N. (Nehemiah) Matson.

French and Indians of Illinois river online

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success, but was killed by them at the commence-
ment of the Black Hawk war.



In September,, 1813, General Howard left
Portaj^e des Sioux on the Missouri river, with an
expedition against the Pottawatomie Indians.
His army consisted of five hundred regulars and
nine hundred volunteers ; the latter from Illinois
and Missouri. The regulars ascended the Illinois
river in keel-boats, while the volunteers being
mounted, crossed the Mississippi near the pres-
ent site of Quiucy, and marched through the wild
country to Peoria. On arriving at Peoria they
found it desolated, nothing remained of the old
French town except a few charred timbers, of
which the buildings had been constructed. No
Indians were' seen here, but in the timber neiir
the outlet of the lake, there were signs of having
been a recent encampment of them.

The troops encamped on the old town site, and
a strong pu'ket guard placed around the encamp-


ment to prevent being surprised bj the Indians.
During the night an alarm was given, and a
report circulated through the camp, that they
were about to be attacked by a large body of
Indians. All the troops were under arms, many
shots were fired at the phantoms, and one soldier
killed by a sentinel, the alarm, however, was
false, as no Indians made their appearance.

On th.3 following day, the army went up to
Gomo's village situated at the head of the lake,
but found it deserted and no Indians were seen
ill its vicinity. After burning the town and des-
trovinc^ the corn in the caches, the armv returned
to Peoria and built a fort.


Indian scouts discovered General Howard's
array on its arrival at Peoria, and notified their
friends at the different villages, of the fact. The
inhabitants of Gomo's, Senachwine's and other
villages, fled from their homes on being warned
of their danger, and collected at Coma's village
on Bureau creek. Here thev intended to make a
stand ; await the approach of the invading army,
and- fight for their country and homes. All the
squaws and pappooses, with old w^arriors unable
to bear arms, were sent up the creek about seven


miles above tlie town, and there secreted tliein-
iii the thick timber of the Bureau.*

At Coma's village were collected about one
thousand warriors, occupying all the lodges ; and
the bank of the creek for a long distance was cov-
ered with camping tents. On the bottom prairie
below the village hundreds of ponies were feed-
ing, all of which were spanceled, so they could
be caught and mounted at a moment's notice.

It was expected that Howard's army would
follow up the river, and attack them in their re-
treat, so a suitable place was selected to make a
defense. This was in the thick timber, some dis-
tance below the village, where they could lire on

* About two miles northwest of Princeton, in the vaUey of
Bureau is a singular narrow ridge about sixty feet high, extend-
ing from the east bluff pu,rt way across the bottom. This re-
markable ridge, which looks like a freak of nature, is known
as the Back Bone, and along it now passes a public road.
Among the Indians this place was a noted landmark, and it be-
came equally so with hunters, in the early settlement of the

Immediately north of the Back Bone amid the thick bottom
timber was an old Indian camping ground, and here their camp
poles stood long after they had left the country. In the fall ol
1830, a party oi Indian hunters were encamped here for many
days, and while in conversation with one of them, I obtained
the following scrap of history :

" Many years ago when I was a small l>oy," said an Indian
hunter, " four thousand squaws and pappooses were encamped
on this very spot. Here they remained for manj' weeks secret-
ed among the thick timber, so the army of whites could not
find tliem." At that time all Die warriors were at Indiantown,
with the intention of fighting the whlt€« if they came up the
river In pursuit of them.


the invaders while crossing a small bottom prairie.
Indian scouts who were all the time on the
alert, discovered troops ascending the river in
keel-boats, and in all haste conveyed the tidings
to the village. On receiving these tidings, the
di'ums beat, Indians yelled, all was bustle and ex-
citement, and soon the warriors were secreted in
their ambuscade awaiting the enemy. But when
they found that the boats continued on up the
river, they returned to the village.



Four keel-boats, mounted with cannon and
filled with armed soldiers belonging to the regular
army, under the command of Major Christy, as-
cended the river from Peoria in search of Indians.
On landing at the different villages along the
river, they found them deserted, all the Indians
having fled from their homes. It was intended
to ascend the Illinois as far as the mouth of Fox
river, but finding it difficult to pass the
rapids, they stopped at Starved Rock. On the
following day the boats were turned down stream,
landing at the mouth of Bureau creek, from
here a party was sent out in search of Indians.

