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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 2 of 79)
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During the occupancy of the continent by the three distinct races,
the children of Japheth have grown and prospered, while the called
and not voluntary sons of Ham have endured a servitude in the
wider stretching valleys of the tents of Shem.

When Christopher Columbus had finally succeeded in demon-
strating the truth of his theory that by sailing westward from Eu-
rope land would be discovered, landing on the Island of Bermuda
he supposed he had reached the East Indies. This was an error,
but it led to the adoption of the name of " Indians " for the inhab-
itants of the Island and the main land of America, by which name
the red men of America have ever since been known.

Of the several great branches of Korth American Indians the
only ones entitled to consideration in Illinois history are the Algon-
quins and Iroquois. At the time of the discovery of America the
former occupied the Atlantic seaboard, while the home of the
Iroquois was as an island in this vast area of Algonquin popula-
tion. The latter great nation spread over a vast territory, and various
tribes of Algonquin lineage sprung up over the country, adopting,
in time, distinct tribal customs and laws. An almost continuous
warfare was carried on between tribes; but later, on the entrance of
the white man into their beloved homes, every foot of territory
was fiercely disputed by the confederacy of many neighboring tribes.
The Algonquins formed the most extensive alliance to resist the
encroachment of the whites, especially the English. Such was the


nature of King Philip's war. This King, with his Algonquin
braves, spread terror and desolation throughout New England.With
the Algonquins as the controlling spirit, a confederacy of conti-
nental proportions was the result, embracing in its alliance the tribes
of every name and lineage from the Northern lakes to the gulf.
Pontiac, having breathed into them his implacable hate of the
English intruders, ordered the conflict to commence, and all the
British colonies trembled before the desolating fury of Indian


The Illinois confederacy, the various tribes of which comprised
most of the Indians of Illinois at one time, was composed of five
tribes: the Tamaroas, Michigans, Kaskaskias, Cahokas, and Peorias.
The Illinois, Miamis and Delawares were of the same stock. As
early as 1670 the priest Father Marquette mentions frequent visits
made by individuals of this confederacy to the missionary station at
St. Esprit, near the western extremity of Lake Superior. At that
time they lived west of the Mississippi, in eight villages, whither
they had been driven from the shores of Lake Michigan by the
Iroquois. Shortly afterward they began to return to their old
hunting ground, and most of them finally settled in Illinois.
Joliet and Marquette, in 1673, met with a band of them on their
famous voyage of discovery down the Mississippi. They were
treated with the greatest hospitality by the principal chief. On their
return voyage up the Illinois river they stopped at the principal
town of the confederacy, situated on the banks of the river seven
miles below the present town of Ottawa. It was then called Kas-
kaskia. Marquette returned to the village in 1675 and established
the mission of tlie Immaculate Conception, the oldest in Illinois.
When, in 1679, LaSalle visited the town, it had greatly increased,
numbering 460 lodges, and at the annual assembly of the difierent
tribes, from 6,000 to 8,000 souls. In common with other western
tribes, they became involved in the conspiracy of Pontiac, although
displaying no very great warlike spirit. Pontiac lost his life by
the hands of one of the braves of the Illinois tribe, which so enraged
the nations that had followed him as their leader that they fell upon
the Illinois to avenge his death, and almost annihilated them.


Tradition states that a band of this tribe, in order to escape the
general slaughter, took refuge upon the high rock on the Illinois


river since known as Starved Rock. Nature has made this one of
the most formidable military fortresses in the world. From the
waters which wash its base it rises to an altitude of 125 feet. Three
of its sides it is impossible to scale, while the one next to the land
may be climbed with difficulty. From its summit, almost as inac-
cessible as an eagle's nest, the valley of the Illinois is seen as
a landscape of exquisite beauty. The river near by struggles
between a number of wooded islands, while further below it quietly
meanders through vast meadows till it disappears like a thread of
light in the dim distance. On the summit of this rock the Illinois
were besieged by a superior force of the Pottawatomies whom the
great strength of their natural fortress enabled them to keep at bay.
Hunger and thirst, however, soon accomplished what the enemy
was unable to effect. Surrounded by a relentless foe, without food
or water, they took a last look at their beautiful hunting grounds,
and with true Indian fortitude lay down and died from starvation.
Years afterward their bones were seen whitening in that place.

