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!T.T,TpyoiS HISTORICAL <???"•-* • 

The Story of 


by Virginia S. Eifert 

Illustrations from the Bartlett Frost Dioramas in 
























Story of Illinois : Indian and Pioneer, by V. S. Eif ert. 

Mammals of Illinois Today and Yesterday, as shown in 
the Illinois State Museum, by V. S. Eifert 

Exploring for Mushrooms, by V. S. Eifert. 

Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, by V. S. Eifert. 

Invitation to Birds, by V. S. Eifert. 

Man's Venture in Culture, by Thorne Deuel. 

The Past Speaks to You, by Ann Livesay. 

Common Insects of Illinois, by Gilbert Wright. 

Ancient Ways of Life, by Thorne Deuel (In preparation). 

Amphibians of Illinois, by Paul W. Parmalee. 

Address all enquiries to the MUSEUM DIRECTOR, 
ILLINOIS STATE MUSEUM, Springfield, Illinois 


William G. Stratton, Governor 

Hon. Vera M. Binks, Director - Thorne Deuel, Museum Director 





Virginia S. Eifert 

Springfield, Illinois 

Fourth Revised Edition 
8th Printing 


(Printed by authority of the State of Illinois) 


Alvord, Pease, Cole, and others. The Centennial History of Illinois. 
5 Vols. Illinois Centennial Commission, Springfield, 111., 1920. 

Angle, Paul M. 8b Beyer, Richard L. A Handbook of Illinois History. 
The Illinois State Historical Society, Springfield, 111., 1941. 

Brown, Richard G. 8b Pearson, Irving F. The Illinois Citizen. Mac- 
millan, New York, 1939. 

Federal writers' project, Illinois. Illinois, a Descriptive and Historical 
Guide. A. C. McClurg, Chicago, 1947. 

Gray, James. The Illinois. Farrar 8b Rinehart, New York, 1940. 

Merwin, Blanche C, Nickell, V. L. 8s Merwin, B. W. Illinois, Cross- 
roads of a Nation. Lyons 8b Carnahan, Chicago, 1943. 

Monaghan, J. This is Illinois, a Pictorial History. University of 
Chicago Press, Chicago, 1949. 

Pease, Theodore C. The Story of Illinois. University of Chicago 
Press, Chicago, 1949. 

For additional titles, see 

Illinois, a Bibliography. Illinois State Library, Springfield, 111., 1948. 


The Story of Illinois is a series of booklets relating to the State, 
on anthropology, art, botany, geology, history and zoology. They 
are prepared by specialists in the fields and will be issued from 
time to time as opportunity permits. Eight numbers, as indicated on 
the inside of the front cover, have been issued to date. It is planned 
to publish some two hundred titles and keep all available, with re- 
vised reprintings as often as necessary. 

They are written in direct, non-technical language for the 
pleasure of young people from six to sixty and to interest them in 
their surroundings, in present and past life forms, in places and in 
happenings in Illinois. Much of the material offered is not available 
elsewhere in a form appealing to the general reader. The specimens 
featured in the natural history issues are almost invariably within 
the range of the enquiring naturalist. Some life forms readily ac- 
cessible to Illinoisians may be new to many readers. The things 
most common are not always well-known. 

The present volume presents sketches of incidents and practices 
of periods in the history of Illinois commencing with the first re- 
corded exploration party and continuing through the settlement and 
industrialization of the state. We are much indebted to the late 
Professor Theodore C. Pease, University of Illinois, for reading and 
criticizing the manuscript. 

At the back of this issue is added a map showing the location of 
the Indian tribes in Illinois and a brief history of their movements 
after 1650 by Wayne Temple. Since this contains some information 
not generally available, footnotes with references have been included. 

Criticism of these publications and suggestions for new volumes 
are invited. 

November 1, 1954 THORNE DEUEL 

The Story of Illinois 

In the long ago before the Coal Age, Illinois most of the time 
was covered by sea; in it, characteristic life of the times flourished 
in great abundance. Here swam huge sharks and armored fishes, 
and there were rainbow-colored beds of sea-lilies which covered 
acres of the sea bottom. During the Coal Age, land areas rose and 
fell repeatedly; there were vast coastal marshes with forests of 
tall fern trees and giant relatives of our modern horsetails and 
club mosses. Here the decaying vegetation fell into the black water, 
piled up, pressed down, hardened, and was buried to become coal. 
Ages later when the marshes, coal forests, and the last of the oceans 
were gone from Illinois, out of the north came the glaciers. Grow- 
ing masses of ice moved relentlessly southward. 

Year by year the tropical climate of Illinois grew cooler ; birds 
and animals went south, or they died; winters grew longer, sum- 
mers shorter. At last the ice sheet moved across the borders of 
Illinois and came crunching and grinding, year after year, south- 
ward over the state until all but a few parts of Illinois were covered. 
Several times the ice came, melted, and retreated, leaving behind 
its load of gravel, silt, and boulders. And as the last glacier drew 
back, it left its morainal hills in the flattened Illinois country. 

Life had existed in the shadow of the glacier. Now plants 
appeared, new kinds of trees ; and the hardier birds, which had come 
with the intense cold, followed the ice northward and were replaced 
by others from the south. The rivers of Illinois, swollen with the waters 
that had been trapped in the Great Lakes basin, raced broadly to the 
Gulf. When the rivers grew smaller, large lakes remained. 

