 
Starved Rock, the traders met with a still greater 
surprise, and for a time were almost ready to believe 
what they saw was delusion instead of reality. The 
great town of the west had disappeared ; not a lodge, 
camping-tent, or one human being, could be seen. 
All was desolate, silent and lonely. The ground 


where the -town had stood was strewn with dead 
bodies, and packs of hungry wolves were feeding 
upon their hideous repast. 

Five months before these traders while on their 
way to Canada stopped at La Vantum, for the pur- 
pose of trading with the Indians. At that time the 
inhabitants, about five thousand in number, were in 
full enjoyment of life, but now their dead bodies lay 
mouldering on the ground, food for wolves and birds 
of prey. The traders had bought of these people 
two canoe loads of furs and pelts, which were to be 
paid for in goods on their return from Canada. The 
goods were now here to make payment according to 
contract, but alas, the creditors had all gone to their 
long home. 

The smell from hundreds of putrefied remains waa 
so offensive that the traders remained .only a short 
time, and with sadness they turned away from this 
scene of horror. The traders again boarding their 
canoes passed down the river to Peoria, conveying 
thither to their friends the sad tidings. 




IN the following spring, after the Illinois Indi- 
ans were annihilated, a party of traders from 
Cahokia on their way to Canada, in canoes loaded 
with furs, stopped at Peoria. On reaching this point 
they heard of the destruction of the Indians on 
Starved Rock, and were afraid to proceed further on 
their journey. After remaining a few days at Peoria 
they proceeded on their way, accompanied as far as 
Starved Rock by twenty-one Frenchmen and a num- 
ber of Indians. With this escort was Father Buche, 
a Jesuit priest of Peoria, and an account of his ob- 
servations are preserved in his manuscript* 

"When the voyageurs arrived at La Vantum they 
found the town site strewed with human bones, and 
fragments of broken pottery, and a few charred poles 
alone marked the location of the great town of the 
west. Scattered over the prairie were hundreds of 
skulls, some of which still retained a portion of flesh, 
and partly covered with long black hair, giving to 

*An account of this manuscript will be found in the succeeding chapter, 
and from which many extracts have been taken. 



the remain's a ghastly and sickening appearance. 
This party also ascended Starved Rock, and found 
its summit covered with bones and skulls, among 
masses of putrefied flesh. Here among the remains 
of the dead were found knives, tomahawks, rings, 
beads, and various trinkets, some of which the trav- 
elers carried with them to Canada, and can now be 
seen among the antiquarian collection in Quebec. 

Various accounts are given in after years both by 
French and Indians of seeing relics of this fearful 
tragedy on the summit of Starved Rock. Pierre 
Bulbona, an Indian trader known by many of the 
early settlers, said when a small boy he accom- 
panied his father in ascending Starved Rock, and 
saw many relics of the slaughtered Indians. This 
was only fifteen years after the massacre, and the 
rock was covered with skulls and bones, all in a 
good state of preservation, but bleached white by the 
sun and rain. Persons are still living among the 
French fur traders who have seen these bones on 
the summit of Starved Rock, and at the present time 
small fragments of human remains are occasionally 
found. On my first visit to Starved Rock, forty- 
five years ago, I found a number of human teeth, 
and small fragments of bones. Some years ago a 
human skull was found at the root of a tree, buried 
up with leaves and dirt, also a tomahawk and a large 


scalping knife. At different times visitors have 
found relics of the past, consisting of weapons of 
war and trinkets of various kinds, and still retain 
them as trophies of the past. 

Whoever will take the trouble to examine the 
soil on Starved Rock will find in many places a pecu- 
liar dusty sediment among the dirt, showing decom- 
posed animal matter, which, without doubt, is the 
remains of human beings. I have visited the cata- 
combs belonging to different Italian cities, also those 
around Jerusalem, and walked over the dust made 
frbm the remains of human beings, and find the 
sediment among the dirt on Starved Rock to be of 
the same kind. 


When the Governor of Canada took possession 
of Fort St. Louis all the goods, furs, etc., belonging 
to the traders were confiscated to the government, 
and report says divided between thp governor and 
friends. Tonti having in his possession at that time 
a large sum of gold dug a pit hole within the stock- 
ades and buried it, to prevent its falling into the 
hands of his enemies. Sixteen years afterward, as 
Tonti was about to die, he told a priest, who was 
holding a gold cross before his face, about the gold 
being buried within the fort. The priest kept this 


matter a secret, waiting for an opportunity to resur- 
rect the gold, but was drowned soon after by the 
upsetting of a canoe. A short time after the death 
of the priest the fort was burned by the Indians, and 
the French driven away, as previously stated. 

In the summer of 1765, forty-seven years after 
the burning of Fort St. Louis, a party of French at 
Peoria, among whom were Captain M. De Fond and 
Father Buche, believing the story about gold being 
buried in the fort came up the river in search of it. 
This party of gold hunters encamped at the base of 
Starved Rock, and spent some days in digging holes 
on its summit, which accounts for the many pit holes 
now to be seen. No gold was found by these ad- 
venturers, but in a vault near where the store-house 
stood they found a large number of tomahawks, 
guns, knives, beads, and various kinds of trinkets, 
intended for the Indian trade. 

An account of -searching for gold on the summit 
of Starved Rock is given in Father Buche's manu- 
script, in which he says: " We had spent five days 
in digging holes on the top of Le Rocher, and found 
a large quantity of articles which were intended for 
the Indian trade, but of the precious metal, the object 
of our search, we found none. On the last day of 
our stay we dug a large hole close to the old earth- 
works, and continued at work until it was quite dark, 


when the devil appeared to us in the form of a huge 
bear. On seeing this monster we dropped our tools, 
and hurried down from Le Rocher, put our camp kit 
in a canoe, and started down the river for home." 

In the summer of 1805 a party of adventurers 
at Kaskaskia learning from tradition that a large 
amount of gold had been buried within the stock- 
ades of Fort St. Louis went in search of it. At that 
time the location of the old fort was unknown; his- 
tory and tradition alike failed to point it out, but 
they knew it was on a high rock washed by the rapid 
current of the Illinois, and a short distance above 
the great bend in the river. On Buffalo Rock they 
found what they believed to be the relics of Fort St. 
Louis, and here they spent many days in searching 
for the hidden treasures, but finding none they re- 
turned home. An account of this expedition was 
published in the newspapers of that day, which de- 
scribe the remains of the fort on a large rock on the 
north side of the river, and from that time it was 
believed that Fort St. Louis had been built on Buf- 
falo Rock. 

The story of gold having been buried within the 
stockades of Fort St. Louis is also among the In- 
dian traditions, and some years ago a party of Pot- 
tawatomies came from Kansas in search of it. Peo- 
ple in the vicinity told them that the fort had stood 


on Buffalo Rock, and on its summit they dug many 
pit holes, but finding none of the precious metal they 
returned to their homes in the west. 


In former times people of the west generally be- 
lieved that Fort St. Louis was built on Buffalo Rock, 
as relics of an ancient fortification were found here 
in the early settlement of the country. But in com- 
paring the various historical accounts, as well as 
French and Indian traditions, it is shown conclusively 
to have stood on Starved Rock, and here its remains 
can still be seen. Buffalo Rock does not answer the 
description of the place spoken of in history, and the 
natural advantages between it and Starved Rock for 
a fort could not escape the observation of a man 
with La Salle's shrewdness. Buffalo Rock contains 
on its summit several hundred acres, is only about 
sixty feet high, whereas Starved Rock is one hun- 
dred and thirty-six feet high, containing less than 
one acre on its summit, and accessible only at one 
place. Thus it is a natural fortress, where but little 
labor would be required to make it impregnable, so 
a few soldiers could hold it against all the savages 
of the west. Fort St. Louis, Rock Fort and Le 
Rocher, so often referred to in history, are without 
doubt all one and the same place. 


South of Starved Rock, about one hundred and 
fifty yards distant, is a high knoll, isolated from the 
neighboring bluff, covered with scattering trees, and 
known in early times as Devil's Nose.* 

Eastward across a chasm two hundred yards wide 
is a rocky cliff as high as Starved Rock and covered 
with stunted evergreens. This cliff rises almost 
perpendicular from the water's edge, connects with 
the main bluff, and from an old Indian legend is 
called Maiden's Leap.f 

These two cliffs are within gun-shot of the fort, 
therefore it became necessary to protect the side of 
the rock next to them with earth- works and palisade. 

A more romantic place for building a fort could 
not be found in the western country, and for natural 
defenses or picturesque appearance it is without a 
parallel in history. The many remarkable events 
connected with this old relic of antiquity if given to 
the world would rival the works of fiction, surpass- 
ing even the wild romance of feudal times. 

The river at this point assumes a different char- 
acter, no longer a dull, sluggish stream, but is wide, 
shallow and rapid, and its broad channel divided by 

* For many years after the Starved Rock tragedy a superstitious notion 
prevailed among the Indians, who believed that an evil spirit had taken posses- 
sion of this eminence, and every night when the winds blew and rain fell he 
could be heard blowing his nose. 

t It is said a young and beautiful Indian maiden, a daughter of a noted 
chief, having been crossed in love jumped off this cliff, and her mangled body 
was found in the ravine below some days afterward. 


many beautiful wood-clad islands. Some of these 
islands are now under cultivation, while others are 
covered with forest trees, the tall cottonwood and 
outspreading elms adding beauty and romance to the 
surrounding scenery. 

These islands in the river, with the land on which 
Starved Rock stands, belong to Colonel D. F. Hitt, 
of Ottawa, who entered it nearly half a century ago. 



In the summer of 1721, thirty-nine years after 
Fort St. Louis was built, Charlevoix, a French Jesuit 
priest, visited Illinois, and in his journal gave some 
account of the scenery along the river. On Buf- 
falo Rock he found an Indian village surrounded by 
a rude fortification, consisting of low earth-works 
with stockades, and known as Le Fort des Miamis. 
About one league below Buffalo Rock, on the oppo- 
site side of the river, is Le Rocher, rising from the 
water's edge like a castle wall, to the height of one 
hundred and fifty feet, and can be ascended only at 
one point. On this rock, says Charlevoix, La Salle 
built a fort, and part of the palisade was still stand- 
ing. The block-house, store-house and dwellings 
had been burned by the Indians, and everything 
about the fort was in ruins, although it had been oc- 
cupied by his countrymen only three years before. 


The remains of earth-works can still be seen, en- 
circling about two-thirds of the rock, and following 
around it on the brink of the precipice. These 
works commence on the western angle, following 
the margin of the rock to the extreme eastern curve^ 
leaving an open gateway at the place of ascending 
the rock, and are one hundred and twenty-two yards 
in length. On the south side of the rock, along 
these earth-works, are many pit holes, two of which 
are very large, and in all probability one of these 
was the magazine, and the other a cellar of a store- 
house. The smaller pit holes which are found here 
and there among the evergreens, according to 
Buche's manuscript, were dug forty-seven years after 
the destruction of the fort, by persons while search- 
ing for gold. 


In the vicinity of Starved Rock, and near the site 
of the old Indian village, many relics have been 
found, consisting of gun flints, arrow-heads, etc. 
Earthen pots, kettles, and various kinds of pottery, 
have been found, also tomahawks, axes, knives, hoes, 
with various kinds of farming and war implements 
made of stone. Burton Ayres, one of the pioneers 
of La Salle, collected many curious relics of Indian 
antiquities, among which was an image in the form 
of a man cut out of limestone, and supposed to have 


been an idol of heathen worship. On the site of La- 
Vantuin many curious relics have been found, and 
every year in plowing the ground new trinkets are 
discovered. People living in that locality have col- 
lected a large amount of Indian relics, some of which 
have been placed in the Ottawa Academy of Natural 
Science for preservation. 

On and around Starved Rock many relics of the 
early French occupants have also been found, con- 
sisting of farming implements of European manufac- 
ture, rifle and cannon balls, gold and silver crosses, 
with various trinkets of more or less value. A few 
years ago a small cannon was found imbedded in the 
river bank, where it had lain perhaps for nearly two 
centuries. This cannon is made of wrought iron, 
hooped with heavy rings to make it strong like those 
used in Europe centuries ago. This ancient piece of 
ordnance in all probability was brought from Canada 
by. La Salle or some of his men to be used on a forti- 
fication, and may have been the one mounted on the 
ramparts of Fort St. Louis at the time of its dedica- 
tion, and fired a salute in honor of the King of 

A short time ago an old cedar tree was cut down 
on the summit of Starved Rock, and within its trunk 
was found imbedded a gun barrel partly destroyed by 
rust. How this gun barrel came here will forever 


remain a mystery, but in all probability it was the 
work of an ingenious Frenchman, during the occupa- 
tion of Fort St. Louis. This gun barrel, with a por-^ 
tion of the tree which surrounded it, also the old 
cannon found in the river bank, with many other 
curiosities, are preserved among the collection of 
relics at Ottawa Museum of Natural Science. 

A short time ago David "Walker, of Ottawa, found 
near Buffalo Rock a piece of copper about the size 
and shape of a half dollar, on which was engraved 
in rude characters the name of Tonti. It is quite 
probable this trinket is one among the many medals 
which the commander of Fort St. Louis distributed 
among his Indian friends as a token of remem- 

On Starved Rock were found two bronze medal- 
lion heads of noted persons of those days, one of 
King Louis XIY and the other of Pope Leo X. 

Colonel D. F. Hitt, of Ottawa, has now in his 
possession a double cross made of pure gold, three 
inches in length, but without name or date. This 
cross is said to be an insignia of an Archbishop, and 
was probably lost by one of the holy fathers who 
frequented Fort St. Louis. 

This cross was found seven years ago, about two 
hundred feet west of Starved Rock, and an account 
of its size and engraving has attracted much atten- 


tion. On one side of this emblem are four hearts 
and four open links, with a human figure represent- 
ing Christ nailed to the cross. On the opposite side 
are six hearts and four links, with an image of the 
Virgin Mary holding the infant Christ in her arms. 
The figures and images on this cross are well en- 
graved, being of the same style of work as those 
ancient Christian emblems now on exhibition in the 
Vatican, at Koine. 

It has been a matter of much speculation how a 
cross representing this high order in the Catholic 
church came to Fort St. Louis, as no one higher than 
a priest had officiated as chaplain during thirty-six 
years of its occupation. There is an incident con- 
nected with the fort which may throw some light on 
it, and were all the facts known might possibly ex- 
plain this mystery. The Archbishop of Rouen 
sent to Canada a fine satin robe, a large gold cross, 
with other sacred emblems, to be presented to the 
most devoted priest in North America. The priests 
at Quebec awarded these gifts to Father Chrisp, 
chaplain of Fort St. Louis, but he died before their 
arrival, and in the fall of 1688 these things were pre- 
sented to Father Gaudier, brother of La Salle. It is 
possible that the cross found here may be the one 
referred to, and lost by the owner during his' ram- 
bles around the fort. 


Colonel Hitt has two other crosses which were 
found in the vicinity of Starved Rock, but they are 
of the kind usually worn by priests and monks, and 
do not differ materially from those found elsewhere. 

In the vicinity of Starved Rock are found many 
under-ground furnaces consisting of a large flue 
built of stone and mortar. The French in those 
days were in the habit of building flues under their 
dwellings to warm them, and this, manner of warm- 
ing a house is still in use in some parts of Canada. 


This old manuscript, now in the hands of Hypolite 
Pilette, consists of twenty-three pages closely written 
on large sheets, and from age the paper is yellow 
and ink faded. It is in the French language, dated 
at La Yille de Maillet (now Peoria), April 1770, and 
was written by Jacques Buche, a Jesuit priest. The 
writer speaks only of things that came under his own 
observation, and relates a number of remarkable in- 
cidents, which are worth preserving. The manu- 
script speaks of the destruction of La Vantum, the 
perishing of the remnant of the Illinois Indians on 
Starved Rock, and from its pages are taken a num- 
ber of incidents narrated in this book. It also gives 
an account of digging for gold within the stockades 
of Fort St. Louis, the pit holes of which can still be 


Father Buche speaks of visiting an Indian village 
fifteen leagues north of La Yille de Maillet, where lie 
remained many days teaching the people the ways of 
Christianity. The inhabitants of this village said he 
was possessed of the devil, indulging in vile prac- 
tices, and idolatrous worship. The chiefs had many 
wives, and put them to death if they proved barren 
At their religious feast an infant was burned on the 
altar as a sacrifice to the Great Manitou, in order 
that the band might be successful in war hunting, 
etc., and be protected from the power of the evil 

Father Buche said he preached many times to 
these benighted people, and many of them were con- 
verted, their names enrolled in the church book, and 
their souls saved from perdition. He also speaks of 
accompanying a large party of hunters in slaughter- 
ing buffalo, having been run over by the herd, and 
trampled under the feet of the beasts, but saved from 
death by the interposition of the Holy Virgin. 




HIS old landmark of former times was located 
near the Mississippi River, and in the north- 
west corner of Randolph county. The fort was built 
by the Louisiana company in 1719, and continued to 
be the seat of government as long as the French 
were in possession of Illinois. It stood about one- 
half mile from the river, but connected with it by a 
slough or bayou, through which boats passed to and 
from the fort. It was originally a wooden structure, 
but in 1756 a stone one with high thick walls, con- 
taining towers and bastions, took its place. The 
walls enclosed about four acres of ground, and within 
this arena were many large buildings for officers and 
soldiers' quarters. This fort was built of faced 
blocks of limestone, brought from a cliff on the op- 
posite side of the river, three miles above, and the 
structure is said to have made a very fine appear- 

Fort Chartres at the time of its construction was 
considered the most imposing fortification in North 
America, and over its battlements waved both the 



French and British flags. A village of about forty 
houses, called St. Anne de Fort Chartres, sprang up 
around the fort, and here was not only the seat of 
government for Illinois, but it became the center of 
wealth, business, fashion and gayety. 

During the great flood of 1772 a portion of the 
wall, about one hundred feet in length, was under- 
mined and fell into the river. In consequence of 
this breach in the walls Fort Chartres was aban- 
doned and went to ruin, the seat of government 
moved to Kaskaskia, and the inhabitants of the vil- 
lage of St Anne left for other places. A small por- 
tion of the walls is still standing, and the magazine 
remains whole, excepting that a part of the main 
arch has given way and the great iron door is 
gone. The foundation and part of the walls of two 
buildings are standing, with forest trees growing 
within the enclosure. Most of the large hewed stones 
of which the main walls were constructed have been 
taken away to build up towns along the river, and 
the massive stone arches that encircled the door and 
gateways now ornament public buildings elsewhere. 

These grand old ruins are now in the midst of a 
forest, with trees more than three feet in diameter 
standing within their walls ; and were the origin of 
these relics of former times unknown, it might fur- 
nish a theme for antiquarian speculation. 


In 1788 Congress reserved a tract of land one 
mile square around Fort Chartres, and this reserva- 
tion came into market in 1849, and sold the same as 
other government lands. 


This old landmark of early times was located on 
the north bank of the Ohio, then called Ouabaclie 
Kiver by the French, thirty-six miles from its month. 
The time of its construction is mixed with uncer- 
tainty; both history and tradition are alike defective 
on this point, but it is generally believed to have 
been built about the year 1711. This fort was built 
by early French explorers, who came from the lakes 
by way of Maumee and Wabash rivers, and had no 
connection with the colonies on the Mississippi. 