At the beginning of the present century the remnants of this
once powerful confederacy were forced into a small compass around
Kaskaskia. A few years later they emigrated to the Southwest,
and in 1850 they were in Indian Territory, and numbered but 84:


The Sacs and Foxes, who figured most conspicuously in the later
history of Illinois, inhabited the northwestern portion of the State.
By long residence together and intermarriage they had substan-
tially become one people. Drake, in his "Life of Black Hawk,"
speaks of these tribes as follows : " The Sacs and Foxes fought their
way from the waters of the St. Lawrence to Green Bay, and after
reaching that place, not only sustained themselves against hostile
tribes, but were the most active and courageous in the subjugation,
or rather the extermination, of the numerous *and powerful Illinois
confederacy. They had many wars, ofiensive and defensive, with
the Sioux, the Pawnees, the Osages, and other tribes, some of which
are ranked among the most fierce and ferocious warriors of the
whole continent; and it does not appear that in these conflicts, run-
ning through a long period of years, they were found wanting in
this, the greatest of all savage virtues. In the late war with Great
Britain, a party of the Sacs and Foxes fought under the British



Standard as a matter of choice; and in the recent contest between a
fragment of these tribes and the United States, although deteated
and literally cut to pieces by an overwhelming force, it is very
questionable whether their reputation as braves would sufler by a
comparison with that of their victors. It is believed that a caretul
review of their history, from the period when they lirst established
themselves on the waters of the Mississippi down to the present
time will lead the inquirer to the conclusion that the bacs and
Foxes were trulv a courageous people, shrewd, politic, and enter-
prising, with no" more ferocity and treachery of character than is
common among the tribes by whom they were surrounded." These
tribes at the time of the Black Hawk War were divided into twenty
families, twelve of which were Sacs and eight Foxes. The lollow-
ino- were other prominent tribes occupying Illinois: the Kickapoos,
Slilwuees, Eascoulins, Piaukishaws, Pottawatomies, Chippewas,
and Ottawas.


The art of hunting not only supplied the Indian with food, but,
like that of war, was a means of gratifying his love of distinction
The male children, as soon as they acquired sufficient age and
strength, were furnished with a bow and arrow and taught to shoot
birds°and other small game. Success in killing large quadrupeds
required years of careful study and practice, and the art was as
sedulously inculcated iu the minds of the rising generation as are
the elements of reading, writing and arithmetic in the common
schools of civilized communities. The mazes of the forest and the
dense, tall grass of the prairies were the best fields for the exercise
of the hunter's skill. No feet could be impressed in the yielding
soil but that the tracks were the objects of the most searching
scrutiny, and revealed at a glance the animal that made them, the
direction it was pursuing, and the time that had elapsed since it
had passed. In a forest country he selected the valleys, because
they were most frequently the resort of game. The most easily
taken, perhaps, of all the animals of the chase was the deer. It is
endowed with a curiosity which prompts it to stop in its flight and
look back at the approaching hunter, who always avails himself of
this opportunity to let fly the fatal arrow.

Their general councils were composed of the chiefs and old men.
When in'' council, they usually sat in concentric circles around the


speaker, and each individual, notwithstanding the fiery passions
that rankled within, preserved an exterior as immovable as if cast
in bronze. Before commencing business a person appeared with
the sacred pipe, and another with fire to kindle it. After being
lighted, it was first presented to heaven, secondly to the earth,
thirdly to the presiding spirit, and lastly the several councilors,
each of whom took a wliift'. These formalities were observed with
as close exactness as state etiquette in civilized courts.

