Luther Augustus Hatch.

The Indian chief Shabbona online

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Late Superintendent of Schools,

DeKalb, Illinois.

Published by Mrs. L. A. Hatch, DeKalb, Illinois.


Copyrighted by


19 15



SEP -9 1915
*1<^ /.







THE Indians have gone from Illinois, but
there are many people living today who
remember having seen the last of this dus-
ky race as it disappeared. With them have
gone, never to return, many of the primitive
conditions that once existed. It is with
difficulty that the present generation
reconstructs in image form and scenes and
conditions that met those who first came
to this land as explorers or founders of
homes. Fortunately we have with us a
few of the early pioneers from whose lips we
may gather a few of the fragments of our
early history. These should be collected and
retained as a part of our national heritage
It will give us strength to look back upon
those early days and to recount the strug-
gles through which we have come.

The conflicts which took place between


the red man and the early white settlers
would make a long story were all told.
Were we to write this story the name of
Shabbona would appear in many places.
Were you to read it you would come to
love the man and to respect him for the
true manhood that he displayed on so many
occasions. Were you to go to the early
settlers who knew Shabbona you would
find them all agreed as to the nobility
of his character. He was known by them
all as "The Friend of the White Man." The
writer will tell the story as he gathered it
from those who knew him, and from other
sources that will be indicated at the close
of this article.


In the southern part of DeKalb County
in Illinois is found a small village that has
been named after Shabbona. Not far from
this village is to be found a grove known as
Shabbona Grove. It was at this grove that
Shabbona and his people made their home
for many years. Those who live at the grove
take pleasure in pointing out the spot where
he pitched his wigwam. It was a beautiful
place in those early days nestled on the
banks of a little stream. It was a small
clearing in the wood well protected from
the storms that raged during the winter.


In the early years of his stay at this grove
it was the home of his whole tribe, which
by the way never numbered more than one
hundred thirty souls. After the govern-
ment moved the Indians from Illinois,
Shabbona and his family lived here for a
number of years. A hollow in the ground
marks the place where he had a shallow
well from which he obtained water. A few
mounds mark the resting place of a number
of his family.

You are told that a house was built for
the old chief by the white settlers who
thought they would show their appreciatiorif
for him in this way. This house was made
of logs. He never lived in it, so some
who knew him say, but instead used it as a
shelter for his ponies and a storehouse for
his provisions. ..At times some of the
younger Indians of the tribe used this cabin
as a place of shelter but old Shabbona and
Coconoko, his wife, always preferred to live
in the tent even during the coldest weather
in winter. As he visited his white friends
it v/as almost impossible to get him to sleep
over night in a house. He preferred to roll
up in his blanket and sleep out of doors.
By his association "with the whites he ac-
quired much from them but there were
many Indian traits and customs that he
retained as long as he lived. •


At one time the grove at which he made
his home was one of the finest in the state of
IlUnois. It covered an area of 1,500 acres.
In it were found large white, bur, and red
oak. No better black walnut trees were to
be found anywhere than were found here.
Outside of this grove extended great tracts
of prairie land noted for their fertility.
Surrounded by this, Shabbona, the Indian
chief, lived and ruled his little kingdom.
Plenty surrounded him on all sides. He and
his people visited other Indian settlements,
of which there were many in northern Illi-
nois. Other chiefs and their people visited
him and lived off his substance. His word
had much weight in the councils with other
chiefs. He was one of the great chiefs
among the chiefs.


But you ask, Who was this Shabbona?
He was a member of the Ottawa tribe of
Indians, born as the best authorities think,
in Ohio somewhere on the Maumee River.
He was the grand nephew of the great
Indian chief, Pontiac. He lived at the time of
Tecumseh and the Prophet. He knew them
both and took several long journeys with the
former. For a time he was a friend of Black-
hawk. He knew Keokuk, Big Foot, Sauganash,
Black Partridge, Snachwine, Wabansee, and


Red Jacket. He probably knew Big Thun-
der. Spotka, the Pottawattomie chief,
appreciated his worth, and as an indication
of his appreciation gave his daughter in

The name of this chief was not always
spelled by writers in the same way. The
iOilowing spellings are found: Shabbona,
Chamblee, Shaubene, Shabone, Shaubenay
aad Shabehaey. Shabbona seems to be the
spelling preferred. The old chief liked to
have his name pronounced as if there were
but two syllables to it, and to pronounce it
as if it were spelled Shab ney, with the ac-
cent on the first syllable.

