N. (Nehemiah) Matson.

French and Indians of Illinois river online

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dents related, showing tkat trouble existed at
different times between the French and their red
neighbors, among which are the following:

In the year 1781, a Frenchman killed an Indian
with whom he had trouble, and for a time all the
white population were threatened with destruc-
tion. A large party of warriors came to Peoria
and demanded the murderer, but he could not be
found, having fled down the river, as was after-
wards shown. But the Indians believed that the
murderer was secreted by his friends, so they
gave the French three days to deliver him up,
and if not forthcoming at the specified time they
would burn the town. This caused a great panic ;
some fled -for Caliokia, others took quarters in the
fort, but before the time had expired, tlie Indians
were convinced that the murderer had fled, con-
sequently pledges of friendship were renewed.
* Again, in 1790, about five hundred warriors
came to Peoria and demanded the surrender of a
certain trader, whom they accused of causing the
murder of Pierre de Beuro, but finally left with-
out him.




Probably no IS^orth American Indian has ac-
qnired so much fame and notoriety, and whose
power was so much felt in the early settle-
ment of the country, as Pontiac. This Indian,
tu whom -historians so often refer, was born and
raised near Detroit, and for many years was head
chief of the Ottawas. Like Phillip, of Mount
Hope, his power and influence extended over
neighboring tribes, and he was more like a king
than a chief. So long as the French held domin-
ion over the west, and conducted the trade of the
lake country, Pontiac lived on friendly terms with
them, but when it came in posession of the
British, he denounced the latter as enemies to his
people, and made an efibrt to drive them fi-om *
the country. While Major Rogers, of the British
armv, was marchintj: westward with a rejj^imeiitof
soldiers, tor the purpose of taking p(jssession i»l"
Detroit, he was met by Pontiac, who inquired by


what authority he was passing through his coun-
try. With his tall figure raised to its full hight,
and while holding his right hand before the face
of the British commander, he said to him, "I
stand in yonr path, and you can go no further
without my permission."

However, Pontiac allowed the British to take
possession of the French trading posts along the
lakes, and for a time professed to be friendly toward
them. But a fe'^ years afterwards he made war
ao-ainst the red coats and tried to drive them from
the country. He united with him all the neigh-
boring tribes, forming what is known in history
as Pontiac's Conspiracy, and a long and bloody
war resulted.

In order to carry on the war, this great chief
issued checks cut out of birch bark, calling
for various amounts, payable in furs. These
checks were taken by different tribes in payment
for munitions of war, and all of which were re-
deemed according to agreement.

Pontiac was an Indian of gigantic statue ; a
towering intellect, and exercised almost unlimited
power over his followers. He pretended to com-
mune with the Great Spirit, who on one occasion
said to him : " Why do you let these dogs in red
clothing take possesion of your country; rise in
your might and drive them from the land."


Pontiac, in an address to liis warriors, said :
" Although tlie red coats have conquered the
French, they have not conquered us. We are
not slaves nor squaws, and as long as the Great
Spirit is our ruler, we will maintain* our riglits.
These lakes, and these woods were given us by
our fathers, and we will part with tliem only with
our lives."

For a long time Pontiac was victorious, but at
last the fortune of war turned against him ; then
his allies forsook his cause and made peace with
the British. On being betrayed by his allies, he
tied from tlie country and found refuge on the
Kankakee river, a short distance above its junc-
tion with the Illinois. In his tight from Michi-
gan he was accompanied by about two hundred
warriors, with their squaws and pappooses. With
this remnant of bis band he formed an alliance
with the' Pottawatomies, who, at that time, occu-
])ied the hake and Wabash counties, and from
thenceforth thev became one tribe.

Pontiac, by locating his band on Kankakee
river, gave offense to the Illinois Indians, who
were the owners of the land ; consequently,
Kiiieboo, the head chief, accompanied by a reti-
nue of warriors, mounted on ponies, went to the
Ottawa camp, where they found the new comers
engaged in building lodges and making ])repara-


tions to plant corn. Kineboo notified them that
they were trespassers, and gave them two moons
to leave the couotrj, but if found there at the
expiration of that time, he would remove thefti
by force. But when the Illinoians found that the
Ottawas were backed by the pow^erful tribe of
Pottawatomies, they did not molest them.