Then came a process which still goes on today : this is the 
changing of a lake to a marsh and a marsh to a prairie. Thus the 
Illinois prairie came to be. The miles of glacial lakes filled up with 
cattails and willows that pushed out into the water until there was 
a marsh. By and by these marshes were so filled with plants that 
they became wet prairie land, waving with tall grasses, scented 
with the rich ripeness of wild strawberries in summer, golden with 
wild sunflowers in August, where in winter the coppery-pink stems 
of turkey-foot grass thrust through the snow. 

By and by the ancient forefathers of the American Indians 
came to live along the rivers and to bury their dead in mounds in 
the bottomlands or in natural hillocks on the high bluffs. Later 
these peoples, largely of Mongolian stock, developed into those we 
now know as Indians. One of these groups, some hundreds of 
years ago, invaded Illinois from the south, established their chief 
towns with their flat-topped, earthen pyramids along the larger 
rivers. And buffalo came into the region from the west. So Indians 
and buffalo lived along the River of the Illini in 1673 when the 
King of France, wishing to annex new lands to bring profits to the 
crown, sent explorers to claim the Illinois country for France. 

It is at this point that the dioramas begin their story— those 
vivid scenes of Illinois history created in miniature by Bartlett M. 
Frost and on display in the Illinois State Museum. 


Marquette and the Indians 

It was a hot day late in the summer of 1673 when Father Mar- 
quette and Louis Jolliet with their party, after a rigorous journey 
down the Mississippi, came back up the Illinois River in canoes to 
claim Illinois for the glory of France and to convert its heathen for 
the glory of God. They had sighted an Indian village on the hill, 
and as the canoes pushed into the black mud of the shore, a crowd 
of Indians started down the path toward the river. At the front, far 
ahead of the others, came a muscular brave, the young chief. Around 
his feet was a tangle of snarling, snapping, barking mongrel dogs 
which a well-directed kick or two from the moccasined toe sent to 
a safe distance at the edge of the cornfield. 

The handsome, splendidly built Indian stood with folded arms 
and looked silently at the white men. The thin, black-garbed priest 
climbed stiffly out of the canoe — he was ill but he would not stop his 
work — stood before the Indian and raised his crucifix. 

"Benedicite!" he intoned, and went on in the Indian tongue. 

At the canoe, Jolliet was busily arranging the cheap knives and 
trinkets which had been brought along to cajole the savages in case 
the word of God failed in a crisis. The Indian's black eyes moved 
from the priest, who was earnestly exhorting him to learn of the true 
God and of salvation in the next world, and slid to the bright knives 
and beads in the canoe. 

The Indian said nothing; but his eyes stayed longer on the 
knives than on the priest. And then the whole village was upon them, 
and the men were kept busy distributing the trinketry where it would 
do the most good. The voice of the priest could not be heard in the 

"Another time," the weary Father Marquette said aloud, "An- 
other time they will listen." 


The Indians Fight for Illinois 

France and England had been at war for seven years, and now 
in 1763 it was over and the British had won. By their treaty they 
demanded that French land east of the Mississippi should be given to 
them without further fuss, and one by one the lily banners of France 
came fluttering down and the flag of England went up. All, that is, 
but at Fort de Chartres, where the French flag flew until 1765. 

Meanwhile the Indians, led by the Ottawa chief, Pontiac, planned 
vengeance on the British whom they hated for their harsh treatment. 
Most of them liked the French who had behaved toward them with 
dignity and respect, and who encouraged Pontiac and his plans for 
an Indian confederacy. Suddenly, over a thousand-mile front, the 
Indians attacked the British. For a while they were successful, but 
at last were pushed back, after Pontiac 's defeat, into the Illinois 
country. There remained Fort de Chartres where the last French 
flag still flew, and this the Indians defended. 

The British were on their way by boat to formally take over the 
fort when they heard of the angry Indian warriors awaiting them. 
Nervously, the British delayed the trip and finally sent a whole 
flotilla of flatboats up the Mississippi to Fort de Chartres. 

As they coasted along the shore near the present northern 
boundary of Louisiana, the Indians from behind sycamores and 
bushes opened fire ; the bewildered British lost many lives and had 
to go back. When the French at last decided it was necessary to give 
up the fort, the Indians, stubborn defenders of France in Illinois, 
stopped fighting. In 1765 peace was made and the French flag went 



From Kaskaskia to Vincennes 

Hamilton, the "Hair-Buyer", was up to his old tricks again, and 
George Rogers Clark in 1778 went to the Illinois country to stop him. 
The Declaration of Independence had been signed, but out in the mid- 
dle west General Hamilton, who paid Indians for scalps of white 
colonists, still hired tribes to murder the settlers. 

Clark easily took the British Kaskaskia and the other Illinois 
villages. General Hamilton, hearing of Clark's successes, marched 
south from Detroit and took Vincennes. Clark knew the situation 
was grave. Late in the winter, when all the rivers were out of their 
banks in southern Illinois, Clark and his famous Virginia Long Knives 
set out from Kaskaskia to march across Illinois and attack Vincennes. 
All went well until they reached the flooded valley of the Wabash 
where in miles of drowned lowlands the men, with guns held high 
over their heads, had to wade up to their arm pits. There came several 
days of hard going through miles of water when there was nothing 
at all to eat ; one morning the flood had frozen to a half-inch layer of 
ice, and wet clothing was frozen to the men's weary bodies. 