A short time after the French built this fort it 
was captured by the Indians through a curious piece 
of strategy. One day a number of Indians appeared 
on the opposite side of the river, each covered with a 
bear skin, walking on all-fours, and imitating the 
motion of that animal. The soldiers mistook these 
Indians for bears, and many of them crossed the 
river in pursuit, while others left their quarters to 
see the sport. In the meantime a large body of 
warriors, who were secreted in the woods near by, 
took possession of the fort without opposition, and 
but few of the soldiers escaped massacre. 


Some years after this tragical affair a new fort 
was built on the same site, and called Massac in 
memory of this sad event. This fort was abandoned 
by the French about the year 1750, but after the 
close of the revolutionary war the Americans had a 
garrison here for a short time. 

Forty miles above Fort Massac, on the river bank, 
now in Hardin county, is a place of much note called 
Cave in the Rock, consisting of a large, romantic- 
looking cavern at the base of a rocky cliff. For 
several years this cave was occupied by a band of 
robbers headed by one Mason. These robbers way- 
laid boats going to and from New Orleans, murder 
ing the crew and confiscating the cargo. In 1797 
this band of outlaws was broken up, some of them 
captured and executed, while others fled the country 
to escape punishment. 


This section of country, so ofttimes referred to by 
the early western historian, lies on the east side of 
the Mississippi, extending from Alton to the mouth 
.of Kaskaskia River, a distance of about seventy 
miles in length, and from three to eight miles in 
width. This tract of land consists of timber and 
prairie about equally divided, and much of it subject 
to inundation, but for fertility of soil it probably is 


unequaled in the western country. During the first 
century of the French occupation of Illinois the only 
permanent settlement (except Peoria)was made on 
this bottom, and here the descendants of the early 
pioneers continue to live. The old towns on this 
bottom still remain French in language, customs and 
habits, and the people have but little intercourse with 
those speaking the English language. 

The name American Bottom had its origin about 
a century ago, at the time Illinois came under United 
States jurisdiction, and from the following circum- 
stance: the west side of the river being known as 
Louisiana, or New Spain, while on the east, in the 
river bottom, was called America hence American 
Bottom, which name it continues to bear. 

In the early settlement of the country the valley 
of the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico to the 
lakes was known as Louisiana, designated as upper 
and lower country. In after years the settlements 
on both sides of the Mississippi were known as the 
Illinois country, and the same laws were in force, it 
being one country. After the west side was ceded 
to Spain it became known as Louisiana, and the terri- 
tory assumed the name of Missouri about the year 
1810, five years after it was ceded to the United 



The old French village of Prairie du Rocher is 
located at the foot of the bluff, three miles from the 
Mississippi River, and in the northwest corner of 
Randolph county. There is a rocky cliff, thirty 
miles long and about two liundred feet high, bound- 
ing a fertile bottom, which gives to the place a 
romantic and picturesque appearance. Its secluded 
situation, fine scenery, rich soil and large spring of 
gushing water attracted the attention of early pio- 
neers, and caused it to become a place of importance. 
A short distance above the town, at the base of a 
rocky cliff, is a large spring, sending forth an im- 
mense volume of water, whose crystal purity might 
have been taken for the fountain of life, which gave 
immortality to youth and vigor, so much sought after 
by the early Spanish explorers. Near this spring is 
a remarkable cave in the high rocky cliff, but it has 
never been explored to any great extent, as its cham- 
bers are filled with foul air, which is thought to be 
destructive to life. 

According to Jesuit history Prairie du Rocher was 
incorporated into a village in the year 1722, and a 
large tract of land granted to its citizens, with an 
additional tract bounding the Mississippi River for a 
number of miles for school purposes. 

The old Jesuit chapel of St. Joseph, built in 1734, 


is still standing, and is probably the oldest building 
on the American Bottom. Within its portals have 
been christened the infants of four succeeding gen- 
erations, and the marriage vows of the people of 
Prairie du Rocher have been heard at its sacred altar 
for a century and a half. The register of the chapel, 
commencing in 1734, containing a record of births, 
marriages, deaths, etc., was taken to Kaskaskia in 
1855 for the purpose of being copied, and, unfortu- 
nately, was lost. 


When La Salle and his comrades returned from 
an excursion to the mouth of the Mississippi River 
in the summer of 1682 they stopped some days at 
Cahokia, which at that time was a large Indian vil- 
lage. Two Jesuit priests, Pinet and Garvier, who 
accompanied the expedition, remained here for the 
purpose of converting the natives. These priests 
built a chapel in the midst of the' village, dedicating 
it to St. Peter, and named the mission Notre Dame 
des Cahokia. In the following year La Salle au- 
thorized Richard Bosley to establish a trading-post 
here, and with the traders came many emigrants 
from Canada, forming the first permanent settlement 
in the Mississippi Valley. The emigrants built 
houses in the town with the Indians, and for more 
than a century they lived together in peace and har- 


mony as one people. Marriage between the French 
and Indians being legalized by the Catholic church 
many of the fur traders and earl/ explorers of the 
west found wives among the blooming daughters of 
Illinois. Some of the present inhabitants of Caho- 
kia can trace their genealogy* back to the time of 
La Salle, and, their ancestors having intermarried 
with natives, show strong marks of Indian lineage. 

The location of Cahokia is unfavorable for com- 
merce, being situated on Cahokia Creek, a mile and 
a half from the Mississippi, but still not out of the 
reach of its floods. In early times the water in the 
creek was sufficient to float their small crafts, but a 
Frenchman in seeking revenge cut a channel from 
the creek into the river, three miles above the town, 
leaving it without water communication except in 
time of floods. Along Cahokia Creek are a number 
of small lakes, and no less than sixty-seven mounds 
of various sizes and shapes. 

Cahokia at the present time is only a small town, 
the houses standing here and there among gardens 
and shade trees, the inhabitants mostly engaged in 
farming, and but few of them can speak or under- 
stand English. 


According to the most reliable traditionary ac- 
counts Father Allouez established a mission at Kas- 


kaskia in 1686, and built a chapel in the Indian vil- 
lage. He gave this mission the sacred name of Im- 
maculate Conception of the Holy Virgin, and its 
register from 1695 is still preserved among the 
church papers of the parish. Emigrants from Can- 
ada, with fur traders, came to Kaskaskia, and in a few 
years it became a place of great importance. The 
congregation continued to occupy the Jesuit chapel 
until 1721, when a permanent church was built, and 
occupied as a place of worship for nearly a century. 
The bell now hanging on the large brick church was 
brought from France and placed on this building, 
being the first to ring for public worship in the 
Mississippi Valley. Its measured strokes have 
tolled for marriages and funerals of three successive 
generations, and still the bluff and tall timber around 
the old town continues to echo its musical peals. 

In 1736 a fort was built at Kaskaskia, but never 
occupied by troops, and burned down after standing 
thirty-six years. When Fort Chartres was aban- 
doned, in 1772, the government built a new one here 
called Fort Gage, in honor of the commander-in- 
chief of the British forces in America, and the relics 
of this fort can still be seen on the bluff near the 

After Clark's conquest of Illinois, American emi- 
grants came to Kaskaskia, it being the seat of gov- 


eminent for the territory, and also for the state, for 
about fifty years. People coming to the country 
made this a place of stopping until a location could 
be selected elsewhere, and for many years it was the 
largest and most important town west of the Alle- 
ghany mountains ; but owing to many floods in the 
Mississippi River its greatness has long since de- 
parted, and at present it is only a small town of but 
little importance. 


The Kaskaskia and Cahokia Indians when the 
French came to the country lived in the towns that 
bore their respective names, but they had other vil- 
lages on the American Bottom. These Indians lived 
on friendly terms with the early settlers, and it was 
the boast of one of their noted chiefs, Ducogna, that 
his people had neater shed the blood of a white man. 

After the northern bands of the Illinois Indians 
were annihilated their country came into the posses- 
sion of the victors, consisting of Pottawatomies, Ot- 
tawas, Chippewas and Kickapoos. These tribes 
made war on the Kaskaskia and Cahokia bands, and 
a number of bloody battles were fought between the 
contending parties. The hunting-grounds lying be- 
tween these tribes, including a large portion of the 
central division of the state, became overrun with 


game, and for many years neither part}" would risk 
hunting here, as they were liable to be attacked by 
the enemy. In 1782 a battle was fought between 
these tribes on Battle Ground Creek, twenty -five 
miles east of Kaskaskia, and for many years the 
ground of this battle-field was covered with human 
bones. Another battle between these Indians was 
fought about the same time on Cache River, now in 
Johnson county, and the bones of the slain can still 
be seen in a cave near the battle-ground. 

As late as the year 1809 the Kaskaskia Indians 
had a village of about eight hundred inhabitants, 
near Prarie du Rocher, and one nearly as large on 
the Kaskaskia River. At that time the Cahokia Indi- 
ans had two small villages near their old town, but 
their number is not known. 

There was a band of Kaskaskia Indians at one 
time on Cache River, known as the wild band, who 
were engaged in some of the border wars, and were 
a party to Wayne's treaty at Greenville in 1795, and 
received annuity from the government. A large 
portion of this band fell victims to the Kickapoos 
during one of their raids, and in order to be pro- 
tected by the whites they left their former home on 
Cache River and lived in a village near Prairie du 

The Kaskaskia and Cahokia Indians claimed all 


the land in the state south of a line from the mouth 
of the Illinois River to a point on the Wabash near 
the present site of Terre Haute. These lands were 
ceded to the government at a treaty at Edwards- 
ville on September 25, 1818, for a small amount of 
money, payable annually for twelve years. As the 
country settled up game became scarce. These Indi- 
ans went west at different times, the last of them 
leaving the country in 1833, and a remnant of these 
bands are now living in the Indian territory south 
of Kansas. 


Indian history is always more or less conflicting, 
and not very reliable, as each writer on this subject 
.arranges things in accordance to his own fancy. It is 
an account of people who left no history, and all 
that is known of them are scraps of tradition, which 
are more or less veiled in doubt and uncertainty, 
therefore due allowance should be made for conflicting 
statements. For more than forty years my attention 
has been directed to this subject, and statements 
here given are the result of long investigations. 

The principal village of the Peoria Indians was 
on the west side of Peoria Lake, and called Opa by 
the French. On La Salle's first visit to this town 
Neconope was head chief, who is represented as be- 
ing unfriendly to the whites. But in after years this 


chief was succeeded by one named Kolet, who be- 
came a Christian, and through his influence Jesuits 
established a mission in his village. French traders 
built houses in the village, and for more than fifty 
years whites lived with the Indians. It is said the 
Peorias had other villages in the vicinity of the lake, 
but their exact location is unknown. 

The Peoria Indians were engaged in the war 
against the allied forces in defense of their country, 
and most of the warriors were slain at La Vantum or 
perished on the summit of Starved Rock. When 
those at home, being mostly infirm from age, squaws, 
papooses, etc., heard of the slaughter of their friends 
they fled to the south to escape a like fate. A few 
who had intermarried with the French remained at 
the village and. were not molested. 

A remnant of a band of Peoria Indians lived at a 
village south of Cahokia for many years, and were a 
party to the treaty at Edwardsville on the 25th of 
September, 1818. At this treaty they sold their 
land to the government, except a small reservation, 
and received as consideration two thousand dollars 
in goods, with an annuity of three dollars for twelve, 
years. Some years after disposing of their lands 
they sold the reservation, went west of the Missis- 
sippi, and mingled with other tribes. 



A FTER the Illinois Indians were annihilated, in 
-L. 1769, the conquerors took possession of the 
country, and occupied it about seventy years. The 
Illinois River had long been known as the Indian 
country, being more densely inhabited by them than 
any other part of the west. Here lived the larger por- 
tion of the Illinoisans, and here, too, were found their 
successors, the Pottawatomies. Between Peoria 
Lake arid the mouth of Fox River were eight Indian 
villages, some of which were very large, containing 
hundreds of inhabitants. Although their villages 
and cornfields were mostly located on or near the 
Illinois River they claimed as hunting-ground the 
country between the W abash and Mississippi 
Rivers, and over this vast tract they roamed in pur- 
suit of game. 

In the year 1800 the commissioner of Indian 
affairs estimated that thirty thousand Indians, in- 
cluding all the different tribes, were living within 

13 193 


the limits of this state, arid about three-fifths of this 
number were on the Illinois River. 

In the central portion of the state, on the Mack- 
inaw and Sangamon Rivers, were a few villages of 
Kickapoo Indians. On the Kankakee River were 
two villages of Ottawas, and near Lake Michigan 
were a few villages of Chippeways. Near Rock 
Island the Sacs and Foxes had two villages, and also 
one on the present site of Quincy. In the north 
part of the state were Winnebagoes, and at the south 
were Kaskaskia arid Cahokia Indians. 

These Indians at various treaties sold their lands 
to the government for homes in the west, and left 
the country at different periods from 1825 to 1836. 


This curious order of religious enthusiasts had its 
origin in 1664 through a wealthy nobleman named 
Abbe Ranee, who lived in the south of France. For 
many years he lived a gay, fast life, but on the death 
of h's mistress, Madame Monblazan, he renounced 
the world, rejected all the comforts of life, bread 
and water was his food, and a stone his bed. Ranee 
used his fortune in establishing the order, and had 
many followers. He built a monastery at La Trappe, 
and from this fact the name of the order originated. 

In the year 1704 about twenty monks of the order 


of La Trappe came to Illinois and established them- 
selves on the American Bottom, in St. Clair county. 
Colonel N. Jerret, of Cahokia, gave them a farm, 
and furnished money to erect buildings thereon. 
They built a monastery on the top of a high mound, 
now known as Monk Hill, and cultivated a small 
farm near by. Some of the Monks repaired watches, 
others traded with the people, selling them various 
kinds of articles, which they brought from France. 

These monks were filthy in their habits, very 
rigid in penance, spending three hours each day in 
religious exercise, when their songs of praise could 
be heard far away. The climate did not agree with 
them; two of the priests and five lay brethren died. 
They became very unpopular among the people in 
that locality, and in 1813 they sold their property 
and returned to France. 


On the river-bluff, one half-mile south of Starved 
Rock, are the remains of an ancient fortification, 
known as the Old Fort, and consist of low, irregular 
earthworks. This relic of antiquity is located on 
level land at the intersection of two ravines, and on 
two sides follows the curve of the hill above the 
ravines in zigzag lines, with an open gateway at the 
east, fronting the prairie. These lines enclose about 


one acre of ground, which is of an oblong shape, and 
is now covered with large burr-oak trees. This ap- 
pears to have been only a temporary fortification, 
consisting of an embankment with a ditch on the in- 
side, and perhaps enclosed with palisades. There 
are many large trees growing on the embankment 
and in the ditch, which is conclusive evidence of its 
great antiquity. Most all the relics of past ages are 
found in favorable localities, where beauty and con- 
venience have been consulted, but this one appears 
to be an exception to this rule, and it is a mystery 
to me why any people would build a fort in such a 
place as this. 

At what time this fort was built, by whom, and 
for what purpose, will in all probability forever re- 
main a mystery. It could not have been built by 
the French, for it shows no sign of civil engineering, 
and neither history nor tradition gives any account 
of it. Some people believe it was built by the 
French while in possession of Fort St. Louis, and 
used as a summer fort to protect themselves from 
the Indians while raising a crop on the adjoining 
prairie, but this is not probable, as they always lived' 
on friendly terms with the natives, and therefore 
needed no protection. Jacques Mette and Hypolite 
Pilette inform me that their ancestors lived at Fort 
St. Louis, the former a soldier and the latter a 


trader, and are positive that no out fortification 
could have been built by the French without con- 
stituting a part of their family traditions. This fort 
in all probability is the work of people who pos- 
sessed the country many centuries ago, known as 
Mound Builders, as many similar relics are found 

About two hundred yards northeast of the old 
fort, by the side of a small ravine, is a shaft of coal 
near the surface, only a few feet under ground. On 
examining this shaft a few years ago it was found 
that the coal had been taken out for some distance, 
and the embankment on each side of it, made by 
throwing out the dirt over the coal, is now covered 
with trees. This work must have been done many 
centuries ago, and most probably by the occupants 
of the old fort near by. 


Ancient mounds, low earthworks, and fortifica- 
tions are found in various localities, but are more 
common in a favorable place for residence along 
large streams or on fertile plains, showing that the 
ancient as well as modern inhabitants were attracted 
to localities of beauty and convenience. On the 
bank of Rock River, where the stream expands into a 
beautiful little lake, causing many natural attractions, 


are found the remarkable remains of earthworks, 
known as the ruined city of Aztalan. The ruins of 
this ancient city were discovered in 1836, and sur- 
veyed the following year by N. F. Hyer. At that 
.time it attracted much attention, and many extrava- 
gant stories were in circulation about its brick walls 
and stone arches, etc. , all of which tnere is but little 
truth in. 

These works consist of irregular embankments, 
twenty feet wide on the top, and from three to eight 
feet high, and one hundred and sixty-six rods in 
length, forming three sides of an enclosure, the river 
the fourth, and encircle an area of seventeen and 
two-thirds acres. At short intervals are buttresses, 
fifty feet in diameter, composed of red clay of a pe- 
culiar mixture, which originated the popular belief 
that they had been built with brick, and moulded 
into clay, as we now see it. On the southwest cor- 
ner of these earthworks is a mound, rising like a 
pyramid, fifty feet wide at the top, and ascended by 
a succession of steps. This is supposed to have been 
the most sacred spot, as well as the highest, and prob- 
ably contained a temple on its summit. In the 
northeast corner of the enclosure is another pyram- 
idal elevation, surrounded by rings of small ones 
supposed to have been mud houses for dwellings or 
other unknown purposes. These structures are be- 


lieved to have been used for religious or sacramental 
purposes, and also for a sepulcher, as beneath these, 
imbedded in the earth, were found buried many half- 
burned human remains, with fragments of pottery and 
charcoal. These works bear a strong resemblance to 
temple mounds found elsewhere, but their great ex- 
tent, encircling so large a tract of land, is evidence 
that they were intended for a fortification as well as 
for religious or ceremonial purposes. 


On the 'north side of the Illinois River, about 
midway of the great rapids, and close to the town of 
Marseilles, can still be seen an ancient fortification, 
consisting of low earthworks. These works are 
located on the river batik fifteen feet above high- 
water mark, and partly surrounded by a slough or 
bayou, leaving only a narrow tongue of land between 
the river and pond, which appears to have been the 
only ingress and egress to the fort. The fort is of 
an elongated shape, three hundred yards in length, 
and will average about thirty yards in breadth, and 
contains within this enclosure two and three-fourths 
acres. The walls are irregular, running in and out 
of a parallel line, with a ditch on the inside. From a 
military stand-point these works are well located, 
being situated near the river bank, where the strong 


current of the rapids is thrown near the shore, and 
boats could not pass up or down the stream without 
coming close to the fort. 

Northeast of the old fort, on the bluff, about one 
hundred rods distant, is the remains of earthworks, 
following the brow of the hill in a straight line, and 
three hundred feet in length. By some people 
this is thought to have been an out-post or signal 
station for the fort on the river, but it is more likely 
to have been breastworks thrown up by an enemy 
while besieging the garrison. 