The dwellings of the Indians were of the simplest and rudest
character. On some pleasant spot by the bank of a river, or near
an ever-running spring, they raised their groups of wigwams, con-
structed of the bark of trees, and easily taken down and removed
to another spot. The dwelling-places of the chiefs were sometimes
more spacious, and constructed with greater care, but of the same
materials. Skins taken in the chase served them for repose.
Though principally dependent upon hunting and fishing, the
uncertain supply from those sources led them to cultivate small
patches of corn. Every family did everything necessary within
itself, commerce, or an interchange of articles, being almost unknown
to them. In cases of dispute and dissension, each Indian relied
upon himself for retaliation. Blood for blood was the rule, and
the relatives of the slain man were bound to obtain bloody revenge
for his death. This principle gave rise, as a matter of course, to
innumerable and bitter feuds, and wars of extermination where such
were possible. War, indeed, rather than peace, was the Indian's
glory and delight, — war, not conducted as civilization, but war
where individual skill, endurance, gallantry and cruelty were prime
requisites. For such a purpose as revenge the Indian would make
great sacrifices, and display a patience and perseverance truly heroic;
but when the excitement was over, he sank back into a listless, un-
occupied, well-nigh useless savage. During the intervals of his
more exciting pursuits, the Indian employed his time in decorating
his person with all the refinement of paint and feathers, and in the
manufacture of his arms and of canoes. These were constructed of
bark, and so light that they could easily be carried on the shoulder
from stream to stream. His amusements were the war-dance, ath-
letic games, the narration of his exploits, and listening to the ora-
tory of the chiefs; but during long periods of such existence he
remained in a state of torpor, gazing listlessly upon the trees of
the forests and the clouds that sailed above them; and this vacancy



imprinted an habitual gravity, and even melancholy, upon his gen-
eral deportment.

The main labor and drudgery of Indian communities fell upon
the women. The planting, tending and gathering of the crops,^
making mats and baskets, carrying burdens,— in fact, all things of
the kind were performed by them, thus making their condition but
little better than that of slaves. Marriage was merely a matter of
bargain and sale, the husband giving presents to the father of the
bride. In general they had but few children. They were sub-
jected to many and severe attacks of sickness, and at times famine
and pestilence swept away whole tribes.


The most desperate single-handed combat with Indians ever
fought on the soil of Illinois was that of Tom Higgins, August 21,
1814. Higgins was 25 years old, of a muscular and compact
build, not tin, but strong and active. In danger he possessed a
quick and discerning judgment, and was without fear. He was a
member of Journey's rangers, consisting of eleven men, stationed
at Hill's Fort, eight miles southwest of the present Greenville, Put-
nam county. Discovering Indian signs near the fort, the company,
early the following morning, started on the trail. They had not
gone far before they were in an ambuscade of a larger party. At
the first fire their commander, Journey, and three men fell, and
six reti-eated to the fort; but Higgins stopped to "have another
pull at the red-skins," and, taking deliberate aim at a stragglmg
savage, shot him down. Higgins' horse had been wounded at the
first fire, as he supposed, mortally. Coming to, he was about to
efi'ect his escape, when the tamiliar voice of Burgess hailed him
from the long grass, " Tom, don't leave me." Higgins told him to
come along, but Burgess replied that his leg was smashed. Hig-
gins attempted to raise him on his horse, but the animal took fright
and ran away. Higgins then directed Burgess to limp off" as well
as he could; and by crawling through the grass he reached the fort,
\^diile the former loaded his gun and remained behind to protect
him- against the pursuing enemy. When Burgess was well out of
the way, Higgins took another route, which l6d by a small thicket,
to throw any wandering enemy off the trail. Here he was con-
fronted by three savages approaching. He ran to a little ravine
near for shelter, but in the efi'ort discovered for the first time that


