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tinued the expedition up the St. Joseph, through the Kankakee,
into the Illinois river, and to the great Indian village, La Van-
turn. This, however, he found entirely abandoned.

On January 4, 1680, La Salle came to Peoria lake, and
on it he found a village of the Peoria Indians. The conduct
of these Indians, and the fact that six of his men had deserted,
caused him to erect a fort in this neighborhood, which, for
obvious reasons, he called "Crevecoeur" "Heavy Heart."
From every side misfortune befell him. His patience and
endurance were submitted to the severest tests. The first thing
he learned after his arrival among the Peorias was that his
creditors had seized his possessions in Canada, and that the
" Griffon," which he had daily expected with almost indispens-
able supplies, had been sunk. To arrange his affairs at home,
La Salle had to hurry thither as quickly as possible hurry in
winter, with the rivers and lakes covered with ice, a distance
of over a thousand miles.

His trusty friend, Tonti, with a part of the men, he left in
the new fort ; another party he sent down the Mississippi with
Father Hennepin and one Indian, and four Frenchmen he took
with him to Canada. He started March ist, reached the St.
Joseph river March 24th and Fort Frontenac, his home, on May


6th, having accomplished this terribly trying journey in 65 days.
While La Salle in the north was moving heaven and earth
to straighten out his affairs and to obtain new means for his
various enterprises, a fateful tragedy occurred at Fort Heavy
Heart. On his way to La Vantum, La Salle had noticed a


great rock on the Illinois river (eight miles from the present
city of Ottawa), where later the Illini were overcome by their
terrible fate. Since that time it has been known as " Starved
Rock." It is an erratic block, 135 feet high, completely


isolated, and with an upper surface of three-fourths of an acre.
It is absolutely inaccessible, except by one small, steep path on
the eastern side.

Appreciating the strategic importance of this point, La
Salle, on his departure, commissioned Tonti to erect a fort on
top of the rock. Tonti, jointly with the missionaries, Membre
and Ribourde, and three other Frenchmen, immediately set to
work, leaving the rest of the men with the provisions, ammuni-
tion and other supplies at Fort " Heavy Heart." To his great
amazement, Tonti discovered a few days afterwards that the
fort had been plundered and destroyed by its own garrison,
and that the latter had fled. He immediately dispatched two
messengers to inform La Salle of this new misfortune, and
with the few men who had remained faithful to him retired to
La Vantum, where he spent the summer. The two messen-
gers on the way north learned that the deserters had also ran-
sacked Fort Miami and the large fur depots at Mackinac, but
succeeded in advising La Salle in time for him to capture the
insurgents after killing two of them. The remainder were
sent to Quebec, where they were properly punished.

Alarmed at the possible fate of his friend Tonti, La Salle,
August loth, 1680, with a force of twenty picked men,
once more started on a trip to the Illinois country. Exactly a
month later the blood-thirsty Iroquois again made a raid on
the peaceful Illini in La Vantum, and during this attack the
flourishing settlement was entirely destroyed, 1,200 of the Illini
massacred, and the remainder driven across the Mississippi.
Even the burying ground of their victims was not spared. The
hostile Iroquois dug up the dead, scattered the bones on the
ground and stuck the skulls up on long poles. Tonti and his
men fled, but during their escape Father Ribourde was mur-
dered by a Kickapoo. Completely exhausted, they finally
found shelter among the Pottawatomies.

It was the 4th of November when La Salle reached the
mouth of the St. Joseph and learned from the Miamis the sad


fate of affairs. Crevecoeur, whither he next went, was a scene
of the cruelest devastation, with wolves battling with each
other over the unburied bodies of the slain. Hoping to find
traces of Tonti, La Salle went down to the mouth of the Illi-
nois. In vain. On a tree he fastened a letter for his missing
friend, and near by left a canoe, some furs and an axe, and
then turned back to Fort Miami, which he reached January 31,
1 68 1. The rest of the winter he spent in allying to himself
the Indians of the region, and on the 25 of May, having learned
from a Pottowatomie that Tonti was still alive, hastened to
Mackinac, where the two friends met again.

