George Washington Smith.

A history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) online

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Indian once occupied this territory.



Four European nations established well merited claims to territory
in the northern continent of the New World. These were in order,
Spain, England, France and Holland. These nations of western Europe
all followed up their original discoveries and eventually formed perma-
nent settlements and established their civilization in the territory thus


The English based their claim to territory in the New World upon
the supposed discovery of two Italian seamen, John and Sebastian Ca-



bot, who were at the time in the employ of Henry VII. These discover-
ers are supposed to have traced the Atlantic coast from New Foundland
to the Carolinas. It was upon these discoveries by the Cabots that Eng-
land based her claim to that part of North America which lay inland




from the coast thus traced. Thus Illinois is in the territory claimed by.
England, and in the Charter of 1607, granted by James 1 of England,
Illinois was included in the territory belonging to the London Company.
In later years the English kings granted strips across the entire conti-
nent, known as "sea to sea" grants. It thus came about that Illinois fell
in the grant to Virginia in 1609, and a portion of the state as it is today
fell in the grant to Connecticut, and a portion to Massachusetts.

The Spaniards settled the Floridas, Texas, Mexico, and Central and
South America. They discovered the lower part of the Mississippi river
under the leadership of Ferdinand DeSoto in 1541. The Spanish held
all west of the Mississippi as a trust for France from 1762 to 1800, when
it was ceded back to France, who sold it to us in 1803. During this pe-
riod Illinois was held by England and the United States.

The Dutch occupied the Hudson river valley as early as 1613 and
eventually became a prosperous and contented people. They were con-
quered by the English in 1664 and from that date forward we hear
nothing of the Dutch in America except as individuals or families here
and there.

But the French settled in the valley of the St. Lawrence and in the
region of the Great Lakes, and their relation to the early history of Illi-
nois is very important indeed. In the year 1534 Cartier came into the
St. Lawrence, and in 1541 attempted a settlement where afterward the
city of Quebec was located. But the rigor of a Canadian winter was too
severe for the French and the attempt was abandoned in the spring of
1541. We hear nothing more of the French in the valley of the St. Law-
rence until the coming of Champlain in 1608. In that year or the next
the foundations of the future city of Quebec were laid.

Champlain allied himself with the Algonquin Indians, and out of
this alliance came an undying hatred of the Iroquois Indians toward the
French. These Canadian Indians were accustomed to make warlike in-
vasions into the country occupied by the Iroquois Indians. Champlain
accompanied the Algonquins on one of these warlike expeditions in the
summer of 1609. Lake Champlain was discovered by the great French-
man, and the adjoining territory explored. When the allies were ready
to return to Quebec they were attacked by the Iroquois and a severe bat-
tle was fought. This was the first time the Iroquois had ever seen or
heard a fire arm and great fear possessed their souls. This incident ap-
parently not a very important matter, was far-reaching in its conse-
quences. It determined that the New York Indians should be implaca-
ble foes of the French. It further determined that the movements
of the French into the territory of the west should be by the Ottawa
river and the northern side of the great lakes, and not down the Ohio
river the most natural route from lower Canada to the Mississippi

Champlain was far-seeing and patriotic. He saw that the influence
which the Jesuit and Recollet priests would have upon the Indians would
greatly assist France in the conquest of the wilds of the New World. In
1615 Champlain returned to France and succeeded in enlisting in his
cause a number of priests of the Recollet order. The French authorities
in the new world afterwards called to their assistance the more vigorous
Jesuits and now the real onward movement toward the interior began.
Mission posts were established along the lakes as far west as Green Bay.
Missionaries were coming and going and the geography of the interior


was becoming better known every year. Champlain was at the head of
a company that had been chartered by Louis XIII, and no small amount
of commercial enterprise was carried forward under his direction. He
gave direction to the fur trade and to the planting of missions. After
more than a quarter of a century of most unexampled activity in the
cause of his country, his king, and his religion, Champlain laid down his
burdens, and bade adieu to the scenes of his life-work. He died in 1635.

