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Early days of Peoria and Chicago; an address read before the Chicago Historical Society at a quarterly meeting held January 19, 1904 online

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EA?LY DAYS OF PEORIA AND CHICAGO



AN ADDRESS



READ BEFORE THE



CHICAGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY



AT A



QUARTERLY MEETING HELD JANUARY 19, 1904



BY



DAVID MCCUXJI.OCH:




I





* OT



E
*.




EARLY DAYS OFIPEORIA AND CHICAGO-



It was long ago said that one of two things only can
ju'stify the attetmpt of any author to deal anew with annals
already well known; either the writer must be confident
he can tell 'his story in better form than his predecessors,
or he must believe himself able to add new and valuable
{acts. It is, 'however, with no thought that I can do either
of these that I venture to appear before this intelligent
audience; but having recently been engaged in the com-
pilation of a history of my own county which brought to
light many incidents closely associating Chicago and Pe-
oria, as villages almost contemporaneous in their origin,
it occurred to me that it might serve a useful purpose to
collect these incidents for preservation in a more con-
densed form for tihe use of this society. And while the
incident's I shall relate may, in view of the vast amount
of 'historical matter stowed away in your archives, seem
at present of little importance, yet as the rills when col-
lected together make the river, so every little strap of in-
a _,- formation regarding its formative period, although gleaned
from the rural districts, may in time contribute its mite to
the great volume of the (history of this mighty metropolis.
From time immemorial the Illinois River has been
the natural highway between the great lakes and the Mis-
sissippi River. This fact has kept the region about Chi-
m cago and that around Lake Peoria in very close relation-
Ship with each other. Long before any considerable white
population had become domiciled at Chicago there existed
on the west bank of Lake Pimiteoui or Lake Peoria a vil-
lage Which had attained unto such a degree of commercial
importance as to be regarded one of the chief marts of
trade in the Mississippi valley; sending a portion of its
products by the hands of voyageurs by way of the Chicago
v River, thence down the great lakes to the cities located
on the St. Lawrence River. It had a fort, one or two
churches, a horse-mill, a wine-press, and numerous trad-
ing houses, while, near by, its inhabitants had their little
farms, Where they raised wheat, corn, beef and pork, more

13846



than they needed. A portion of their surplus produo
and possibly the larger portion, went by the Illinois Riv
to the settlements on the lower Mississippi. This villa]
had grown out of an admixture of French traders ai
trappers with the Indians, until in the course of time f
French element had become predominant, and it had t
come known as the French Village of Peoria. For
period during the Revolutionary War it was almost who!
abandoned, and upon the return of the inhabitants ?Jt
peace was restored they took up their residences at a n<
village called La Ville de Maillet, which had been plant
about half a league below at the foot of the lake. Tl
new enterprise 'had been started about the year 17/8, i
one Jean Baptist e Maillet, who as early as 1766 is kno\
to have been a resident of the older village. At the c
village there had been an ancient fort, supposed by so<r
to have been erected in the times of La Salle and Ton
but which had fallen into decay and tfiad been burned >
the Indians a few years before. During the Revolution
fort had been erected at the new village, but it had had
short history, for about the year 1778 or 1779 it had be
destroyed by a detachment of soldiers sent from Fc
Mackinac by way of Chicago by De Peyster, the coi
mandant. This was to prevent its becoming a rallyii
point for the "Virginia Long Knives," who had but i
cently subdued the territory.

Chicago had not as yet attained unto any importan
as a village, although it also had 'had a fort supposed
have been erected by the French at some early perk
Yet the Chicago River even at these early times fi:
nished the gateway by which Peorians maintained coi
mercial relations, in a small way, with the merchants ai
traders of the east, who in exchange for their furs, peltri<
honey, beeswax, wheat, corn, wine and salt pork broug
to the great Mississippi valley such kinds of merchandise
were suitable for the aborigines, the French traders, tra
pers and voyageurs, their wives and (possibly 'half-bree
children.