About eighty soldiers, under the command of


Lieatenant Robenson, marched up Bureau creek
with the intention of visitini^ Coma's villao:e, lo-
cated nine miles distant. After going six or seven
miles up the valley, through thick timber with
occasional bottom prairie, they discovered a trail
filled with fresh poney tracks. On seeing these
Indian signs, they came to a halt, and held a con-
sultation on the propriety of proceeding further.
Knowing that they were near a large Indian vil-
lage, and at any point of timber were liable to
fall into an ambuscade of lurking savages. Some
were in favor of going on and burn the village if
vacated, but fortunately a majority opposed it,
consequently they turned about and retraced
their steps to the river.

On the return of Robenson's command, who re-
ported no Indians found, Major Christy came to
the conclusion that they had fled from the country,
lie made preparations to descend the river.
Before leavdng, the cannons tired a salute, toasts
were drank, and the stream named Robenson's
river, which name it bore for many years after-
wards, and so apjiear^d on the early maps of the

Indian scouts had watched the keel-boats as
they ascended and descended the rivei', and
(Ml soeiiuj them land at the mouth of the creek
ami send out troops to make obsei'vations, they

Howard's army attacked by Indians. 24

put their ponies on a gallop to convey the tidings
to the visage, and it it was the tracks of their
ponies which Robenson's party discovered. On
learning of the approach uf the whites, warriors
mounted their ponies, and rode with all haste to the
place where they intended to attack the invaders.
Here many of the warriors secreted themselves
among the thick timber, while those mounted
remained in the rear to intercept the vanquished
troops. Had the soldiers under Robenson con-
tinued their march toward the Indian village,
the probabilities are not one of them would
have escaped from death, as the warriors out-num-
bered them ten to one, and many of them mounted,
while the troops were on foot.

Howard's army attacked by Indians.

Wlien the army under the command of General
Howard arrived at Peoria, Black Partridge made
an effort to unite the different bands, and thereby
raise a large force to attack them before fortifica-
tions could be erected. Shaubena, Waba and
Waubonsie, with manv of their followers, were
with Tecumseh on the Wabash, and the warriors
of the different bands could not be united under
any one chief. Senachwine was opposed to an
offensive w^ar, and being a chief of great influ-
ence and gifted with stirring eloquence, carried


witli him a large portion of the warriors. Black
Partridge was grave and morose, brooding over
the wrongs which he received from the whites the
year before, and lived only for revenge. Not-
witlistanding he had taken many scalps the
past summer, and murdered defenseless women
and children, still he thirsted for more blood.

It was a beautiful clear day in the early part of
Indian summer; the warriors were lounging along
Bureau creek, some fishing, others running foot
races, wrestling or playing with balls or hoops.
All was quiet at the village, neither war dances,
relio-ious feasts, nor marriao^e festivals, nothino:
whatever to relieve the monotony of camp life.
A party of warriors were about to start on a hunt,
when two scouts arrived from Peoria, saying that
the army was engaged in building a fort for the
purpose of holding possession of the country. At
this announcement Black Partridge, armed with
a rifle and tomahawk, mounted his pony and rode
back and forth through the camp calling for v(jl-
unteers to follow him to victory. About three
hundred responded to the call, among whom was
a young brave named Autuckee, afterward head-
chief at Indian town, and known by many of the
early settlers of this country. The wnrriors
mounted their ponies, and before suiuluwn were
oil their way to meet the enemy. Traveling pnrt

Howard's army attacked by Indians. 243

of the night they encamped in the river timber,
about- four miles above Peoria, and on the follow-
ing day attacked the army. While the soldiers
were engaged in building a fort, unconscious of
danger, they were attacked by this body of Indians,
and had it not been for persons outside of the
picket guard giving timely alarm, in all probability
a bloody battle would have been the result.

The following account of this aflfair is taken
from the statement of Colonel George Daven-
port, who at that time, was a non-commissioned
officer in the regular army, but in after years be-
came a noted Indian trader at Hock Island.

