pub Chas. C. Chapman & Co..

History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws online

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Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 16 of 79)
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destruction. These stories \vere of course discredited by LaSalle,
but many of his men were superstitious, and really feared to visit
that river, and deserted lest LaSalle should start an expedition in
search of it. Soon, however, an incident occurred Avhich enabled
him to disabuse their minds of such fabulous stories. AVhile hunt-
ing in the vicinity of the fort, he chanced to meet a young Indian
who had just returned from a distant war excursion. Finding him
almost famished with hunger LaSalle invited him to the fort, where
he refreshed him with a generous meal, and questioned him with
apparent indiflPerence respecting the Mississippi. Owing to his long
absence he knew nothing of Avhat had transpired between his breth-
ren and the French, and, with great subtlety, imparted all the in-
formation required. LaSalle now gave him presents not to mention
the interview. With a number of his men he then proceeded to the
camp of the Indians to expose their misrepresentations. Having
found the chiefs at a feast of bear meat he boldly accused them of
falsehood, and at once proceeded to substantiate his charges. The
Master of Light, he declared, was the friend of truth, and had re-
vealed to him the true character of the Mississippi. He then gave
such an accurate description of it that the astonished but credulous
savages believed he had derived his knowledge through supernatural
agency. They at once confessed their guilt, and gave, as the reason
for resorting to such artifice, the fact that they w^anted him to re-
main with them. This confession removed the principal cause of the
desertion of his men.

lasalle's departure.

On the 2d day of April, 1680, LaSalle bid adieu to his diminished
band, and left it in the wilderness inhabited only by the wild beasts
of the forests and the uncivilized, brutal natives, and hundreds of
miles in advance of any frontier post. He placed the garrison in
charge of his lieutenant, Henri Tonti, an Italian. For a fuller
account of the trials and difficulties encountered bv Tonti than we
can give here, we refer the reader to the History of Illinois con-
tained in this volume.



LaSalle had no sooner left than the dish:>yal men among tlie gar-
rison displayed a spirit of mutiny, which culminated in the almost
total destruction of the fort by them, and all save six, besides the
faithful Tonti, deserted. After the famous battle between the Iro-
quois and Illinois Tonti was driven away.

Soon LaSalle returned to find the fort destroyed, tools thrown into
the river, and the village of the Illinois, which numbered 8,000 in-
habitants, a desolate waste. The vessel, however, was still upon its
stocks uninjured. Thus disastrously terminated the first attempt to
settle the State of Illinois and the county of Tazewell.


The next attempt to settle this section of Illinois was made at
the upper end of Peoria lake in 1778. The country in the vicinity
of this lake was called by the Indians Pim-i-te-wi, that is, a place
where there are many fat beasts. Here the town of Laville de
Meillet, named after its founder, was started. Within the next
twenty years, however, the town was moved down to the lower
end of the lake to the present site of Peoria. In 1812 the town
was destroyed and the inhabitants carried away by Captain Craig.
In 1813 Fort Clark was erected there by Illinois troops engaged in
the war of 1812. Five years later it was destroyed by fire.


During the period from the time Laville de Meillet was founded
in 1778, or at least after it was moved to the lower extremity
of the lake, French traders had a regular established trading post
on the Illinois near the site of old Fort Crevecoeur. They carried
on an extensive commerce with the neighboring Indians, buying
their furs with notions. At this business they became quite wealthy.

The " old French trading post," by which name it was known, re-
mained at Wesley City for almost a quarter of a century after the
first settlers came to the county. A large log building, about 30 by
60 feet in size and 10 feet high, was their principal store-house. Mr.
B. F. Montgomery tells us that he visited the place in 1836, and
in this building found a very large stock of skins and furs, which
they told him were worth in their present state $2,000. The col-
lection contained the covering of almost every animal of any value
from the weasel to the buffalo.