"Within the old fortification and its surroundings 
many relics of past ages have been found, but these ar- 
ticles throw no light on the perplexed questions of the 
time, and by whom these works were constructed. 
Among these relics is a sword, two silver crosses bear- 
ing the letters R C, and with the word " Montreal " 
stamped on them, also pieces of silver plate for orna- 
menting gun barrels, knife handles, etc., marked in a 
like manner, all bearing the initials of the great ex- 
plorer, Robert Cavalier (La Salle being only a title). 
In all probability these articles were manufactured at 
Montreal for La Salle, brought west as part of his 
stock-in-trade and sold to the Indians, as similar 
articles marked in like manner have been found 

These old earthworks were surveyed by Colonel 


D. F. Hitt, of Ottawa, in June, 1876, and a diagram 
of them can be found in Baldwin's history of La 
Salle county. Dr. J. H. Goodell, of Marseilles, has 
made some examination of these relics of antiquity, 
and to him I am indebted for many of the items 
given above. 


This ancient fortification is situated on a bluff on 
the east side of Fox River, and opposite the mouth 
of Indian Creek. The bluff on which the fort stands 
is sixty-five feet high. About forty feet of this is a 
rock, rising almost perpendicular from the bed of the 
river, and affords a commanding view of the sur- 
roundings. These works are located at the intersec- 
tion of a deep ravine, and partly surrounded on three 
sides by a rocky cliff. The land side opposite to the 
river and ravine is encircled by three rows of breast- 
works, and on the inside of these is a ditch. 
Through these rows of breastworks to the eastward 
is an open gateway, constituting the only egress and 
ingress to and from the fort within. 

On the opposite side of the ravine, on a bluff 
north of the fort, are a number of mounds. The ob- 
ject for which these were constructed has not been de- 
termined. Near these mounds is a chasm cut in the 
rocky cliff, which is supposed to have been used as 
a stairway by the occupants of the fort. 


The Fox Kiver fort differs from all other ancient 
works found in this section of the country, as it con- 
tains three rows of breastworks, which are close to- 
gether and extend all the way around it. These 
old ruins are of a circular form, and contain within 
the inclosure a little less than one acre of ground. 

There are different opinions about the builders of 
other fortifications in this section of the country, but 
all agree that the Fox River fort is the work of a 
prehistoric race, and built centuries ago. 

This fort, like the one at Marseilles, was surveyed 
by Colonel D. F. Hitt, of Ottawa, June 3, 1877, and 
a diagram of it published in Baldwin's history of 
La Salle county. 


In 1772 Auguste and Pierre Chouteau, fur traders 
at St. Louis, extended their business into the Illinois 
country, and established a trading-post at the mouth 
of Fox River. Three years before the Illinois Indi- 
ans were exterminated, and the country occupied by 
Pottawatomies, whose villages were found at differ- 
ent places along the Illinois River. For many years 
merchants at Peoria had monopolized the fur trade 
in this section of the country, but the Chouteaus, who 
were doing a large business along the upper Mississip- 
pi and Missouri rivers, now came in competit on with 


them. Among Chouteau's employes was a yonng 
Frenchman named Medore Jennette, who had been 
raised near St. Vincent, on the Wabash, among Potta- 
watomie Indians, and spoke their language. Jennette 
traveled extensively over the country, making the 
acquaintance of different bands, and enlisted them in 
favor of his employers' enterprise. After roving a 
few years he found a home at an Indian village, op- 
posite the mouth of Fox River, where he spent the 
remainder of his days. Jennette married a squaw, 
built a cabin in the village, and raised a family of 
half-breed children. His time was occupied in col- 
lecting furs and pelts, shipping them to St. Louis, and 
the vessel loaded back with goods for the Indian 
market. It is a fact worthy of note that while Chou- 
teaus and traders at Kaskaskia sent their furs to New 
Orleans, and from there received their goods, mer- 
chants at Peoria continued to trade at Montreal until 
their town was burned, in 1812. 

In the summer of 1773, when Pat Kennedy and 
comrades ascended the Illinois River in search of 
copper mines, they employed Jennette to pilot them 
through the country. These adventurers found coal 
banks, a saline spring where people were engaged in 
making salt, and a flint rock where the French ob- 
tained their mill-stones, but copper, the object of 
their search, they found none. 


Jennette lived many years among the Indians, 
became very popular with them, and through his en- 
ergy and industry his employers accumulated much 
of their wealth. After his death the family left their 
Indian home for a French settlement on the Missis- 
sippi, where many of his descendants now live. One 
of his sons, Louis Jennette, although having passed 
his ninetieth birthday has a vivid recollection of the 
country along the Illinois River as it appeared eighty 
years ago. Last summer the old gentleman, accom- 
panied by his grandson, visited the place of his na- 
tivity, in order that he might once more look upon 
the scenes of his childhood. Here, on the south side 
of the river, is the mineral spring, and here, too, is 
the spring of sweet water. By the side of it stood his 
father's cabin, in which he spent his infantile years. 
North of the river, on the little prairie where he had 
gathered flowers, and played beneath the shade of 
outspreading oaks in his boyhood days, is now cov- 
ered by the city of Ottawa. The river continues to 
run as in former times ; Buffalo Rock. Starved Rock 
and Maiden's Leap remain the same as in his youth- 
ful days, but all the surroundings have undergone a 
great change. Instead of a wild country of eighty 
years ago farms are seen in close succession, while 
towns and cities abound everywhere throughout the 



THE French were liberal in their gifts to the 
Indians, supplying them with medals and 
showy trinkets, with which they decorated their per- 
sons. They also lived with them in a wigwam, 
adopting their habits and customs, making of them 
chums and associates. Many of the French pioneers 
abandoned their countrymen, sacrificing every tie of 
blood and kindred, identifying themselves with Indi- 
ans, and sank into barbarism. In the camp men 
were found speaking the French language, yet in 
their barbarous costume, face painted, head deco- 
rated with feathers, wearing rings and beads, appear- 
ing in every respect like those with whom they had 
cast their lot, which accords with an old saying, "it 
is impossible for an Indian to turn paleface, but it is 
e^y for a paleface to turn Indian." Among the Eng- 
lish fur traders, hunters and early pioneers were 
found men low and brutal in their habits, having 
thrown off all restraint of civilization, making them- 
selves barbarians, but they did not become Indians. 



The English, unlike the French, did not court the 
friendship of the Indians, but would encroach upon 
their hunting-grounds, treat their rights with con- 
tempt, and pay off these injuries in abuse and threats. 
The difference in these nationalities was soon ob- 
served by the Indians, when they formed a strong 
friendship for one and a dislike for the other, conse- 
quently the Indian raids on the settlements were 
against American citizens only, and no French family 
was molested. During the different Indian wars in 
the early settlement of Illinois the French traders and 
hunters pursued their business unmolested, but if a 
person was found among them speaking the English 
language, although employed by the French traders, 
he would be tomahawked as a common enemy. 


A number of persons who accompanied Colonel 
Clark in his expedition against Illinois, being pleased 
with the country, returned with their families a few 
years afterward and became the first American pio- 
neers of the territory. Most of these emigrants 
were from Kentucky, and they made a settlement 
northeast of Cahokia in what is now St. Clair and 
Madison counties. 

In the summer of 1785 the Kickapoo Indians, 
headed by their old chief Pecan, commenced hostili- 


ties against the American settlers, for the purpose 
of driving them out of the country. With the ex- 
ception of a short interval this war continued for 
ten years, and many of the early settlers were killed 
or carried off captive by these savages. Among the 
emigrants from Kentucky were three families of 
Whitesides, who became noted Indian fighters, and 
the history of these wars is filled with many of 
their heroic acts and wild adventures. 

The emigrants who located in or near the French 
villages were not molested, as the war was carried 
on against the Americans only. During the contin- 
uation of this war no French family was molested, 
and the traders continued to pass up and down the 
Illinois River in the pursuit of their business the 
same as in time of peace. 

In 1786 the Indians made prisoners of two small 
children belonging to Samuel Garrison, carried them 
to their village on the Saline fork of Sangamon River, 
where they were kept for about a year, but were 
finally ransomed by Colonel N. Jarret, of Cahokia. 


From the early settlement of Illinois there was 
no law in force but village ordinances till 1711, when 
a patent was granted to Crozat, a Paris merchant, 
for the purpose of governing the country. Captain 


La Mott, an agent of Crozat, came to Illinois, acting 
as governor, and extended civil jurisdiction over the 
different colonies. Five years afterward a new 
patent was granted to the Louisiana Mining Com- 
pany, with George Law, a Scotch banker, as its head, 
and for fourteen years this company governed the 
country. The charter of this company having ex- 
pired in 1732, the country reverted back to the 
crown, and Colonel D. Artaguette appointed gov- 
ernor. In 1765 the British took possession of Illi- 
nois, by virtue of a treaty between France and Eng- 
land made some time before. For a short time 
Captain Stirling acted as governor, and was suc- 
ceeded by different commanders, who enforced laws 
contrary to the wishes of the French people. In 
1778 Colonel Clark took possession of Illinois, and 
it became a part of the State of Virginia. The same 
year the territory was organized by extending over 
it civil jurisdiction, and known as Illinois county, 
Virginia. Colonel John Todd, of Kentucky, re- 
ceived an appointment from the Governor of Vir- 
ginia, as Lieutenant-Commandant, with power to en- 
force laws, and governed the country for three years, 
but while on a visit to Kentucky in 1782 was killed 
at the battle of Blue Licks. 

Virginia having relinquished her claim to Illinois 
in 1784, an ordinance passed Congress transferring it 


to the general government, consequently it became 
a part of the Northwest Territory, and was divided 
into two counties, Randolph and St. Glair. In 1809 it 
was set off into a separate territory, and Ninian Ed- 
wards, of Kentucky, appointed governor. In 1812 it 
assumed a second grade of territorial government, 
with a legislature and a delegate in Congress. In 
1818 Illinois became a state, and Shadrack Bond 
elected the first governor. 


The flesh of the buifalo furnished the Indians 
with food, their skins with clothing, bedding, tents, 
etc., their sinews for bows, the bones for ornaments, 
and the hair they wove into a fine fabric for dress, 
consequently the disappearance of these animals 
from the country deprived them of many luxuries. 
The exact time the buffalo left the country has been 
a controverted point, but in comparing various ac- 
counts it must have been between the years of 1780 
and 1790. In 1778 Antonie Des Champs, a noted 
Indian trader, came to Peoria with his parents, and 
continued to live there until the town was burned. 
He says for many years after he came west buffalo 
were plenty throughout the country, and large herds 
of them were frequently seen swimming the Illinois 




I have conversed with old Indians that were born 
and raised in this part of the country, who said in 
their youthful days they had seen large herds of buf- 
falo on these prairies, but they all perished at the 
time of a big snow which covered the ground many 
feet in depth, and crusted so hard on top that 
people walked on it. Next spring a few buffalo, 
poor and haggard in appearance, were seen going 
westward, and as they approached the carcasses of 
dead ones, which were lying in great numbers here 
and there on the prairie, they would stop, commence 
pawing and lowing, then start oif again in a lope 
westward, and from that time they were seldom seen 
east of the Mississippi River. 

Forty years ago buffalo bones were plenty on these 
prairies and in many places acres of ground were cov- 
ered with them, showing where large herds had per 
ished. Skulls with horns still on them were fre- 
quently found, and their trails leading to and from 
watering-places were plain to be seen in the early 
settlement of the country. 


All that is known of the early history of Chicago, 
or the place where the city now stands, is taken from 
Indian tradition and scraps of the early explorer's 
journal, neither of which is considered very reliable. 


It is said Father Nicollet, a French Jesuit priest, 
preached to the Indians at the mouth of Chicago 
River in 1640, and in all probability he was the first 
white man that ever rowed a canoe on the waters of 
Lake Michigan, or trod the soil of Illinois. In 16T1 
Nicholas Barret visited this place, and two years 
afterward Marquette and comrades stopped here. 
According to tradition a Frenchman named Goris 
built a trading-house on Chicago River and sur- 
rounded it with palisades, called a fort, but the time 
of building it is not known. In the early settlement 
of Chicago relics of a fortification were found on the 
north branch, a short distance above the forks of 
the river. In General Wayne's treaty at Greenville, 
in 1796 a purchase was made of the Indians, six 
miles square, at the mouth of Chicago River, where 
a fort once stood, is the language of the treaty. 
About the year 1796 a negro named Jean Baptiste 
built a cabin at the mouth of Chicago River and oc- 
cupied it for a short time. This cabin was occupied 
for some years by a French fur trader by the name 
of Le Mai, who sold it to John Kirizie in 1804. 

In the fall of 1803 Captain John "Whitler, with a 
company of soldiers, came from Detroit in a schooner 
and built Fort Dearborn. The next year John Kin- 
zie, a fur trader, came to Chicago, and occupied 
Baptiste's cabin on the north side of the river, op- 


posite the fort. Antiona Oulmette, Charles Lee 
and Mr. Claybourn came here soon after the fort was 
built. Kinzie, Oulmette and Claybourn were en- 
gaged in the fur trade, but Lee was a farmer, and 
made a large farm at a grove of timber on the south 
branch called "Lee's Place," afterward Bridgeport. 


There lived near Lexington, Kentucky, a slave 
named Jean Baptiste, who had been a captive among . 
the Indians, learned their language, and became fas- 
cinated with their free and easy manner of living 
About the year 1790 Baptiste became dissatisfied 
with restraint ; his proud spirit could not be sub- 
dued by the whip of the master, therefore he severed 
the bonds which made him a slave. Armed with 
his master's rifle, a large hunting-knife, and taking 
the north star for a guide, he became a free man. 
After traveling a long way through a wild country 
he came to an Indian village on the Des Plaines 
River, where he found refuge, and became an Indian 
in life and habit. Here he married a squaw and 
raised a family of children. One of his grandsons 
is now living in a hewed-log house on the bank of 
Cahokia Creek, in St. Clair county, and from whom 
I obtained the narrative relating to his distinguished 


The Indians used to say the first white man that 
lived in Chicago was a negro. This negro was Jean 
Baptiste, whose name is associated with the early 
history of the great metropolis of the west. He left 
the Indian village on the Des Plaines soon after 
coming to the country, and built a cabin near the 
lake on the north side of Chicago River. He culti- 
vated a small piece of ground, spent much of his 
time in hunting and fishing, and concocted schemes 
to make himself a chief among the Indians. He told 
the Indians that he had been a great chief among 
the whites, and expected to become one among 
them. He tried to induce liis Indian friends to 
move their village to the mouth of Chicago River, 
telling them it would be a big town some day, and 
they could sell the land to white people at a good 
price. His object was to have a village here on the 
lake shore, of which he would be the founder, and 
by that means become a chief. A few lodges were 
built here, in accordance with Baptiste's wishes, but 
the scattering trees afforded them but little protec- 
tion from the cold winds off the lake, so they left 
and returned to their old village on the Des Plaines. 

At that time Father Bonner, a missionary, was 
living among the Indians, and for many years had 
preached to them. Baptiste, aware of the priest's 
influence among the Indians, thought he might use 


it to his own advantage, therefore he sought his 
friendship and gained his confidence. He also 
joined the church, became a zealous Catholic, at- 
tended all meetings, and made long and fervent 
prayers. Father Bonner thought only of making 
Baptiste an instrument in his hands to promote the 
cause of Christianity, while the unscrupulous negro 
expected to use the priest in advancing his claims to 
the chieftainship, therefore the two became intimate 
friends and labored for each other's interest. 

On St. Jerome's day a big meeting was held 
among the Indian converts, and after preaching 
Father Bonner told his hearers that it had been im- 
pressed on his mind that Baptiste should be a ruler 
among them, and went through the process of anoint- 
ing him chief. The Indians refused to accept Bap- 
tiste as their chief, notwithstanding he had been 
appointed by high authority. Failing to be made a 
chief Baptis*te became disgusted with the life of a 
savage, abandoned his cabin, and went to Peoria, 
where he ended his days. 



A T what time the French commenced a settle- 
J_~\. ment at Peoria has long been a controverted 
point, on which both history and tradition are alike 
defective. Some people believe it commenced' in 
1680, when La Salle built Fort CK-ve-Coeur, and 
from that time people continued to reside here. Oth- 
ers date the permanent settlement in 1760, but from 
old letters and manuscripts now in the possession of 
the descendants of early pioneers it is evident that 
it commenced at an early period. I have given this 
subject much attention, by comparing scraps of his- 
tory, extracts of letters from Jesuit priests, and con- 
versing with the descendants of the early settlers, 
some of whom trace their genealogy back to the time 
of La Salle. By comparing all the different accounts 
relating thereto, I think it is shown conclusively 
that the settlement at Peoria commenced in the year 
1711, and under the following circumstances : 

In the summer of 1711 Father Marest, a Jesuit 

priest from Canada, preached to the Indians at Ca- 
st 5 


hokia, and by the force of his eloquence many were 
converted to Christianity. Among these converts 
was a chief named Kolet, from Peoria Lake, who at 
that time was visiting friends at Cahokia. This chief 
prevailed on Father Marest to accompany him home 
to his village and proclaim salvation to his people. 
Late in November the priest and chief, accompanied 
by two warriors, left for Peoria in a bark canoe, but 
after a journey of ten leagues the river froze up, so 
that further progress by water was out of the ques- 
tion. The travelers hid their canoe, with most of 
their baggage, in the thick timber at the mouth of 
a creek, and continued their journey on foot. For 
twelve days they waded through snow and water, 
crossing big prairies, and through thick timber full of 
briers and thorns. At night they slept on dry grass 
or leaves gathered from under the snow, without 
shelter or anything but their blankets to protect 
them from the cold winter blasts. The provision 
for their journey as well as their bedding was left 
with the canoe, consequently they were obliged 
to subsist on wild grapes, and game killed by the 
way. After many days of fatigue and exposure, their 
limbs frost-bitten, and their bodies reduced in flesh 
by starvation, they at last reached the village, and 
from its inhabitants received a hearty welcome. 
This Indian village (afterward called by the 


French Opa) was situated on the west bank of Peoria 
Lake, one and a half miles above its outlet. On La- 
Sal le's first visit to this place, thirty-one years be- 
fore, he found h^re a large town, and was cordially 
received by the head chief, Niconape, but this chief 
had long since been gathered to his fathers, and his 
place occupied by Kolet, above referred to. 

Father Marest found quarters in an Indian lodge, 
and remained here at the village until spring with- 
out meeting with any of his countrymen. He 
preached to the Indians almost daily, many of whom 
embraced Christianity,- and their names were after- 
ward enrolled in the church book. 

In the following spring, 1712, the French at 
Fort St. Louis established a trading-post here at 
Peoria Lake, and a number of families came thither 
from Canada and built cabins in the Indian village. 
For fifty years French and half-breeds continued to 
live in the town with the Indians as one people, and 
during that time peace and harmony prevailed be- 
tween them. It is true Charlevoix while visiting 
this country in 1721 says he found no one living at 
Fort Creve-Cceur, which was five miles below this vil- 
lage, but met with his countrymen at different places 
along the Illinois River. 

In 1723 the Royal Louisiana Company granted to 
Philip Renault a tract of land fifteen leagues square, 


near the village of Peoria. This grant was bounded 
as follows : Commencing at the town of Peoria, run- 
ning down the river fifteen leagues, west fifteen 
leagues, thence north fifteen leagues, and east to the 
place of beginning. This land grant, equal to three 
counties, was considered of no value at the time, 
an i the claim was not enforced by the heirs of Ren- 
ault, like the other two grants near Fort Chartres, 
consequently it reverted back to the crown. 