The first authoritative recognition of the relati
importance of the two places is probably that found
the treaty of Greenville, concluded in August, 1795, wher
in, from the great desire of the Indians to provide f
the accommodation of the people of the United States, ai
for that convenience of intercourse which should be ben



ficial to both the 'high contracting parties, the Indians
ceded to the United States sixteen posts or stations form-
ing a chain from Detroit to the mouth of the Illinois River
by way of the great lakes. One of these posts consisted of
a piece of land six miles square at the mouth of the Chi-
cago river, emptying into the southwest end of Lake
Michigan, where a fort 'had formerly stood; another con-
sisted of a piece of land six miles square at "Old Peoria's
Port and Village," near the south end of the Illinois Lake
on the said Illinois River. It was further provided that the
Indian tribes would allow the people of the United States
a free passage by land and water, as one or the other
should be found convenient, through their country along
the chain of posts therein mentioned, particular reference
being made to the route from the mouth of the Chicago
River to the commencement of the portage 'between that
river and the Illinois, and down .the latter to the Mississip-
pi Where the last post was located.

A few years after the close of the Revolutionary War,
by several resolutions and acts of Congress, each person
who had professed himself a citizen of the United States,
or one of them, on or before the year 1783, and had
m'ade improvements upon lands, or who 'had been the head
of a family at that time, should receive a donation of four
hundred acres of land. A commission was afterwards ap-
pointed to receive proof of such claims, who under various
names continued to act in that capacity until the year
1815. Among many others there was one who, by the
name of Poinstalble, Point au Sable, or Point de Saible,
made proof that both before and after the year 1783 he
had resided at Peoria, that he was the head of a family and
tha f he had improved a small farm of about thirty acres
situated between the old Fort and Village and La Ville
de Maillet as early as the year 1780. He was therefore re-
ported as being entitled to two tracts of four hundred
acres each. He must also have proved his citizenship,
else he could not have claimed the land. The printed
report fails to show the number of persons constituting
his family, or what relationship they bore to him. This
man was afterwards found at Chicago, where he has at-
tained unto some celebrity as its first European inhabi-
tant. He must 'have been a man of some versatility of
character, for being of the African race, he could easily
adapt 'himself to his present environments. Being a native

91



of San Domingo, he was by nationality a Spaniard; as
inhabitant of a French village, he had adopted a Frei
name and possibly passed as a French negro ; when oc
sion presented itself, 'he 'became an American citizen, a
if reports be true would, if he could, have become a Pol
wattamie chief. At what time he made his appearance
Chicago is a point upon which writers differ, some putt:
it before 1780, at wihich time he is proved to have been
Peoria, and some at a later date. In May, 1790, <
Hugh Heyward (a copy of whose journal is in the poss
sion of this society), made a trip to the Illinois counl
reaching the Chicago River on the loth of that mon
where he found Point de Saible living on the sands,
his journal of the day following he says : "Slept at PC
Sables with the canoes and 'began to hull corn and b;
bread; arranged everything for the next morning, '.
the canots (canoes) at Point Sables and took his porog
bought of him 41 Ibs flour and baked in bread 25 & 29
pork at 2-8, the whole amounting to 5 pounds 10 s
paid him with 13 yds 4 - 4 cotton." According to t
account Point de Saible must have been a trader, selli
farm produce to the voyageurs and purchasing dry goc
from them in return. The prices seem to have been bet
in those days than on the Board of Trade of to-day, e\
in times of a corner in wheat or pork.

Heyward proceeded on his journey by way of
portage and the Illinois River to Peoria, where he fot
a few Frenchmen living among the Indians, one of wh<
was Captain May, doubtless Jean Baptiste Maillet, wh<
name in French is said to have a sound much resembli
May or Mai. He had derived his title as Captain from
having had command of a company of French mill
raised at Peoria during or after the war, for which send
he was afterwards awarded a donation of one hundi
acres of land.

The name approaches so near that of Le Mai, \v
succeeded Point de Saible at Chicago, as to raise I
probability of some relationship existing between the
As there appear to have been more than one of the Mail
family, it is not beyond the reach of probability that the
Mai of Chicago may also have sprung from a family livi
at old Peoria, where the name appears as early as 1761.