The principal traders at this point during the early settlement of
the county were Tromly and Besau, both of whom were well known
by some of the pioneers. These French traders had lived, traded
and intermarried with the Indians until there were many half-breeds
throughout the neighborhood. They were quiet, peaceable people,
and treated the settlers with the neatest kindness. Besau died at the
old post many years ago. Tromly went to Kansas in 1844. The
former had married an Indian squaw and reared a large family. One
of his daughters, Mary Besau, who is said to have been quite beau-
tiful and her personal appearance and bearing graceful, was married
to a man by the name of Anderson. About the year 1845 he moved
to Kansas, where, near Leavenworth, he resided when last heard
from by any Tazewell county people.

These French traders cannot be classed as settlers, at least in the
light we wish to view the meaning of that term. They made no
improvements ; they cultivated no land ; they established none of
those bulwarks of civilization brought hither a half century ago by
the sturdy pioneer. On the other hand, however, they associated
with the natives ; they adopted their ways, habits and customs ; they
intermarried and in every way, almost, became as one of them.


Year after year rolled by until quite a centur>' and a half had
passed since LaSalle stepped ashore from his skiff, before the aborigi-
nes who occupied the territory embraced within the present boundary
of Tazewell county were molested by the encroachment of the white
man, save the French traders above referred to. Generation after
generation of natives appeared upon the wild scenes of savage life,
lived, roamed the forest and prairie, and glided over the beautiful,
placid Illinois in their log and bark canoes, and passed away. Still
the advance of civilization, the steady westward tread of the Anglo-
Saxon disturbed them not. The buffalo, deer, bear, and wolf roamed
the prairie and woodland, the Indian their only enemy. But nature
had destined better things for this fertile region. She had been too
lavish in the distribution of natural advantages to leave it longer in
the peaceable possession of those who had for centuries refused to de-
velop, even in the slightest degree, any of her great resources. She
accordingly directed hitherward the footsteps of the industrious,
enterprising pioneer. Before, however, proceeding to recount his


advent, we wish to speak of the diiferent tribes and families of the
Indians who dwelt in this portion of the State.


At the time the earliest European explorers visited the State the
various tribes of the Illinois confederacy dwelt upon the banks of
the Illinois river. They were the Peorias, Michigans, Tamaroas,
Kaskaskias, and Cahokas. This once powerful confederacy was
almost exterminated by the wars with the Iroquois, the Foxes and
Sacs, and the Pottawatomies. During the latter part of the seven-
teenth century hard and desperate battles were fought upon the land
of this county between the different tribes. Hundreds of brave
warriors had fallen beneath the tomahawks of other tribes, until
acres of the land now possessed by the nobler race were strewn with
the dead and dying. After a famous contest in the year 1680,
between the different tribes of the Illinois confederacy and a chosen
band of brutal Iroquois, the latter, who were victorious, carved upon
the trunks of the largest trees upon the shore of the Illinois river
hieroglyphics, representing the chiefs, the braves, and different bat-
tle scenes.

From about the year 1780 to 1832, the time of the Black-Hawk
war, the Kickapoos dwelt in the western and southwestern part of
the county. Their principal village was in Logan county. The
Pottawatomies, however, were the chief occupants and immediate
predecessors of the whites.

For some years after the first settlers came wigwams were scat-
tered here and there over the county. The kind and generous
Shaubena, with his band of Pottawatomies, had his principal camp
and wigwams on the bank of the Illinois river near where the gas-
works of Pekin are now located. Another extensive camping
ground was on the Mackinaw river, near the present town of Mack-
inaw. Old Machina was the chief of this band. The Kickapoos
had made a treaty shortly previous to the coming of the first settler,
by which the whites acquired all their land. When the whites came,
however, to settle and occupy the land the Kickapoos were angry,
and some of them felt disposed to insult and annoy the settlers.
When John Hendrix came to Blooming Grove the Indians ordered
him to leave. Not long afterwards they frightened away a family
which settled on the Mackinaw. Old ]\Iachina ordered one family


away by throwing leaves in the air. This was to let the bootanas
(white men) know that they must not be found in the country when
the leaves of autumn should fall. In 1823, when the Orendorifs
came, Old Machina had learned to speak a little English. He came
to Thomas OrendorfP and with a majestic wave of his hand said :
"Too much come back, white man: t'other side Sangamon." The
Rhodes family were also ordered away. These families settled in the
eastern part of this and western part of McLean counties, but at
the time and for years afterwards was all Tazewell county. These
things appeared a little threatening, but the settlers refused to leave
and were not molested.

