N. (Nehemiah) Matson.

French and Indians of Illinois river online

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ton and J. Hersey, came to Fort Clark, and from
that time dates the first American settlement at
this place. These emigrants pitched their tents
against the stockades of the old fort, and for some
years afterwards the enclosure within the pickets
was used for penning work cattle. During the
Black Hawk war in the summer of 1832, the old
fort was repaired, new pickets put in place of
those burned, and used by the people to protect
themselves from the threatened attack of Indians.
One of the pickets of Fort Clark was still
standing and perfectly sound as late as 1844, and
attracted much attention as a relic of the past.
It stood ne^r the residence of Charles Ballance,
Esq., who sawed off the top, put a ring in it, and
used it for a hitching post. Afterwards this
post was taken up by Mr. Drown, made into
walking canes, and sold on speculation at fifty
cents each. One of these canes is now in the
possession of Samuel Sneed, of St. Clair county,
who assisted in building the fort sixty-one
years ago.



The following traditionary account of the im-
migration of Pottawatomies to Illinois was
recently gathered from the tribe in western Kan-
sas :

In the year 1769 the Pottawatomies ot Ohio,
Michigan and Indiana came west and took pos-
session of the Illinois country. A village w^as
built on Des Plaines river, and one on Svcamore
creek. A chief named Wanesee who had ac-
quired great fame in the Pontiac war, located a
village at the month of Fox river. On the south
side of the river opposite the outlet of Lake
De Pue a village was built, but abandoned soon
after for one on the north side of the lake.

An old chief named Wappe, with seven wives
and about four hundred followers, located on
Buieau creek, nine miles above its mouth, on the
present site of Tiskilwa. For many yeai's this


village bore the name of its founder, afterwards
Coma's village, but known by the early settlers
as Indiantown. A chief named Tiskilwa lived
here at one time, but little is known of his history
except he had many wives and was a great hun-

On the west side of the river near the mouth
of Crow creek a village was founded by "White
Crow, who with his band came from the lake
country. This chief died the same year the
buffalo left the country, and a large mound, which
is still to be seen, raised over his grave. In the
early settlement of the country a chief named
Crow lived here, from whom Crow creek and
Crow prairie took their names.

The largest town on the river stood on the
present site of Chillicothe, which w^as known in
after years as Gomo's village. In the spring af-
ter the Starved Rock massacre, a chief by the
name of Mucktapennesee or Black Bird with
about five hundred followers came from the Wa-
bash and located here. After the death of this
chief his two sons were contestants for the chief-
tainship. Fart of the band favored one and part
the other. Failing- to agree, one of the chiefs
with a portion of the band located on the east
side of the river at what was known in after years
as Black Fartridge's village. A few years after-


wards these two chiefs with many of their
warriors were killed in a battle with tlie Kaskas-
kia Indians.

West of the river on a small creek was an In-
dian village, the home of the celebrated chief
Senacliwine, but nothing is known of its early


After the Illinois Indians were annihilated
their conquerors took possession of the coantiy
and occupied it about seventy years. Between
Peoria lake and the mouth of Fox river had
lontr been known ae the Indian couutrv, and no
part of the great west was so densely populated
as this. Here lived the larger portion of the
Illinoians, and here too were found their succes-
sors, the Pottawatomies. Although their towns
and cornlields were mostly located on the Illinois
river, tliey claimed as hunting grounds the coun-
try from the Wabash to the Mississippi river, and
over this vast country they roamed at pleasui'e.
In the year 180(J the commissioner of Indian af-
fairs estimated that thirty thousand Indians
(including all the different tribes) were living
within the boundaries of this state, and al;out
thrce-lifths of this number were on the Illinois


I'iver. In the central portion oi' the state were a
few villages of Kickapoo Indians, who spoke the
same language as the Pottawatoniies, and inter-
marrying with each other became as one people.
In the southern part of the state lived a large
band of Kaskaskia Indians, who were frequentl)^
at war with the Pottawatoniies, and raids were
after made into each other's country. For
many years a large tract of country laying be-
tween tliese tribes was overrun with game, as
both tribes were afraid to hunt there, being liable
to an attack by a war party of the enemy.