Another prominent citizen of La Ville de Maillet v
Thomas Forsyth, a half brother, and at one time, parti



in business with John Kinzie, who is looked upon as the
real founder of Chicago. In the Indian troubles preceding
and during the early stages of 'the war of 1812 he was the
Government Agent at Peoria, and was the secret and con-
fidential adviser of Governor Edwards in his dealings with
the Indians at and about Peoria Lake. After the massacre
of the garrison of Fort Dearborn, Thomas Forsyth, as-
sisted by Black Partridge and other friendly Indians, ren-
dered valuable services in rescuing Lieutenant Helm from
his captivity. In the month of October, following, and
probably at the very time he was rendering this assistance,
Governor Edwards led an expedition across the prairies
from Camp Russell, near Edwardsville, to the head of Lake
Peoria, and there destroyed Black Partridge's village. As
part of the same expedition, one Captain Thomas E. Craig,
with a force of men, ascended the Illinois River by boats
to Peoria, and there, mistaking the reserved attitude of
Forsyth and the Frenchmen for one of hostility to the
Government, in a very brutal and wanton manner, de-
stroyed about one-half of the village and carried away
captive Forsyth an'd all the inhabitants that were found.
Forsyth afterwards rendered valuable service as Agent of
the Government among the Indians on the upper Miss-
issippi, and still later took up his residence in St. Louis,
where he continued to reside during the remainder of
his life, and where his descendants may yet be found among
the most respected citizens of that city.

During the summer of Uhe year 1813, a second expedi-
tion was sent against the Indians about Peoria, which re-
sulted in the destruction by the Indians of what had been
left of La Ville de Maillet, and the erection upon its site
of an American fort, called Fort Clark, the third, if not the
fourth, fort erected at that place. From that time for
many years the place was called Fort Clark, and the coun-
try around it was called the Fort Clark Country.

Another person of note who, before as well as after its
destruction, was a resident of La Ville de Maillet, was
Antoine des Champs, who for many years was the trusted
agent of the American Fur Company. He is first found
exercising the duties of the office of Justice of the Peace of
the Indiana Territory at Peoria in the year 1802. He had
been educated for the priesthood, but refusing to be or-
dained, had engaged hirriself to a Mr. Sara,* a fur trader
of St. Louis, and had devoted many years of his life to that



trade on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. A deed fi
land is yet extant wherein Jean Baptiste Maillet conve;
to Isaac Darneille, the gallant attorney whom Govern*
Reynolds has immortalized, his two donations of four hu:
dred acres each adjoining the village where they both live
which deed was proved before Antoine des Champs as Ju
tice of the Peace. As there was in its later years no prie
at the village, he was often called upon as Justice of tl
Peace to perform the marriage ceremony, which held goc
until the newly-married couple should have gone to C
hokia, or some other southern settlement, to partake
the communion, at which time 'the holy sacrament of ma
riage would be solemnized by the priest before the eel
bration of the communion. About the year 1818 Antoii
des Champs entered the service of the American Fur Cor
pany, and was placed in charge of the Illinois brigade i
outfit. Being about to take a trip to St. Louis to pu
chase tobacco and other supplies for distribution amor
the traders on the Illinois River, he took with him Gurdc
S. Hubbard, of Chicago, who was then a youth of sixte*
years. On this trip he established several trading pos
along the river, one of which was located at what is knov
as Wesley City, about three miles below the city of Peori
This locality 'had for many years been called Opa, su
posed to be from au pied, the French word for the foot
outlet of the lake. As it was the first trading post esta
lished in this vicinity since the destruction of La Ville <
Maillet, it may not be out of place to quote what Mr. Hu
bard says of it in his autobiography :

"Our next post," he says, "was located about thr
miles below Lake Peoria, and about sixty miles fro
Bureau, and was placed in charge of old Mr. Beason,
venerable man who had long been a trader on the riv<
and who was well and favorably known by the Indiar
This we called Opa Post.

"As we rounded the point of the lake a)bove Peoi
we discovered that old Fort Clark was on fire, and up<
reaching it we found Indians, to the number of about tv
hundred, engaged in a war dance. They were hideous
painted and had scalps on their spears and sashes, whii
they had taken from Americans during the war with Gre
Britain, from 1812 to 1815." While des Champs was hoi
ing an interview with the Indians away from the boat, Hu
bard was grossly insulted by a young brave, which car
near costing one or the other of them his life.



'_ navmg compicieu men 'uusmcss cti jn, J-,<_M-U, uca
Champs and his party started on their return about the
2Oth day of November, 1818, and after stopping at Opa
Post, reached Bureau Station, opposite the present city
of Hennepin, about the middle of December. Remaining
there until the middle of March, 1819, they started for
Mackinac, where they arrived in the month of May. It
was while they were on this return journey, and on April
15, 1819, the first permanent American settlers arrived at
Fort Clark, now the city of Peoria. The first two of the
party of seven came on horseback, the others by boat.
Arriving at Fort Clark, a deserter from Fort Dearborn
came, gliding by in Ms canoe. Taking passage with him,
one of the first arrivals accompanied him until he met
with the remainder of 'his own party, with whom he re-
turned to the fort.