Here at the village of Peoria Father Senat built a 
chapel, and made many converts among his red 
brethren. The time this chapel was built is un- 
known, but must have been previous to 1T36, for in 
that year he was burned at the stake by the Chicka- 
saw Indians in lower Louisiana. 

In the course of time the village of Peoria was 
abandoned for one which figured in after years more 
extensively, and known in history as La Ville de 


In the spring of 1761 Robert Maillet, a trader at 
Peoria, built a dwelling one and a half miles below 
the town, near the outlet of the lake, and moved his 
family thither. Here the land raised gradually from 
the water's edge until it reached the high prairie in 
the rear, forming a beautiful sloping plateau, proba- 
bly unequaled by any place on the Illinois River. 


This location for a town was considered preferable 
to the old one, the land dryer, the water better, and 
thought to be more healthy, consequently others 
built houses by the side of Maillet's, and it soon be- 
came quite a village. A short time afterward the 
inhabitants deserted the old town for the new, and 
no Frenchman remained in the old village after 1770, 
but it was occupied by Indians for many years. The 
houses vacated by the French were occupied by In- 
dians until they rotted down, and the remains of an 
old chapel could be seen here long after the dwell- 
ings had disappeared. 

This new town took the name of La Ville de 
Maillet (that is, the city of Maillet) after its founder, 
and it was in existence fifty-one years. A fort was 
built here consisting of two block houses surrounded 
by earthworks and palisades, with an open gateway 
to the south, next to the town, and was only in- 
tended as a place of retreat in case of trouble with 
the Indians. This fort was never occupied, except a 
short time by Robert Maillet, who used one of the 
block houses for a dwelling and the other for the 
sale of goods. Some years afterward Maillet left 
the fort for a more desirable place of residence and 
trade, and it remained vacant for many years; the 
inclosure within the stockades being used by the citi- 
zens in common for a cow-yard. 


In 1820 Hypolite Maillet, in his sworn testimony 
before Edward Cole, register of the land-office at 
Edwardsville, in relation to French claims, said that 
he was forty-five years old, and born in a stockade 
fort which stood near the southern extremity of 
Peoria Lake. In the winter of 1788 a party of In- 
dians came to Peoria to trade, and, in accordance 
with their former practice, took quarters in the fort, 
but getting on a drunken spree they burned it down. 
In the spring of 1819, when Americans commenced 
asettlement here at Peoria, the outlines of the old 
French fort were plain to be seen on the high ground 
near the lake, and a short distance above the present 
site of the Chicago and Rock Island depot. The 
line of earthworks could be traced out by the small 
embankments, and in some places pieces of pickets 
were found above ground. Back of the fort was the 
remains of a blacksmith shop, and near it grew up 
a wild plum tree. This plum tree was dug up by 
John Brisket, the owner of the land, and under it 
was found a vault containing a quantity of old metal, 
among which were a number of gun barrels, knives, 
tomahawks, copper and brass trinkets, etc. Among 
other things found in the vault were pieces of silver 
and brass plate for inlaying gun stocks and orna- 
menting knife handles. These things appeared to 


have been the stock-in-trade of a gun-smith, and, for 
some cause unknown, buried here.* 

According to the statements of Antoine Des 
Champs, Thomas Forsyth, and others, who had long 
been residents of Peoria previous to its destruction in 
1812, we infer that the town contained a large popu- 
lation. It formed a connecting link between the 
settlements on the Mississippi and Canada, and be- 
ing situated in the midst of an Indian country, caused 
it to be a line place for the fur trade. The town was 
built along the beach of the lake, and to each house 
was attached an outlet for a garden, which extended 
back on the prairie. The houses were all constructed 
of wood, one story high, with porches on two sides, 
and located in a garden surrounded with fruit and 
flowers. Some of the dwellings were built of hewed 
timbers set upright, and the space between the posts 
filled in with stone and mortar, while others were 
built of hewed logs notched together after the style 
of a pioneer's cabin. The floors were laid with pun- 
cheons, and the chimney built with mud and sticks. 

When Colonel Clark took possession of Illinois 
in 1778 he sent three soldiers, accompanied by two 
Frenchmen, in a canoe to Peoria to notify the people 
that they were no longer under British rule but citi- 
zens of the United States. Among these soldiers 

*Ballance's history of Peoria. 


was a man named Nicholas Smith, a resident of 
Bourbon county, Kentucky, and whose son, Joseph 
Smith (Dod Joe), was among the first American set- 
tlers of Peoria. Through this channel we have an 
account of Peoria as it appeared a century ago, and 
it agrees well with other traditional accounts. 

Mr. Smith said Peoria at the time of his visit was 
a large town, built along the beach of the lake, with 
narrow, unpaved streets, and houses constructed of 
wood. Back of the town were gardens, stock-yards, 
barns, etc., and among these was a wine-press, with 
a large cellar or under-ground vault for storing wine. 
There was a church with a large wooden cross raised 
above the roof, and with gilt lettering over the door. 
There was an unoccupied fort on the bank of the 
lake, and close by it a wind-mill for grinding grain. 
The town contained six stores or places of trade, all 
of which were well filled with goods for the Indian 
market. The inhabitants consisted of French, half- 
breeds and Indians, not one of whom could under- 
stand or speak English. 


The inhabitants of Peoria consisted principally of 
French emigrants from Canada, many of whom 
were traders, hunters, voyageurs or boatmen. From 
that happy faculty of adapting themselves to their 


situation for which the French people are so remark- 
able they lived in harmony with their savage neigh- 
bors for three succeeding generations. Being far 
away from all other civilized communities they made 
friends and associates of the natives, and intermar- 
ried with them, consequently their prosperity at the 
present time shows strong marks of Indian lineage. 
The traders were men of education and energy, but 
the masses being illiterate, possessed but little prop- 
erty, and less enterprise, enjoying the present with- 
out regard to the future. They were a contented, 
happy people, never troubling themselves with the 
affairs of government, nor indulging in political 
strifes, but cheerfully obeying the priests and king's 
officer. They lived in a fruitful country, which 
abounded in game, where the necessaries of life 
could be obtained with but little labor, and having 
no tax or tribute to pay to the government they be- 
came indolent and spent much of their time in idle- 

Those engaged in merchandising turned their at- 
tention almost exclusively to the traffic with the 
Indians, adapting themselves to their customs and 
habits, and many of them seeking alliance in mar- 
riage. The boatmen were active and sprightly. With 
all the vivacity of the French character they had but 
little of the intemperance and brutal coarseness usu- 


ally found among boatmen and marines. Their boats 
were small, many of them bark canoes, and with 
skill these light crafts were run up swift currents, 
while the toil of the oarsmen was enlivened with 
songs and demonstrations of mirth. As hunters 
they roamed over the wide plains of the west to the 
Rocky Mountains, sharing the hospitality of the na- 
tives, abiding with them for a long time, and in some 
cases permanently. 

The French citizens of Peoria were a quiet, peace- 
able people, ignorant and superstitious, and much 
influenced by the. priests. Having no public schools 
but few of them except the priests and merchants 
could read or write, bttt in manners, conversation 
and refinement they compared well with educated 
people. Out of eighteen claimants for the land 
where the city of Peoria now stands all but three 
signed their names with a mark, and it is said not a. 
woman among them could read or write. 

Among the inhabitants of Peoria were merchants 
or traders who made annual trips to Canada in 
canoes, carrying thither pelts and furs, and loaded 
back with goods for the Indian market. They were 
blacksmiths, wagon-makers, carpenters, shoemakers, 
etc., and most of the implements used in farming 
were of home manufacture. Although isolated from 
the civilized world, and surrounded by savages, their 


standard of morality was high ; theft, robbery or 
murder were seldom heard of. They were a gay, 
happy people, having many social parties, wine sup- 
pers, balls and public festivals. They lived in har- 
mony with the Indians, who were their neighbors 
and friends, adopting in part their customs, and in 
trade with them accumulated most of their wealth. 


The dress of both men and women was very 
plain, made of coarse material, and the style of their 
wardrobe was partly European and partly Indian. 
The men seldom wore a hat, cap or coat, their heads 
being covered with a cotton handkerchief, folded on 
the crown like a night-cap or an Arabian turban. 
Instead of a coat they wore a loose blanket garment 
called capote, with a cap of the same material hang- 
ing down at the back of the neck, which could be 
drawn over the head as a protection from rain or 
cold. The women wore loose dresses, made mostly 
of coarse material, their heads covered with a hood 
or blanket, and their long hair hanging down their 
back like an Indian squaw. But these women were 
noted for sprightriness in conversation, with grace 
and elegance of manners, and notwithstanding the 
plainness of their dress many of them were not. lack- 
ing in personal charms. 


Although long since separated from civilized 
society they retain much of the refinement and 
politeness so common to their race ; and it is a 
remarkable fact that the roughest hunter or boats- 
man among them could appear in a ball-room or 
at a gay party with the ease and grace of a well- 
bred gentleman. 

The French people at Peoria being isolated from 
civilization were free from many of its vices, and 
appeared to be perfectly contented with their manner 
of living. According to the statements of their nu- 
merous descendants they lived a life of alternate toil 
and pleasure, with much gayety and innocent amuse- 
ments, and were a contented, happy people. 


The French settled at Peoria without a grant or 
permission from any government, and the title to 
the land was derived from possession only. But 
these titles were valid according to usage, as well as 
by a village ordinance, and lands were bought and 
sold the same as if patented by government. Each 
person had a right to claim any portion of the unoc- 
cupied land, and when in possession his title was 
regarded perfect, and could be bought and sold the 
same as other real estate. Each citizen had a vil- 
large lot for a garden attached to his residence, and 


if a farmer a portion of the common field. On the 
prairie west of the town were extensive farms all en- 
closed in one field, each person contributing his 
share of fencing, and the time of securing the crop 
and pasturing the stocks was regulated by a town or- 
dinance. The boundaries of these farms could be 
traced out in the early settlement at Peoria, and a 
large tract of land lying between the river and bluff 
showed marks of having been cultivated. 

When the French settlement commenced at 
Peoria the country belonged to France, afterward to 
Great Britain, and lastly to the United States, but 
these changes did not effect the people in any way. 
"When Illinois came under the British rule, in 1765, 
Captain Stirling, commanding, at Fort Chartres, sent 
messengers to Peoria to notify the people that they 
were British subjects. In 1778, when' Illinois came 
under United States authority, they were again noti- 
fied of the change in the government, but they still 
remained French in feeling and sympathy. They 
claimed no allegiance to any government, acknowl- 
edged no law except their own village ordinance, 
and paid no tax to any power. While these people 
were living in peace and harmony (as they believed), 
with all the world, being separated nearly two hun- 
dred miles from civilization, they were attacked by 
an armed force, their dwellings burned, and all the 


heads of families carried off prisoners of war, as will 
be narrated in the succeeding chapter. 

In 1820 eighteen persons, heads of families, filed 
papers in Edwardsville land office, claiming the land 
on which the city of Peoria now stands. The depo- 
sitions were taken by the register, Edward Coles, 
afterward Governor of Illinois, and all the testimony 
relating to their claims is now on file among the 
state papers. Coles was a man of an inquiring turn 
of mind, fond of antique history, and made a full re- 
port of the testimony to the land department. For 
many 'years the claimants prosecuted their case in 
the different courts, and at last succeeded in getting 
a large amount of money from the occupants of the 



IN the year 1776 a young Frenchman named 
Pierre de Beuro, of Cahokia, came to Peoria, and 
for a time clerked in a trading-house. Being of an 
enterprising turn of mind, and understanding the 
Indian language, he concluded to visit chiefs whose 
acquaintance he formed while at Peoria. While on 
these visits he married a daughter of a noted chief, 
who had a village near the mouth of Fox River, and 
concluded to establish a trading-post in the midst of 
the Indian country. After getting a promise of pat- 
ronage of all the neighboring villages he went to 
Cahokia, to make the necessary arrangements to go 
into business. 

Below the mouth of Bureau Creek is an elevated 
piece of land, covered with timber, and known as 
Hickory Ridge. This place became a noted land- 
mark among the French and Indians, and lias been 
the scene of a number of traditionary incidents. It 
also became a place of note in the early settlement 


of the country, and during liigh water a landing for 
the Hennepin ierry-boat. Here on this ridge, ele- 
vated above t the floods of the river, De Beuro built a 
double log-cabin, and laid the foundation of a large 
fur trade. Being patronized by all the surrounding 
village he had a large trade, sending his furs to Ca- 
hokia and receiving goods in return. Antoine des 
Champs said that every spring for a number of years 
canoes loaded with furs and buffalo robes passed 
Peoria from this trading-house. The traders at 
Peoria became unfriendly toward De Beuro, as he 
injured their business, and offered to buy him out, 
but he refused to sell to them. 

In the spring of 1790 De Beuro, according to cus- 
tom, sent three canoes loaded with furs to Cahokia, 
in charge of his clerk and two Indians. The trader 
accompanied the canoes down the river about twenty 
miles to an Indian village, and from here left for 
home on foot, but never reached it. Search being 
made for the missing trader, his remains were found 
some days afterward, where he had been murdered 
and partly devoured by wolves. Report says a 
trader at Peoria, whose descendants are now living 
near East St. Louis, employed a half-breed to assas- 
sinate De Beuro, and thereby break up the rival 
trading-post. A large number of warriors went to 
Peoria and demanded the supposed murderer, threat- 


ening to burn the town if not given up, but on being 
convinced that the murderer had fled they left for 
their homes. 

When the clerk learned that De Beuro was dead 
he appropriated the proceeds of the furs to his own 
account, and his wife put the goods in canoes and 
took them to her father's village.* 


Tecumseh after meeting General Harrison in 
council at Vincennes, in August, 1810, came west for 
the purpose of enlisting the different tribes in a war 
against the frontier settlements. Pie made an ex- 
tensive tour in the western country, going as far 
north as Green Bay, and south through Missouri and 
Arkansas, and in the following year traveled among 
the Creeks and Chickasaws in the southern states. 
While traveling through the country he visited 
Peoria, and was the guest of Francis Racine, an old 
acquaintance of his, who had traded with his band 
on the Wabash for many years. Tecumseh was ac- 
companied by three chiefs, all dressed in white buck- 
skin, with eagle feathers in their head-dress, and 
mounted on spirited black ponies. The visitors 
made a short stay at Peoria. On learning that the 

* A few years ago David Miller cut the timber off Hickory Ridge, and put 
the land under cultivation. Where De Beuro's trading-house stood many 
relics of civilization, such as pieces of dishes, glass-ware, etc., were plowed up 
in cultivating the ground. 


French disapproved of their plans, and not wishing 
to offend them, they left without having a talk with 
the Indians who were encamped near.the town. At 
Gomo's village the travelers were met by a large 
number of warriors, many of whom had come from 
neighboring villages to listen to Tecumseh's stirring 
eloquence in behalf of his great scheme of uniting 
all the tribes of the west and driving the palefaces 
out of the country. 

Gomo, Black Partridge, Senachwine and Comas 
were visited by Tecumseh and his friends, but they 
all refused to accede to his plans, preferring to re- 
main at peace. 


In the summer of 1810 a party of Indians belong- 
ing on the Illinois River stole a number of horses 
from the settlers, who pursued the thieves for two 
days. At night while the settlers were asleep around 
a camp-fire the Indians returned and fired on them, 
killing three and wounding two others. The author- 
ities made a demand on the Indians for these mur- 
derers, but no attention was paid to it. In the fol- 
lowing summer Governor Edwards sent Captain 
Samuel Levering, with a company of men, in a keel- 
boat to Peoria with instructions to make a formal 
demand of the Indians for a surrender of these mur- 


derers. Captain Levering and his comrades were 
French (some of them half-breeds), understanding 
the Indian language, and between whom a friendly 
relation existed, even in the time of war. On aniv- 
ing at Peoria the visitors were cordially received by 
both French and Indians, who prepared a feast for 
them, with a ball in the evening. Some of the 
guests were fascinated with Indian maidens, two of 
whom took wives home with them. 

Joseph Trotier, of Cahokia, accompanied by two 
half-breeds, ascended the river in a canoe to the 
great bend, stopping at all the Indian villages on 
their route, and from the chiefs and warriors re- 
ceived many pledges of peace and friendship. This 
party visited the village of Wappa, on Bureau Creek, 
and the head chief, Comas, sent as a present to Gov- 
ernor Edwards a large pair of elk horns, also a pair 
of dressed bear and'panther'skins, all of which were 
taken with his own hands. Trotier made arrange- 
ments with the chiefs and principal warriors to meet 
in council at Peoria on the following week and hear 
the message sent them by the governor read. 

At the time appointed the Indians came to Peoria, 
heard the governor's message read, and a speech 
made to them by Captain Levering. The message 
and speech was replied to by talks from a number of 
chiefs, in which they pledged themselves to use all 


proper means to capture the murderers and deliver 
them up to the authorities for punishment. Captain 
Levering after performing his mission, with his com- 
rades, returned to the settlement, carrying thither 
many presents from the chiefs to Governor Edwards, 
together with their pledges of friendship and good 

Captain Levering while at Peoria delivered a 
commission, signed by the governor, to Thomas For- 
syth as justice of the peace, also one to John Bap- 
tiste Dufond as captain of militia. These commis- 
sions bear date August 8, 1811, and both of these 
papers are now in the hands of descendants of the 

General William Clark, of St. Louis, was general 
Indian agent for the western country, but Governor 
Edwards acted also as sub-agent within the territory 
of Illinois. 


During the winter of 1811 and 1812 the Indians 
on the Illinois River heard through a half-breed who 
carne from the settlement that preparations were 
being made to send an army against them in the 
spring unless the murderers were given up. On 
learning of these facts they became very much 
alarmed, and some of the chiefs went to Peoria to 


consult with their friends, and procure their assist- 
ance in averting the evil which threatened them. 
In their behalf Captain Maillet consented to go and 
see the governor, and inform him that the murderers 
had fled from the country and could not be delivered 
up, but the Indians proposed to furnish a like num- 
ber of young braves to be executed in their stead. 

On arriving at Kaskaskia Captain Maillet laid 
the case before the governor, who authorized him 
to assure the chiefs that the matter of peace or war 
depended entirely upon their own acts. 

In the following March Governor Edwards sent 
Captain Hebert on a mission among these Indians, 
requesting them to meet him in council at Cahokia. 
Captain Hebert was also instructed to notify all the 
traders at Peoria to close their stores, giving up 
all trade with the Indians until this trouble was set- 
tled. The traders were informed unless they com- 
plied with the governor's demands they need not 
expect any indulgence from the government in case 
of war, but they paid no attention to this order. 

Captain Hebert collected many of the principal 
chiefs and brought them with him to Cahokia, where 
the governor by agreement met them in council. 
This council was held on the 16th of April, 1812, in 
a little grove of timber on the bank of Cahokia Creek, 
above the town, and ai tended by a large number of 


citizens.* Speeches were made by different chiefs 
in reply to the governor's address, and with new 
pledges of friendship the Indians were dismissed 
with many presents. After this council for a time 
confidence between the white and red man appeared 
to have been restored, but this was of short dura- 
tion. An evil-disposed person circulated false re- 
ports about the Indians making preparations for war, 
and the settlers were very much alarmed. 