Following the death of Champlain, the hostile attitude of the New
York Indians was renewed. "Seldom did a single year pass without
some hostile incursion or depredation upon the settlements from Que-
bec to Montreal." From the death of Champlain to 1649 there was a
period of marked inactivity in everything except possibly the work of
individual priests. In 1649 and for five years, death and destruction
reigned supreme. A treaty was effected between the French and the
Canadian Indians on one side and the Iroquois on the other, and New
France took on new life.

On June 14, 1671, a congress of representatives of all the tribes
around the great lakes was called at Sault Ste. Marie. Seventeen tribes
sent representatives. Sieur St. Lusson was sent by the governor of New
France to present the cause of the king. Fifteen Frenchmen, including
priests, traders, and government representatives, were present. After
much feasting and other exchange of courtesies, St. Lusson made "the
formal announcement that he did then and there take possession of
Lakes Huron and Superior, and all the countries contiguous and adja-
cent thereto and southward to the sea, which had been or might hereafter
be discovered, in the name of the king of France."

From this date forward a new spirit of interest was infused into the
government side of the westward movement. Reports were frequently
coming from priests, traders, and others of the existence of a great river
to the westward, and that in the region of this great river there were
great stretches of prairies, over which roamed the buffalo and hundreds
of smaller animals. These interesting stories had also been told by
Indians whose home was in the vicinity of the great river.


Among those who seemed to hear definite information relative to this
unexplored region along the Mississippi Marquette was foremost. He
had conversed with the Indians from the upper territory of the great
river. He had in his heart to visit this territory, and had even mastered
the tongue of the Illini. His purposes coming to M. Talon, intendant of
New France, that official, who was now ready to return to France after
many years of faithful service in the province, selected one Joliet to ac-
company Marquette on the proposed expedition of discovery and ex-

Marquette was born at Laon, France, in 1637. He had inherited
from his parents great religious fervor. He was a Jesuit, and was sent
to America in 1666. He had traveled throughout the whole extent of
the territory from the Lake Superior region to Quebec. He had en-
deared himself to the Indians, had learned completely their modes of
life, their language, and their susceptibility to religious instruction. He
was without doubt the most earnest, humble, and self-sacrificing priest
who worked among the North American Indians. His qualifications of



head and heart fitted him to work in the three-fold capacity of interpre-
ter, explorer and missionary.

Joliet was a native of New France, having been born at Quebec in
1645. He was educated for the priesthood but in early life abandoned
that profession to engage in the vigorous life of a man of the world in


business and adventure. He is said to have still retained much sympa-
thy for the Jesuits, whose ranks he had deserted, and this may be the
reason he was selected to accompany Marquette on the journey of ex-

Joliet was directed by Frontenac to proceed to Mackinaw where he
would be joined by Father Marquette who would represent the church
on the expedition, as Joliet would the government. While Joliet was


the official representing the French government, Marquette claimed a
higher and holier mission.

December the 8th is the day of the celebration of the feast of the
Immaculate Conception as kept by the Catholic church. It was on this
day, December 8, 1672, that Joliet reached the mission of St. Ignace on
the straits of Mackinaw, on his way to find the great river. Marquette
in writing this part of the story, says :

"The day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, whom I had
always invoked ... to obtain of God the grace to be able to visit
the nations on the River Mississippi, was identically that on which M.
Jollyet arrived with orders of the Counte de Frontenac, our Governor,
and M. Talon, our intendant, to make this discovery with me. I was
the more enraptured at the good news, as I saw my designs on the point
of being accomplished, and myself in the happy necessity of exposing
my life for the salvation of all these nations, and particularly for the
Illinois . . . who had earnestly entreated me to carry the word of
God to their country. ' '

The preparations were indeed very simple. They consisted in pro-
viding some Indian corn and dried meat. This was the entire stock of
provisions with which they started. They left St. Ignace with two bark
canoes and five French voyageurs, May 17, 1673.