The individual cases already mentioned were but the
harbingers of the great populations which were soon to
flow in and take possession of the broad prairie lands and
waterways of Illinois, now the abodes of millions of indus-
trious, frugal and intelligent people. Looking backwards
from our present point of view, one might suppose the
roots of our civil institutions were to be found in. the
Eastern States, from which so large a percentage of the
present population of this great city have immigrated.
It requires but a moment's reflection, however, to become
convinced that for this branch of our history we must look
southward.

About the time when the first American set-
tlers came to Fort Clark, as the locality was then
called, ^Illinois was admitted into the Union of the
States., j It would be useless to follow the course of events
which first included both Peoria and Chicago within the
county of "Illinois" under the Government of Virginia, the
county of "St. Clair" under the Indiana Territory, or the
county of "Madison" under the Illinois Territory, for, al-
though the sites of these cities were located within those
counties at one time or another, yet, inasmuch as there
were few people here to enjoy the benefits or be subject
to the restrictions of civil government, it could make little
difference whether or not there existed any civil govern-
ment. It may be noted, however, that upon the organiza-
tion of the Illinois Territory, in 1809, Antoine des Champs,
of Peoria, was reappointed Justice of the Peace of St. Clair
County.

95



I

By Act of the Legislature of 1821, the county of Pike-
was erected out of and embracing all the territory lyinf
west and north of the Illinois and Kankakee Riven, ex-
tending to the Wisconsin State line. For the two yean
during which Peoria and Chicago were under the jurisdic-
tion of Pike County, the following persons held the respec-
tive offices, namely : Abram Buck, Judge of the Probatt
Court, commissioned February 12, 1821, resigned and wa|
succeeded February 15, 1823. by William Ross, at the time
of the organization of Fulton County. At an election held
April 20, 1821, Leonard Ross, John Shaw and William
Ward were elected County Commissioners, Bigelow C.
Fenton, Sheriff, and Daniel Whipplc, Coroner. At the
general election held August 5, 1822, James Sibley, David
Dalton and Ossian M. Ross were elected County Commis-
sioners, Leonard Ross, Sheriff, and Daniel Whipple, Cor-
oner. During the same period the following named per*
sons were appointed and received commissions as Justices
of the Peace of the new county: Abner Eads, of Peoria;
John Shaw, Daniel Whipple, William Ross. Henry Tupper,
Leonard Ross. William Ward, who were commissioned at
the organization of the county. February 3. 1821 ; Eben-
ezer Smith, Stephen Dewey, commissioned May 26, 1821 ;
John Bolter, on November 29, 1821 ; Charles B. Rouse,
January 22, 1822, and Amos Bancroft, May 22, 1822. These
men wielded civil jurisdiction over that vast territory em-
bracing one-third of the State, but as yet, so far as known,
Chicago had no representative in the civil government,
and Peoria had but one, in the person of Abner Eads, one
of her first settlers.

It is a matter of importance to notice at this point
that by this same Legislature of 1821, the county of San-
g-amon was erected, embracing within its boundaries all
the territory north of its present boundaries and between
the Third Principal Meridian and the Illinois River, a por-
tion of which afterwards became attached to the county
of Peoria.

By an Act of the Legislature of January 23, 1823, the
county of Fulton was carved out of the county of Pike, with
boundaries somewhat larger than its present limits, but
it was provided that all the rest and residue of the attached
county of Pike lying east of the Fourth Principal Meridian
should be attached to and be a part of said county of I-
ton, until otherwise disposed of by the General Assembly.



This attachment brought all the territory north of Fulton
County and east of the Fourth Principal Meridian, and
north and west of the Illinois and Kankakce Rivers, within
the jurisdiction of Fulton County, all west of the Fourth
Principal Meridian remaining attached to Pike County
as before. Hugh R. Coulter was appointed Judge of the
Probate Court, and, at an election held near the site of
the present city of Lewiston, on April 14,1823, John Mof-
fatt David W. Barnes and Thomas R. Covell were chosen
County Commissioners, Abner Eads, of Peoria, Sheriff,
and William Clark, Coroner. These were succeeded in
August, 1824, by James Gardner, James Barnes and David
W. Barnes, as County Commissioners, Ossian M. Ross,
Sheriff, and Joseph Moffatt, Coroner. At the organization
of the county, January 23, 1823, John Hamiin, of Peoria,
Samuel Fulton, Stephen Chase, Hugh R. Coulter, on June
17, 1823, Amhurst C. Hanson and William Eads, and on
December 2, 1823, John Kinzie, of Chicago, were appoint-
ed and commissioned as Justices of the Peace. John Kin-
zie seems to have been the first civil officer in Chicago.
By these men were our local affairs administered during
the period that both Peoria and Chicago were under the
jurisdiction of Fulton County.