In appearance he was a very striking
character. He would be singled out from
among a body of Indians because of the
native dignity of the man. He was five feet,
nine inches in height, broad shouldered,
with a large head supported by a heavy neck.
His hands, f<jr a man of his size, were small.
His body was long so that when he rode on
horseback he appeared larger than when on
foot. He was a well built man. When a
young man he excelled in all kinds of ath-
letic exercises. As a boy he was the picture
of health. He was always large for his age.
When a young rnan he weighed two hun-
dred pounds and before his death he weighed
two hundred forty pounds. As has been


intimated he was very inuscular and capa-
ble of great endurance. Until his last illness,
which occurred in his eighty-fourth year, he
did not know what it was to be sick. One in
speaking of him says, "He was as strong as a
buffalo, as swift of foot as a deer and as
gentle as a woman." There are those who
think that Shabbona, with his power to un-
derstand men, his soundness of judgement
in dealing with matters that pertained to his
race, his coolness in times of danger, his
loyalty to principles, might have become
one of the great men of the world had he
had opportunities of education. He pos-
sessed those characteristics that made him
a leader. People loved him, they believed
in him, they acted upon his suggestions.


In the autumn, it was the custom of the
Indians to go on extended hunts in order that
food might be secured and prepared for the
winter. At this time of the year game was
in good condition and the fur of fur-bearing
animals was at its best. Sometimes these
hunts took the hunters a long distance from
their homes. The Indians of certain tribes
came to feel that they owned certain hunt-
ing grounds and looked upon others who


might hunt upon these grounds as hostile
to their interests.

In the autumn of 1800, a party of Ot-
tawa hunters from the country around Lake
Erie went on a hunting expedition into what
is now known as lUinois. This hunt led
them around the lower end of Lake Michigan
to the present site of Chicago. Here they
felt at home as they were among their
friends, the Pottawattomies. Among those
who went on this hunt was a young man
known as Shabbona— the Shabbona about
whom this article tells. This was his first
visit to Illinois. V/-hen the hunt was over the
Indians returned to their homes in the
Ohio country. Shabbona, however, did not
return, but spent the winter at the home of
Spotka, the chief of the Pottawattomies at
Chicago. As has been stated his stay with
this chief resulted in Shabbona's receiving
Spotka's daughter in marriage. Shabbona
was already a chief among the Ottawas and
this marriage to the daughter of a Pottawat-
tamie chief made him a Pottawattomie,
and later he became a Pottawattomie chief.

By his sterling qualities he won the
respect of his new brothers and as has been
indicated became a chief among them. It
is said that at first they were inclined to
feel somewhat jealous of Shabbona and as a


result said some things of him that were not
altogether good. Some of these remarks
came to the ears of Shabbona. Ir maciehim
feel sad to hear these things for he had tried
his best to please those with whom he lived.
After thinking matters over for a time he
decided that he could stand it no longer, so
one morning he arose and announced to his
squaw, Coconoko, that he was going to go
back to his people to live among them.
Bidding Coconoko good-bye he mounted his
pony and rode away to the eastward. He
rode and thought and the farther he got
away from his squaw the more he thought.
Before night overtook him he turned his
pony about and returned to Coconoko to live
with her during the remainder of his life
which closed fifty-nine years after this.
While he was gone Coconoko talked to her
people about the injustice that had been
done Shabbona. After this there was never
any more trouble along this line for they
soon came to appreciate his worth.

It was not long after this that Shab-
bona selected Shabbona Grove as his home.