But one night in February, 1779, George Rogers Clark and his 
men marched grandly into Vincennes, and by a neat trick with flags 
and plenty of shouting, confused the startled British. The garrison 
surrendered, but not before Clark met some of Hamilton's Indians 
returning with bloody American scalps to sell. Furiously, Clark could 
not restrain himself. He killed the Indians in full view of Hamilton 
and the fort, captured the general, and sent him as prisoner to 

Now the Illinois country was free of British rule. Men and women 
from the East soon would come down the rivers or over the Wilderness 
Road to make their homes in this rich land which Clark had won. 

- * - ^ 


T£e Circuit Rider 

To the stooped woman who stands with her work-worn hands 
clasped before her and a hungry look in her big eyes, the travelling 
preacher and his words are the only touch she has with that outside 
world from which she came by covered wagon a few years before. The 
words take her away for a little while from the back-breaking cabin 
drudgery, from ague and chills, from rattlesnakes crawling into the 
cupboards, from a prairie wind that screams through the ill-chinked 
logs all winter long. 

These are frontier people who came to the prairie in the early 
days of Illinois. They found the prairie sod too costly and difficult to 
plow, so they cut the forests, used the wood for building cabins in the 
clearings, and for firewood, or burned it in huge winter bonfires that 
shot sparks to the stars, and they plowed the loose forest earth for 
their gardens. Life on the Illinois prairie was never easy ; work was 
hard and long and there were none of the conveniences we know. The 
daily diet usually was cornbread dodgers and pork, with honey for 
sweetening, and boiled wild greens in spring. Neighbors were too 
far apart to be of much help ; people had to be their own doctors and 
had to provide everything they needed for themselves. But they 
could not provide religion and news, and that was what the travelling 
preacher, the circuit rider, brought as he rode his horse through the 
muddy roads from cabin to cabin. He preached; he gave out news; 
he married the young folk and said the burial words over the dead; 
he settled disputes; and he usually stayed for dinner and sometimes 
for the night. 

This was the circuit rider in Illinois. It was from his visits among 
the prairie people that churches finally were built ; from hill-towns to 
bottomland villages, year after year, the spires of churches arose. 


The Indians Leave Illinois 

The Black Hawk War was over, and all that remained were the 
final treaties. So in 1833, eight thousand Indians swarmed into Chi- 
cago for their last great gathering ever held in Illinois. From Wash- 
ington had come word that the Great White Father was going to buy 
their lands ; he had heard that they wanted to sell. So chiefs from all 
the tribes of Potawatomi, Chippewas, and Ottawas came to the 
treaty-making, and because the Government would feed them during 
the treaty, they brought along their families and made a holiday of 
it. Tents dotted the prairie for miles; horses grazed everywhere; 
lean Indian dogs roamed the muddy streets of young Chicago and 
snapped at the ankles of passersby. The Indians were much the worse 
for bad whiskey which they eagerly had bought against orders from 
the authorities. 

But when they were finally assembled for the treaty, the Indians 
said that the Great Father must have been listening to a bad bird 
who had told him lies. They were satisfied with their lands in Illinois. 
And the white man was easier to get along with than the surly Sioux 
beyond the Mississippi. 

After nine days of useless talk, orders were issued that the treaty 
must be signed at once. The Indians must leave their lands between 
Lake Michigan and the Mississippi; in exchange they would have 
western lands, and would be fed and clothed for a year afterward. A 
million dollars would be devoted to their welfare. That day the In- 
dians must have known they were doomed. The treaty was signed, 
and within a year they were gone from Illinois and never again re- 
turned to live. Now settlers in Illinois could come without fear of 

The diorama shows one of the old Chicago taverns where two 
braves in a drunken state are being persuaded to sign a paper, while 
an army officer doubtfully eyes the proceedings. 



John Deere and the Prairie Plow 

Out of the crowded East and over the Alleghenies to Illinois came 
pioneers eager for new lands and open sky. But their old-fashioned 
plows made of wood and iron were poorly fitted to plow the prairie. 
The heavy muck resisted the blade and clung to the mold-board like 
snow to a boot heel ; it cost as much to plow this soil as it did to buy 
the land. 

In 1837, however, a young man named John Deere, a blacksmith, 
came from Vermont to Grand Detour at the great bend of the Rock 
River. Blacksmiths were very important men in those days; and 
John Deere was better than most. As he saw how the prairie resisted 
the plow, he set his mind to work on the problem. 

One day he found a broken circular-saw blade made of fine steel. 
He cut off the saw teeth, shaped the metal on his forge, and made a 
steel plow blade, fashioned a light-weight wood frame, got a pair of 
horses, and was ready for the demonstration. A crowd of farmers and 
people from Grand Detour followed the new plow and watched with 
growing excitement as the steel blade bit into the heavy black soil and 
turned it over. The horses pulled easily; the plow turned the fur- 
row, came back ; the farmers crowded around to look at the steel blade. 
It was as shiny as when it entered the soil ; it was clean ! This plow 
would "scour"; never again would prairie muck clog and cling in 
great sticky gobs until no living man could push it further. 

And so young John Deere opened the way for Illinois agriculture. 
Soon the railroads came, and the reaper and thresher took the place of 
old-fashioned equipment. Because of these things there soon would 
be great acres of waving wheat and tasseled corn in Illinois to supply 
food not only for this state but for the nation and many peoples of 
the world. 


The Underground Railroad — 1850 

There was the squeak of iron on leather, the crunch of a wheel by 
the farmhouse door. Two figures in the darkness climbed down from 
the wagon; the kitchen door opened, admitted them; inside, the 
farmer's wife was hurrying with food. 

" Welcome!" said the farmer. "Eat hearty, friends!" 