During the summer season the buffalo, on ac-
.count of the green-headed flies, would leave the
Wabash country and tlie prairies on the east part
of the State, and range west and north of the
Illinois river. Consequently, buffalo were sel-
dom seen south and east, while the prairies to the
westward, for miles in extent, were frequently
blackened with large herds of them. On this
account the Pottawatomies and Ottawas were in
the habit of hunting buffalo west of the river,
which gave offense to the Illinoians, the owners
ot the country, and who regarded these hunting
parties as trespassers on their rights.

A party of about thirty Ottawa hunters, among
whom was Pontiac, had been killing buffalo du-
ring the day on the prairie, about eight leagues
west of La Yantum. At night they camped in a
grove of timber, with the intention of renewing


the hunt the following day. Next morning,
while this hunting party were sitting around the
camp-fire cooking their breakfast, unconscious of
danger, they were attacked by a large party of
Illinois warriors, and the most of them slain.
Pontiac was wounded in this affair, but by the
swiftness of his pony made his escape.*

A bloody war followed this massacre of the
hunting party, and for a long time was carried on
with varying success, both sides meeting with
victories and defeats. The Pottawatomies and
Ottawas would send war parties into the Illinois

*The grove referred to is supposed to have been the head of
Bureau timber, near the viUageof La MoiUe, and known in the
early settlement of the country as Dimmick Grove. In the
spring of 1830 Daniel Dimmick made a claim here, and built a
cabin near the head of the grove, on what is now known as the
Collin's farm. He lived on this claim about two years, until
the beginning of the Black Hawk war, when he left it and
never returned, but for many years the grove bore his name.

A short distance below Dimmick's cabin, near the bank of
Pike creek, and by the side of a spring, was an old Indian
camping ground, and during the fall and winter hunting par-
ties were frequently found here. In the winter of I8.i0-3I, a
party of Indians from the Illinois river, among whom was the
noted chief Shick Shack, were encamped here for many days,
while hunting deer in the grove.

Shick Shack said to Dimmick, while in conversation, that a
long time ago a hunting party of Ottawa Indians Vere en-
camped on this very spot, when they were attacked by the
Illinoians, a large portion of them killed, and their great war
chief, Pontiac, wounded. From that time, continued the old
chief, the tribes were at war with each other, which continued
until all the Illinoians were slain, the last of whom perished
on Starved Rock.


country, burn their towns, destroy their corn,
kill their squaws and pappooses, and carry off
with tliem ponies, furs and other valuables. Then
the Illinoians would retaliate on their enemies by
making raids into their country, killing, burning
and destroying everytliing that lay in their way.
After this war had continued for some time, the
Illinoians sued for peace, and a council was called
to agree on terms.


The council met at a mound near the present
site of Joliet, and was attended by all the war-
chiefs of the respective tribes. For a time, the
deliberations of the council were harmonious, but
when the allies claimed a part of the Illinois ter-
ritory as the only condition of peace, there arose
an ill feeling among them. Kineboo, the head
chief of the Illinoians, in a speech, said: "Rather
than submit to these terms, he and his warriors
would sacrifice the last drop of blood in their
veins, and leave their squaws and pappooses to be
scalped by a barbarous enemy." Pontiac next
addressed the council. His' tall, manly form,
unimpaired by age, was an object of admiration,
and his sprightly eloquence carried all his friends
with him. With great enthusiasm he called on


liis brother chiefs to stand by him, and never lay
down the tomahawk until their terms were ac-
ceded to. While Pontiac was thus talking,
Kineboo drew his scalping knife and stabbed him
to the heart. Thus perished the greatest warrior
of his day.