In reading the many letters written by Governor 
Edwards to the secretary of war a person would be- 
lieve that war with the Indians was inevitable, but 
the facts in the case do not warrant this conclusion. 
During the summer of 1812 forts were built, militia 
kept under arms, and the general government called 
on for troops to defend the territory. Rumors were 
circulated that a large body of Indian warriors were 
collected near Peoria, armed, and painted for war, 
and it was believed that they intended to descend 
the river in canoes to make a raid on the settlement. 

* While on a recent visit to Cahokia the place where this council assembled 
was pointed out to me by an old man who attended it. Although a boy of 
only twelve years of age at that time he recollects the appearance of tome of the 
chiefs, and. understanding the Indian language, can repeat parts of their 
speeches. Gomo, Senachwine and Black Partridge were the principal orators, 
and their eloquence and commanding appearance made a lasting impression 
upon his then youthful mind. 

In this grove where the council was held is an old burr-oak tree by the 
creek bank which marks the spot where a number of incidents occurred in 
early times. At the root of this tree, tradition says. Pontiac (or the Indian 
who passed for such) was sitting when a drunken Indian came up behind him 
and split his head open with his tomahawk. 


To prevent a surprise from these savages Captain 
Whitesides, with a company of volunteers, in a heavy 
planked gunboat, lay for three months above the 
mouth of the Illinois River to prevent the Indians 
from descending it to attack the settlements. While 
these preparations for war were continued by the 
authorities of the territory the Indians were quietly 
pursuing their hunting, making no provision for 
either an attack or defense, and when troops marched 
against them they were taken by surprise. 

From what is now known of these affairs it ap- 
pears evident that Governor Edward.s was imposed 
upon by unscrupulous men, who made false reports 
with regard to the Indians. The governor employed 
a man named John Hays to examine into Indian af- 
fairs to ascertain the number of bands, the name and 
location of villages, with their inhabitants, etc. 
These reports made by Hays were false in almost 
every particular, and, to make the matter worse, the 
governor copied these reports in his letters to the 
secretary of war, and therefore became a part of the 
state papers. While Governor Edwards was a man 
of ability, and made a good executive officer, so far 
as relates to his duties as governor of the territory, 
yet as an Indian agent he proved himself a failure, 
having become the dupe of designing men. I have 
talked with many of the French residents of Peoria 


and their descendants, also with Indians who were 
born and raised in villages along the Illinois River, 
and know whereof I write. 


At the commencement of the late British war 
there was within the limits of the Illinois territory 
less than twelve thousand people, a large portion of 
whom were native French citizens and emigrants 
from Kentucky. The settlement extended along the 
Mississippi River for about sixty miles, from the 
mouth of Kaskaskia River to a station opposite Col- 
umbia, eight miles below Alton. There was a set- 
tlement on the Ohio River at Shawneetown, also one 
at Saline, or United States Salt Works, protected by 
a rude fortification and a few soldiers. The extreme 
south part of this state was an unbroken wilderness, 
a hunting-ground for Indians, while the central and 
northern portion belonged to the natives. With the 
exception of the country along the Illinois River, 
and shores of Lake Michigan, the prairies of this 
state had never been explored by white people to 
any great extent. 

There were but two counties organized, Randolph 
and St. Glair, and all the country in the northern 
portion of the state, including Wisconsin, was under 


the jurisdiction of the latter. Summonses and writs 
were issued from the circuit court at Cahokia, the 
seat of justice for St. Clair county, against persons 
at Prairie du Chien, and in one case property was 
sold there under an execution issued from that court. 
The citizens of Peoria, however, would not admit 
that they were under the jurisdiction of St. Clair 
county, claiming to be free and independent of all 
foreign power, and the sheriff could not enforce de- 
mands against them. 


In the summer of 1812 a vagabond named Elijah 
Bruce, having committed a lawless act, was driven 
from Peoria, and found a refuge at Kaskaskia. 
Bruce had been a resident of Peoria for a number of 
years, acquainted with all its principal citizens, and, 
to retaliate on his enemies for driving him away, 
circulated an evil report about them. He said the 
French at Peoria were assisting the Indians to make 
war on the settlements, that two military men were 
engaged in teaching them war tactics, and preparing 
them to take the field. He also said the British in 
Canada had furnished the traders witli rifles, powder, 
tomahawks, knives etc., which were distributed 
among the Indians free of charge ; that Captain J. B. 
Maillot had stolen cattle from Wood River settle- 


ment to feed warriors who were collected at Gomo's 
village. He further said the day before he left 
Peoria Francis Racine, a trader, came through from 
the Sac village on the Mississippi with five pack- 
horses loaded with lead to supply the warriors. 

Bruce an Irishman by birth, a man of educa- 
tion and general intelligence, a good talker, and his 
story was believed by people generally. But it was 
afterward proven that these stories were false in 
every particular, and without any foundation in fact 
so far as assisting the Indians in making war on the 
settlement is concerned. It is true the traders at 
Peoria for many years had been in the habit of 
bringing from Canada various kinds of goods, includ- 
ing arms, to supply the Indian market, and also 
packed lead on horses from the Sac village, but this 
was done in accordance with their legitimate trade. 
The story about Captain Maillet stealing cattle orig- 
inated from the fact of his bringing a stray drove back 
to Peoria that had wandered away down south. The 
cattle being crossed with buffalo were inclined to 
ramble, and during the hard winter a herd belong- 
ing to the people of Peoria strayed off southward. 
In the spring these cattle were found on Mackinaw 
River by Captain Maillet, and driven back to Peoria, as 
previously stated. Instead of Captain Maillet being 
a cattle thief, as alleged by the vagabond Bruce, at 


the close of the war he was rewarded by an act of 
Congress for his loyalty to the government. 

The evil reports circulated by Bruce are said to 
have been confirmed by another person from Peoria, 
and by this means a great panic was created among 
the frontier settlers. Some of them fled from the 
country, while others abandoned farm labor, and be- 
gan building forts to protect themselves from threat- 
ened hostilities. Governor Edwards believed these 
rumors, as may be inferred by his letter to the secre- 
tary of war, dated August 4, 1812, in which he says : 
"No troops have arrived in the territory yet, and I 
think you may count on hearing of a bloody strike on 
us soon. I have been extremely reluctant to send 
my family away, but unless assistance comes soon I 
shall bury my papers in the ground, send off my 
family, and stand my ground as long as possible." 

The inhabitants of Peoria claimed to be foreign- 
ers, owing no allegiance to the government, but by 
a treaty between France and this country, made 
some years before, all French residents of Illinois 
became citizens of the United States, and to assist 
the Indians in making war on the settlers was trea- 
son. Governor Edwards, believing the common 
reports, issued a proclamation calling for volunteers 
to march against the Indians along the Illinois River, 

and their allies, the treacherous French at Peoria. 



noted chief, whose Indian name was Muck- 
-L oteypokee, had a village at the foot of the 
bluff on the south side of the Illinois River opposite 
the head of Peoria Lake. Here he lived and here 
he died, and in the early settlement of that section 
of the country his grave was pointed out to strangers. 
Persons are now living who knew this chief very 
well, and from whom I obtained a description of his 
person, and many incidents relating to his life and 

Black Partridge was tall and slim, with a high 
forehead, a large nose, a sharp visage, and piercing 
black eyes. His appearance was fine, his form 
'erect, and his figure commanding, so a stranger 
could see at a glance that he was no ordinarj 7 - Indian. 
The long, coarse hair, once as black as a raven, but of 
later years mixed with gray, hung in matted clusters 
around his shoulders. On his breast he wore a sil- 
ver medal on which was stamped a medallion head 


of General Washington, and in his nose and ears 
wore large gold rings. 

In the border wars of the west Black Partridge 
took a part, and with his braves fought against the 
whites. In 1795 he attended and signed the treaty 
at Greenville, and received from the hand of Gen- 
eral Wayne the medal referred to. This medal 
as an insignia of peace and friendship was carried 
ajbout his person for seventeen years, and he sur- 
rendered it to Captain Heald, commander of Fort 
Dearborn, on the evening of August 14, 1812, the 
day before the troops were massacred, as will be 
hereafter narrated. 


In the summer of 1812 emissaries from the Wa- 
bash, said to have been sent by Tecumseh, visited 
the villages along the Illinois River, bringing with 
them the startling intelligence that war had been 
declared between England and the United States. 
These emissaries explained to the chiefs and war- 
riors who had met in council at Gomo's village that 
the British offered a large amount of gold to each 
warrior that joined their standard. They also 
pointed out to them the great importance of captur- 
ing Fort Dearborn before the troops garrisoned there 
obtained intelligence of the declaration of war. The 


war-whoop was raised by many of the young braves 
belonging to different villages, and on the next day 
they left for Chicago with the intention of attacking 
the fort. Black Partridge having failed in prevent- 
ing these young bloods from going to Chicago 
mounted his pony and followed them. 

On arriving at Chicago Black Partridge went to 
see his old friend John Kinzie, and after a cordial 
greeting he said to him, "My heart is sad; evil 
muses have been singing in my ears all day long, 
telling me the friendship which for many years has 
existed between us is about to be severed." For a 
number of years the old chief had been acquainted 
with John Kinzie and his family, having been a fre- 
quent guest at his house, ate at his table, and trotted 
the little ones on his knee. Believing that his 
friends were about to be slain filled his heart with 
sadness, and while expressing his fears he could not 
restrain his emotions, but frequently gave way to 
floods of tears. 

On the day before the evacuation of Fort Dear- 
born the chiefs and principal warriors met in coun- 
cil, and at this council it was decided to massacre 
the troops on leaving the fort. In this council the 
voice of Black Partridge was heard for peace, but the 
war policy prevailed, and with a sorrowful heart 
this true friend of the whites returned to his camp, 


knowing that the morrow would be a day of blood 
and carnage. 

On the evening before the Chicago massacre 
Black Partridge entered the quarters of Captain 
Heald, the commanding ojficer of Fort Dearborn, 
and, after a friendly greeting, said to him, " I have 
come here to deliver up to you this medal which 
was given to me by General Wayne as a token of 
friendship. For many years I have worn this medal 
on my breast, and it is with a sorrowful heart I now 
part with it, but our young braves are resolved on 
imbruing their hands in human blood. I cannot 
restrain them, and I will not wear an emblem of 
friendship while I am compelled to act as an en- 


In Mrs. Kinzie's account of the Chicago massacre 
an incident is related of Black Partridge saving the 
life of Mrs. Helm, wife of Lieutenant Helm, and step- 
daughter of John Kinzie. This story equals, if not 
surpasses, the most extravagant nights of romance, 
but its truth is confirmed by a person now living, 
Mrs. Besson, who was present at the time, and from 
whom I obtained in part the following narrative: 

On the morning of the 15th of August, 1812, the 
sun rose with unusual splendor, and its golden rays 


reflected from the smooth waters of Lake Michigan, 
but many of the inmates of Fort Dearborn who 
looked upon this enchanting scenery did not live to 
see it set beneath the western horizon. At nine 
o'clock in the morning the troops left the fort, march- 
ing in military array, with martial music, and flags 
waving in the morning breeze. Captain Wells, hav- 
ing his face blackened after the manner of the In- 
dians, with his Miami warriors mounted on ponies, 
led the van. The troops on foot followed, and next 
to them were the baggage wagons, containing the 
sick, with women and children, while the Pottawa- 
tomies, five hundred in number, followed in the 
rear. This caravan took the road along the beach ^ 
of the lake, for about a mile and a half, to a range of 
sand knolls.* Here the Indians left the road and 
took to the prairie, when Captain Wells, with his 
horse on a gallop, came back and told the troops to 
form for battle, as they were about to be attacked. 
Soon the battle commenced, the soldiers defending 
themselves bravely, selling their lives as dearly as 
possible, but many of them fell by the overpowering 
enemy. Mrs. Helm, at that time only seventeen 
years of age, having been thrown from her horse at 
the commencement of the battle stood spell-bound 

* This range of sand knolls was where Twelfth street strikes the lake, and 
was a noted landmark forty years ago, but has been graded down in making 
the street. 


looking on at the scene of blood and carnage around , 
her. Her father and husband were engaged in the 
fearful strife, and she expected every moment to see 
them fall by the hand of murderous savages. As 
she stood awaiting her own fate a warrior with an 
uplifted tomahawk approached her, but dodging to 
one side the blow intended for the head took eifect 
on the shoulder, producing a ghastly wound. She 
caught the savage around the neck and tried to get 
possession of his scalping-knife, which hung in a 
scabbard on his breast, but he threw her to one side, 
and was about to use his tomahawk on her head 
when she was caught in the arms of another Indian, 
.who bore her off struggling into the lake. Here she 
was plunged under water, but her head frequently 
raised, so she soon discovered that the Indian did 
not intend to drown her. On looking into the face 
of the captor, although disguised with paint, she 
recognized Black Partridge, the well-known, trusty 
friend of her father's family. When the battle was 
over her protector conveyed his charge to the Indian 
camp and delivered her over to a friendly squaw, 
who dressed her wounds. 

The night after the massacre a large body of hos- 
tile savages surrounded John Kinzie's dwelling with 
the intention of murdering the inmates, but by the 
timely interference of Black Partridge, assisted by 


Shaubona and Sauganash, the would-be murderers 
were prevailed on to leave the house without ac- 
complishing their bloody purposes, and thereby the 
lives of the family were saved. * 


About the first of October, 1812, two emissaries 
from Tecumseh, one of whom was a half-breed and 
the other a petty chief, came to Peoria for the pur- 
pose of enlisting warriors to take part in the impend- 
ing conflict. A large body of Indians were encamped 
by the town, and they made an effort to induce the 
warriors to become allies of Tecumseh, and make 
war on the frontier settlements. They carried with 
them a quantity of worthless trinkets which they 
offered to those who would enlist, with a promise of 
a large amount of British gold on reaching the 
Wabash. Some of the young braves were in favor of 
going to war, also a few worthless half-breeds, who 
were too lazy to either work or hunt, imbibed the 
war spirit. 

When the true mission of these visitors was made 
known to the citizens of Peoria they became very 
indignant, and decided to drive them out of town. 
Thomas Forsyth, Captain Maillet, with others, went 
to these emissaries and notified them to leave town 

* Memories of Shaubona, page 23. 


immediately, and if found there next day they would 
be arrested and put in prison. On being notified to 
leave, the recruiting party departed for other fields of 
labor, and the war spirit engendered by them soon 
died out. 

These emissaries visited the homes of Gomo, 
Black Partridge, and other villages along the river, 
but met with no success. A messenger was sent 
from Peoria by Thomas Forsyth to all the neighbor- 
ing villages, notifying the warriors' of the intrigues 
of these visitors, and by this means their mission 
proved a failure. 


When emissaries sent by Tecumseh visited the 
different villages along the Illinois River, soliciting 
the chiefs to take part in the war, not one of them 
would have anything to do with it. Gomo and 
Black Partridge drove these agents, who were trying 
to enlist young warriors, away from their villages, 
and threatened them with death if they returned 
again. It is true some of the young braves took 
part in the Chicago massacre a few months before, 
but this was done contrary to the wish and command 
of the chiefs. The Indians having refused to take 
part in the war considered themselves at peace with 
all the world, and continued in their usual manner 


of living, spending their time in hunting, fishing, and 
with various kinds of amusements. While thus en- 
gaged in their daily avocations, unconscious of dan- 
ger, an armed force was sent against them, as alleged, 
in retribution for past offenses. 

In October, 1812, an army of two thousand Ken- 
t'ucky volunteers, commanded by General Hopkins, 
marched from Fort Harrison, on the Wabash, for 
the purpose of attacking the Indians along the Illi- 
nois River. This army, after two days' march, be- 
came frightened on seeing the prairie on fire, the 
soldiers mutinied, and refused to go further through 
a country full of fire and Indians, consequently they 
returned 'to Fort Harrison. About this time Gov- 
ernor Edwards with four hundred mounted rangers, 
commanded by Colonel Russell, marched to Peoria 
Lake, with the intention of joining Hopkins' army, 
but failing to find the army in the enemy's country, 
as they, expected, they attacked and destroyed Black 
Partridge's village, killing about thirty Indians with- 
out losing a man. After burning the village the 
rangers with all haste returned to the settlement, as 
they were in an Indian country where a lar^e num- 
ber of warriors could be raised on short notice. 



The following account of destroying Black Par- 
tridge's village is compiled from statement made to 
me many years ago by the " Old Ranger, " General 
Samuel Whitesides, who was captain of a company 
in Governor Edwards' army, and well acquainted 
with all the facts. 

The army, piloted by a half-breed, followed 
along the east side of Peoria Lake through the thick 
timber until they came within four miles of the vil- 
lage, and without a fire encamped here for the night. 
Early next morning Governor Edwards sent forward 
four young men, Thomas Carlin, afterward Governor 
of Illinois, with three of the Whitesides, for the pur- 
pose of reconnoitering, and this party found every- 
thing quiet at the Indian village. On the return of 
the scouts the troops were ordered forward in all 
haste to attack the enemy before they became aware 
of their presence, Captain Judy's company of spies 
leading the van, and having proceeded but a short 
distance when they suddenly came upon two Indi- 
ans on horseback who raised their hands in token of 
submission. Captain Judy brought his rifle to his 
shoulder to fire on them, when some of the 'men 
begged for mercy, to which the captain replied he 
"did not leave home to take prisoners," and instantly 


the dust was seen to rise from the Indian's buck- 
skin hunting shirt as the ball entered his body. The 
Indian fell from his horse with blood streaming from 
his mouth and nose, and in this condition commenced 
singing his death song. The rangers rode up to the 
dying Indian, who was reeling to and fro under the 
torture of pain, when all of a sudden he presented his 
rifle to shoot. The rangers sprang from their horses 
to escape the shot, but one of the party, a man named 
Wright, not being quick enough, received the charge 
in his body, producing a serious wound. The other 
Indian, who proved to be a squaw, sat on the horse 
spell-bound, making no attempt at defense or escape. 
Many shots were fired at her, at close range, none 
of which took effect, when she commenced crying, 
and was made a prisoner. 

The Indians at the village were taken by surprise, 
as they had no warning of the approaching enemy, 
and were unprepared to make any resistance. Most 
of the warriors were off hunting, the squaws busy 
preparing breakfast, while the papooses were play- 
ing on the green, unconscious of approaching danger. 
The rangers putting their horses on a gallop rode 
into the village among the frightened Indians, shoot- 
ing down all that came in their way, sparing neither 
the mother nor her infant, the aged or infirm, as 
these defenseless, panic-stricken people fled from 


their homes. The fugitives found refuge in a swamp 
near by where the horses of the pursuers mired down, 
and from this cause many of them owe the preserva- 
tion of their lives. Some of the warriors having 
been wounded in the assault could not flee; these 
with small children, the aged and infirm, were slain 
in cold blood. The village with all its contents, as 
well as the corn in the caches, was burned, and the 
ponies, about one hundred in number, were taken by 
the rangers as trophies of war. 