La Salle had reason enough to rejoice, for the dangers and
difficulties which beset his undertakings were scarcely to be
overcome and he more than ever needed the services of
the cautious but energetic Tonti. As bad news came
from Fort Frontenac the two straightway returned to
Canada. Of course it was money that had caused the trouble
old debts that La Salle had contracted to further his
scheme. With the aid of Governor Frontenac and rich rela-
tives La Salle again extricated himself from his difficulties and
even succeeded in raising means for another expedition to the
goal of his ambition the Gulf of Mexico. It consisted of
twenty-three Frenchmen, eighteen Indians, ten squaws and
three papooses and on December 23, 1681 they sailed off in
Indian canoes. Their first destination was the Chekogoua
river (as it is spelled in a report of La Salle) where Tonti
with seven men had already gone.

The title "Chekogoua" river is here applied to the Calu-
met and in the early days it was very often, not only in verbal
intercourse, but even in writings and on maps applied with the
most varied orthography, to the St. Joseph, Des Plaines and
Illinois rivers. On the oldest maps the present Chicago river
does not appear at all and in later years is given simply as a
canal. No especial importance was ever attached to it by the
poineers. The origin of the name can be only conjectured.


By " Getchi-ka-go " the Illini meant something big and strong,
by "Shecaugo," pleasant water; in the dialect of the Potta-
watomies "Choc-ca-go" signified a desert; the Chippewas
called the skunk "Shegog" and the wild skunkweed "She-
gougawinze," and in many of the writings of the second half
of the eighteenth century we find the expression " Chicagou,
or Garlic creek." One can therefore attach such significance
to the name " Chicago " as suits his own fancy. The fact,
however, that in former times, there were in this vicinity great
quantities of wild skunkweed (allium ursinum) would suggest
that the Indian probably called the stream " Schegog " river
(skunk river) on this account. The Calumet in those days
formed the chief means of communication between Lake
Michigan and the Illinois and Mississipi rivers, but sometimes,
depending on the state of the weather, the time of the year and
the amount of water in the streams, the St. Joseph or the present
Chicago river was chosen. The chief thing to consider was
always the " portage," that is, the places where on account of
the interruption of the navigable waters, both boat and con-
tents had to be carried.

But let us return to our Argonauts who had been rowing
down the Des Plaines to the Illinois river and on this, past
many devastated Indian villages to its confluence w y ith the
Mississippi, at which point they landed February 6, 1682.

At first detained by ice and later by his many sojourns in
Indian villages along the route, La Salle finally passed the
mouth of the Arkansas March 12, and at last on April 7,
had the joy of reaching the valiantly and persistently fought
for goal of his hopes and ambitions the Gulf of Mexico.
Amid the singing of the Te Deum and huzzas for the king of
France, all of which sounded strangely enough in the magni-
ficent wilderness, a pillar was erected bearing the French
arms, and La Salle, " by virtue of his right as discoverer and
with the consent of the natives," took formal possession of the
spot on which he had landed (in the region which Hennepin


at an earlier period had named Louisiana in honor of
Louis XIV) as well as of "all the territories and provinces
lying along the shores of the Mississippi and of the cities,
mines and fisheries therein contained," from the Alleghanies
to the Rocky mountains. (*)

The next work for La Salle was to properly fortify the
newly discovered country. But here again he had to meet
his old difficulties and indeed in increased measure. His
means and the greatness of his undertakings were in pitiful
contrast. The Canadian merchants feared that his increasing
influence would prove injurious to their interests and sought to
injure him. His creditors were clamorous as ever and to fill
the measure of his misfortune his friend Frontenac, through
the influence of the Canadian Jesuits, was relieved of his posi-
tion as governor and replaced by De La Barre a man any-
thing but kindly disposed toward La Salle.