Apologetically, frightened to dumb silence, the young mulatto 
woman looked up from her baby and moved hungrily to the table. 
The elderly colored man went, too, protectively, eyeing the farmer, 
and ate. 

These were slaves. In the sad days of growing bitterness between 
the states, men and women in the north spent time and money and 
risked their reputations in helping these people to escape to safety 
in Canada. From Cairo to Rockford, the length of Illinois, there were 
secret shelters where slaves could hide until time to move on to an- 
other point further north. This was the "underground railroad"; 
and the power that moved it was the northern hatred for slavery. 

There was a scratching on the door. 

"They're a-coming!" a boy whispered. "Paw sent me to tell 
you. They've tracked 'em as far as the last station." 

Again with that terror in their eyes, the Negroes followed the 
farmer to the barn. And just in time. A clamor of men and dogs 
in the yard — hurry — down the dark trap-door hole, with the lantern 
for comfort — the door closed — hay forked over it. Quietly as a 
shadow the farmer went to the small side door of his house. Already 
men were hammering at the back door. There he met them. 

There was no one in the house, he said with dignity. His word 
as a church man could be trusted. And before those outraged blue 
eyes, the man-hunters drew back, baffled, and went on. 



rr A House Divided" 

There was fighting in Kansas and hot words in Illinois as the old 
Whig party died in 1854 and the new Republican party began. There 
was unrest all over the country, for although the United States was 
not yet a hundred years old, its unity was threatened. 

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, as unlike in 
personal appearance as in their views, both of them candidates for 
United States senator, held a series of heated debates in Illinois on the 
question of slavery. Douglas had long maintained that the people 
of an area should decide whether or not they wanted slavery ; Lincoln 
felt that slavery was morally wrong and should be prohibited by the 
Government in the territories from which states would be formed. 

People from miles around came to town whenever one of the 
debates was announced, for there were few entertainments in 
Illinois. The debater, with his elegant choice of words, his jibes and 
jokes, was as good as a show; he provided fun, education, and a chance 
to see one's friends. Rival parties vied for the best banners and the 
prettiest girls in the torchlight processions which usually ended in a 
fight. Everyone came and had an exciting time. 

The debate which took place between Lincoln and Douglas in 
Quincy on October 13th is shown in the diorama. Both men were 
deadly serious. Both wanted to be senator; yet they were fighting 
for something more than personal gain. Here were the two opposing 
ideas in America, the old order, and the new which would not tolerate 
human slavery. Douglas won the senatorship, but it was Abraham 
Lincoln, his views made secure by these debates, who became presi- 
dent in 1860. 

And from his arguments in the Illinois campaign rose these words 
which ever afterwards have been part of the tradition of America: 
' * A house divided against itself cannot stand ; this government cannot 
endure half slave and half free." 



The Chicago Fire 

The little girl watched the city burn. The sky was scarlet, and 
there were clouds of smoke and great chunks of fire and sparks blow- 
ing on the lake wind. The noise of burning buildings was deafening, 
the crackling, hissing, roaring, the sweep of the flames from one street 
to the next, licking up wooden houses like a great cat lapping cream, 
people shouting, doing strange things. Caroline crouched against a 
big barrel on the wharf, clutched her doll, watched how the fire ate 
up everything across the river. The lantern which Dick had set there 
to keep her company wasn 't much use now. There was plenty of light 
to see by. But Dick hadn't come back after he went to find mother 
and father — he'd said he would — and a growing sense of terror 
mounted in the little girl's heart. 

Day after day during the summer of 1871, the prairie sun that 
beat down on the wooden city of Chicago had dried out every fiber 
and every shingle. Chicago in a generation had grown up from a 
frontier village to a city, but its growth was so rapid and so unplanned 
that it sprawled along the lake and on the prairie, unformed and 
crude. Since the first steam engine ended the isolation of Chicago, it 
had expanded but there had been no time for permanence, no time 
for beauty. 

By October, Chicago was tinder dry, and when, on the 8th, the 
fire started, it burned eagerly and without any stopping. In the de- 
struction of the city, families became separated and some never found 
each other again. 

The child in this diorama may have been one of these lost chil- 
dren. No one knows who she was, or if there was such a child. She 
represents the Chicago fire in the story of Illinois; she is the youth 
that helped build a beautiful, great city out of the overgrown frontier 
town that burned in '71. 



The Railroad Strikes 

When the Civil War was ended, more than slavery had been 
abolished. The old, slow way of life had died, and in the years that 
followed, the whole country, north and south, knew the turmoil of 
learning a new way of living. It was too great a wrench to leap from 
the frontier ways of the first half of the century, through the blood 
and upset of war, to the mechanical era that was about to open ahead. 

In a few years, the enormous cost of war, uncertain currency, in- 
flation, and too much railroad building, to name only a few of the 
causes, came to a climax in the panic of 1873, which was much like that 
of 1929. By 1877 the unrest and depression, made worse by poverty 
and hunger, blazed into open war in the railroad strikes. Nothing 
before or since in railroad history equalled the mob violence and riots 
of '77. They were touched off when trainmen had a new cut in wages. 
In Chicago there was open fighting, shooting in the railroad yards, 
men killed or wounded, armed soldiers guarding the mail trains that 
would not pull out for many a day. The depression had reached its 
lowest point of despair in 1877, and the railroad strikes came as a 
dramatic climax. 