"While the village was burning, and the rangers 
were having a jollification over their easy victory, an 
Indian of stately mien walked boldly along the bluff 
one hundred and fifty yards distant and fired his 
hun at them, after which he laughed long and loud, 
as he walked slowly away. Many shots were fired 
at him, without effect, and some of the rangers 
started in pursuit, but he succeeded in making his 



A BOUT two months after the Chicago massacre 
-LA. Black Partridge learned- that Lieutenant Helm 
was still a prisoner among the Indians at a village 
on the Kankakee River. On receiving this intelli- 
gence he went to Peoria to consult with his friends 
in relation to his ransom. Captain J. B. Maillet, 
Antoine Des Champs and Thomas Forsyth were 
consulted, and by them it was agreed that Black 
Partridge should go immediately to the Indian vil- 
lage and try to procure the release, of the prisoner. 
Presents were furnished by the three traders as a 
ransom for the captive, with a written order signed 
by Thomas Forsyth, and drawn on General Clark, 
Indian agent at St. Louis, for an additional one hun- 
dred dollars on his safe arrival at that place. 

Black Partridge was provided with presents, and 
accompanied by a half-breed named Mark Topher, a 
resident of Peoria. When all the necessary arrange- 
ments were made the two travelers mounted their 



ponies and started off on a mission of mercy. On 
arriving at the Indian village they found the captive 
closely guarded by his captors, and still suffering 
from a wound received at the time of the massacre. 
When the old chief entered the lodge Lieutenant 
Helm threw his arms around his neck and cried like 
a child. He knew that Black Partridge had rescued 
his wife from a horrible death, and saved the lives of 
his father-in-law, John Kinzie, with his family, and 
in him he saw a prospect of his own liberation. 

Black Partridge called the chiefs and warriors 
together and laid the presents before them, saying to 
them that all these articles, with additional one hun- 
dred dollars in silver, would be theirs by sending 
their prisoner to St. Louis to be liberated. After a 
long parley the Indians rejected the proposition, on 
the grounds that the ransom offered was not suf- 

A short time before Captain Heald had been a 
prisoner of this band, and the Indians sent him 
to St. Joseph in charge of three warriors to be 
liberated. The pay received in exchange for him 
was so small that the warriors were sent back to re- 
claim their prisoner, but Captain Heald having 
been forwarded to Detroit they failed in the mission. 
Captain Heald and wife, both of whom were severely 
wounded, had left St. Joseph the day before the 


Indians arrived, consequently they were compelled 
to return without their prisoner. Captain and Mrs. 
Heald were put into a bark canoe under the care of 
Robinson, a half breed, and taken to Mackinaw, three 
hundred miles distant, and delivered over to a British 
officer as prisoners of war. 

The Indians refused to release their prisoner un- 
less the ransom was increased ; therefore Black Par- 
tridge offered them his pony, rifle, and a large gold 
ring which he wore in his nose. This proposition 
was accepted, and Lieutenant Helm, with Mark 
Topher, accompanied by a petty chief, all mounted 
on ponies, left the next day for St. Louis. Black 
Partridge accompanied the party on their way one 
day's journey, and then struck across the country for 
his village on the Illinois River. 

It was late at night, very dark, and the rain 
poured down in torrents, as the old chief, on foot and 
alone, plodded his way through the thick river timber 
toward his village, where he expected to be warmly 
greeted by his family and friends, but he was doomed 
to disappointment. The village had disappeared, 
not a lodge, camping-tent, nor one human being 
could be found ; nothing remained on its site but the 
charred poles of which the lodges were constructed. 
A pack of hungry wolves that had been feeding on 
the remains of the slain ran away at his approach, 


and their howling during the night added glooiri and 
terror to the surrounding scene. The old chief drew 
his blanket around his body, and with sadness seated 
himself on the ground to await the approach of 
daylight. In the morning he found among the dead 
the remains of his favorite daughter with an infant 
son clasped in her arms, both cold in death. On the 
site of the village, and in the swamp near by, he 
found the dead bodies of many of his kindred and 
friends ; among these was an old squaw of ninety 
winters, and also two of his grandchildren. All the 
dead were scalped, and some of the remains more or 
less mutilated. 


While in East St. Louis a short time ago I heard 
of an old lady by the name of Besson, who was one 
of the captives at the Chicago massacre, and is prob- 
ably the only one now living. I called on this lady 
and listened to her thrilling narrative relating to 
past events, which to me was very interesting. She 
said her early recollections were associated with Chi- 
cago River, Lake Michigan and Fort Dearborn. By 
the side of the latter she had spent most of her child- 
hood days, and gathered wild-flowers on the flat .prai- 
rie now covered by the great metropolis of the west. 
Her maiden name was Mary Lee, a daughter of 



Charles Lee, who with his family came to Fort 
Dearborn soon after it was built. Their dwelling 
stood on the beach of the lake, near the fort, and 
back of it was a small garden enclosed by a rail 
fene. For a number of years her father, Mr. Lee, 
was engaged in agricultural pursuits, selling the 
products of his farm at high rates to the occupants 
of the fort. 

Mr. Lee made a large farm at a grove of timber 
on the south branch of Chicago River, four miles 
from its mouth, where Bridgeport now stands. The 
land near the lake being either wet or sandy ren- 
dered it unfit for farming purposes, which made it 
necessary to go up the river to make a farm, where 
the prairie was more rolling, and the soil rich. The 
communication between Lee's residence and his farm 
during most of the year was by a boat on the river, 
the intervening prairie much of the time being 
covered with water. 

Mr. Lee built two cabins on his farm, and em- 
ployed a number of persons to work the land. For 
some years the grove with its surroundings was 
known as " Lee's place," afterward called Hard- 
scrabble, and at this place the Indians killed two per- 
sons, "White and Devow, on the 7th of April, 1812, 
an account of which is given in Mrs. Kinzie's early 
history of Chicago. 


At the time of the Chicago massacre Mr. Lee's 
family consisted of his wife ; an infant two months 
old ; his son, John of sixteen years ; Mary, now 
Mrs. Besson, the subject of our sketch, twelve; 
Lillie, ten ; and two small boys. 

When the troops left Chicago for Fort Wayne 
Mr. Lee, with his family, accompanied them, taking 
with him all his horses, but leaving behind a large 
herd of cattle, which were shot by the Indians on 
the following day. Mrs. Lee, with her infant and 
two younger children, were in a covered wagon, 
while the two girls were on horseback, and all fol- 
lowed the army along the beach of the lake. Little 
Lillie was a handsome child, a great pet among the 
soldiers and traders about the fort, but she never 
before appeared so lovely as on the morning they 
left Chicago. She was mounted on a large gray 
horse, and to prevent her falling off or being thrown 
was tied fast to the saddle. She wore a white ruf- 
fled dress, trimmed with pink ribbon, a black jockey 
hat with a white plume on one side, and as her horse 
pranced and champed the bits at the sound of mar- 
tial music little Lillie in a queenly manner sat in the 
saddle chatting gaily with her sister Mary, who rode 
by her side. As the soldiers threw kisses at her she 
would return them in her merry glee, chatting mirth- 
fully with many of her acquaintances. Her young 


heart was made happy by the excitement of the morn- 
ing, and she had no warning of the awful fate that 
awaited her a few minutes afterward. 

Soon the guns of five hundred savages were raised 
against the troops, and by their murderous fire a 
large portion of the brave band were stricken down. 
During the battle little Lillie was wounded and fell 
from her seat, but still hung by the cord that bound 
her to the saddle. While in this perilous condition 
the frightened horse ran back and forth until caught 
by an Indian and the. child rescued. "When the 
battle was over Waupekee, a chief who had often 
been at Lee's house and trotted little Lillie on his 
knee, was much grieved to see her thus wounded, as 
he loved the child as though she were his own daugh- 
ter. On examining Lillie' s wound and finding it 
mortal the chief put an end to her suffering with a 
stroke of his tomahawk, saying afterward it was the 
hardest thing he ever did, but he could not bear to 
see her suffering. Mr. Lee and his son John were 
killed in the battle, and also the two young boys 
fell victims to the savages, while Mrs Lee with her 
infant child and Mary were made prisoners. Mrs. 
Lee and infant fell into the hands of "Waupekee, who 
had a village on the Des Plaines River about twenty 
miles from Chicago, who treated his prisoner kindly, 
and tried to induce her to marry him, notwithstand- 


ing he already had three wives. But she declined 
the marriage proposition, hoping some day to be 
ransomed and again restored to friends and civiliza- 

During the following winter Mrs. Lee's child be- 
came sick, and after all the known remedies of the 
Indian doctor failed to remove the disease the chief 
proposed to take it to Chicago for medical treatment. 
A Frenchman named Du Pin had taken possession 
of Kinzie's house soon after the burning of the fort, 
and for a number of years carried on a trade with 
the Indians. 

On a cold day in the latter part of the winter 
Waupekee wrapped the sick infant in a blanket, 
mounted his pony, and with his charge started for 
Chicago. On arriving at Du Pin's residence the 
chief laid his package on the floor. "What have 
you there ? " asked the trader ; to which Waupe- 
kee replied, "A young raccoon, which I have 
brought you as a present ;" and unwrapping the 
package there lay the sick infant almost smothered 
in the thick folds of the blanket. The trader made 
a prescription for the child, after which the chief 
carried it back to its mother, and it finally got well. 

The trader became interested in the welfare of 
Mrs. Lee, and offered Waupekee a large amount of 
goods for his prisoner. This offer was accepted, the 


prisoner brought to the trading-house to be liber- 
ated, and soon afterward she became Madame 
Du Pin. 

In the division of prisoners after the battle Mary 
Lee was taken to an Indian village on the Kankakee 
River, and in the following spring was carried tp 
St. Louis, and ransomed by the Indian agent, Gen- 
eral Clark. Some years afterward she married a 
Frenchman by the name of Besson, and is now living 
with a distant connection of her husband in East 
St. Louis. 

Mary Lee never met her mother after that fatal 
day, and for many years supposed she was killed 
with the other members of the family, but subse- 
quently learned of her captivity, liberation, mar- 
riage and death. 


While the inhabitants of Peoria were quietly pur- 
suing their daily avocation of farming, hunting and 
trading with Indians, being as they supposed at 
peace with all the world, a plot was laid for their 
destruction. Being located in the midst of a wilder- 
ness country, nearly two hundred miles from the 
nearest American settlement, and having but little 
intercourse with the civilized world, they could not 
have known that war between the United States and 


England existed if they had not learned the fact 
from neighboring Indians. 

Although the French at Peoria had lived within 
the jurisdiction of the United States government for 
twenty-four years they had never taken the oath of 
allegiance, acknowledged its power, nor paid tax to 
its support. They were a foreign people, speaking 
a different language, with habits and customs pecu- 
liar to themselves, and all their trade and inter- 
course was with the French citizens of Canada. The 
evil report in circulation about the French at Peoria 
assisting the Indians was believed by Governor Ed- 
wards, and he issued a proclamation calling for vol- 
unteers, in order to send an armed force against 
them. About two hundred men responded to the 
call, who were placed under the command of Cap- 
tain Craig, and rendezvoused at Shawneetown. 
Four keel-boats were prepared, with rifle-ball-proof 
planking, mounted with cannon and filled with armed 
soldiers. The boats left Shawneetown early in Oc- 
tober, and arrived at Peoria on the 5th of Novem- 
ber. The inhabitants of Peoria were much sur- 
prised to see these four armed boats land at their 
wharf, as no large craft had ever reached that place 



Captain Thomas E. Craig in his report to Gov- 
ernor Edwards, dated at Shawneetown, December 10, 
1812, giving an account of the burning of Peoria, 
says : "I landed at Peoria on the 5th of November, 
and left it on the 9th. About midnight on the 6th 
the wind blew so hard on the lake that we were 
compelled to let the boats pass down into the river 
a short distance below the town. At daybreak 
next morning we were fired on by a party of Indians 
who had secreted themselves in the thick timber 
close by: Preparations were immediately made for 
battle, and bringing the cannons to bear we shelled 
the woods, but no enemy appeared, having fled after 
discharging their guns. Soon after daylight I had 
the boats landed opposite the center of the town, 
and took all the men prisoners, as they had undoubt- 
edly pointed out our location to the Indians. I 
burned about half the town of Peoria, and would 
have burned all of it and destroyed all the stock but 
I expected General Hopkins' army to pass that way 

Part of the statements made by Captain Craig 
are undoubtedly true, but he fails to tell the whole 
story. The cold, selfish brutality practiced by the 


men under Captain Craig's command has never be- 
fore been given to the public, and may appear 
strange to the reader, but it is nevertheless true. 
On this subject I have conversed with four different 
persons, Robert Forsyth, Rene La Croix, Hypolite 
Pilette, and Antoine Le Clair, all of whom were 
present at the time, being residents of Peoria. Their 
accounts of this affair will be found in the succeeding 
sketch, and are undoubtedly true, as all those state- 
ments agree on the principal facts, although differing 
somewhat in detail. 


The following account of the arrival of the gun- 
boats, under command of Captain Craig, and burn- 
ing of Peoria, are principally taken from the state- 
ments of Antoine Le lair and Hypolite Pilette, 
both of whom were present at the time. Le Clair 
was a half-breed, and acquired much celebrity in 
after years as the proprietor of the city of Daven- 
port, Iowa. Pilette is now living on the American 
Bottom not far from Prairie du Rocher, to whom 
many other references are made in this book. 

On Sunday morning, November 5, 1812. while 
the people of Peoria were assembled at the church, 
engaged in saying mass, they were startled by the 
report of a cannon. The congregation, partly 


through fright and partly by curiosity, ran out of 
the church, when they discovered four armed boats 
in the lake under full sail. On coming opposite the 
town the boats rounded to, and landed at the wharf. 
Father Racine came down from the pulpit, and in 
his long black robe, with his bald head uncovered, 
started for the landing followed by all the congrega- 
tion, men, women and children, where they met 
Captain Craig, who had landed from a boat. Thomas 
Forsyth, who spoke English, inquired of the cap- 
tain the object of this visit, but the question was 
evaded, and in return he demanded of the citizens a 
supply of meat and vegetables for his men, which 
were furnished to them. 

The soldiers landed from the boats, scattered 
through the town in search of plunder, and com- 
mitted many depredations on the people. They 
broke open the store of Felix La Fontain, in which 
Antoine Le Clair was a clerk, and took therefrom 
two casks of wine and drank the contents. Some 
of the soldiers became intoxicated, forcing their way 
into houses, insulting women, carrying off eatables, 
blankets, and everything they took a fancy to. A 
soldier named Hitchcock, with three other armed 
men, went into a house occupied by very old 
people, and robbed it of most of its valuables. The 
jewelry and gold taken from this house were seen 


in the possession of the robbers on the following 
day, and a valuable watch with a heavy gold cross 
was exhibited afterward as trophies of war. It 
was long after dark before Captain Craig succeeded 
in getting his drunken, disorderly soldiers on board 
again, after which the boats were anchored out in 
the lake to prevent further depredations on the citi- 
zens. During the night a high wind arose, and to 
escape the waves in the lake the boats were run down 
into the channel, one-half mile below the town. 
About daybreak next morning eight or ten men went 
into the river timber to shoot beeves. The cattle be- 
ing mixed with buffalo lived during the winter on 
the range, became partly wild, and hunted down in 
the woods same as deer or elk. This party of hunt- 
ers attacked the herd in their lair, near where the 
gunboats lay, shot three beeves, and had commenced 
skinning them when the timber was riddled with 
cannon balls. The hunters left their beeves un- 
dressed, and fled for their homes without having the 
slightest idea why this hostile demonstration was 
made by the troops. 

The boats were run up opposite the town imme- 
diately after the firing of cannon, when Captain Craig, 
with a large armed force, visited every house, and 
took all the men prisoners of war. Some of the men 
were still in bed, and not allowed time to dress, but 


hurried off to the boats with their clothes in their 
hands. A torch was applied to each house in town 
and burned with all their contents, while women and 
children with wild screams escaped from the burning 
buildings, and like a herd of frightened deer fled to 
a grove of timber above the desolated town. The 
church, which contained a golden image and a cru- 
cifix, with other valuable religious emblems, a pres- 
ent from the bishop of Quebec, were all burned 
with the building. The windmill, which stood 
on the bank of the lake, filled with grain and flour 
belonging to the citizens, was burned, as well as 
stables, barns, corn-cribs, etc. Felix La Fontain, 
Michael La Croix, Antoine Des Champs, and Thomas 
Forsyth, all of whom were traders with stores well 
filled with goods, were consumed by the flames. An 
old man named Benit, formerly a trader, had 
saved a large amount of gold by the toil of half a cen- 
tury, and had lain it away for old age. This gold 
was secreted in his dwelling, and finding it on fire 
he rushed in to save his treasure, and perished in the 
flames. The bones of this old man were found 
among the ashes of his dwelling in the following 
spring by a party of hunters who visited Peoria. 
Mrs. La Croix, a lady of refinement and personal 
attractions, who in after years became the wife of 
Governor Reynolds, being alone with her small chil 


dren when her house was set on fire, appealed to the 
soldiers to save the clothing of herself and little ones, 
but their appeals were in vain, and with her chil- 
dren only escaped from the burning building. 

There is an incident connected with the burning 
of Peoria not generally known, which to some extent 
explains the barbarous conduct of the soldiers, and 
somewhat palliates this outrage against humanity. 
About two months before Peoria was burned Gen- 
eral Howard, stationed at Portage du Sioux, sent one 
of his soldiers, a young half-breed named Baptiste 
Snipkins, to Peoria in order to ascertain if the citi- 
zens were assisting the Indians in carrying on the 
war against the settlements, as had been reported. 
This messenger, called Howard's express by courtesy, 
but in fact a spy, learned all he could from the 
people without letting his true business be known. 
This young scapegrace instead of returning to the 
army, and reporting the true state aifairs, according 
to orders, became enamored with a girl and pro- 
longed his stay until the arrival of Captain Craig. 
To escape punishment for disobeying orders he re- 
ported to Craig's command that he was detained 
against his will, being a prisoner in the hands of the 
French, but this statement was afterward proven to 
be false. If this messenger had returned to the 
army and reported according to orders Craig's expe- 


dition would have been abandoned, and the destruc- 
tion of Peoria averted. 

A short time before Peoria was burned Thomas 
Forsyth had been appointed a government agent, 
but this appointment was kept a secret by the- de- 
partment at Washington, as it was thought if known 
it would lessen his influence with the Indians, and 
perhaps prejudice his townsmen against him. When 
Forsyth was made a prisoner he showed his commis- 
sion to Captain Craig, containing the United States 
seal, but the incredulous officer pronounced it a 

When the destruction of Peoria was completed 
the boats started down the river, carrying with them 
all the men as prisoners of war. Two miles below 
the present site of Alton, in the thick river timber, 
the prisoners were set at liberty, without tents, pro- 
vision, or means of returning to their families. 

Some of the women and children having been left at 
the burned town without food or shelter, were in a suf- 
fering condition, and without assistance would have 
perished. It was late in the fall, the sky overcast 
with gray clouds, and the cold November winds 
howled through the forest trees, blowing the dry 
leaves hither and thither. With high winds came 
squalls of snow, and the roaring and lashing of the 
waves m the lake caused mothers to draw infants 


closer to their bosoms to protect them from the in- 
clement weather. To those destitute, helpless 
women all was dark and cheerless ; the lamentations 
of mothers and cries of children were heard at a dis- 
tance, and touched the heart of a sympathizing 
friend, although a savage. While in the midst of 
trouble they discovered a lone Indian walking leis- 
urely along the beach of the lake, who with a firm 
step approached this group of women and children. 
He carried a rifle on his shoulder, a tomahawk and 
seal ping-knife in his belt, and his face was painted 
in many colors. Notwithstanding he was disguise)! 
by paint, they recognized in the approaching Indian 
Gomo, a friendly chief, who had a village where 
Chillicothe now stands. 