From 1800 to 1807 Shabbona trav-
eled much among the Indians along the Illi-
nois, Fox, and Rock Rivers. At times he
went farther to the south, also up the
Mississippi, and into Wisconsin. The miss-
ionaries among the Indians often secured


him to guide them as they went from tribe
to tribe. In this way he became very well
acquainted with the leading chiefs and with
the country in which they lived. It is said
that he could mark out a trail or river
course in the sand, indicating all of the land-
marks, so that it was easy for a stranger not
acquainted with the country to find his
way. This knowledge of the country and
acquaintance with the chiefs was a good pre-
paration for the later life that Shabbona led.


In the year 1807, Shabbona had the
good fortune, if looked at in one way, and
bad fortune if looked at in another light,
to become acquainted with Tecumseh—
Flying Panther — the chief of the Shawnee
Indians, who was a man of many high qual-
ities, impressive manners, and wonderful
natural eloquence. Tecumseh was a little
older than Shabbona but they were both
comparatively young men at this time,
neither being over thirty-five years of age.
The two chiefs had many councils together.
Tecumseh saw the evil influence of whisky
among his people so he prohibited its use.
This and ocher things he did left their im-
press upon Shabbona for good, although in
later years he imbibed somewhat.


In the year 1810, General Harrison met
Tecumsehon the Wabash in council. After
this council Tecumseh went to Shabbona's
village and persuaded Shabbona to go with
him to see the Indians of northern Illinois
and Wisconsin to get them to join in concert-
. ed action in driving back the whites who
were pushing their settlements forward into
their hunting ground. These two chiefs went
from village to village along the Illinois and
Fox Rivers. Then they went to the Winne-
bago and Menominee Indians to the north.
Both of these tribes fought against the
Americans during the War of 1 8 1 2. Tecum-
seh and Shabbona then moved to the south
along the Mississippi, visiting the Sauks and
Foxes, meeting Black Hawk and Wapello
the leading chiefs. At Rock Island the two
chiefs parted, Tecumseh going farther to the
south along the Mississippi and Shabbona
returning to his home in DeKalb County.
In the summer of 1811 Tecumseh and
Shabbona met General Harrison again at
Vincennes in a second council. After a
wordy conference Tecumseh withdrew and
with Shabbona and two Shawnee chiefs set
out for the south to visit the Creeks, Cher-
okees, Choctaws and Seminoles. While
absent his followers were defeated on the
seventh of November, 1 8 1 1, in the battle of
Tippecanoe by General Harrison.


After the visit to the south Shabbona
returned again to the grove. It was while
here that he heard of the declaration of
war with England. There was a plan on
foot to attack and capture if possible, Fort
Dearborn before news could reach that
place. Runners came to Shabbona telling
him that the attack was to be made and
that the Pottawattomies were alltotak^
part in the war. He decided that he would
not go to the attack on Fort Dearborn as he
had many friends there among the whites.
Seeing the other Indians going he mounted
his pony and went also. Snachwine had
planned and carried out the attack. When
Shabbona arrived he was shocked to see
what had been done. Scattered along the
beach of the lake lay the forty-two (some
say fifty-two) bodies of the victims of the
massacre, scalped and mutilated, women,
children and soldiers alike. The body of
Captain Wells lay in one place, his head in
another while his arms and legs were scat-
tered over the prairie. The remains of
Captain Wells were gathered up by Black
Partridge and buried near where they were
found, while the bodies of the other victims
were left where they fell until the rebuild-
ing of Fort Dearborn in 1816— four years


later. Then their scattered hones that had
been bleaching in the sun were gathered up
and buried by Captain Bradley.

The prisoners were placed in Kinzie's
house where Black Partridge and Shanbona
tried to protect them with their braves.
Parties of Shawnee Indians arrived from the
Wabash. These were thirsting for blood.
They expected to arrive in time to take
part in the attack. They rushed by Black
Partridge and Shabbona to get at the pris-
oners and had not Saguanash arrived just as
he did their lives would have been taken.
They would have shared the fate of the oth-
ers. As it was they were saved and we feel
grateful for the share that Shabbona had in
the saving of their lives. They were made
prisoners. Part of them were taken to St.
Joseph and to Canada. Others were scat-
tered among the different tribes of Potta-
wattomies but in time they were sent to
Detroit and ransomed.