When the Black Hawk war broke out in 1832, the Indians liv-
ing here were very much like the whites in some particulars. The
pale-faces looked upon the neighboring red men with suspicion, and
feared they would be massacred by them, while at the same time the
Indians experienced a like timidity. They watched the whites
closely lest they should arise up some night and butcher their squaws
and papooses. Controlled by this feeling they began to emigrate.
Shaubena went north and located at Shaubena's Grove, DeKalb
county. In the early part of the decade between 1840 and 1850 he
returned and spent two winters at Pleasant Grove, in Elm Grove

After the grand exit of 1832 the Indians, who had roamed at will
over the prairies and through the forests for centuries, returned only
as visitors. Devoted to the sweet memories of departed kindred,
one would occasionally return alone and with a melancholy spirit.
He would hunt the burial mound and silently and sadly commune
with the loved dead. You see the native red man no more. He is
only of the past so far as Tazewell county is concerned. Should
one pass through the principal thoroughfares of your cities robed
in his native costume he would excite the wonder and curiosity of
all, the old as well as the young.

THE WAR OF 1812.

During the war of 1812 Tazewell county was the scene of one of
the most effective engagements against the Indians waged in Illinois
during that war. Gov. Edwards had collected an army of about
400 men in the southern part of the State, and set out in the latter
part of October, 1812, for the seat of war. This was in the neigh-


borhood of Peoria lake. At the same time Gen. Hopkins started
with 2,000 mounted Kentucky riflemen. His destination was the
same point, and Edwards expected to work in concert with the noted
General. However, when his men had marched about 90 miles
across Illinois prairie into the enemy's country they became wearied,
and regardless of the General's protestations, turned about without
even seeing the foot-prints of an Indian, and started on a hasty
homeward march.


Edwards with his brave and courageous Illinois rangers continued
on. It may be remarked that in this little band were three men,
all of whom subsequently became noted governors of Illinois.
Leaving Fort Russell they marched up through Sangamon and
Logan counties, striking Tazewell at the point in Hittle townshij)
where Sugar creek makes its exit. On this creek the troops found
an old deserted Kickapoo village. These tenantless bark wigwams
were painted up here and there with rude savage devices, mostly rep-
resenting the red-skins scalping whites. This provoked the warlike
indignation of the little army, and the village was assaulted, set on
fire and destroyed. After this, fearing that their nightly camp fires
would reveal their approach tat the Indians, whom they hoped to
surprise, the marches were continued till midnight. The course of
the army was now northward through Hittle, Little MackinaAV,
Mackinaw, bearing westward through Deer Creek, striking Morton,
and enterino; ^Yashin2;ton near the center of its southern line. From
this point they took a direct course for the Black Partridge village
of Pottawatomies, located at the upper end of the lake, on the bluffs
in Fond du Lac township. Before coming up to the town Lieut.
Peyton, with a small party, was sent to Peoria. He made no dis-
coveries. The army moved rapidly but cautiously forward, and late
in the night preceding the attack camped in the western part of
Washington township.


It was now desirable to reconnoitre the position of the Indian
town, that the army might know how, when and where to strike.
To perform this perilous duty four of the bravest of men stepped
forward and volunteered their services. All of them subsequently
won enviable reputations in public life. They were Thomas Carlin,


and Robert, Stephen, and Davis Whiteside. They proceeded to the
viHage and explored all the approaches to it thoroughly without dis-
turbing the wily savage. The town was found to be about five
miles from where the army was encamped, and situated on a bluif
separated in part from the high lands by a swamp through which ran
a small stream (Ten Mile creek). The low banks of this stream
were covered by a rank growth of tall grass and bunches of brush,
so tall and dense as readily to conceal an Indian on horseback until
within a few feet of him. Recent heavy rains had rendered the
ground additionally yielding, making it almost impassable to mount-
ed men.