Two days after taking possession of Louisiana La Salle
started on his homeward journey. In December of the same
year he had reached that great rock in the neighborhood of
La Vantum whose intended fortification had brought such dis-
aster to poor Tonti. Now, however, the scene was joyously
animated; a strange, gay picture presented itself to the view
of the returning voyager. The great rock was properly for-
tified and called Fort St. Louis. Under its protection the
chief tribes of the Indians who had allied themselves with the
French had again assembled. To the south of the fort were
the Illini, numbering 7,000 souls; about 2,000 Miamis had
chosen a dwelling place on the neighboring " Buffalo " island
on the north side of the river; to the east were 200 Shawnees
and 600 Pickashaws in all not less than 3,880 Indian war-
riors were gathered around the fortress. In addition there

* This event, so fateful in the historical development of our country, gave the
French possession of the greatest and most important part of the New World, and took
place scarcely six months after that great marauder. Lfiuis XIV, had surprised the rich
and beautiful city of Strassburg in the midst of peace and wrenched it from the German
empire, and at the same time that his allies, the Turks, were marching on, plundering
and burning as they went, to attack the \valls of Vienna.

2 9

was the usual large number of camp followers and hangers on,
who, despite their white skins, did not constitute the best ele-
ment in the new settlement. Many of these men had become
wholly savage, both in body and mind, as far as appearances
went scarcely to be distinguished from the most neglected of
the red skins and in their moral conduct far worse. Some,
however, were honest fellows, skilled in hunting and trapping,
or industrious farmers or mechanics, who carried on their var-
ious trades and so put upon the little community springing up
in the far west, the stamp of European civilization. Here
were the primitive elements for a future great city and the
brave explorer and leader seemed at last to have a fair pros-
pect of carrying out his bold plans. Very many western
cities and future great cities were, scarcely more than a
generation ago, in a worse condition than Fort St. Louis. The
best understanding existed between La Salle and his Indians.
He afforded them effective protection and labored to instruct
and elevate them. They, on the other hand, made his
profitable fur trade possible, exchanging all kinds of skins for
weapons, ammunition, calico, agricultural implements, trinkets
for the women and other supplies. The summer which La
Salle spent in the colony which he himself had founded formed
the few days of real happiness which he had enjoyed since the
time when, as a youth, his heart full of high hopes, he had first
touched the soil of the New World. Toward fall however his
troubles returned.

First the necessary supplies from the north ceased and then
his agents there were prevented from returning to the colony
and it was again molested by the Iroquois. His land-grant
Frontenac was seized upon by the provincial government
under some vain pretext, and finally, to add the last drop to
the cup of his unhappiness, La Salle was deprived of his com-
mand of Fort St. Louis, that child born of his sorrows, and
one Chevalier de Beaugis made commandant leaving the
intrepid explorer, dishonored, robbed, homeless. It was the

before mentioned Governor De La Barre who was responsible
for this foul blot on the page of French history in America.
That his trusted friend Tonti was allowed to remain in the
colony was the only circumstance to lighten the sorrow of La
Salle's leave-taking. Woodland and meadow were covered
by the gray mists of autumn when the sore-tried man cast his
last glance upon the young creation of his unselfish energy.

In the spring of 1684 La Salle was again in Paris.
After having again triumphed over his enemies he busied
himself with preparations on a large scale for a new expedi-
tion to America. Four ships were equipped and manned with
100 soldiers; mechanics and common laborers flocked to La
Salle, and even a few dozen bankrupt nobles and speculators
joined his standard. Their destination was the mouth of the
Mississippi. A naval officer named Beaujeu commanded the
squadron. But even on the voyage across the ocean some
serious misunderstandings arose between this man and La
Salle. When entering Matagorda bay in the Gulf of Mexico
one of the vessels containing the most valuable and indispen-
sible supplies and implements foundered with its whole cargo.
Many of the men believed that this catastrophe was simply an
act of revenge on the part of Beaujeu. The expedition had got
about 600 miles too far west and La Salle made a fatal error
in taking Matagorda bay as a western outlet of the Mississippi.
After several fruitless endeavors to find the great river
Beaujeu set sail with his squadron for home, leaving La Salle
and the colonists on the Texan coast. The privations and
miseries of the new comers increased from day to day. From
day to day it was more difficult for La Salle to maintain
discipline. With a courage born of despair he tried for two
years to find the mouth of the Mississippi in order to obtain
from Canada succor for his starving immigrants. It was in
March, 1687, that, during one of his searching expeditions he
got in a western outlet of the Trinity river, about the present
site of Galveston, and here the bold explorer was overtaken by