But out of the labor unrest there grew the trade unions with their 
higher standards of work and pay. Better hours, safer jobs, better 
working conditions, organization of labor, and abolishment of child 
labor came as a result of the terrible upsets of the 'Seventies. And it 
had been proved, moreover, that Illinois was no longer just an agri- 
cultural state, but that it had its great share of mining and manu- 
facturing which was being carried throughout the nation by the rail- 
roads. When the strikes were over, Illinois was headed squarely into 
the coming era which would produce the airplane, the radio, the tele- 
phone, and the age of electricity. 



Meat Packer for the World 

Out of the west in the 1870 's came long-horned cattle that plodded 
in clouds of dust across their grazing lands on the Great Plains. Cow- 
boys, yipping and swinging ropes, brought the steers hundreds of 
miles to the railroads that were pushing into the unknown west, and 
from here the cattle rode in slatted cars east to Boston and Albany and 
Buffalo. Every community had its little, often unsanitary, slaughter- 
house which was a mass of filth and flies, where cattle were slaugh- 
tered when needed and sold before the meat spoiled. 

In Chicago, G. F. Swift had a new idea in the meat business. He 
knew that by the time live cattle reached the east they had lost weight, 
often were bruised, and were expensive because they had to be fed. 
And longhorns weren 't made to fit well in a cattle car. 

Swift slaughtered western cattle at Chicago and sent the dressed 
beef east, though only in winter; with the invention of refrigerator 
cars, far greater quantities of dressed beef the year around could 
travel in a cheaper way than live cattle. By and by few or no long- 
horned western steers rode east of Chicago. Meat cattle were bred 
to better form, were more tender and were meatier ; cattle with short 
horns were developed. In Chicago, the Union Stockyards grew 
mightily and put Chicago on the map of the nation and the world. 

This diorama shows the stockyards in the 1880 's. A cowboy who 
has accompanied a herd from the west stands on the fence while two 
buyers dicker for the best price. It is a typical scene as it has been 
enacted daily for many years in the vast, growing business of provid- 
ing meat for the nation. Yet less than a century before, the only meat 
one ate in Illinois was obtained with a squirrel rifle or shotgun in the 


Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow 

This is today, and the future lies grandly ahead. Here in the 
final diorama in the Story of Illinois, the City of the Present looks 
to the City of the Future, to the world of peace and wonderful things 
which as yet lives only in men's minds. 

In this diorama lies the background of Illinois. Marquette came 
and brought the first Christian religious teaching; the British came 
and held the area; George Rogers Clark completed the removal of 
Illinois from foreign hands and gave it to America. He opened the 
way to the pioneers who were finding the East too crowded. They 
came and laid the foundations for the cities, for where a cabin grew 
up and people lived, others by and by banded together for protection 
and comfort, and soon there was a village, a town, a metropolis, de- 
pending upon the whims of fortune. 

The series of Indian treaties gave Illinois into the hands of white 
people and paved the way for safe further settlement. John Deere 
opened the way to agriculture on a large scale, helped make possible 
the fields of corn and soybeans to supply America. Illinois became 
part of the great conflict between the states, and Lincoln rose from the 
prairie, left New Salem, left Springfield, and went to Washington as 
the Illinois president who preserved the union. Then progress in the 
form of fire struck the rambling city of Chicago, and made possible 
the greater city which rose from the ashes and put Illinois on the map. 
Labor and industry battled as they got their bearings in the machine 
age, yet laid the way for unions and fairer wages and working condi- 
tions. Now the railroads that criss-cross Illinois carry meat, coal, and 
corn, and the Illinois stockyards feed the world. 

Today all these things are part of our heritage. They all are 
implied in this one diorama where the mind of man lays plans for a 
gleaming future. 











Historic Indians of Illinois 

Wayne C. Temple 

The state of Illinois derives its name from a historic group of 
Indians who called themselves "mini," meaning "the men." 1 The 
first written account of them was made by the Jesuit missionaries in 
1640. At this time, at least part of the Illini were living near the 
Winnebago in the vicinity of Lake Michigan. 2 However, their prin- 
cipal locations were along both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. A 
study of their language indicates that they were a member of the 
Algonquin family and closely associated with the Miami and Chip- 
pewa (Ojibway) tribes. 

Within the Illinois Country there were several tribes who were 
called Illini (used in this study instead of Illinois to avoid confusion), 
but each one had a name of its own. The Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michi- 
gamea, Moingwena, Peoria, and Tamaroa were allied with one another 
to form a confederation which is known today as the ' ' Illiniwek. " 
In June of 1673, as Marquette descended the Mississippi River, he 
found the Peoria and the Moingwena about five miles up the Iowa 
River. 3 Here the Illini had three villages within a short distance of 
each other. Apparently, it was a large group since Marquette related 
that six hundred Indians returned with them to the Mississippi to 
watch their embarkation. 4 

Passing further down the Mississippi, Marquette found the Mich- 
igamea living on the right bank, near the month of the St. Francis 
River in Arkansas. They were the most southern tribe of the Illini 
nation; however, they were part of the confederation and spoke the 
same language as the Illini. 5 This would seem to indicate that they 
previously had lived much farther north. 

The Illini at this time were somewhat nomadic and seem to have 
moved from place to place in search of game. When Marquette re- 
turned he proceeded up the Illinois River instead of returning by way 
of the Mississippi. The Peoria tribe had by this time removed to the 
Illinois 6 from the Iowa River locations. They were probably near the 
present city of Peoria. As he ascended beyond this point, he found 
the Kaskaskia Indians residing in a village of seventy-four cabins 
near the present town of Utica. 7 In this period, the Peoria and Kas- 

1 Marquette's account, in Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed., The Jesuit Relations and Allied Docu- 
ments (Cleveland, 1896-1901), LIX, 125. 