On the approach of the gunboats the inhabitants 
of Gomo's village fled westward, but the chief with 
two warriors secreted themselves in the thick tim- 
ber watching the movements of the soldiers, and as 
soon as the boats departed down the river they came 
forth from their hiding place to assist their friends 
in distress. Gomo and his comrades furnished pro- 
vision and shelter for the destitute women and chil- 
dren, and provided them with canoes to descend the 

When furnished with an outfit for the journey the 
women with their little ones started down the river, 


camping each night on its banks, without tents to 
shelter them from the cold night air. After many 
days of toil, hardships and exposure, drenched by 
rain, suffering from cold and hunger, they reached 
Cahokia, where they were provided for by their 
countrymen, and afterward joined by their hus- 
bands and fathers. 

It has been stated that Captain Craig took the 
women and children in the boat with the men, but 
this statement applies only to' a few families. The 
families of Thomas Forsyth, Antoine Le Pance, Fe- 
lix La Fontain, and perhaps one or two others, were 
put on board of the boats. But I am informed by 
Rene Le Croix and Hypolite Pilette that their moth- 
er's family, with many others, went down the river 
in bark canoes furnished by Gomo as previously 

Captain Craig has been much vilified for burn- 
ing Peoria, but it must be remembered that he acted 
under the orders of Governor Edwards, who ap- 
proved of his conduct, and afterward appointed him 
to an important office. It appears Governor Ed- 
wards was misled by false reports, which caused 
him to make war on innocent people, and in justice 
to his memory, I am willing to believe he did only 
what at the time he believed to be his duty. 



The citizens of Peoria, when captured and car- 
ried off prisoners of war, left at their homes horses, 
cattle and hogs to run wild in the timber, and some 
of the former starved to death during the cold winter 
which followed. In the following spring a party of 
French and half-breeds belonging at Cahokia went 
to Peoria, gathered up the cattle, driving them 
south to the settlement, and returning some of these 
animals to their rightful owners. 

Hogs ran wild in the river timber, and were 
found in large numbers ten years afterward by the 
early American settlers. As these hogs increased 
in numbers they scattered over the country, and 
were hunted down in the thick timber the same as 

In 1820 a wild bull and yearling heifer, crossed 
witli buffalo, were shot by hunters in Spoon River 
timber. The Indians say at one time there was 
a large herd of wild cattle in this section of the 
country; but they hunted them down for beef. The 
wild cattle found by hunters, in all probability, were 
from the herd left at Peoria eight years before, or 
may have been the offspring of a herd that strayed 
away many years before, and became wild. 


SOME days after the destruction of Black Par- 
tridge's village, a party of warriors headed by 
the old chief returned to bury the dead, and found the 
remains of the slain scalped, mutilated, and partly 
devoured by wolves. After burying the dead the 
warriors engaged in a winter hunt, according to 
their custom, but Black Partridge traveled over 
the country in various directions, holding coun- 
cils with chiefs and warriors, in order to enlist them 
in his cause. He was now old, his hair whitened 
by the snows of seventy winters, still his figure was 
erect and his step firm. Age had not dimmed the 
fire of his eyes, nor destroyed the valor of his youth. 
For many years he had been a friend of the whites, 
and to protect them from harm he had made many 
sacrifices. He had done everything in his power to 
prevent the massacre at Chicago, and saved the life 
of Mrs. Helm at the risk of his own. He had col- 
lected around him a few faithful friends to guard the 
dwelling of John Kinzie, and thereby rescued the 



family, with other prisoners, from massacre. He 
traveled a long way to the Kankakee village, gave 
his pony, rifle and ring to ransom Lieutenant Helm, 
and while tired and hungry returned to find his 
home desolated, and his friends murdered or driven 
away. Notwithstanding Black Partridge had made 
all these sacrifices for his white friends, they made 
war on him, burned his village, destroyed his corn, 
drove off his ponies, and killed about thirty of his 
people, among whom were some of his kinsmen, and 
he now lived only for revenge. 

In the following summer, 1813, Black Partridge 
with about three hundred warriors, all mounted on 
ponies, left for the frontier settlement in the south 
part of the state. They went within thirty miles of 
the settlement, and secreted themselves in the thick 
timber of Shoal Creek, now in Bond county. From 
here they sent out small war parties to attack the 
settlers and kill defenseless women and children. 
The people became greatly alarmed at these depre- 
dations ; many fled from their homes, and sought 
refuge at Cahokia or Kaskaskia; others built tem- 
porary forts to shield themselves from the toma- 
hawks and scalping-knives of these ruthless savages. 
It is said a half-breed dressed as a white man acted 
as a spy, visiting; different settlements under the 
pretext of hunting stray horses, and informed the 


Indians of the most exposed points. Through this 
spy the Indians learned that an expedition was about 
to be sent against the villages on the Illinois River ; 
so their camp was broken up, and they left for their 


The descendants of some of the early settlers of 
St. Clair and Madison counties can give many thrill- 
ing narratives in relation to Indian raids during the 
late British war. Among other stories is the follow- 
ing narrative, which, on account of its romantic 
character, is worth preserving, and it is believed it 
has never before found its way into print. 

In the spring of 1813 a man by the name of Joab 
Wolsey emigrated from Kentucky and made a claim 
in the Wood River settlement, about thirty miles 
northeast of Cahokia. The family of this emigrant 
consisted of a wife and four children, the eldest 
named Amanda, a girl of fifteen years of age, and 
ot prepossessing appearance. Mr. Wolsey had built 
a cabin on his claim, in which his family were quar- 
tered, and was about to commence breaking prairie. 
His cabin occupied an exposed situation, being on 
the outskirts of the settlement, two or three miles 
from neighbors, but no one anticipated the great 
calamity which was about to overtake that little 


settlement on Wood River. On the afternoon of a 
bright spring day, while Wolsey was fixing his plow, 
and training his oxen, preparing to commence 
breaking prairie, a half-breed dressed in citizen's 
clothing called at the cabin and inquired about some 
horses which he said had strayed away. It was 
noticed that the stranger carried a large knife, with 
a navy pistol, in his belt, and his manner of looking 
around the premises caused Mrs. Wolsey to think 
that the visit of this stranger was for some evil pur- 
pose. On the night after the half-breed's visit, while 
all the family were asleep, the cabin was surrounded 
by Indians, Wolsey, his wife and three children 
killed, and the house set on fire. Amanda was made 
a prisoner, and held in the arms of a strong savage 
while she witnessed the murder of her parents, 
brothers and sisters, and their dwelling in flames. 
On the following day the mutilated remains of the 
victims were found, one of the children having been 
consumed in the cabin. On the same night three 
other families in the same settlement were attacked 
by Indians, many of the inmates slain, houses burned, 
and horses killed or stolen, Amanda Wolsey on 
becoming a prisoner was placed on an Indian pony, 
guarded by two warriors, and carried off a captive 
into the Indian country. The party having charge 
of the captive belonged to Waba band, who had a 


village on the south side of the Illinois River, almost 
opposite the outlet of Lake Depue. The Indians 
treated their prisoner with much respect, supplying 
her with a dress, and painting her face in accordance 
to Indian custom, and she associated with young 
maidens of her own age. She frequently accom- 
panied the youths of both sexes to Starved Rock and 
neighboring villages, where they had dances and 
gay parties. A young chief fell in love with her, 
and proposed to make her his wife, but she repulsed 
his advances, looking forward to a time when she 
would be liberated and restored to friends and civili- 
zation. She had ofttimes thought of mounting a 
pony during the night when all were asleep and 
leaving for the settlement, but the great distance to 
be traveled, nearly two hundred miles, deterred her 
from this hazardous undertaking. 

The summer had now passed, and the Indians were 
making preparations to leave their village for their 
annual hunt, when a messenger arrived in great 
haste, bringing the startling tidings that a large 
army had reached Peoria. This intelligence caused 
great excitement among the Indians, as their village 
was liable to be attacked at any moment. That 
night during the bustle and excitement Amanda 
escaped from the village, mounted a pony, and put 
it at the top of speed down the river in the direction 


of Peoria. But unfortunately her flight was dis- 
covered, and a number of warriors started in pursuit. 
The fugitive was overtaken in her flight, captured, 
carried back, and placed in close confinement. In 
December following a treaty of peace was made 
with the Indians, its conditions providing that all 
captives were to be liberated and returned to their 
friends. Under this treaty Amanda Wolsey was 
carried back to the settlement and set free. 


In September, 1813, General Howard, with an 
army consisting of five hundred regulars and nine 
hundred volunteers, marched against the Indians on 
the Illinois River. The regulars, commanded by 
Colonel Nichols, ascended the Illinois River in keel- 
boats to Peoria Lake, and arrived there^ some days 
in advance of the volunteers, who were mounted and 
came aross the country. 

The Indians having received an intimation that 
an army was about to be sent against them became 
very much alarmed, and most of them were in favor 
of making overtures for peace. Black Partridge, the 
leading spirit of the war party, was in favor of de- 
fending themselves againt the aggression of the 
whites, but he could not enlist the different bands 


in his scheme. Shaubena, Waba and Waubonsie, 
with many of their braves, were with Tecumseh, and 
warriors of the different bands could not be united 
under any one chief. Senachwine was opposed to 
war, and being a chief of great influence, gifted with 
stirring eloquence, carried with him a large portion 
of the warriors. 

Black Partridge was grave and morose, brooding 
over the wrongs he had received from the whites the 
year before, and now lived only for revenge. Not- 
withstanding he had taken many scalps the past 
summer, and murdered defenseless women and chil- 
dren, he still thirsted for more blood. 

The largest village in the country, called Wappa, 
was located on Bureau Creek, eight miles from the 
river, and on the present site of Tiskilwa. The 
head chief of this village, named Comas, was a son- 
in-law of Black Partridge, and here the old chief 
found a home after the destruction of his village. 


On a bright, warm day in the early part of Indian 
summer the warriors at Comas' village were loung- 
ing along the creek, some fishing, others running 
foot races, wrestling, or playing with balls, hoops, 
etc. All was quiet; neither war parties, dances, re- 


ligious feast nor marriage celebration, nothing what- 
ever to relieve the monotony of village life. A party 
of warriors was about to start west on a hunt when 
two scouts arrived with the startling intelligence that 
troops had arrived at Peoria, and were engaged in 
building a 'fort. On receiving these tidings Black 
Partridge mounted his pony, riding back and forth 
through the village calling for volunteers to accom- 
pany him to victory. A large number of warriors re- 
sponded to the call, and mounted upon ponies, armed 
and equipped for war, were soon on their way to meet 
the enemy. On their way they stopped at Senach- 
wine and Crow's villages in order to obtain recruits, 
but were unsuccessful, as no warriors of either village 
would join this war party. On reaching Gomo's 
village they found the chief and many of the warriors 
off on a hunt, and but few of those at home were 
willing to engage in this hazardous enterprise. 
Black Partridge was much discouraged by his failure 
to raise a large force, as he expected, but with his 
little band of braves, amounting to about three hun- 
dred, he concluded to give immediate battle before 
the enemy could erect fortifications for their defense. 
While the troops under Colonel Nichols were en- 
gaged in building a block house, uncoficious of dan- 
ger, they were attacked by Black Partridge's band 
of warriors, and had it not been for persons outside 


of the picket guards giving timely alarm in all prob- 
ability a bloody battle would have resulted. 


For incidents relating to an attack on the block 
house, building a fort, and treaty with the Indians, 
I am indebted to Colonel George Davenport, a noted 
Indian trader at Rock Island who was murdered 
July 4, 1845, by the "bandits of the prairie." 

Mr. Davenport, at that time a young man, was an 
uncommissioned officer in Captain Owen's company, 
of the regular army, and in that capacity served 
during the war. 

On arriving at Peoria Lake the soldiers com- 
menced building a block house for storing the bag- 
gage, as well as a protection against an attack from 
the enemy. A well having been dug near the block 
house to supply it with water, it became necessary 
to liave a sweep to draw it ; consequently Mr. Daven- 
port, with two companions, went into the woods to 
get a grapevine for that purpose. Having found 
one suitable, Davenport climbed the tree to cut it 
off, and while doing so he discovered a large body 
of Indians skulking in the timber, going in the direc- 
tion of the block house. On seeing this war party 
Davenport and his companions gave an alarm, and 


in all haste fled toward the block house, but finding 
Indians in that direction turned their course for the 
gunboats, which were moored in the lake. With all 
speed the fugitives ran for the boats, closely fol- 
lowed by the Indians, who fired at them many shots, 
while yelling like demons. The soldiers on the gun- 
boats, thinking only of their own safety, pushed 
them oif from the shore, but fortunately one of them 
grounded on a sand bar, which was the means of 
saving the lives of Davenport and his companions. 
The fugitives rushed into the water waist deep, 
pushed the grounded boat off. and jumped on board 
of it, while the Indians fired on them, many of the 
rifle balls whizzing by their heads and lodging in the 
side of the vessel. The boats went off some dis- 
tance from the shore, nevertheless the Indians con- 
tinued to fire on them, but without effect. A can- 
non on one of the boats was brought to bear on the 
savages, but in the excitement of the moment its 
muzzle was raised above the port-hole, and the ball 
tore off a portion of the side of the vessel. The In- 
dians also attacked the block house, which was in 
an unfinished condition, but met with a warm re- 
ception from those within. The cannons on the 
boats having been brought to bear on the Indians, 
they fled from the thick timber where they had 
taken shelter, and the fight ended. 



ENEEAL HOWAED with nine hundred 
mounted volunteers left their quarters at 
Portage des Sioux in September, 1812, and followed 
up the Mississippi to the present site of Quincy, 
and from here crossed the country to Peoria. The 
troops encamped on the site of the old French town, 
and a strong picket guard placed around the encamp- 
ment to prevent being surprised by the Indians. 
During the night an alarm was given, and a re- 
port circulated through the camp that they were 
about to be attacked by a large body of Indians. 
All the troops were under arms, many shots fired at 
phantoms, and one soldier killed by a sentinel, but 
the alarm proved to be false, as no enemy could be 

On the following day, after the arrival of this 
army, by order of the commander it marched up to 
Gomo's village, at the head of the lake, but found it 
deserted, and after burning the town and destroying 
the corn in the fields returned to Peoria. 


Preparations having been made to build a fort on 
the site of the old French town for the purpose of 
holding possession of the country, timbers were 
cut on the opposite side of the lake, and floated 
across to build block store-houses, and enclose them 
with palisades. On a high piece of ground near the 
bank of the lake a fort was built, consisting of stock- 
ades made of two rows of split timbers, and the space 
between them filled with dirt. A ditch surrounded the 
fort, and at two corners were bastions for mounting 
cannon. Inside of the stockades was a large block- 
house, two stories high, and on three sides of it were 
port-holes, so the inmates could fire on the enemy in 
case of an attack. Besides this block-house were 
store-houses, and quarters for officers and soldiers. 

When the fort was completed and cannons 
mounted on its ramparts, with flags waving on each 
bastion, General Howard ordered all the soldiers on 
duty, forming in double file, fronting the gateway. 

A speech was made by the commanding officer, 
drums beat, soldiers cheered, the cannons fired a 
salute, and with much enthusiasm the fort was dedi- 
cated and named " Fort Clark " in honor of General 
George Roger Clark, the hero of Kaskaskia and Vin- 



Four keel-boats, mounted with cannon and filled 
by armed soldiers belonging to the regular army, un- 
der command of Major Christy, ascended the river 
from Peoria in search of the enemy. These boats 
landed at different villages along the river, but found 
them all deserted, the Indians having fled from their 
homes. These villages were burned with all of their 
contents, and the corn in the fields, and pelts, furs 
and other valuables stored away in the caches were 
also destroyed or carried off. 

On Hickory Ridge, below the mouth of Bureau 
Creek, the Indians, headed by Black Partridge, tore 
down the two cabins built many years before by De 
Beuro, and with these logs erected a breastwork on 
the river so they could fire on the boats while 
ascending the stream ; but on finding these boats 
protected by heavy plank, rifle proof, with port- 
holes for cannon, the warriors fled without firing a 
gun or letting their presence be known.* 

Major Christy intended to ascend the Illinois as 
far as the mouth of Fox River, but finding it difficult 
to pass the rapids he landed at Starved Rock. On 
the following day the boats were started down stream, 

* Colonel G. S. Hubbard says when he came to the country, in 1818, this 
breastwork was still standing, and its relics, consisting of a pile of rotten logs, 
could be seen in the early settlement of the country. 


landing at the mouth of Bureau Creek, and from here 
a war party, commanded by Lieutenant Robenson, 
went out in search of the enemy. 


When the troops under General Howard reached 
Peoria the inhabitants of Gomo's, Senachwine, Crow 
and other towns fled from their homes and collected 
at Comas' village, on Bureau Creek. Here they in- 
tended to make a stand, await the approach of the 
invaders, and fight for their country and homes. All 
the squaws and papooses, with the aged warriors un- 
able to bear arms, were sent up the creek about seven 
miles above the town, where they were secreted in 
the thick timber.* 

At Comas' village were collected about one thou- 
sand warriors, occupying all the lodges, while above 

* About two miles northwest of Princeton, in the valley of Bureau, is a sin- 
gular narrow ridge, about sixty feet high, extending from the east bluff part 
way across the bottom. This remarkable ridge, which looks like a freak of 
_ nature, is called Back Bone, and on top of it now passes a public road. With 
the Indians this place became a noted landmark, and it was equally so with 
hunters in the early settlement of the country. 

Immediately north of the Back Bone, in the thick bottom timber by the 
side of a spring, was an old Indian camping-ground, and here their camp poles 
stood long after they left the country. In the fall of 1836 a party of Indian 
hunters were encamped here for a number of weeks, having returned from the 
west to visit the home of their youth. Among these Indians was one who spoke 
good English, find while in conversation with him I obtained many of the items 
narrated in this chapter. He said at the time of the war many thousand squaws 
and papooses were encamped on this ground, and here Madas, a noted war- 
rior, and brother of Black Partridge, died from a wound received in the fight at 
Peoria a few days before, and he showed me his grave on the Back Bone, which 
was surrounded by a pen built of small timbers or poles. 


and below it the meadow was covered with camping- 
tents. On the bottom prairie below the village 
many hundred ponies were feeding, all of them 
spanceled so they could be caught and mounted at a 
moment's notice. It was expected that Howard's 
army would follow up the river and attack them in 
their retreat, therefore a suitable place to make a 
defense was selected. This was in the thick timber 
some distance below the village, where they could 
fire on the invaders while crossing a small bottom, 

Indian scouts, who were all the while on the alert,, 
discovered the troops ascending the river in boats,, 
and in all haste conveyed the tidings to the vil- 
lage. On receiving these tidings the drums beat to 
arms, all was bustle and excitement, and in a short 
time the warriors were secreted in their ambuscade 
awaiting the approach of the enemy, but when they 
found that the boats continued on up the river they 
returned to their village. 


About eighty soldiers, under the command of 
Lieutenant Robenson, left the gunboats on the river 
and marched up Bureau Creek, with the intention of 
visiting Comas' village, situated eight miles distant, 
on the present site of Tiskilwa. After going up 


the valley about five miles through timber and 
prairie they discovered a trail with fresh pony 
tracks. On making this discovery they came to a 
halt for consultation on the propriety of continuing 
their march, knowing that they were near a large 
Indian village, and at any point of timber were 
liable to fall into an ambuscade of lurking savages. 
Some were in favor of going on and burn the village, 
if vacated, but fortunately a majority opposed it; 
consequently they turned about and retraced their 
steps back to the river. 