his tragic fate. He was murdered from ambush by one of
his own men. Shot through the head he silently breathed his
last, but his death marks the beginning of the end of the
French rule in the New World. His contemporaries had
neither the sense to appreciate nor the ability to maintain the
advantages which his venturesome spirit and marvelous energy
had gained for his fatherland. Besides, that crowned robber,
Louis XIV and his ministers, were at that time too much
busied with plundering Europe to form an idea of developing
the immeasurable resources of the New World, the full extent
of which they had not even a vague notion. The famous
devastation of the Palatinate by the French commenced about
two years after La Salle's assassination and from that time on
for fully eight years, they were occupied with the work of
destruction in Germany. Then up to I7J4 the war of the
Spanish succession prevented Louis from interesting himself
in the works of peace in his trans- Atlantic possessions. Thus
it was that the French never brought any of La Salle's far-
reaching plans into reality.

About the same time that La Salle arrived in Paris on his
last trip, the Iroquois, 2,000 strong, appeared before his rocky
fortress on the Illinois river. But the stronghold proved to be
a complete success and Tonti, after six days of seige, punished
the hostile redskins so thoroughly that they never had any
desire to return.

In the year 1686, while La Salle was wandering along the
Texan coast seeking the mouth of the Mississippi, Tonti,
apprehensive for his friend's fate, organized an expedition for
the Gulf of Mexico, but had to come back without accomplish-
ing anything. Returning to the fort he learned of the sad
death of La Salle, whereupon he again went south, visited the
scene of the tragedy and provided for the helpless immi-
grants. Later with fifty of his own men and 200 Indians
Tonti made a successful campaign against the Iroquois in
Canada. His return from there to the fort caused quite a


change in the life and activity of the colonists, inasmuch as the
families of many of the soldiers, hunters and traders came
with him to join the settlement around the fort Their arrival
was the signal for an almost endless jollification and formed
the beginning of the development of family life in the new
community. This does not signify however that the new
commonwealth distinguished itself as a model of morals and
manners. Quite the contrary. After the inhabitants were
freed from the fear of the Iroquois, they, whites as well as
Indians, gave themselves up to unbounded excesses. The great
mistake of the French leaders was that they neglected to
create a solid moral and material basis for the colony by
fostering agriculture and industry. It was impossible also to
keep from the colony a class of people who had left their
country only for their country's good and whose intercourse
with the Indians acted like the breath of a pestilence. Upon
the redskins the missionaries after all never gained much hold
in spite of untold efforts and terrible privations. On the whole
the Indian has very little talent for Christianity and when he
allowed himself to be "converted" he did so largely "for
revenue only." The copper-colored aborigines were far
more partial to the fire-water of the French traders than to
the holy water of the French priests. All these circum-
stances acted against the healthy development of the young
community ; it was a scrofulous condition of affairs.

What a difference between this French colony and that
founded by Pastorius in Germantown at almost exactly the
same time ! From the first the Pennsylvania settlement was a
model of industry, good order, earnest endeavor and excellent
morals. Not that its founders rested on beds of roses, for
Pastorius himself writes that " enough can neither be written
nor believed by our more favored descendants, of the extent
of the poverty and destitution in which this Germantownship
was founded by colonists, distinguished alike for their Christian
frugality and indefatigable industry."

3 33

The German settlement received at the beginning a town-
ship organization and judiciary. Property rights were strictly
regulated and official records kept. Agriculture, viticulture
and various industries were developed, and in 1691 the first
paper mill in America was established there. There, also, at
this early period the first agitation against slavery in this
country was inaugurated, an event which John G. Whittier
extolled in his poem, "The Pennsylvania Pilgrim." In a
comparison between the development of Germantown and Fort
St. Louis lies the explanation of the historical fact that while
the Germans have come to be an important element in the
New World, the French influence was only transitory and
local, and left no perceptible stamp on the national develop-
ment, neither socially nor politically.