That night within the fireless and cheerless camp of the rangers
all was as silent as the grave. A deep and solemn gloom settled
over the men. The long marches lost the charm they at first
possessed, and instead of being jovial and frolicsome as they were
then wont to be, they were fatigued and sulky. They were in the
enemy's country and feared an attack at any moment. They reposed
upon their arms, with their horses tethered near at hand, ready sad-
dled to be mounted in an instant.

During the night, when scarcely a whisper disturbed the air, a
gun was carelessly discharged by o^e of the men. This of course
caused the greatest consternation in the camp. The treacherous and
subtle foe was momentarily expected, and the men regarded that as
the signal for attack. All the horrors of the night attack at Tippe-
canoe, then fresh in the minds of every one, presented themselves to
the active imaginations of the rangers. Every white-coated soldier
at that battle, it was said, was singled out in the dusky morn-
ing and killed by the savages. Every soldier who happened to have
on a light-colored coat distinctly remembered this, and in an instant
not a white coat could be seen. Soon, however, the voice of the
Governor assured the men that the firing was merely accidental, and
all became quiet again.


A heavy fog prevailed on the following morning; however,
the army took up its line of march for the Indian town. Capt. Judy
with his spies were in advance. They came up to an Indian and his
squaw, both mounted. The tall grass concealed them until within
a few paces. The Indian wanted to surrender, but Capt. Judy said


he " did not leave home to take prisoners," and instantly shot him.
AVith the blood streaming from his montli and nose, and in his agony
" singing the death song," the dying Indian raised his gun, shot and
mortally wounded one of the soldiers, and expired. The rest of the
spies, who had incautiously approached the wounded Indian, when
they saw him seize his gun, quickly dismounted on the far side of
their horses. Many guns were immediately discharged at the other
Indian, not then known to be a squaw, all of which missed her.
Badly scared, and her husband killed by her side, the agonizing
wails of the squaw were heart-rending. She was taken prisoner and
subsequently restored to her nation.


Owing to the dense fog which prevailed the army was misled and
found itself in the spongy bottom just below the town, with the
miry creek to cross. This, of course, deranged the plan of attack,
and thus the village escaped a surprise. While a halt was made,
preparatory to crossing, the Indians were observed running from the
town. An attack from the Indians while crossing the treacherous
stream was momentarily expected. However, no attack was made
or attempted, but the Indians were fleeing from their village and
impending death. Pell-mell they went, men, women and children,
some on horseback, some on foot, into the swamp among the tall
grass, and toward a point of timber in which the Governor judged
they intended to make a stand for battle. " I immediately changed
my course," he writes, " ordered and led on a general charge upon
them ;" but owing to the unsoundness of the ground, the pursuers,
horses, riders, arms and baggage all shared in the common catastro-
phe alike, and were unhorsed and overwhelmed in the morass.

A pursuit on foot was ordered. Tliis was both difficult and dan-
gerous on account of the tall gra,ss in which the Indians were lurk-
ing. Several squads thus pursued the retreating foe for two or three
miles across the saturated bottom to the river, killing some of the
enemy while attempting to cross to the western shore. To such a
pitch of excitement Avere the men wrought that three of them, find-
ing some Indian canoes, in the fury of the chase crossed the river in
full view of the Indians, but without molestation.


The Indian village, called by Gov. Edwards Chequeneboc, after


a chief, was burned. The Indians who had not retreated over the
river, fled to the interior wilderness. Here some of them were pur-
sued, but the Indians, making a stand in considerable numbers,
forced the rangers to retreat. Being reinforced, they returned and
routed the savages. Some of the troops were wounded in this action,
but none killed.

During these engagements the place was pillaged and burned by
the main body of the troops. The Indians in their flight had left
behind all their winter's store of provision, which was destroyed or
taken away. Hiding about the burning embers of the ruins were
found some Indian children, forgotten by the frightened fugitives.
There were also found some disabled adults, one of whom was in a
starving condition, and with a voracious appetite partook of the
bread given him. He is said to have been killed by a cowardly
soldier straggling behind, after the main army had resumed its ret-
rograde march, who wanted to be able to boast that he had killed
an Indian.