The prospect before both Joliet and Marquette was such as greatly
to buoy them up, one looking forward to the conversion of the Indians,
the other to the conquest of more territory for his king. They rowed
with a hearty good will and stopped only when night forced them to
pull to shore. Their course lay along the northern shore of Lake Michi-
gan bearing toward the southwest.

Marquette says:

' ' Above all, I put our voyage under the protection of the Blessed Vir-
gin Immaculate, promising her, that if she did us the grace to discover
the great river, I would give it the name of Conception; and that I
would also give that name to the first mission which I would establish
among these new nations, as I have actually done among the Illinois."

The expedition reached Green Bay about the first of June, 1673.
Here Father Marquette preached to the Indians. These Indians tried
to dissuade him from his undertaking, but nothing would now turn him
from his purpose of visiting the Illinois country. At the head of Green
Bay was a mission planted, probably, by Father Allouez in 1667. To
this mission they paid a short visit and proceeded up Fox river. At
an Indian village on the Fox river the travellers were received by the
warriors of the Kickapoos, the Mascoutins, and the Miamis. A short
conference was held. Marquette says he was pleased to find here a large
cross standing in the middle of the village. Here the travellers asked
for two guides to take them across the portage to the Wisconsin river.
The guides were cheerfully furnished.

On June 10, 1673, Marquette, Joliet, and the five Frenchmen, and
two Indian guides began the journey across the portage. They carried
their two canoes as well as their provisions and other supplies. The
portage is a short one, Marquette says three leagues long. It was full
of small lakes and marshes. When the guides had seen the travellers
safely over the portage, they returned to their own people. There were
left here the seven Frenchmen with an unknown country ahead of them,
but they were filled with the high resolve of finding the Mississippi and
of visiting the Illinois Indians.



June the 17th their canoes shot out into the broad Mississippi. The
voyagers were filled with a joy unspeakable. The journey now began
down the stream without any ceremony. Marquette made accurate
observations of the lay of the land, the vegetation, and the animals.
Among the animals he mentions are deer, moose, and all sorts of fish,
turkeys, wild cattle, and small game.

Somewhere, probably below Rock Island, the voyagers discovered
footprints and they knew that the Illinois were not far away. Mar-
quette and Joliet left their boats in the keeping of the five Frenchmen
and after prayers they departed into the interior, following the tracks
of the Indians. They soon came to an Indian village. The chiefs re-
ceived the two whites with very great ceremony. The peace pipe was
smoked and Joliet, who was trained in all the Indian languages, told them
of the purpose of their visit to this Illinois country. A chief responded

Drawing by Timothy Ladd, White Hall. Illinois.


and after giving the two whites some presents, among which were a calu-
met and an Indian slave boy, the chief warned them not to go further
down the river for great dangers awaited them. Marquette replied that
they did not fear death and nothing would please them more than to lose
their lives in God's service.

After promising the Indians they would come again, they retired to
their boats, accompanied by 600 warriors from the village. They de-
parted from these Indians about the last of June and were soon on their,
journey down the river.

As they moved southward the bluffs became quite a marked feature
of the general landscape. After passing the mouth of the Illinois river,
they came to unusually high bluffs on the the Illinois side of the Mis-
sissippi. At a point about six miles above the present city of Alton,
they discovered on the high smooth-faced bluffs a very strange object,
which Marquette describes as follows:

As we coasted along the rocks, frightful for their height and length,
we saw two monsters painted on these rocks, which startled us at first,
and on which the boldest Indian dare not gaze long. They are as large
as a calf, with horns on the head like a deer, a frightful look, red eyes,
bearded like a tiger, the face somewhat like a man's, the body covered


with scales, and the tail so long that it twice makes the turn of the body,
passing over the head and down between the legs, and ending at last in a
fish's tail. Green, red, and a kind of black are the colors employed. On
the whole, these two monsters are so well painted that we could not believe
any Indian to have been the designer, as good painters in Prance would
find it hard to do as well; besides this, they are so high upon the rock
that it is hard to get conveniently at them to paint them. This is pretty
nearly the figure to these monsters as I drew it off.