In 1702 Fort St. Louis, the population of which had given
itself up to a happy-go-lucky mode of existence, was abandoned
by the Canadian government. Poor Tonti lost his position
and possessions, but afterwards participated in the colonization
of Louisiana and died a poor pauper in a little settlement on
Mobile bay. Fort St. Louis existed, but only as a trading
post, until 1718, when it was totally destroyed by the Indians
of the vicinity. It is interesting to note that the savages gave
as an excuse for this act the statement that the French had
become intolerably immoral. Intolerance from a moral point
of view and supersensitiveness were never prominent charac-
teristics of the Indian nature. Their peculiar act and more
peculiar explanation, therefore, form a valuable commentary
on the methods of life then and there prevailing. As a whole
the Illini lost more than they gained by their intercourse with
the French, and the brandy introduced by the latter had as
demoralizing an effect as opium exerts on the Chinese.
Effeminated and morally corrupted, these Indian associates of
the French soon became unable to defend themselves against
their robust enemies in the north and east; most of them,
therefore, went south, down the Mississippi, where they


dissolved their tribal relations, and, to a large extent, were lost
sight of. Those that remained in their old country, the last of
their tribe, were the victims of a cruel fate. Under the pre-
text of their having been implicated in the murder of the
Ottawa chief, Pontiac, whose death was probably instigated
by the English, the remnant of the Illini was surprised by his
tribe (1769) and driven to their old settlement at La Vantum,
where a bloody engagement took place. Beaten here, they
fell back, under cover of a stormy night, to the isolated rock
where once stood La Salle's formidable Fort St. Louis. Here
they sustained a twelve days' seige, at the end of which their
provisions were completely exhausted. Then those who still
felt strength enough for the ordeal left their rocky eyrie to
sell their lives as dearly as possible. They were slaughtered
to the last man. With a wild war-whoop the cruel enemy,
after this bath of blood, hurried up the rock, where the mad
carnage began anew. Pitilessly the tomahawk flew through
the air and fell upon the heads of the poor victims who, sick
and exhausted, had remained behind. Only one, an Indian
half-breed, escaped from the terrible butchery. Such was the
end of this once numerous and powerful tribe, which has given
our state its name, and which not only always kept faith with
the white pioneers, but even helped them in their enterprises.
Verily they merited a better fate the poor Illini.

After the peace of Ryswick (1697), which put an end to
his plundering and devastation in Europe, Louis XIV again
found leisure to cultivate his trans- Atlantic colonies. He es-
tablished a fort in Louisiana, but its existence was precarious.
First, the garrison and settlers were attacked by yellow fever,
and later, on account of being fully occupied with the war of
the Spanish succession, Louis found himself unable to assist his
Mississippi fort. In consequence of this the French saw
themselves obliged to govern Louisiana independently of
Canada, or, more properly speaking, to turn their southern
possessions over to the tender mercies of a set of tax


gatherers different from those who bled the colonists elsewhere.
Boomers began to turn their attention to the valley of
the lower Mississippi, which they expected to find a land
of fabulous wealth. The Scotchman, John Law, to whom
the inflationists and silver cranks ought long ago to have
reared a monument; that prince of financial jugglers and
speculators, who, by his bank of issue, contributed so much to
the financial and moral ruin of France in the reign of Louis-
XV, established the India company (Compagnie de 1'Inde),
which leased from the French government the exclusive right.
to "govern" and tax the provinces of Louisiana and Illinois,
acquired the monopoly of the tobacco, slave, East India, China
and South Sea Island trade, and procured the sole privilege of
refining gold and silver. Under the influence of this rich and
powerful company, and especially under the bold schemer Law,
there began in the colonies on the Gulf, the Mississippi and in
Illinois, an activity that was lively in spite of being unhealthy,
forced and tainted with fraud. In 1718 New Orleans was
founded and near Kaskaskia, in the Mississippi bottom, Fort
Chartres, and this post, around which a flourishing, industrious
and, considering the times, even fashionable little city devel-
oped, was henceforth the seat of the French government in
Illinois. In that year not less than 800 immigrants landed at
the mouth of the Mississippi and from then on they came at
regular intervals and in great numbers. Many negro slaves
were also brought to the new colonies. In i7 22 > in Cahokia,
as well as in Kaskaskia, mills, factories and stores were erected.
In Kaskaskia a stone church and a stone dwelling house for
the Jesuits were erected. The settlement of the whole terri-
tory from New Orleans to Kaskaskia was so rapid that its

Online LibraryEugen SeegerChicago, the wonder city → online text (page 3 of 33)