History gives various accounts of Pontiac's
death, the year and place of its occurrence, and the
manner of his end are conflicting. One account
says he was assassinated in council ; another that
he was killed in a drunken row at Cahokia, and
also killed while on a buffalo hunt. However,
all accounts agree that in avenging his death a
war was inaugurated which resulted in the anni-
hilation of the Illinois Indians, but all tail to
show any connection between the two events.*

*Iu the summer of 1767 a large, prepossessing Ottawa Indian,
dressed in a French uniform, with a white feather in his cap,
came to St. Louis and represented himself to the commander
of the post, Lieut Ange, as Pontiac. Some days afterward,
this pompous Indian crossed the river in a canoe and went
down to Cahokia, where be was mucli lionized by French and
half-breeds, all of whom believed him to be tlie great Ottawa
chief, Poniiac. Indians from a neighboring viiiage came in lo
see him and listen to his boasting harangues, in which he said
he intended to unite ail the tribes of the west, drive the British
fromthe country, and restore to the French all their former
trading posts. •

An English trader at Cahokia, named Williamson, being
afraid that Pontiac would induce his new made friends to de-
stroy his stock in trade, gave a drunken Indian a barrel of
whisky to assassinate him. W^hile the reputed Pontiac was
sitting on the ground at the root of a tree, explaining to those


The assassination of Pontiac caused mourning
throughout the country, and preparations were
made to avenge his deatli. Runners were sent
among the Winnebagoes of the [lorth, and among
the Kickapoos of the southeast, all of whom
agreed to take part in tlie war and punish the
murderers of this great Indian champion.

With these tribes united, the war w^as renewed
with great vigor, and for savage barbarity it has
no parallel in Indian warfare. Instead of its be-
ing a w^ar of concpiest, as before, it became a war
of extermination, and resulted in the annihilation
iDf the Illinois Indians, and their country occu-
pied by the conquerors, as will be sl\pwn in the
succeeding chapters. .

Over the remains of Pontiac the warriors held
a council, at which they swore by the great

arouud him the plans which he had adopted to drive the red
coats out ol the country, the drunken Indian employed by
Williamson came up behind him and buried his tomahawk in
his brain. An account of this aflair found its way into the
newspapers of the day, and became a matter of history. This
account of the death of Pontiac was strengthened by his actual
death, which occurred a year or two afterward, and explains to
some extent the errors of history.

According to the statement of Shaubena, Waubonsie, and
other Indians, Pontiac was assassinated while speaking in
council at Mt. Joliet, and the war which followed it caused the
destruction of the Illinois Indians.

A band of Ottawa Indians, known as Pontiac's, were living at
a village on Kankakee river, in the early settlement of the
country, and their descendants are now living in Western


Manito of war that the fallen chainpiuirs death
should be avenged, and they set to work prepar-
ing for its execntion. As soon as Pontiac had
breathed his last, they cut off his head and legs,
boiled them to separate the flesh from the bones,
and with the skull and cross-bones placed on a
pointed pole, were prepared to go forth to victory.

Warriors of different tribes, who had fought
with Pontiac against the British, now came for-
ward to avenge his death. Puttawatamies, of
Michigan, Miamis and Kickapoos, from the Wa-
bash, came west and took part in the war. Even
the white outlaw, Bernett, who had long since
become a savage and a chief of a small band,
marshaled his warriors and took part in the bloody
strife which followed. The combined forces of
the different tribes constituted the most formi-
dable Indian armv ever collected in the west,
and for savage brutality their acts have no par-
allel in the history of Indian warfare. Their
motto was victory or death — no quarter to the
enemy, and never lay down the tomahawk until
the Illinoians were annihilated

The allied forces attacked and destroyed all the
villages along the Illinois river, killing and scalp-
ing defenceless squaws and pappooses ; but the
principal town. La Vantum, which was well forti-
fied and defended by the bravest warriors, they


]\'dd not molested. At this town the remnants of
the different bands were collected, and here they
intended to make their last defense against the
victorions invaders.

Small timbers and brnsh were brought from
the neighboring groves, w^ith which barricades
were erected around three sides of the town, the
river bounding the fourth. Inside tliis fortifica-
tion were collected, from many distant towns, all
that was now left of the Illinois Indians, num-
bering about ten thousand, of whom.two thousand
were warriors.