A well having been dug within the stockades
to supply the fort with water, it became necessary
to have a sweep to draw it, so Mr. Davenport
with two companions went into the woods to get
a grapevine for that purpose. Having found one
to answer the purpose, Davenport climbed the
tree to cut it off, and while doing so he discovered
a body of Indians skulking through the timber
in the direction of the fort. On seeing their
danger, Davenport and his companions fled to-
wards the fort, but finding Indians in that
direction they turned their course for the gun-
boats which were moored in the lake. "With all
their speed they ran for the boats, closely followed
by the Indians, who fired at them yelling like de-


nions. The men on board of the gunboats, being
alarmed for their own safety, pushed them off
from the shore, but fortunately one grounded on
a sand bar, which was the means of saving the
life of Davenport and his companions. The fug-
itives rushed into the water, waist deep, and
pushed the grounded boat off and jumped on
board of it. Durint]: this time the Indians were
firing on then, and manv of the balls whizzed by
their heads, lodging in the side of the boat. The
boats were now off some distance from shore, still
the Indians continued to fire on them, but with-
out effect. A cannon on one of the boats • was
brought to bear on the savages, but in the excite-
ment of the moment its muzzle was raised above
the port hole, and the ball tore off a portion of
one side of the vessel.

The Indians attacked the fort, which was in an
unfinished condition, but met with a warm rece})-
tion from the soldiers. The cannon on the boat
having been brought to bear on the savages, they
abandoned the attack and fled for the timber, and
on the following day returned to their village on
Bureau creek.


Preparations having been made to build a fort


on tlie site of tlie old French town, for the pur-
pose of holding possession of the country.
Timbers were cut on the opposite side of the
lake and floated across to build block and store
houses, and enclose the fort with palisades. On
a high piece of ground near the bank of the lake,
and having a coinnianding view of it, they erect-
ed a fort. This fort was a simple stockade, one
hundred and twenty feet square, constructed by
placing in the ground two rows of split timbers,
eighteen feet long, and filling the space between
with dirt. A ditch surrounded the fort, and at
two corners were bastions for mounting cannon.
The fort stood with one corner to the lake, and
at the southw^est angle was a gateway, guarded
by two heavy doors made out of split logs or
puncheons. Inside of the stockades was a large
block-house, two stories high, and on three sides
of which wfere port holes so the inmates could
fire on the enemy in case of an attack. Besides
tlie block-house there were store-houses and
quarters for the officers, and a number of small
dwellings for soldiers.

When the fort was completed and the cannon
mounted on its ramparts, w^ith the flags waving
on its bastions, General Howard ordered all the
soldiers on duty, who formed in double file, front-
ing the gateway, A speech was made by the


commanding officer, the drums beat, the soldiers
cheered, the cannon fired a salute, and with much
enthusiasm the fort was dedicated, and named
Fort Clark in honor of General George Roger
Clark, the hero of Kaskaskia and Yincinnes.

AVith the army at Fort Clark was a Yankee
peddler, who acted as a sutler, hy the name of
Jenkins, but on account, of . his close dealing ac-
quired the cognomen ot "Old Skinflint." He
was very unpopular with the soldiers, and all
efforts to beat him in trade had been a failure.
Amons^ the volunteers was one John Murdick,
who was very fond of whiskey, but seldom, had
money to buy it, so he put his wits to work in or-
der to get some out of "Old Skinflint," as he call-
ed the sutler. Murdick placed in the bosom of
his hunting shirt two black bottles, one of which
was empty and the other filled with water. Tak-
ing out theem}>ty bottle the sutler fiHed it with
whiskey, when Murdick replaced it in his bosom,
saying at the same time that he was out of money,
and it would have to be charsjed to him. The
sutler became angry, and after much parleying,
with many hard words on both sides, Murdick
consented to give up the whisky, but took out the
bottle containing the water, which "Old Skinflint"
emptied into the cask while Murdick walked off
with the whisky.