Sometime between the years 1785 and 1790
the Pottawatoniies and Kickapoos attacked a war
party of Kaskaskians on Cash river, (now in
Johnson county,) and killed a large number of
them. Tradition j)oints out the place where
this massacre took place, and in a cave near by is
still to be seen the bones of hundred of the slam.

On the 24th of August, 1816, a treaty was
signed at St. Louis between Governor Kinian
Edwards, General William Clark and Auguste
Chauteau, commissioners on the part of the
United States government, and twenty-eight In-
dian chiefs representing the Pottawatomies,
Ottawas and Chip])ewas. Twenty-three of these
chiefs were Pottawatomies, three Ottawas, and
two Chippewas. A number of Sacs, Foxes and


Kickapoo chiefs were present at this treaty, whose
names appear as witnesses to the papers.

In this treaty, the Pottawatomies sold most of
their lands, including all the country between the
Illinois and Mississippi rivers, known as the Mil-
itary Tract. This purchase extended north as
far as the Indian Boundary Line, which ran from
a point on Lake Michigan, south of Chicago, to
the Mississippi river, near Rock Island. This
line was surveyed in the summer of 1819 by John
C. Sullivan, under the direction of Graham and
Phillips, commissioners appointed by the Presi-
dent of the United States for that purpose. .For
a part ot the way it divided the country between
the Pottawatomies and Winnebagoes, and was
made a standard line in the surveys of the state.
In the year 1840 Wisconsin made a claim
to that part of Illinois laying north of this line
under the ordinance of 1787, and for some time
it was a matter of controversy between the re-
spective states.

Although the Pottawatomies had sold their
lands, it was stipulated in the conditions of sale
that they were to occup}^ them until required for
actual settlement, and they gave them up only
when the tide of emigrants obliged them to do so.

These Indians left the country at different
times from 1832 to 1836, to occupy lands assigned


tliem by the government on the west side of the
Missouri river. But their trails across the prai-
ries, and camp poles were seen here for many
years afterwards.

Among the chiefs known by fur traders and
early settlers, who died in this country and
buried near their native villages, were Senach-
wine, Black Partridge, Gomo, Waba, Comas, and
Shick Shack. Waubonsie, Autuckee, Meam-
muse, with other chiefs of less note went west
with their respective bands. Shaubena went west
with his band in the fall of 1836, but on the fol-
lowing year returned with his family to this
country, and died on the bank of the Illinois river
near Seneca, in the year 1858, and was buried in
Morris cemeterv.

Indians everywhere are attached to their home
— the land of their nativity — but those on the
Illinois river were unusually so. Their country
was well supplied w^ith game, and the groves
filled with bee trees. Here were their sugar
camps and the place ot holding war dances and
annual religious feasts. To their friends among
the early settlers and fur traders, many of them
with tears in their eyes expressed their regrets of
leaving the home of their youth for a new one in
a strange land.

For a number of years after the Indians left


this country, small parties of them were occasion-
ally seen in the vicinity of their native villages,
having returned for the purpose of once more
looking on the scene of their youth, and the
graves of their fathers. But soon their trails
were fenced up by early pioneers, and the graves
of their ancestors plowed over, so they ceased to
return in after years.

It was intended to give a more elaborate ac-
count of the Pottawatomies of Illinois river, but
the material is not at hand to do so. Manv inci-
deuces relating to hunting parties, treaties, (fee, are
from tradition, otjiersfrom Indian agents and fur
traders, but they are found conflicting, and there-
fore bear no pan In this work.

Col. Barassa, of western Kansas, an educated
half-breed, with whom I have a personal acquain-
tance, has furnished many items relating to the
Indians of Illinois river, some of which are given
to the public, and others rejected as foreign to
our purpose.


In the summer of 1831, Senachwine died and
was buried on a high bluff, overlooking the vil-
lage and surrounding country where his grave is
still to be seen. A wooden monument was
placed over his grave, and by its side was planted


a liigii [)ole, on wliicli for many years waved a
black flag. Two years after Senacli wine's death,
his band left for the west, and are now living in
western Kansas.