After the massacre of Fort Dearborn
Shabbona returned to his grove with his
mind made up to take no further part in
the War. In the fall of 1812 emissaries
from Tecumseh reached Shabbona's village
bearing presents and the wampum belt ask-


ing hini and his braves to join with hini in
the v/ar. Shabbona was deceived intc^ be-
lieving that the Pottawattomies and. many
other tribes in Ilhncns were going to tf^ketip:)
the hatchet and join the English in their
war against the Americans. So Shabbona
gave up the winter nuat he had planned to
take and with twenty-two of his warriors
laft tor the s at of the war. On his way to
theWabaeh where the Shawnees dwelt he
fell in with Black Hawk and the Indians
i/hder his command. The Hawk and Shab-
bona had been friends for many years and
had sat together ipany times in council, n
this war Shabbona stood next in command
to Tecumssh. At Fort Maigs and Fort Ste-
phenson the Indians were badly whipped
by the Americans. This discoureged Black
Hawk and his warriors so he, with them,
returned to his home on the Mississippi.
Shabbona, however, remained with Tecum-
seh and pushed onward, through Indiana
and Ohio into Canada. In September, 1813,
the battle of the Thames was fought and at
this battle Shabbona saw his friend Te-
cumseh killed by Col. Richard M. Johnson.
Shabbona being second in command, the
leadership fell upon him. The battle raged
with fury and there seemed to be no chance
for the Indians so he ordered his braves to
retreat, which they did. Shabbona never


expected to escape from the conflict alive.
It is said that he prayed to the Great Spirit
that if his Hfe was saved he would never
take up arms again against the whites. It
was saved and from this time till his death
he kept his vow. For this stand he lost
prestige among the Indians. In derision they
called him, "Friend of the White Man."

The people of northern Illinois remem-
ber Shabbona not for the part that he took
in the war of 1812 but for what he did after
the war. Until 1849 the grove in DeKalb
County was his home. True he came and
went but this was where he lived with his
family and where those of his family who
had died were buried. The white settlers
did not come to Illinois in very large num-
bers, until after the Indians were moved
west of the Mississippi, after the Black Hawk
War. When Chicago was laid out as a town
in 1830 there were twelve families besides
the garrison. Three years later the popula-
tion had increased to 550. After the War
of 1 8 1 2 Shabbona was always ready to pro-
tect the settlers in and about Chicago.

In the fall of 1823 Fort Dearborn was
vacated and troops did not occupy it again
until the fall of 1828. During this time the
citizens of Chicago were unprotected except
by the friendly Indians. All went well
until the Winnebagoes took up the hatchet


against the whites in 1827. At the time
Shabbona went to almost every village of
the Pottawattomies and persuaded them to
remain at home, and not take part in the
war. He told the citizens of Chicago that he
would station his braves there and defend
them if they wished him to do so.


The people of Chicago requested Shab-
bona and Saguanash to visit the village on
Big Foot Lake [Lake Geneva], and try to
persuade Big Foot to not go to war with the
whites. The two rode to the village on horse
back. Saguanash did not enter the village
but took a position so that he could see
Shabbona as he met Big Foot and his
braves. The meeting was not of a friend-
ly nature. Shabbona was accused of being
a friend of the whites and an enemy of the
Indians. Shabbona tried to convince Big
Foot that the war with the whites meant
the destruction of the Indians. The war-
riors collected around the chiefs as they
carried on their conversation. Big Foot be-
came enraged and took out his tomahawk
and was about to kill Shabbona but was
prevented from doijig so by the warriors
who were standing about. The warriors
took away Shabbona's rifle, tomahawk,
knife and blanket and bound him with


buckstring thongs, afcer which he was led
to an unoccupied tent and placed under the
guard of two warriors.