In an early day in Illinois, the description of these monsters was
quite current in the western part of the state. So also was a tradition
that these monsters actually inhabited a great cave near. (This tradition
described but a single monster and but a single picture.) The tradition
said that this monster was a hideous creature with wings, and great
claws, and great teeth. It was accustomed to devour every living thing
which came within its reach ; men, women, and children, and animals of
all kinds. The Indians had suffered great loss of their people from the
ravages of this monster and a council of war was held to devise some
means by which its career might be ended. Among other schemes for
its extermination was a proposition by a certain young warrior. It was
to the effect that upon the departure of the beast on one of his long
flights for food that he would volunteer to be securely tied to stakes on
the ledge in front of the mouth of the cave, and that a sufficient number
of other warriors of the tribe should be stationed near with their poisoned
arrows so that when the bird should return from its flight they might
slay the monster.

This proposition was accepted and on a certain day the bird took its
accustomed flight. The young warrior who offered to sacrifice his life
was securely bound to strong stakes in front of the mouth of the cave.
The warriors who were to slay the beast were all safely hidden in the
rocks and debris near. In the afternoon the monster was seen returning
from its long journey. Upon lighting near its cave, it discovered the
young warrior and immediately attacked him, fastening its claws and
teeth in his body. The thongs held him securely and the more the mon-
ster strove to escape with its prey the more its claws became entangled
in the thongs.

At a concerted moment the warriors all about opened upon the mon-
ster with their poisoned arrows, and before the beast could extricate
itself, its life blood was ebbing away. The death of the dreaded monster
had been compassed.

The warriors took the body of the great monster and stretching it
out so as to get a good picture of it, marked out the form and painted it
as it was seen by Marquette. Because the tribes of Indians had suffered
such destruction of life by this monster, an edict went forth that every
warrior who went by this bluff should discharge at least one arrow at the
painting. This the Indians continued religiously to do. In later years
when guns displaced the arrows among the Indians, they continued to
shoot at the painting as they passed and thus it is said the face of the
painting was greatly marred.

Judge Joseph Gillespie, of Edwardsville, Illinois, a prolific writer
and a man of unimpeachable character wrote in 1883 as follows :

I saw what was called the picture sixty years since, long before it
was marred by quarrymen or the tooth of time, and I never saw any-
thing which would have impressed my mind that it was intended to


represent a bird. I saw daubs of coloring matter that I supposed exuded
from the rocks that might, to very impressible people bear some re-
semblance to a bird or a dragon, after they were told to look at it in that
light, just as we fancy in certain arrangements of the stars we see ani-
mals, etc., in the constellations. I did see the marks of the bullets shot by
the Indians against the rocks in the vicinity of the so-called picture.
Their object in shooting at this I never could comprehend. I do not
think the story had its origin among the Indians or was one of their
superstitions, but was introduced to the literary world by John Russell,
of Bluff Dale, Illinois, who wrote a beautiful story about it.

The bluff has long since disappeared from the use of the stone for
building purposes.

As Marquette and Joliet passed on down the river they passed the
mouth of the Missouri which at that time was probably subject to a great
flood. When considerably below the mouth of the Kaskaskia river they
came to a very noted object at least the Indians had many stories about
it. This is what we know today as the Grand Tower. This great rock
in the Mississippi causes a great commotion in the water of the river and
probably was destructive of canoes in those days.

On they go down the river past the mouth of the Ohio, into the region
of semi-tropical sun and vegetation. The cane-brakes lined the banks,
and the mosquitoes became plentiful and very annoying. Here also
probably in the region of Memphis they stopped and held councils with
the Indians. They found the Indians using guns, axes, hoes, knives,
beads, etc., and when questioned as to where they got these articles, they
said to the eastward. These Indians told the travelers that it was not
more than ten days' travel to the mouth of the river. They proceeded on
down the river till they reached Choctaw Bend, in latitude 33 degrees
and 40 minutes. Here they stopped, held a conference, and decided to
go no further.