2 Ibid., XVIII, 231. 

3 L. G. Weld, Jolliet and Marquette in Iowa (Iowa City, 1903), 16. After a careful study, 
Weld indicates that it was the Iowa River and not the Des Moines as previously thought. 

4 Jesuit Relations, LIX, 125. 

6 Ibid., LIX, 151, 153, 313 n. ; Marquette's Map of 1673-1674, in Sara Jones Tucker, comp., 
Indian Villages of the Illinois Country (Springfield, 1942), Part I, Atlas, plate V. After much 
careful study, Jean Delanglez identifies this village as Quapaw and not Michigamea. Mid-America, 
XXVII (O.S.), 47 (Jan., 1945). 

8 Jesuit Relations, LIX, 163. 

7 Ibid., LIX, 161. 


kaskia tribes were closely associated with this region. It was not until 
1700 that the Kaskaskia separated from the Peoria tribe and settled 
shortly afterward near the mouth of the river in southern Illinois 
which now bears their name. 8 

The Tamaroa and the Cahokia were mentioned by La Salle in 
1680.° These two tribes of the confederacy were close together and 
seem to have hunted on both sides of the Mississippi River from the 
mouth of the Illinois southward. The site of Cahokia came to be 
associated with the one tribe, although both frequented this area. In 
1700 St. Cosme discovered that the Michigamea intended to winter 
with the Tamaroa in the region of Bast St. Louis. Their early 
enemies were the Shawnee and Chickasaw who occasionally came up 
from the Tennessee region and inflicted severe losses upon them. 10 
An early foe of the northern Illini tribes was the Iroquois Confedera- 
tion which constantly sent war parties into their territory. LaSalle 
complained of these attacks in 1680. 11 Other enemies quickly appeared. 
By 1714, the Fox Indians of Wisconsin, together with their allies, the 
Mascoutin (Potawatomi ?) and Kickapoo, were driving the Illini 
south. 12 They had grown so bold that in 1723 they raided close to 
Fort Chartres and killed some of the Kaskaskia and enslaved many 
others. 13 Gradually the Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo. and Potawatomi forced 
the remaining Illini to seek refuge with the French at Kaskaskia where 
they dwindled to a few families. By 1832 they held only 350 acres 
there. 14 

Among the eighteenth-century invaders who drove the Illini from 
northern Illinois were the Sauk and Fox of Wisconsin. Prior to this 
movement they had lived first on the Fox and later on the Wisconsin 
River. Peter Pond found their villages on the Wisconsin River as 
late as 1773 ;" four years after this date, however, the Spanish at 
St. Louis declared that the Fox Indians, who came there to trade, 
were living on the shores of the Mississippi River. This indicates 
that they were at that time expanding south into Illinois. 1 ' 1 It is cer- 
tain that by 1780 they were firmly established along the Rock River 
of northwest Illinois. In this year Colonel John Montgomery marched 
into this country and destroyed the crops and villages of the Sauk and 
Fox tribes who were thought to be a constant threat to the United 
States. 17 In spite of this defeat, the Sauk and Fox returned to the 
Rock River. Their main villages were near Rock Island or along the 
Rock River, near its mouth. In addition to these sites, there were 
Sauk and Fox settlements across the Mississippi in Iowa. And they 
continued to occupy this area until after the Black Hawk War in 
1832 when they were driven from Illinois. 

Another intruder from the north was the Kickapoo who were 
closely associated with the Sauk and Fox and spoke nearly the same 

s Journal of Father Gravier (17001, in John Gilmary Shea, ed., Early Voyages Up and 
Down, the Mississippi, by Cavelier, St. Cosine, he Sueur, Gravier, and Guignas (Albany, 1801), 

"LaSalle on the Illinois Country, 1680," in Theodore Calvin Pease and Raymond C. 
Werner, eds., The French Foundations 1680-1698 (Springfield, 1934), 5. 

11 Shea, ed., Early Voyages Up and Down the Mississippi, by Cavelier, St. Cosine, he Sueur, 
Gravier, and Guignas, 61, 67, IIS. 

11 l'ease and Werner, eds.. The French Foundations 16S0-1693, 11. 

12 Claude de Kamezay to the Minister, Sept. 18, 1714, in Collections of State Hist. Soc. Wis.. 

'"Statement of Illini taken by C. C. du Tisne, Fort Chartres, Jan. 14, 172 3, in ibid.. XVI. 461. 

14 William Clark to Gov. Reynolds, Castor Hill (near St. Louis), Oct. 31, 1*3-2. in Evarts 
Houtell Greene and Clarence Walworth Alvord, eds., The Governors' Letter-Books ISIS- ISA', (Spring- 
field, 1909), 216. 

'"'"Journal of Peter Pond," Collections of State Hist. Soc. Wis.. XVIII, 335, 337. 

10 MS, dated "San Luis Oe Ylinneses, November 15, 1777," in General Archives of the 
Indies. Seville and pub. in ibid., 36". 