Days and weeks passed away — the summer was
almost ended — and the enemy had not been seen
in the vicinity, so they came to the conclusion
that they had left the country. Preparations were
made for holding a great feast and offering up
sacrifices to the Manito of war for deliverance
iroin the tomahawks, and scalping knives of their
enemies. Fronting the council-house an altar
was erected, and many of their most valuable
articles burned thereon. A number of favorite
dotrs were killed and roasted whole, on which the
warriors feasted, while offering up prayer and
thanksgiving to the gods of war. Music and
dancing was again heard in the great Illinois
capital and the people, old and young, gave
themselves up to enjoyment. The warriors


brought forth the scalps taken from the enemy,
and in merry glee danced around them. Naked
pappooses played in the dirt, and ran to and fro
yelling and laughing as in former times. Young
maidens and their lovers amused themselves with
songs and dances, and talked of happy days in
future. For weeks the Indians gave themselves
up to feasting and amusement, unconscious of the
great calamity which was about to befall them.

It was near the close of a warm day in the
early part of Indian summer, when the Indians
of both sexes, arrayed in their best apparel, orna-
mented with beads, feathers and rings, were
collected in an open square on the river bank to
celebrate the marriage of the head chiefs daughter.
But while in 'the midst of gaity, they were hor-
rified to see the great meadow back of the town,
covered with the enemy, who, with great rapidity,
were moving on them. In front of the invaders,
on a red pole, was carried the skull and cross-
bones of Pontiac, showing that no quarter would
be asked or given.

The drums beat; the warrioj-s grasped their
arms, and in a moment were ready tor battle,
while a wail of lamentation was raised bv the
frightened squaws and pappooses. On came the
allied forces, with theirwar-clubs and tomahawks
raised above their heads, and so rapid was their


movement, without opposition, a large number
of them scaled the breastwork and entered the
town. But here the assailants were met by the
defenders, and most of them slain before they could
recross it and join their comrades. When the in-
vaders saw the fate of their advanced force, they
were spell-bound, and before recovering from their
panic, the Illinoians in a large force attacked
them, when they fled in confusion, leaving behind
their dead and wounded.

The attacking party being repulsed with great
slaughter, retired to Buffalo Rock, where they
called a council of war, at which speeches were
made by the leading war-chiefs, all of whom
favored prosecuting the war.

In this council it was agreed to renew the attack
in the morning, and never cease fighting until the
Illinoians w^ere exterminated. The morning came,
and with it came blood and carnage, unequaled
in Indian warfare.

After the inv^aders were repulsed the Illinoians
spent the night in dancing over the scalps they
had taken during the day, and offering up sacri-
fices to the great Manito of war for their success
ill battle. Having spent the night in rejoicing
they were found asleep in the morning, and while
in this situation were again attacked, and before
they could marshal their hosts the invaders, in


great numbers, entered the town, killing all that
lay in their course, sparing neither squaws,
pappooses, aged or infirm. But the assailants
were again met by brave Illinois warriors and
repulsed with great slaughter. Again and again
the town was entered, when a hand to hand con-
flict raged with fearful strife, the allies falling
back only for reinforcements.

For twelve long hours the battle raged, a large
portion of the Illinois warriors were slain, and
hundreds of squaws and pappooses lay lifeless in
their bloody gore. Niglit at last came, but the
battle continued, and against the large invading
force the defenders could make but a feeble re-
sistance, and soon all must be slain. But fortu-
nately a heav^y rain storrn came on, and in the
darkness of the night it became impossible to
distinguish friends from foes, consequently furthei'
slaughter was suspended until morning.



During a heavy rain storm and the darkness of
the night, the Illinoians launched their canoes,
crossed the river and ascended Starved Rock.
Here on this rock were collected the remnant of
the Illinois Indians, consisting of about twelve
hundred, three hundred of whom were warriors.
On this rock the fui2:itives considered themselves
safe from their enemies, and th^y offered up
prayers and sang songs of praise to the great
Manito for their safe deliverance. Many years

* On the lOth of September, 1873, a meeting was held on
Starved Rock to commemorate the two hundredth anniver-
sary of its discovery by JoUet and Marquette. This meeting
was attended by a large number of people fi'orai the neighbor-
ing towns, many speeches were made, toasts given, and the
celebration was a great success. A high pole was erected on
the summit of the Rock from which waved the stars and
stripes, where the French flag had waved nearly two centuries