Black Partridge and his friends finding it im-
possible to unite the different bauds, so as to
prosecute the war successfully, thought it best to
make peace, and accordingly a large delegation of
chiefs and warriors went to Fort Clark for that
purpose. When this party arrived wdthin a few
miles of Peoria, they came to a halt, and Senach-
wine, with tw^o warriors carrying white flags,
went forward to the gate of the fort and proposed
to meet the commanding officer in council. Ar-
rangements "were made for a meeting on the
following day, in a grove of timber above the
fort, for the purpose of agreeing on terms of
peace. At the appointed time about forty chiefs
and warriors, decorated with wreaths of turkey
feathers, made their appearance and were met
by General Howard and all the officers of his
command. After shaking hands and passing


around the pipe of peace, Senacliwine made a
a speech, before the council, in whicli he said that
thej liad come to make peace with the whites,
and bury the tomahawk forever. In reply to
this speech General Howard said that he had no
power to treat with them, but proposed to con-
duct their head chiefs to General Clark,
superintendent of Indian affairs at St. Louis, who
alone was authorized to make terms of peace.
The Indians consented to this, and a delegation
of thirteen chiefs and one squaw were selected
to go to St. Louis. Among these chiefs were
Black Partridge, Senacliwine, Comas, Shick Shack
and Gomo. General Howard ordered George
Davenport to select four trusty men and escort
these Indians to St. Louis.

All necessary arrangements having been made,
this party on the following day went on board of
a pirogue and started down the river for St. Louis.
It being late in December, the weather cold, con-
sequentl}'- after one day's journey the river froze
up, and the remainder of the journey was made
on foot. The pirogue was secreted in the thick
timber, a short distance from the river, and each
person carried with him a small quantity of pro-
visions, leaving the remainder of their stores, in-
cluding a keg of whisky, in a hollow tree, so
they could be used on their return. At night


botli whites and Indians camped together, but
each party kept a guard on duty, as they feared

This party after five days travel, arrived safe at
St. Louis, a treaty of peace was conchided, and
the Indians left five of their number at the garri-
son as a hostage for its fulfillment. The Indians
on their return were escorted as far as Alton,
above the settlement, and they returned to their

After peace was made with the Indians, Fort
Clark was abandoned, the troops returned to the
settlement, and the volunteers were discharged
from service.


Was a chief among the Pottawatomies, and the
leader of a small band consisting oT about one
hundred and twenty persons. It is said that he
once had a village near the mouth of Fox river,
but for many years he with his band made their
home at Paw Paw Grove. Waubonsie was a
large, fine looking Indian, tall and square built,
with a hadsome face, an intelligent countenance,
and in the latter part of his life became quite
corpulent. He had an independent, pompous ap-
pearance, over-bearing towards his people,


and not very courteous to the wliites, bad it not
been for his color, dress and language, he might
have been taken forathorongh-bred Johnny Bull.
At the commencement of the Black Hawk war
Waubonsie was in favor of forming an alliance
with the Sacs and Foxes, and at a council held at
Indiantown in February, 1332, made a speech to
that effect. But being overruled by his people,
he professed to be friendly to the whites, joined
Atkinson's army at Dixon, and fought against
Black Hawk.

At the commencement of the British war,
Wanbonsie was only a common warrior and went
with Shaubena to the Wabash, but was soon
after made a chief on account of the following act
of bravery: One day he left the camp to hunt
deer in the woods, and on coming near the Wa-
bash river he heard the sound of voices. Ap-
proaching cautiously he discovered a party of
soldiers eordeling a boat up the river, loaded with
stores for Fort Harrison. To shoot one of the
soldiers and make his escape would have been
an easy matter, but this would not satisfy his am-
bition, as he could not in this way obtain the scalp
as a trophy. One man only was on the boat
steering it, while the other four were ahead with
a cordel line. As the boat came near the shore
Waubonsie jumped on board, tomahawked the

WAUB0N8IE. 251

man at helm, took ofi his scalp, and with it made
his escape. For this act of bravery he was made
a war chief, and became the leader of a band.