Saguanash saw all this from his hidinj^
place on the bluff that overlooked the vill-
age. When it looked as if the fate of Shab-
bona was sealed he mounted his pony and
rode to Chicago to tell the story of what he
had witnessed. During the night the Win-
nebagoes held a council and it was decided
that it was not safe to retain Shabbona as
a prisoner so he was released and alleged
to return to Fort Dearborn. This was against
the wish of Big Foot. He released him but
secretly set out on his trail with a few of his
warriors determined to kill him if possible.
Shabbona suspected something of the sort
and urged his fleet pony forward and made
his escape. Big Foot followed him for many
miles but finally gave up the pursuit. This
visit of Shabbona io the village of the
Winnebagoes resulted in their remaining at
home and Chicago was again safe.

For several years preceding 1832, the
Indians of northern Illinois had been com-
paratively quiet as far as outward signs were
concerned, but there was a spirit of discon-
tent prevalent among the Sauks and Foxes.
They could not get over feeling that the
whites were aggressors and that slowly but
surely they were losing their land and being


driven into the West where they would have
to encounter new enemies in new fields.
This was not altogether to their liking.

VVhile the Indians wandered about from
place to place, they, for the most part, had
a home other than their wigwams. They
disliked to leave the place where they were
born, especially if there was a good prospect
of their never seeing it again Oftentimes
there centered about such a locality a his-
tory and a body of traditions that tended to
make it well nigh sacred to them. To 1: e
driven from the place where their dead, for
generations had been buried, engendered a
just hatred for the whites that has not been
easily blotted from their memories.

In Illinois, as elsewhere, the Indians and
whites have not mixed. They are too un-
like in their modes of livelihood and in dis-
position to dwell in peace together. Where
the whites settled the Indians gradually
disappeared. For the most part they recog-
nized the superiority of their aggressors.
Occasionally we find a character like Shab-
bona, who, in a measure, took on the ways
of the whites and remained among them,
to watch with interest, the changes that
followed their coming.



In 1832 Black Hawk and the Prophet
made a desperate effort to induce the Potta-
wattamies and Ottawas to join with the
Sauks and Foxes in a war against the
whites. It was February of 1832 that a
great council of the Sauxs, Foxes, Winne-
bagoes and Pottawattamies was held at
Indian Town. Many chiefs were present,
among them Shabbona, who at this time was
fifty-sev^en years of age. The council lasted
for many days and nights. Eloquent appeals
were made by Black Hawk to induce the
other tribes to unite in a final attempt to
drive the white from the frontier. It
was evident that if such an attempt were
not made in a short time the whites would
become so numerous that all hopes to drive
them back would be fruitless All of the
Pottawattamies, but one tribe, joined Shab-
bona in opposing the union of the tribes and
the council finally broke up without effect-
ing a union.

At this time Black Partridge and Snach-
wine, the peace chiefs, were dead and Shab-
bona stood next in power among the Pott-
awattomie chiefs. Ever since Shabbona
had seen his friend Tecumseh fall in battle
at the Thames, he had been a missionary for


peace among the Indians. He had become
thoroughly convinced that it was useless for
the Indian to take up arms against the

When Black Hawk saw that he could not
get the tribes to join, he went back to his
watch tower at the mouth of Rock River
determined on war at any cost. He then
went across the Mississippi into Iowa. Here
he remained until April, 1832, when he
again crossed into Illinois and moved up the
Rock River valley with his warriors. He
moved on until he came to a point about
twenty-five miles above Dixon Ferry and
from there he went east to a grove of timber
which has since been known as Stillman's

At this point Black Hawk did not meet
the warriors he had expected to meet, so he
sent for Shabbona. He went as did others
to meet in council with Black Hawk for the
last time. It was here that the last war
dance took place. Black Hawk tried hard to
get Shabbona to join with him for he knew
that if he secured Shabbona, practically the
whole of the Pottawattamies would be in
favor of the union and would take part in
the war. Many of the Pottawattamies
were doubtless waiting for a chance to kill
off some of their white enemies. A war
would furnish such a chance. Shabbona


was convinced that Black Hawk was deter-
mined upon war and could not be turned
from his purpose. The Hawk said, "If we
unite our forces we will have an army like
the trees of the forest and will drive the
palefaces before us like autumn leaves be-


Online LibraryLuther Augustus HatchThe Indian chief Shabbona → online text (page 1 of 2)