At this meeting, one Perry Armstrong of Grundy county, de-
livered a speech entitled, -'A Legend of Starved Rock," pur-
porting to be the statement of an old Indian chief named
Shick Shack. This speech was extensively copied by news-


before, Tonti, with fifty French soldiers and one
hundred Indian allies, held this rock when {it-
tacked by two thousand Iroquois, and put them to
flight; consequently, on this spot they felt secure.
Moruing came, and with it a clear sky and a
bright sun ; and from their elevated position they
looked down on their enemies encamped on the
j^reat meadow below. Soon the allied forces were
in motion, moving on the town for the purp'^)fie
of completing their bloody work ; but they soon
discovered that their intended victims had fled.
The town was burned and the slain left unburied,
where their swollen and distorted remains were
fonnd some days afterwards.

papers, and read with interest by those who regarded the
legend quite probable, if not strictly true.

Poor old Shick Shack, who long since had gone to the happy
hunting grounds ^Jf his lathers, was made to give a detailed ac-
count of many great battles fought along the Illinois river, ami
the linal tragedy on Starved Rock, in all of which he bore a part,
Ijut in fact must have occurred a short time before he was brrn,
If we credit the traditions of others. .

But the most remarkable part of .Shick Shack's story, is the
great duel fouu'lit ni-ar Terre Haute, Indiana, with thr^e hun-
dred on a side and among the combatants was himself and an-
other chief named Sugar. This duel lasted twelve long hours,
when all the warriors were killed except five on one side
and seven on the other. The old (thief informed us that neither
himself nor Sugar were killed in this long and bloody affair.

This great duel described by Shick Shack, is thought to l>e the
same one .spoken of in the Bible between the hosts of Abner
and .loab, and the place of meeting. Pool of Gibeoh, instejid of
Terrc Haute, as above stated, and the number of corubatant.s
having been increased from twelve on each side to three hun-
dred, in order to correspond with the balance of the legend.


The allied forces forded the river on the rapids,
surrounded Starved Ilock,and prepared themselves
for ascending it in order to complete their victory.
With deafening yells the warriors crowded up
the rocky pathway, but on reaching the summit
they were met by brave Illinoians, who, with
war-clubs and tomahaw^ks, sent them bleeding and
lifeless down the rugged precipice. Others as-
cended the rock to take part in the fight, but
they, too, met the fate of their comrades. Again
and again the assailants rallied, and rushed for-
ward to assist their friends, but one after another
were slain on reaching its summit, and their life-
less bodies thrown from the rock into tlie river.
On came fresh bands of assailants, who were
made valiant by their late victory, and the fearful
struggle continued until the rock was red and
slippery with human gore. After losing many
of their bravest warriors, the attacking forces
abandoned the assault and retired from the bloody

Connected with this bloody battle on Starved
Rock is a romantic story, which was current at
the time among the French and half-breeds at
Peoria, and is now told by their descendants. A
young warrior, named Belix, a half-breed, who
had distinguished himself in previous battles, and
therefore wore on his breast a badge of honor.


This yonng brave liaving wooed and won a beau-
tiful maiden, a daughter of the head chief, Kine-
boo, and the time had arrived to celebrate the
marriage rites. But in the midst of tlie marrifige
festival, and before tlie bride was given away, the
alarm of an approaching enemy was given, as
previously stated. When the aJHed foices as-
saulted the fugitives on Starved Rock, foremost
among the warriors in repelling the assailants, was
Belix, and with his war-club cleaved the skulls of
many of the enemy. During tlie fight his fancied
bride stood near by witnessing the bloody strife,
but when she saw her lover's skull split open by a
tomahawk, with a wild scream she sprang from the
rock down the fearful precipice, lier body falling
from crag to crag, until it landed lifeless and
bleeding in the river below.


On a high, rocky cliff south of Starved Rock,
and known as Devil's Nose, the allied forces
erected a temptirary fortification. During the
night they collected small timbers and evergreen
brush, with which they erected a breastwork.
From this breastwork they fired on the besieged,
killing some and wounding others, a^nong tljc
latter was Kineboo, the head chief of the tribe.

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