To show the reckless daring of the Indian character, it is men-
tioned that a warrior walked calmly down the bluff some 200 yards
distant from the town, deliberately raised his gun and fired upon the
troops in the village, then turned and strode slowly away amid a
shower of bullets.


Gov. Edwards failed to hear from the larger force under Gen.
Hopkins, and fearing the Indians would concentrate and make an
attack upon him, concluded to make a hasty retreat. This he began
the same day of the attack, and though a heavy and continuous rain
prevailed tlxe men were in such dread of a pursuit that they kept up
their march until overtaken by darkness, when, greatly exhausted
and wet, without fire to dry their clothing or food to nourish their
bodies, they sank into sleep upon the wet ground. Soon the little
army had passed the limits of this county on their homeward march,
where we will leave it.


Leaving the history of the French and Indians, having given all
of interest we have been able to gather, we come now to the time
the first pioneer erected his cabin liere and established for himself
and family a home in the wilderness. So fertile was the soil and


beautiful the flowers, so sparkling were the streams and shady the
groves that, in advance of all the surrounding country, the pioneers
sought and settled the timber land and prairie of Tazewell county.

The thrilling scenes through which the pioneer settlers passed in
the settlement of this portion of Illinois must ever awaken emotions
of warmest regard for them. To pave the way for those who fol-
lowed after them, to make their settlement in the West a pleasure,
they bore the flood tide wave of civilization ; they endured all,
suffered all. But few of these spirits now survive ; they have passed
away full of years and honors, leaving their children, and children's
children and strangers to succeed them, and enjoy the fruits of the
toil, privations and savings of their long and eventful lives.

Life with them is o'er, their labors all are done,
And others now reap the harvest that they won.

Too great honor cannot be accorded them, and we regret that we
have not the data to speak more fully and definitely of them, their
personal experiences, their lives and characters.


AVhen, in 1826-7, the Legislature formed Tazewell county it
extended over a vast region of country. Its boundaries then em-
braced many of the neighboring counties, and its jurisdiction extend-
ed as far north as Chicago. In giving the history of the settlement
of the county, however, we will speak only of the territory within
its present limits.

The first to cast his fortune here, — to "locate" in Tazewell coun-
ty, — was Nathan Dillon. He came in the year 182.3, and lived,
labored and died in the county of his adoption an honorable, hon-
ored citizen. Fortunately we have been able to obtain a very fiill
narrative of his coming from his own pen. We give it in his own
language just as he has left it to posterity.

. NATHAN Dillon's reminiscence.

It was in the year 1821 that we set our faces westward, with heavy
hearts at the thought of leaving near friends and relatives behind,
with a view of taking up our abode on the broad prairies of the
West, and among strangers and savages. At that early day, our
way was in a manner through a wilderness to our journey's end,
the destination of which was eight miles south of Springfield, on
Sugar creek.


Although we were well outfitted with good horses and wagons,
many hardships awaited us of which we had not dreamed. We had
a terrible trip through Indiana through mud, over logs and brush,
often swamped down to the hubs of the wagon. We could procure
but little feed for our horses but new corn, and part of the time
could not obtain that ; and when at last we struck the Grand Prairie,
west of Clinton, on the AVabash, we found ourselves with broken-
down horses and only three days' provisions, our company consisting
of my brother Absalom's family and my own, with six horses and
seventy head of cattle and twenty sheep. The country before us
was wild, new, almost untrodden by man ; but our hearts were brave.
The second day out some were attacked with the chills and fever,
and as we advanced others were taken with the same disease. Then
did we wish ourselves back again to the home we had left in Ohio.
Not half way across the prairie and out of provisions, and not able
to drive our team, let alone our stock, what to do we did not
know ; but at this juncture we were overtaken by three young men,
who had set out on our trail with the hope of safely walking
through : but when thev overtook us were already out of provisions.

Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 16 of 79)