In the summer of 1835, twenty-three warriors
with their heads decorated with tnrkey feathers,
and their faces painted in various colors, encamp-
ed on the site of Senachwine's village, wdiile
their ponies were feeding on the prairie near by.
These warriors were sons and grandsons of
Senachwine, and had traveled about live hundred
miles to visit his grave. With their faces blacked
and their heads covered with blankets, they knelt
around the grave invoking the Great Spirit to
])rotect the remains of the departed chief. For
many hours they remained in this position, while
their wails and lamentations were heard far away.
After the mourning, came the dance of the dead ;
which is described by an eye witness, Mr. Reeves
as very effecting. The warriors divested them-
selves of their clothing, and smeared their bodies
w^itli red paint, while on their cheeks and fore-
heads were many figures representing the sun,
moon and stars. Their clothing, rifles, tomahawks
and scalping knives, were placed by the side of
the pole that stood at the head of the grave ;
and were now ready to commence the dance.
The warriors joining hands, dancing in a circle


around the grave, singing and chanting all tlic
while. At intervals, they wonld stop dancing,
the leader repeat a few words, when all would
yell at the top of their voice ; after which they
would cry for a moment, and then continue the
dance as before. When these ceremonies were
ended the warriors mounted their ponies and left
for their home in the far west.

A few days after the ceremonies, some person
opened Senachwine's grave and robbed it of all
its valuables, consisting of rifle, tomahawk,
medals, &c., whicli were buried with him. The
bones wxre also taken out and scattered around
the grave, and. bunch of long gray hair still
adhered to the skull, giving it a ghastly appear-
ance. Some days afterward a party of Indians
belonging to Shaubena's band gathered up
Senachwine's bones, reburied them, and placed
the wooden monument again over his grave.

Durino: the summer of 1835 James R. Talia-
ferro built a dwelling on the site of Senach-
wine's village, where he now lives. Mr. Taliaferro
was present at the reburial of Senachwine's re-
mains, and says that Indians from the west at
different times made a pilgrimage to the grave. He
also says that the pole stood at the head of tlie
grave for many years, as well as the beaten path
around it made by the dancing of warriors.



Daring the summer of 1822 the government
surveys were completed in the Military District
iis far north as the Indian Boundary Line. At
that time there was no settlement north of
Springfield, and the country was full of Indians
who still held it by the right of possession.
Along Bureau creek were two surveying parties,
one headed by Thomas C Rector, and the other
by Stephen Kector, with their camp on East
Bureau, about one mile above its junction with
the main creek. With these surveyors was a
man named John Hanks, who was engaged as
teamster, but spent much of his time in hunting
and supplying the camp with meat. One night
Hanks with two companions visited the Indian
village, and making free with the squaws, be-
came involved in a difficulty, and one of them
received a wound by a tomahawk in the hand of
an enraged Indian. One day while Hanks was


hunting deer in the creek tinilier, he encoantered
a young Indian maiden, accompanied by two
small pappooses gathering flowers. Hanks made
overtures to the squaw when she ran towards the
village, but was caught and her person violated
by the hunter. On arriving at the villa^^e and
telling ol her wrongs, the warriors were greatly
agitated, and some of them threatened to shoot
the culprit. A young warrior whose fancied bride,
was this young maiden, made preparations to
avenore her wroni>:s, and durint; the ni^fbt, accom-
panied by about fifty of his friends, left for the
camp of the surveyors, with the intention of
killing the whole part}^ as they lay asleep on their
bunks. Soon after they left, their murderous in-
tentions became known in the village, when a drum
beat an alarm, to arouse the warriors from their
slumber. Autuckee. the head chief, with many
of liis friends, mounted their ponies, and rode
with all speed, overtaking the would-be murder-
ers before reaching the camp, compelling them to
return, and thereby saving the lives of the sur-
veyors. The young warrior with a few of his
friends were kept under guard until the survey-
ors left the country.