On the return of Robenson's command with the 
report of no Indians found, Major Christy came to 
the conclusion that they had fled from the country, 
and preparations were made to descend the river. 
Before leaving cannons fired a salute, toasts were 
drank, and the stream named Robenson's River, 
which name it continued to bear for many years after- 
ward, and so appeared on all the early maps of the 

Indian scouts had watched the keel-boats as they 
ascended and descended the river, and on seeing 
them land at the mouth of the creek, and preparing 
to send out troops to make observations, they put 
their ponies on a gallop to convey the tidings back 
to the village, and it was the tracks of their ponies 
which Robenson's party discovered while on their 


march. On learning of the approach of troops war- 
riors mounted their ponres and rode in all haste to 
the place selected to attack the invaders. Here 
many of the warriors secreted themselves in the 
thick timber, while those mounted remained in the 
rear to intercept the vanquished troops. Had Roben- 
son's command continued their march toward the 
village, the probabilities are but few of them would 
have escaped death, as the warriors outnumbered 
them five to one, and many of them mounted, while 
the soldiers were on foot. 


Black Partridge and his friends finding it impos- 
sible to unite the different bands so as to continue 
the war successfully, thought it best to make over- 
tures for peace, and accordingly a large delegation 
of chiefs and warriors went to Fort Clark for that 
purpose. When this party arrived within a few 
miles of the fort they came to a halt, when Senach- 
wine, accompanied by two warriors carrying white 
flags, went forward to the gate of the fort, and pre- 
pared to meet the commanding officer in council. 
Arrangements were made for meeting in council on 
the following day, for the purpose of agreeing on 
terms of peace. At the appointed time about forty 
chiefs and warriors, decorated with eagle and turkey 


feathers, made their appearance, and were met by 
General Howard and all the officers of his command. 
After shaking hands and passing around the pipe of 
peace, Senachwine made a speech before the coun- 
cil, in which he said they had come to make peace 
with the whites and forever bury the tomahawk. 
In reply to this speech General Howard said he had 
no power to treat with them, but proposed to con- 
duct their head chiefs to St. Louis, and General 
Clark, the general agent, would hear their proposi- 
tions for peace. The Indians agreed to this, and a 
delegation of thirteen chiefs and one squaw were 
selected to go to St. Louis. Among these chiefs 
were Black Partridge, Senachwine^ Comas, Shick- 
Shack, Crow and Gomo. General Howard ordered 
George Davenport to select four trusty men -and 
escort these Indians to St. Louis. All necessary 
arrangements having been made, this party on the 
following day went on board of a pirogue and started 
down the river for St. Louis. It being late in De- 
cember the weather was cold ; consequently after one 
day's journey the river froze up, and the remainder 
of the distance was made on foot. The pirogue was 
secreted in the thick timber, together with part of 
their stores, including a keg of whiskey, when the 
travelers, with such baggage as they could carry, 
proceeded on their way. At night both whites and 


Indians camped together, but each party kept a 
guard on duty, as they feared treachery. 

This party after five days' travel arrived safe at 
St. Louis ; a treaty of peace was concluded, and the 
Indians left five of their number as hostage for its 
fulfillment. The Indians on their return were es- 
corted as far as Alton above the settlement, and 
they returned to their homes. 

After a treaty of peace with the Indians Fort 
Clark was abandoned, the troops returned to the 
settlement, and the volunteers discharged from 



OF the descendants of French residents who were 
born at Peoria, and remember incidents con- 
nected with its destruction, only three are now liv- 
ing (if we except Mrs. Chandler, daughter of Michael 
La Croix), and they are now far advanced in life. A 
short time ago I visited these three persons, and 
listened to an account of their early recollections of 
Peoria, as well as the traditions of their ancestors. 
One of these descendants, Robert Forsyth, a man 
of wealth and enterprise, lives on a farm six miles 
west of St. Louis.'- He is a son of Thomas Forsyth, 
a trader and Indian agent at Peoria at the time it 
was burned, and for many years after an agent of 
the Sacs and Foxes at Rock Island. Mr. Forsyth 
was of Irish lineage, a half-brother of John Kinzie, 
of Chicago, and the early part of his life was spent 
among the French and Indians at Peoria. He was 
one of the claimants for the land on which the city 
of Peoria now stands, and his son Robert (above re- 

* Died since writing the above. 


ferred to) prosecuted these claims against the occu- 
pants, and obtained from them a large sum of 

Major Thomas Forsyth for nearly twenty years 
was employed by the government as an Indian agent, 
and . he is frequently referred to, both in General 
Clark's and governors' dispatches to the secretary of 
war. He appears to have been the only American- 
born citizen in the west, at that time, with whom 
the Indians had confidence, and chiefs of various 
tribes continued to counsel with him until the time 
of his death, which occurred at St. Louis October 
29, 1833. 

In reference to the burning of Peoria Major For- 
syth made an entry in his journal which contains the 
following language: " A band of ruffians from Shaw- 
neetown, commanded by Captain Thomas E. Craig, 
took us prisoners as though w.e were malefactors, 
and set us adrift on the bank of the Mississippi, near 
where Savage's ferry now is. Many poor unfortu- 
nate persons with wives and small children had not 
a change of clothing nor a blanket to protect them 
from the col'd winds." 

Rene La Croix, another of the descendants of the 
Peoria French, lives in Belleville, and like Robert 
Forsyth made money out of the French land claims. 
His father, Michael La Croix, married Catherine 


Dubuque, cousin of Julian Dubuque, a noted pio- 
neer and founder of the city in Iowa which still 
bears his name. La Croix came to Peoria in 1805, 
and for many years was engaged in trade, shipping 
furs to Canada in a two-mast batteau, and loading 
back with goods for the Indian market. He was on his 
way to Canada with his batteau, loaded with furs, 
when the town was destroyed, and on arriving at Mon- 
treal heard that the Yankees had burned Peoria, and 
killed all its inhabitants, among whom were his wife 
and children. With his heart filled with revenge 
he joined the British army, became an officer, and 
took part in many of the battles which followed. 
At the close of the war La Croix learned that his 
family were not killed, as reported, but living at Ca- 
hokia, consequently he came west to join them. A 
few years after joining his family he died, and his 
widow married John Reynolds, afterward Governor 
of Illinois. 

Hypolite Pilette, a descendant of the Peoria 
French, is a son of Louis Pilette, one of the French 
land claimants, born at Peoria in 1799, and is now 
living on the American Bottom. He claims to be a 
great-grandson of Captain Richard Pilette, who in 
1686 built Le Fort des Miamies, on Buffalo Rock, 
and has now in his possession the sword, eagle and 
epaulets worn by that distinguished personage. In 


speaking of the burning of Peoria by Captain Craig, 
in 1812, he said : % On a cold November morning, 
when a boy of thirteen years of age, I was driven 
from home without coat, hat or shoes ; my mother 
sick with the ague, and with an infant in her arms, 
was compelled to leave her* bed, protected from the 
cold winds only by an Indian blanket, while our 
house with all its contents were consumed by the 
flames. My father a prisoner, my mother sick, rny 
brothers and sisters almost naked, without food or 
shelter, we were left to our fate. Thus were we 
turned out of doors to freeze and starve, but fortu- 
nately rescued by friendly Indians." 

Three days after Peoria was burned Mrs. Pilette, 
with her live small children, were put in a canoe by 
the Indian chief Gomo, and in company with others 
as unfortunate as herself started down the river. 
After six days of exposure, and suffering from cold 
and hunger, they reached Cahokia, and were pro- 
vided for by their countrymen and friends. Pilette 
is a jolly old Frenchman, fond of a bottle of wine, 
and very talkative while under its influence. Al- 
though born and raised in Illinois he speaks no 
English except in broken, detached sentences, but 
in his own language, I should judge, he is quite elo- 
quent. While speaking of the past Pilette became 
very much excited ; his eyes flashed with anger, his 


voice raised to a high key, while denouncing the 
barbarous acts of Captain Craig, and from that time, 
said he, " I hate Yankees."" 

There are some facts connected with the burning 
of Peoria not generally known, but when properly 
understood will explain a matter which to many ap- 
pears mysterious. A few months ago I called on an 
old gentleman living in St. Louis, by the name of 
James Porter, who was a soldier in Captain Craig's 
command. Mr. Porter believes that he is the only 
person now living who participated in burning 
Peoria, and although seventy years have passed 
away he has a vivid recollection of many of the inci- 
dents which occurred on that eventful day. He says 
all the soldiers believed that the French were assist- 
ing the Indians to make war on the settlers, and this 
belief was confirmed by Baptiste Snipkins, General 
Howard's express, who carne on board of a boat as 
soon as they arrived at Peoria. 

Mr. Porter also says that it was afterward ascer- 
tained that the depredation on the settlement was 
committed by a war party of Sacs, and Foxes, and 
the Indians along the Illinois River were innocent 
as well as the French. When all the facts became 
known, years after Peoria was burned, Captain Craig 
and many of those under his command were filled 


with remorse on account of having committed this 
outrage on innocent people. 


After the burning of Peoria there was but little 
trade on the Illinois River for three years, and the 
Indians failing to obtain their usual supply of goods 
were in a suffering condition. For an American 
trader to enter the Indian country would be at the 
risk of his life, and while French traders were safe 
from harm among the Indians, they were liable to 
fall into the hands of soldiers, and have their goods 
confiscated to the government. After the evacua- 
tion of Fort Dearborn a Frenchman named Du Pin 
took possession of John Kinzie's dwelling, and for 
three years traded with the Indians. During the 
continuation of the war a number of Frenchmen con- 
tinued to live with the Indians, but none of them ex- 
cept Du Pin kept a stock of goods for Indian trade. 

In the summer of 1814 Jacques Jarret, a French 
Canadian, came down the Illinois River in a batteau 
loaded with goods for the Indian market. The 
trader had two Frenchmen employed as boatsmen, 
and an Englishman named John Ford acted as a 
clerk and salesman. At different places where the 
batteau stopped to trade the Indians looked on Ford 
with much suspicion, accused him of being an Amer- 


lean, and at one time threatened him with death. 
While the batteau lay at the mouth of Crow Creek, 
for the purpose of trade, a large number of warriors 
collected around Ford, denounced him as an Ameri- 
can and a spy, and made him a prisoner, and were 
about to carry him off to a place of execution. In 
vain Jarret tried to make the warriors understand that 
Ford was an Englishman, and that his country was 
then at war with the Americans. After a long parley 
the prisoner was ransomed by the trader giving the 
captors a large amount of goods for his liberation. 
After this narrow escape from death Ford laid aside 
his fashionable suit, clothed himself as a boatman, 
and disguised his face with paint. From that time 
he spoke no language in the presence of Indians, 
and was known thereafter among them as the deaf 
and dumb Frenchman. 


For many years this old historical spot at the foot 
of the lake was known as Fort Clark, but as the town 
became a place of importance it again resumed 
its former name, "Peoria." At the close of the 
British war the Chauteaus and Menards continued 
the fur trade along the Illinois River until super- 
seded by the American Fur Company. In 1816 
Antoine Des Champs received an appointment of 


general agent of the American Fur Company in Illi- 
nois territory. Des Champs was an old fur trader, 
at one time a resident of Peoria, but afterward at 
Cahokia, and proved to be an efficient agent. He 
dispatched runners to different Indian villages, 
requesting the inhabitants to meet him at Fort Clark 
on the 5th of August to receive presents sent them 
by the great fur company. At the appointed time 
about one thousand Indians were collected at the 
old fort when Des Champs arrived with a Mackinaw 
boat loaded with goods. After making many pres- 
ents to the Indians, and obtaining their promise to 
patronize the new fur company, he establishing trad- 
ing-posts at various places along the river. 

It has already been stated that Fort Clark was 
built in the fall of 1813, abandoned soon after, and 
never occupied by troops again. No white person 
lived in Peoria (then called Fort Clark) after the 
troops left it until the spring of 1819. The gate of 
the fort having been left open it became a lair for 
deer, and a roost for wild turkeys. In the fall of 
1816 a party of hunters from St. Clair county came 
to Fort Clark and 'found about twenty deer in the 
fort, and the floors of the block-houses covered with 
manure. The hunters cleaned out this building, and 
occupied it as a residence during a stay of ten days 
while hunting deer and collecting honey in the 


river timber. Fort Clark stood unmolested until 
the fall of 1818, when it was burned by the Indians. 

The following account of the burning of Fort 
Clark is taken from the statements of Colonel Gur- 
don S. Hubbard, now a resident of Chicago: 

In the fall of 1818 Antoine Des Champs, general 
agent of the American Fur Company, accompanied 
by a number of persons, were on their way to St. 
Louis with two boats loaded with furs. On corning 
around a point in the lake they discovered Fort Clark 
on fire, and near it were about two hundred In- 
dians engaged in a war dance. The warriors, almost 
naked, hideously painted, as they went through 
the dance yelled like demons. They had a large 
number of scalps hanging to their belts, and in one 
part of the dance these were placed on the ends of 
spears and held above their heads, after which they 
went through the motions of taking them from the 
heads of the victims. Des Champs was well ac- 
quainted with many of the Indians, and went among 
them engaged in conversation, leaving the boats 
guarded by one of his men and Mr. Hubbard, who 
at that time was a boy of sixteen years of age. The 
Indians inquired of Des Champs about this boy, 
who in reply said that he was his adopted son from 
Montreal, but they did not credit this statement, say- 
ing he looked like an American, and regarded him 


with suspicion. An Indian took a scalp from his 
belt, and held it near Hubbard's face, saying to him 
that it was taken from the head of his countryman. 
Young Hubbard became very much frightened, but 
when the Indian urinated on the scalp, and with it 
sprinkled his face, all fear vanished, and picking up 
a gun which lay in the bottom of the boat fired at 
the Indian, bat the man in charge of the boat threw 
up the muzzle as it went oft , thereby saving the In- 
dian's life. This affair created great excitement, 


and Des Champs fearing trouble bade his Indian 
friends good-by, went aboard of the boats, and con- 
tinued on his way down the river. 

Although the block-houses and part of the stock- 
ades of Fort Clark were burned, as above stated, a> 
portion of the latter stood for many years after. In 
the spring of 1819 a party of the emigrants from 
Clinton county, among whom were Captain Abner 
Eads, Isaac and Josiah Fuhlton and J. Hersey, came 
to Fort Clark, and from that time dates the American 
settlement here. These emigrants pitched their 
tents against the stockades of the old fort, and for 
years the inclosure within the pickets was used for 
penning cattle. During the Black Hawk war, in 
1832, the old fort was repaired, new pickets put in 
place of burned ones, and intended as a place of pro- 
tection from an attack of Indians. 


American Bottom - - 183 

American Pioneers of Illinois - - 206 

Antiquities of Illinois 17 

Aztalan the ruined city - - 197 

A scene of horror - 75 

Besiegers and besieged - - - 155 

Bourassa, Colonel Joseph N. cited 160 

Brady's Tom wild adventure - - 119 

Baptiste Jean and Father Bonner- 212 

Baldwin Elmer cited - 201-202 

Black Partridge, a noted Indian chief - 242 

Saves the life of Mrs. Helm - - 245 

Destruction of his village 251 

In defense of his country - - 280 

Besson'.s Mrs. narrative 257 

Bruce Elijah a vagabond - 239 

Bucher's Father Jacques manuscript - - 117 

Buffalo disappearance of - - 209 

Burning of Peoria - 265 

Chicago, early history of - 210 

Chassagoac, an Indian chief 101 

Clark, Colonel G. R. conquest of Illinois - 127 
Cross raised on the bank of Chicago River - 38 

Chartres Fort - - 180 

Cahokia - 186 

Chauteau Auguste and Pierre mentioned - 202 

Costumes and manners of the French - 222 


Council at Cahokia - - 234 

Craig's Captain attack on Peoria 264 

De Beuro Pierre an Indian trader - - 229 

Domestic animals left by the captives - 273 

Davenport, Colonel George - - 282 
Descendants of French settlers at Peoria - 293 

Des Champs Antoine mentioned - - 301 

English and French relation with Indians - 205 
Edwards Governor Ninian mentioned - - 237 

Fort Creve-Cceur 57 

Fort St. Louis building of - 83 

Attacked by Iroquois 87 

Burned - - 99 

Relics of - 173 

French settlement at - - 104 

Fox River the ruined fort of 201 

French inhabitants of Peoria - - 222 

French land claims - 226 

False report circulated - - 239 

French at Peoria - 262 

Fort Clark, building of - - - 284 

Burning of - 299 

Ghastly spectacle - - - 163 

Gold, searching for - 168 

Goodell Dr. J. H. referred to - 201 

Gabriel, Father death of - 73 

History, errors of - - 173 

Hitt, Colonel D. F. cited - 173-176-201 

Helm, Lieutenant ransomed - - 254 

Heald Captain mentioned - 255 

Howard's General expedition - - 279 
Hubbard Colonel G. S. cited - 


Illinois topography of River ... 22 

Early French settlement of - 112 

British rule of ... 117 

Early government of 207 

Indians Illinoisans - 24 

Massacre of 25 

Iroquois raid of 26 

Tribes in Illinois territory - 193 

Drepredations of - ... 232 

Council on Bureau ... 247 

Trade with - .... 85 

Joliet Louis mentioned ... 30 

Jennette Medore, a fur trader ... 202 

Kennedy Pat searching for copper - 125 

Kaskaskia - - 187 

Kaskaskia and Cahokia Indians - 189 

Kinzie John mentioned - ... 244 

La Vantum or great Illinois town - 47 

Yoyageurs at 34 

French at - 62 

La Pance Felix cited - 49 

La Salle and friends western bound - 53 

In an Indian camp 59 

Success, failure and death - 86 

Le Fort des Miamis 93 

Louisiana colony - - 102 

Le Rocher - 171 

La ville de Maillet 218 

Lee Charles noticed - 258 

Marquette Jacques 28 

Death of - 43 

Resurrecting his bones - 45 

Mammoth and Mastodon - 20 

Massac Fort of 20 


Marseilles, ancient fortification at - - - 199 

Mississippi River, discovery of - 30 

Mission of Immaculate Conception - 40 

Monks of La Trappe - 194 

Old fort near Starved Rock - - 195 

Peoria Lake of - 56 

Burning of 

Indians - 191 

Pilette Captain Richard mentioned - - 93 

Hypolite mentioned - 

Pontiac - 137 

Assassinated - - 147" 

Prairie du Rocher - - 185 

Porter James mentioned - 297 

Relics of French and Indians - - 174 

Relics of a tragedy 166 

Rock of refuge - 142 

Retribution unjust 249 
Robinson Lieutenant in search of the enemy - 288 

St. Louis, early settlement of 
St. Joseph expedition against - 
Starved Rock 

Tecumseh at Peoria - 231 

Emissaries from 248 

Tidings of war 243 
Territory of Illinois at the time of the British 

war - 243 

Treaty of peace - 280 

Torturing prisoners 72 

Tonti de Henri - 70 

Return of his victorious army - 90 

Death of - 96 

"Wolsey's Amanda captivity 276 

, I 


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