During this period some personal incidents worthy
of notice, as illustrative of the times, transpired. In 1823
one Elijah Wentworth. formerly of the State of Maine,
came to Fulton County and settled near where Lewiston
now is. He had three sons. Hiram. Elijah and George, and
four daughters, Lucy, Eliza (Polly), Sophia and Susan.
The father was a shoemaker, his sons farmers, while his
wife and daughters carried on an extensive business in
Hie manufacture of buckskin gloves and mittens, and buck-
eye and straw hats, with which they supplied not only the
local market, but sold gloves and hats at Peoria, Spring-
field and other distant markets.

Among the earliest settlers of Fort Dark were David
W. Barnes, before mentioned as an office-holder, and two
brothers, named Charles and Theodore Sargent, who all
took up their residences near the present city of Canton.
When Theodore got ready for a wife, he sought an inter-
yiew with Dame Wentworth, and having made known the
object of his visit, as he himself related it, "The old lady
me over with the air of a judge of the article she
ited and began her catechism by asking me what I fol-




lowed, my age, and where I was from. I told her I was
twenty-nine years old, and had been five years a soldier,
and thought I could manage a wife ; that I was from Barnes
settlement, was opening a farm, and wanted a gal to help
me pull through the start. The old lady shook her head
and informed me that I would not suit her gals, as she had
made up her mind they would marry store-keepers. I
told her that if that was the case, I reckoned her gals
would not suit me, as I wanted one that could pull with me
at the start/' He then went off and married Rachel
Brown, the ceremony being performed by his friend Barnes
as County Commissioner, which is the only instance met
with of a marriage ceremony being performed by an incum-
bent of that office.

Piqued at the treatment their friend Sargent had re-
ceived, the young men of the neighbofhood formed a con-
spiracy against Dame Wentworth, and as there was a man
named Clark who occasionally came through the country
on horseback, peddling needles, thread and other small
wares in a sack, dividing his stock into equal portions
and balancing it over his saddle, it was determined to put
him upon the scent of the Wentworth girls. The sugges-
tion was to his taste, and having visited the mother and
informed her that he resided in Peoria, and sold goods for
a livelihood, the bargain was struck, and he soon after-
wards married the daughter Polly. It is possible that the
name Eliza is erroneously given above, for it appears from
the records of Fulton County that on February 22, 1825,
William C. Clark and Polly Wentworth were united in mar-
riage by Ossian M. Ross, a Justice of the Peace, while the
name of Mary Clark appears as a member of one of the
early Methodist classes of Peoria, where William Clark
appears to have been a man of some prominence, he hav-
ing been elected Coroner at the first election of Fulton
County.

In 1827 Mr. Wentworth and his family (except Hiram
and the married daughter) moved to Chicago. They left
Lewistown with two two-horse wagons, stopped over night
at the house of Ossian M. Ross, near Canton, after which
they saw no white people until they reached Peoria, none
from Peoria to Ottawa, and none from Ottawa to Chicago.
Being devout Methodists, they helped in the organization of
churches of that denomination both in Fulton County and
in Chicago, where doubtless their names may be found

98



among the pioneer settlers. Elijah Wentworth afterwards
related that when he reached Chicago there were not more
than ten or twelve families residing there, outside the
garrison at Fort Dearborn. He located on an eighty- acre
tract about four miles from the lake to avoid the swamps.
His daughters bought deer skins from the Indians, and
resumed the manufacture of gloves and mittens. This was
probably the pioneer manufactory of hats, gloves and mit-
tens at Chicago.

Early in the year 1823, William S. Hamilton, a son


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Online LibraryDavid McCullochEarly days of Peoria and Chicago; an address read before the Chicago Historical Society at a quarterly meeting held January 19, 1904 → online text (page 1 of 3)