In the summer of 1836 Waubonsie, with a few
of his band came to Princeton, and bought of
McCayga Triplett a beautiful spotted stallion of
the Rocky Mountain breed, for which he paid
three hundred dollars in silver, all in tw^enty-five
cent pieces. Sometime afterwards, while the old
chief was under the influence of whisky, mounted
on his fine black and white horse, he rode back
and forth through the town, putting on as much
style as though he w^as a general in command of
an army. To those around him he narrated (in
bad English,) his many heroic exploits while
fighting w4th Tecumsch, and told how many scalps
he had taken with his own hands. From a pouch
in his buckskin hunting shirt he drew forth two
scalps, one of which the hair was red and the
other black. The red one he said was taken from
the head of a soldier at the battle of River Rasin,
and the black one from a boatman on the Wa-

In the fall of 1836 Waubonsie, went west with
his band, and was never seen in this country
afterwards. A short time after his arrival in
the west, he was killed by a party of Sacs and
Foxes for having fought against them in the late


war. His scalp was taken oft, the body mutilated
and left on the prairie to be devoured by wolves.
The Sacs and Foxes made an attempt to kill
Shaubena for the same offense, and for months
haunted him down as tliough he was a wild
beast. To preserve his life he fled fiorn the
country, returning to his old home in Illinois,
where he ended his days, but his son and nephew
fell victims to these savages.


It has already been stated, that Fort Clark was
abandoned soon after it was built, and never occu-
pied afterwards. No white person lived at Peoria,
(then known as Fort Clark,) after ^the troops
yacated the fort until the spring of 1819. The
gate of the fort being left open, became a lair
for deer and a roost for wild tiirkevs. In the fall
of 1816, a party of hunters from St. Clair county,
came to Fort Clark and found about twenty deer
in it. The floor of the houses were covered with
manure, and it also sliowed unmistakable signs
of having been a turkey roost. The hunters
cleaned out one of the buildings and occupied it
as a residence during a stay of ten days, while
hunting deer ami collecting honey in the river
timber. Fort Clark stood unmolested until the


fall of 1818, when it was burned by the Indians.
The following account of the burning of the fort
is taken from the statement of Colonel Gerden S.
Hubbard, now a resident of Chicago :

In the fall of 1818, AntoineDes Champs, gen-
eral agent of the American Fur Company,
accompanied by a number of persons were on
their way to St. Louis, with two small boats
loaded with furs. On rounding the point of
the lake they discovered Fort Clark on
fire. On landing at the fort they found about
two ^hundred Indians engaged in a war dance,
celebrating some event which occurred in the late
British war. The warriors almost naked, hide-
ously painted, and as they went through the
dance yelled like demons. They had a large num-
. ber of scalps hanging to their belts, and in one
part of the dance these were placed on the end of
spears and held above tlieir heads, after which
they would go through the motions of taking
them from the heads of their victims.

Des Champs was well acquainted with a num-
l)er of the Indians, and he went among them,
engaged in conversation, leaving the boats guard-
ed by one of his men and Mr. Hubbard, who at
that tine was a boy of only sixteen years of age.
The Indians inquired of Des Chami)s, who this
buy was, and in "reply said that he was his adopt-


ed son from Montreal, but tliej did not credit
this statement, saying he looked like an Ameri-
can, and tlierefore regarded him with mncli
suspicion. An Indian took a scalp from his belt,
holding it near Hubbard's face, saying to him,
that lie was an American and it was taken from
the head ot his countrymen. Young Hubbard
became much frightened at these demonstrations,
and the Indian continued to annoy liim by dip-
ping the scalp in the water, and with the long
hair sprinkled his face. In an instant all fear
vanished from young IIub])ard, and picking up a
gun which lay in the bottom of the boat iired it
at the Indian, but as it went off the man in the
boat threw up the muzzle, thereby saving the In-
dian's lite. This affair created great excitement,
and the Indians collected around the boat to as-
certain the cause of it. Des Champs fearing
trouble, bid his Indian friends good-b3^e, went
aboard of the boat and continued on his way down
tlie river, camping on the opposite side some miles

Although the buildings of Fort Clark and part
of the stockades were burned, as before stated, a
portion of the latter stood for many years after-
wards. In the spring of 1819 a party of
emigrants from Clinton county, among wliojn
were Captain Abner Eads, Isaac and Josiah Ful-

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Online LibraryN. (Nehemiah) MatsonFrench and Indians of Illinois river → online text (page 13 of 14)