he was badly wounded in the leg. He was closely pressed by the
largest, a powerful Indian, who lodged a ball in his thigh. He fell,
but instantly rose again, only, however, to draw the fire of the other
two, and again fell wounded. The Indians now advanced upon him
with their tomahawks and scalping knives; but as he presented his
gun first at one, then at another, from his place in the ravine, each
wavered in his purpose. Neither party had time to load, and the
large Indian, supposing finally that Higgins' gun was empty, rushed
forward with uplifted tomahawk and a yell; but as he came near
enough, was shot down. At this the others raised the war-whoop,
and rushed upon the wounded Higgins, and now a hand-to-hand
conflict ensued. They darted at him with their knives time and
again, inflicting many ghastly flesh-wounds, which bled profusely.
One of the assailants threw his tomahawk at him with such pre-
cision as to sever his ear and lay bare his skull, knocking him down.
They now rushed in on him, but he kicked them ofi^, and grasping
one of their spears thrust at him, was raised up by it. He quickly
seized his gun, and by a powerful blow crushed in the skull of one,
but broke his rifle. His remaining antagonist still kept up the con-
test, making thrusts with his knife at the bleeding and exhausted
Higgins, which he parried with his broken gun as well as he could.
Most of this desperate engagement was in plain view of the fort;
but the rangers, having been in one ambuscade, saw in this fight
only a ruse to draw out the balance of the garrison. But a Mrs.
Pursely, residing at the fort, no longer able to see so brave a man
contend for his life unaided, seized a gun, mounted a liorse, and
started to his rescue. At this the men took courage and hastened
along. The Indian, seeing aid coming, fled. Higgins, being near-
ly hacked to pieces, fainted from loss of blood. He was carried to
the fort. There being no surgeon, his comrades cut two balls from
his flesh; others remained in. For days his life was despaired of;
but by tender nursing he ultimately regained his liealth, although
badly crippled. He resided in Fayette county for many years after,
and died in 1829.




The first white man who ever set foot on the soil embraced within
the boundary of the present populous State of Illinois was Nich-
olas Perrot, a Frenchman. He was sent to Chicago in the year 1671
by M. Talon, Intendant of Canada, for the purpose of inviting the
Western Indians to a great peace convention to be held at Green
Bay. This convention had for its chief object the promulgation of
a plan for the discovery of the Mississippi river. This great river
had been discovered by De Soto, the Spanish explorer, nearly one
hundred and fifty years previously, but his nation left the country
a wilderness, without further exploration or settlement within its
borders, in which condition it remained until the river was dis-
covered by Joliet and Marquette in 1673. It was deemed a wise
policy to secure, as far as possible, the friendship and co-operation
of the Indians, far and near, before venturing upon an enterprise
which their hostility might render disastrous. Thus the great con-
vention was called.


Although Perrot was the first European to visit Illinois, he was
not the first to make any important discoveries. This was left for
Joliet and Marquette, which they accomplished two years thereafter.
The former, Louis Joliet, was born at Quebec in 1615. He was
educated for the clerical profession, but he abandoned it to
engage in the fur trade. His companion, Father Jacques Mar-
quette, was a native of France, born in 1637. He was a Jesuit
priest by education, and a man of simple faith and great zeal and
devotion in extending the Roman Catholic religion among the In-
dians. He was sent to America in 1666 as a missionary. To con-
vert the Indians he penetrated the wilderness a thousand miles
in advance of civilization, and by his kind attention in their afilic-
tions he won their affections and made them his lasting friends.
There were others, however, who visited Illinois even prior to the
famous exploration of Joliet and Marquette. In 1672 the Jesuit


missionaries, Fathers Claude Allouez and Claude Dablon, bore the
standard of the Cross from their mission at Green Bay through
western Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

According to the pre-arranged plan referred to above, at the Jes-
uit mission on the Strait of Mackinaw, Joliet joined Marquette,
and with five other Frenchmen and a simple outfit the daring ex-
plorers on the 17th of Maj^, 1673, set out on their perilous voyage
to discover the Mississippi. Coasting along the northern shore of
Lake Michigan, they entered Green Bay, and passed thence up Fox
river and Lake "Winnebago to a village of the Muscatines and
Miamis, where great interest was taken in the expedition by the
natives. With guides thej^ proceeded down the river. Arriving
at the portage, they soon carried their light canoes and scanty bag-
gage to the Wisconsin, about three miles distant. Their guides
now refused to accompany them further, and endeavored, by re-
citing the dangers incident to the voyage, to induce them to return.
They stated that huge demons dwelt in the great river, whose voices
could be heard a long distance, and who engulfed in the raging
waters all who came within their reach. They also represented that
if any of them should escape the dangers of the river, fierce tribes of
Indians dwelt upon its banks ready to complete the work of de-
struction. They proceeded on their journey, however, and on the
17th of June pushed their frail barks on the bosom of the stately
Mississippi, down which they smoothly glided for nearly a hundred
miles. Here Joliet and Marquette, leaving their canoes in charge
of their men, went on the western shore, where they discovered an
Indian village, and were kindly treated. They journeyed on down
the unknown river, passing the mouth of the Illinois, then run-
ning into the current of the muddy Missouri, and afterwaid the
waters of the Ohio joined with them on their journey southward.
Near the mouth of the Arkansas they discovered Indians who
showed signs of hostility; but when Marquette's mission of peace
was made known to them, they were kindly received. After pro-
ceeding up the Arkansas a short distance, at the advice of the
natives they turned their faces northward to retrace their steps. Af-
ter several weeks of hard toil they reached the Illinois, up which
stream they proceeded to Lake Michigan. Following the western
shore of the lake, they entered Green Bay the latter part of Sep-
tember, having traveled a distance of 2,500 miles.