1T Calendar of Virginia State Papers (Richmond, 1875-1893), III, 442-443. 


language. 18 After the power of the Illini was destroyed, they moved 
south to the present site of Peoria and then divided into two groups. 
One, the Prairie Band, remained in the north central area of Illinois 
and the other, the Vermilion Band, established themselves on the 
Vermilion and Wabash rivers. As early as 1765 there was a large 
village of Kiekapoo called Ouiatenon (Wea town) near the present 
location of Lafayette, Indiana. 10 Their main strength was concen- 
trated on either the Vermilion or the Wabash, but there were groups 
srattered throughout northern Illinois. Thomas Forsyth reported in 
1814 that there was a Kiekapoo village on the Pecatonica River, north 
of Rock River. 20 In 1809 and 1819 they ceded their territory along 
the Vermilion and Wabash to the United States, but did not leave 
Illinois. When Catlin journeyed through Illinois in the 1830 's he 
found the remnants of this tribe residing near the southern tip of 
Lake Michigan. Their numbers had been reduced to 600 or 800. 21 

The Mascouten tribe is sometimes identified as being a part of 
the Potawatomi group, but generally the name refers to the Peoria 
Illini who were closely associated with the Kiekapoo. 22 The Bowen and 
Gibson Map of North America (1763) places the Mascouten in the 
upper region of the Rock River close to the Kiekapoo. The Spanish 
officials at St. Louis stated that in 1787 the ''principal chief of the 
Mascouten nation, named Tanclel" had attacked the Kaskaskia Indians 
on the American side of the Mississippi and killed eleven. 2 ' 1 Evidently, 
this party of warriors came from the region of the Wabash River, for 
the Spanish who traded with these Indians, located the Mascouten 
there and estimated their strength as 200 warriors. Their village was 
said to be close to Vincennes and very near that of the Kiekapoo. 24 
This Spanish report is confirmed by George Croghan who was cap- 
lured near the mouth of the Wabash River in 1765 by a hunting party 
of Mascouten and Kiekapoo. 25 

y The Miami tribe at one time occupied the present site of Chicago. 
St. Cosine found two large villages of Miami in this area in 1699. 
Each village contained about 150 cabins. 2 ' 1 Their main sphere of occu- 
pation, however, Avas in the State of Ohio and in the Wabash River 
Valley. The Potawatomi replaced them in the Chicago area after the 
Illini were driven out of northern Illinois. The Piankashaw, Wea, 
and Eel River bands or tribes were also part of the Miami nation. 
When La Salle established his fort at Starved Rock on the Illinois 
River in 1682, some of the Piankashaw gathered there. Seventeen 
years later they were found on the Kankakee River 27 and eventually 
they established themselves along the Wabash River as far south as 
Vincennes. 28 By 1775 they claimed the land on both sides of the 
Wabash and also had villages on the Vermilion River. 29 When Colonel 

ls George Catlin, North American Indians (London, 184.")), II, 98. 

10 George Croghan to William Murray, Weotanan [Ouiatenon], Julv 12, 1765, in The Papers 
of Sir William Johnson (Albany, 1921), XI, 841. 

20 Thomas Forsyth to Ninian Edwards, Fort Clark (Peoria), Julv 31. 1S14, in Collections of 
Stat,- Hist. Soc. Wis., XI, 325. 

21 Catlin, North American Indians, II, 97. 

22 John R. Swanton, The. Indian Tribes of North America (Washington, 1952), 254. Bullet h. 
145 of Bureau of American Ethnology. 

-'■ Manuel Peres to Don Estevan Miro, St. Louis, Feb. 27, 1788, in Lawrence Kinnaird, ed., 
Spain in the Mississippi Valley, 1765-179-j (Washington, 1946-1949), II, 244-245. Ann. Rep. \m. 
Hist. Assoc, 1945. 

24 MS, dated "San Luis de Ylinneses, November 15, 1777," in General Archives of the Indies, 
Seville and pub. in Collections of State Hist. Soc. Wis., XVIII, 366-367. 

25 Journal of Col. George Croghan, in E. B. O'Callaghan, ed., Documents Relative to the 
Colonial History of the State of Netv York (Albany. 1853-1887), VII, 780. 

26 Shea, ed., Early Voyages Up and Down the Mississippi, by Cavelier, St. Cosine, Le Sueur. 
Gravier, and Guignas, 53. 

2T Ibid., 58. 

2S Journal of Col. George Croghan, in O'Callaghan, ed., Documents Relative to the Colonial 
History of the State of New York, VII, 780. 

-"•' Calendar of Virginia State Papers, I, 314. 


Croghan held a conference with the Indians at Ouiatenon, on the 
Wabash, in 1765, he found the area held by Wea, Piankashaw, Kicka- 
poo, and Mascouten. 30 

In the early part of the eighteenth century the Potawatomi moved 
into the Chicago area. They continued to occupy this country and 
were the ones who massacred the garrison of Fort Dearborn in 1812. 31 
An estimate made in 1820 placed the number of Potawatomi living 
in the Chicago neighborhood at about 1000. 32 They were the last large 
group of Indians to leave Illinois. It was not until July 4, 1837, that 
the final contract was let by the government for their removal beyond 
the Mississippi River. 33 

Living in the Rock River country were also the Winnebago. As 
early as 1777 one report placed their village about six miles from the 
Mississippi on the banks of the Rock. Their strength was estimated 
at 150 warriors who were led by a chief called Lepy. 34 The Winne- 
bago inhabited this territory for many years and were in the habit 
of hunting in northwest Illinois. 35 Their principal settlement was 
called Prophetstown and here they were living as late as 1831. 36 

From time to time there were Shawnee groups in Illinois. There 
were Shawnee among the Indians whom LaSalle settled about his fort 
in 1682, but in later years most of them stayed in southern Illinois. 
John J. Audubon found about fifty families encamped at the mouth 
of the Cache River in 1810. They seem to have been on their winter 
hunt. 37 As a rule, the Shawnee 's domain was Tennessee. 