They justified their return in the following manner :

First, they were satisfied that the Mississippi emptied into the Gulf
of Mexico, and not into the Gulf of California, nor into the Atlantic
ocean in Virginia. Second, they feared a conflict with the Spaniards
who occupied and claimed the Gulf coast. Third, they feared the Indians
of the lower Mississippi, for they used firearms and might oppose their
further progress south. Fourth, they had acquired all the information
they started out to obtain.

And so, on the 17th of July, 1673, they turned their faces homeward.
They had been just two months, from May 17, to July 17, on their jour-
ney. They had traveled more than a thousand miles. They had faced
all forms of danger and had undergone all manner of hardships. Their
provisions had been obtained en route. France owed them a debt of
gratitude which will never be fully paid. Indeed not only France, but
the world is their debtor.

Nothing of interest occurred on their return journey until they
reached the mouth of the Illinois river. Here they were told by some
Indians that there was a much shorter route to Green Bay than by
way of the upper Mississippi and the Wisconsin and Fox portage.
This shorter route' was up the Illinois river to the Chicago portage and
then along Lake Michigan to Green Bay.

Marquette and Joliet proceeded up the Illinois river. When pass-
ing by Peoria lake they halted for three days. While here Marquette


preached the gospel to the natives. Just as Marquette was leaving
they brought him a dying child which he baptized. When in the
vicinity of Ottawa, they came to a village of the Kaskaskia Indians.
Marquette says there were seventy-four cabins in the village and that
the Indians received them kindly. They tarried but a short time and
were escorted from this point up the Illinois and over the Chicago
portage by one of the Kaskaskia chiefs and several young warriors.

While in the village of the Kaskaskias, Marquette told the story
of the Cross to the natives, and they were so well pleased with it that
they made him promise to return to teach them more about Jesus.
Marquette and Joliet reached Green Bay in the month of September,
1673. Probably they both remained here during the ensuing winter.
In the summer of 1674, Joliet returned to Quebec to make his report to
the governor. On his way down the St. Lawrence, his boat upset and
he came near losing his life. He lost all his maps, papers, etc., and
was obliged to make a verbal report to the governor.

Father Marquette remained in the mission of St. Francois Xavier
through the summer of 1674, and late in the fall started on his journey
back to Kaskaskia. The escort consisted of two Frenchmen and some
Indians. They reached the Chicago portage in the midst of dis-
couraging circumstances. The weather was severe and Father Mar-
quette, sick unto death, was unable to proceed further. On the banks
of the Chicago river they built some huts and here the party remained
till spring. During the winter Father Marquette did not suffer for
want of attention, for he was visited by a number of Indians and by at
least two prominent Frenchmen.

By the last of March he was able to travel. He reached the Kas-
kaskia village Monday, April 8, 1675. He was received with great joy
by the Indians. He established the mission of the Immaculate Con-
ception of the Blessed Virgin. Seeing he could not possibly live long,
he returned to St. Ignace by way of the Kankakee portage. He never
lived to reach Mackinaw. He died the 18th of May, 1675.

This expedition by Marquette and Joliet had carried the Lilies of
France nearly to the Gulf of Mexico. The Indians in the great plains
between the Great Lakes and the Gulf had been visited and the re-
sources of the country noted. There remained but a slight strip of
territory over which the banner of France had not floated, from the
Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. If this short distance
were explored, then the French government would have completely
surrounded the English colonies in North America. This is the next
movement for the French as we shall see.


Chevalier de La Salle came to America in the year 1667. Shortly
after arriving in this country he established himself as a fur trader at

Online LibraryGeorge Washington SmithA history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) → online text (page 8 of 65)