On the death of Senachwine his son succeeded


him as chief of the band, and became noted among
the early pioneers. His Indian name was Kaltoo,
but was better known among fur traders as young
Senachwine. He was an Indian of fine personal
appearance, possessing excellent physical and
mental powers, equal to his distinguished sire,
but was affected with the demon of drunkenness.
This young chief made frequent visits to trading
posts along the river where he would spend days
in dissipation, and sometimes get into trouble with
the traders. While his band was encamped on
the beech of the lake above Peoria, they held
what is called a fish dance, and being well sup-
plied with whisky, many got drunk, and while in
the revelry one of the warriors killed another.
Young Senachwine, accompanied by a number
of warriors, took the murderer to Ottawa for the
purpose of having him hung in accordance with
the custom of the whites. On taking the mur-
derer to the residence of Geo. E. Walker, then
an Indian trader, but now of the Oriental Block,
LaSalle street, Chicago, requested him to hang
the culprit. Mr. Walker did not like to offend
the chief, as he had a large trade with his band, so
he consented to hang the prisoner, and prepared a
rope for that purpose. When all was ready Mr.
Walker said to young Senachwine that in a few
months all the Indians of the different bands


would be in Chicago to receive their annuities,
and to prevent crime among tribes it would be
better to hang him there publicly. But, said Mr.
Walker, " I will hang the culprit now if you in-
sist upon it." After some consideration the chief
concluded to postpone the hanging until the
meeting in Chicago, but before the time arrived
the matter was settled among themselves, and
Walker was not called on the second time to
hang the murderer.

In the fall of 18-il, ten years after the death
of Senachwine, a lone Indian riding a jaded pony
was seen on Green river, and for a tew days was
the guest of a half-breed by the name of Battis.
This Indian, whose manly form, once the pride
of his band, was now bent and palsied — not by
age, ior he was still in middle life, but by dissi-
pation and disease. This Indian was Kaltoo, or
young Senachwine of former days, whose hand-
some form and stately mien is still fresh in the
rniads of some of the few tradei'S.

Kalto being atriicted with an incurable disease,
and knowing that his end was nigh, left his home
on Kansas river and alone visited this country in
order that he once mure might look on the haunts
of his 3'outh, and the grave of his father.


Tlie fur trade on the Illinois river is so closely


connected with the French and Indians, that
these sketches would not be complete without
further allusion to it. For one hundred and
thirty years, the French had undisputed control
of the fur trade, and to them it was a great source
of wealth. After the French were driven away
from Peoria, there was but little trade on the
Illinois riv^er for the four succeeding years. The
Indians in order to dispose of their furs, were
obliged to carry them either to St. Louis or
Chicago. At the latter place, a Frenchman by
the name of DnPin, occupied Kinzie's dwelling,
and for about four years carried on an extensive
trade with the Indians.

In the year 1816, the American Fur Company
established trading posts along the Illinois river,
and monopolized the trade with the Indians for
a number of years. One of these trading posts
was near the mouth of the Kankakee river, one
opposite the mouth of Bureau creek, and another
a few miles below Peoria lake, at a place now
called Wesley. This place originally was called
Opa by the French, but afterwards known as the
''Trading House," and for many years it was
kept by a P'renchman, named Besson.

Antoine Des Champs, a Canadian Frenchman,
long a resident of Peoria, but afterwards of Ca-
hokia, was the drst general agent of the American


Fur Company, and was succeeded by Gerden S.
Hubbard. This company shipped their furs and
pelts to St. Louis, in small Mackinaw boats called
bateau^ and by the same means brought goods up
the river to supply the different trading posts.
When emio-rants came westward and settled on
the Illinois river, it caused competition in the fur
trade, and a few years later independent traders
done the business of the country. Peter Menard
established trading houses at different places in
the Pottaw^atomie country ; John Hamlin, one at
Peoria ; Thomas Hartzell, at Hennepin ; Simon
Crozier, at the mouth of Big Yermillion, ' and
George E. Walker, at Ottawa.





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