Although the Delaware Indians never were closely associated with 
Illinois, they did pass through this State as they were gradually 
pushed westward. Now and then parties of them were reported liv- 
ing near Vincennes on the Illinois bank of the Wabash. Here, they 
traded their furs. An encampment of forty was found in this vicinity 
in 1818. 3S 

The Ottawa for a time were in northeastern Illinois too. Tbe 
famous chief, Pontiac, was an Ottawa and frequented Illinois until he 
was killed at Cahokia in 1769 by a Kaskaskia Indian. 

30 Journal of Col. George Croghan, in O'Callaghan, ed., Documents Relative to the Colonial 
History of the State of New York, VII, 780. 

31 "Capt. Heald's letter, dated Pittsburg, Oct. 23, 1812, in Niles Register, III, 155 (Nov. 7, 

32 Jedidiah Morse, A Report to the Secretary of War of the Unite States, on Indiana Affairs . . . 
1820 (New Haven, 1822) Appendix, p. 103. 

3 - ; Contract between Lt. E. S. Sibley (for the U. S.) and Christian B. Dodson, July 4, 1837. 
Original document in the Chicago Historical Society. 

34 MS, dated "San Luis De Ylinneses, November 15, 1777" in General Archives of the Indies, 
Seville and pub. in Collections of State Hist. Soc. Wis., XVII 1, 3G5-36G. 

35 J. W. Spencer, Reminiscences of Pioneer Life in the Mississippi Valley, ed. by Milo Milton 
Quaife and pub. as The Early Day of Rock Island and Davenport (Chicago, 1942), 18. Originally 
pub. at Davenport in 1872. 

30 George A. McCall, Letters from the Frontiers (Philadelphia, 1868), 240 (entry of July 1, 

37 John Francis McDermott, ed., "Audubon's 'Journey up the Mississippi,' " Jour. III. State 
Hist. Soc. XXXV, 151-153 (June. 1942). 

38 Marie George Wind ell, ed., "The Road W T est in 1818: The Diary of Henry Vest Bingham," 
Mo. Hist. Rev., XL, ;'>2 (Oct., 1945). 


This Is Illinois 


Illinois is hilly at both ends and flat in the middle, but there is 
much more to it than that. It is about 400 miles long and its northern 
boundary is the same as that of southern Vermont and New Hamp- 
shire ; its tip extends to the latitude of Richmond, Virginia. Here is a 
remarkable range in plants, birds, landscape, and human pursuits 
equalled by that between New England and Virginia. In northern 
Illinois there are white birches, tamarack bogs, and a northern atmos- 
phere much like Wisconsin. Yet in southern Illinois there are cotton- 
fields and cypress swamps, and an appearance much like Kentucky 
and Tennessee. There are western meadowlarks, western wild flowers, 
and western cattle brought here to be fattened on Illinois corn ; and 
on our lakes are sea-birds from the Atlantic Ocean and Labrador. 

In the north near Rockford, on the rolling hills left by the last 
glacier, there is dairying country and the surging acres of the military 
reservation at Camp Grant. Westward in the hilly JoDaviess County 
is Charles Mound, 1,241 feet high, a small mountain in Illinois. Nearby 
are the last battlegrounds of the Sauk and the Fox. Eastward is 
Chicago, tall and grand, with the ocean-like Lake Michigan sparkling 
in the sun. Here are the cultural centers — the universities, the mu- 
seums, zoos, aquarium, planetarium, art galleries, great skyscrapers, 
businesses, and a large foreign-born population. 

On the flat prairie there are coal mines, fields of corn, wheat, oats 
and soybeans, and many hogs and cattle. Along the rivers are the 
fishing towns, and down the flat part of the state are the artificial 
lakes which were built after men found that draining the prairie 
was not always a good thing. 

Here is Springfield, the capital, home of Abraham Lincoln, the 
Prairie President; this is a cultural center in middle Illinois, sur- 
rounded by college towns, as well as by coal mines and big fields of 
corn. Near the congested St. Louis area rise the great flat-topped 
mounds in the midst of other remains of the ancient Cahokia religi- 
ous center where Middle Mississippi People lived in considerable 

On the rising bulk of the Ozark foothills there are neat apple 
and peach orchards that are glorious in spring and scented with ripe- 
ness in late summer. There are the coal mines of Harrisburg and 
Herrin, the fluorspar mines of Rosiclare, the oil wells of south- 
eastern Illinois. Here are the national forests with yellow pines on 
the hilltops, and below the line from St. Louis to Vincennes lies Egypt 
where the Mississippi rolls slowly past the haven for wild geese on 
Horseshoe Lake, past cotton fields, and the green magnolias of Thebes. 
Mockingbirds sing in the old southern city of Cairo, with its south- 
ern traditions and way of life. And beyond is the great junction of 
the Ohio and the Mississippi. 

This is Illinois. Its towns and villages are made up of a varied 
population which has come from many nations of the world, from 
the old New England towns, from the south and the north and the 
far west. And the towns vary with the pursuits of the inhabitants, 
from fruit growing to fishing, from farming to oil wells, from mining 
to educating. Through the state run the highways and country lanes, 
the railroads, and airplanes. This is Illinois. Behind these dioramas 
in the Illinois State Museum lies a part of its story. 



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1 REV. 1954 


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