On his way np the Illinois, Marquette visited the Kaskaskias,
near what is now Utica, in LaSalle county. The following year
he returned and established among them the mission of the Im-
maculate Virgin Mary. This was the last act of his life. He died
in Michigan, May 18, 1675.

lasalle's explokations.

The first French occupation of Illinois was eifected by LaSalle,
in 16S0. Having constructed a vessel, the " Griffin," above the
falls of Niagara, he sailed to Green Bay, and passed thence in
canoe to the mouth of the St. Joseph river, by which and the Kan-
kakee he reached the Illinois in January, 1680; and on the 3d he
entered the expansion of the river now called Peoria lake. Here,
at the lower end of the lake, on its eastern bank, now in Tazewell
county, he erected Fort Crevecoeur. The place where this ancient
fort stood may still be seen just below the outlet of Peoria lake. It
had, however, but a temporary existence. From this point LaSalle
determined, at that time, to descend the Mississippi to its mouth.
This he did not do, however, until two years later. Returning to
Fort Frontenac for the purpose of getting material with which to
rig his vessel, he left the fort at Peoria in charge of his lieutenant,
Henri Tonti, an Italian, who had lost one of his hands by the
explosion of a grenade in the Sicilian wars. Tonti had with him
fifteen men, most of whom disliked LiiSalle, and were ripe for a
revolt the first opportunity. Two men who had, previous to LaSalle's
departure, been sent to look for the " Griffin " now returned and
reported that the vessel was lost and that Fort Frontenac was in
the hands of LaSalle's creditors. This disheartening intelligence
had the effect to enkindle a spirit of mutiny among the garrison.
Tonti had no sooner left the fort, with a few men, to fortify what
was afterward known as Starved Kock, than the garrison at the
fort refused longer to submit to authority. They destroyed the
fort, seized the ammunition, provisions, and other portables of value,
and fied. Only two of their number remained true. Tliese hast-
ened to apprise Tonti of what had occurred. He thereupon sent
four of the men with him to inform LaSalle. Tims was Tonti in
the midst of treacherous savages, with only five men, two of whom
were the friars Ribourde and Membre. With these he immediately
returned to the fort, collected what tools had not been destroyed,
and conveyed them to the great town of the Illinois Indians.


By this voluntary display of confidence he hoped to remove the
jealousy created in the minds of the Illinois by the enemies of La-
Salle. Here he awaited, unmolested, the return of LaSalle.


Neither Tonti nor his wild associates suspected that hordes of Iro-
quois were gathering preparatory to rushing down upon their
country and reducing it to an uninhabited waste. Already these
hell-hounds of the wilderness had destroyed the Hurous, Eries, and
other natives on the lakes, and were now directing their attention
to the Illinois for new victims. Five hundred Iroquois warriors
set out for the home of the Illinois. All was fancied security and
idle repose in the great town of this tribe, as the enemy stealthily
approached. Suddenly as a clap of thunder from a cloudless sky
the listless inhabitants were awakened from their lethargy. A
Shawnee Indian, on his return home after a visit to the Illinois,
first discovered the invaders. To save his friends from the im-
pending danger, he hurriedly returned and apprised them of the
coming enemy. This intelligence spread with lightning rapidity

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 2 of 79)