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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 3 of 79)
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over the town, and each wigwam disgorged its boisterous and as-
tounded inmates. Women snatched their children, and in a delirium
of fright wandered aimlessly about, rending the air with their
screams. The men, more self-possessed, seized their arms ready
for the coming fray. Tonti, long an object of suspicion, was soon
surrounded by an angry crowd of warriors, who accused him of be-
ing an emissary of the enemy. His inability to defend himself
properly, in consequence of not fully understanding their language
left them still inclined to believe him guilty, and they seized his
effects from the fort and threw them into the river. The women
and children were sent down the river for safety, and the warriors,
not exceeding four hundred, as most of their young men were off
hunting, returned to the village. Along the shores of the river
they kindled huge bonfires, and spent the entire night in greasing
their bodies, painting their faces, and performing the war-dance,
to prepare for the approaching enemy. At early dawn the scouts
who had been sent out returned, closely followed by the Iroquois.
The scouts had seen a chief arrayed in French costume, and re-
ported their suspicions that LaSalle was in the camp of the enemy,
and Tonti again became an object of jealousy. A concourse of
wildly gesticulating savages immediately gathered about him, de-


manding his life, and nothing s^ved him from their uplifted weap-
ons but a promise that he and his men would go with them to meet
the enemy. With their suspicions partly lulled, they hurriedly
crossed the river and met the foe, when both commenced firing.
Tonti, seeing that the Illinois were outnumbered and likely to
be defeated, determined, at the imminent risk of his life, to stay
the fight by an attempt at mediation. Presuming on the treaty of
peace then existing between the French and Iroquois, he exchanged
hia gun for a belt of wampum and advanced to meet the savage
multitude, attended by three companions, who, being unnecessarily
exposed to danger, were dismissed, and he proceeded alone. A
short walk brought him in the midst of a pack of yelping devils,
writhing and distorted with fiendish rage, and impatient to shed
his blood. As the result of his swarthy Italian complexion and
half-savage costume, he was at first taken for an Indian, and before
the mistake was discovered a young warrior approached and stabbed
at his heart. Fortunately the blade was turned aside by coming
in contact with a rib, yet a large flesh wound was inflicted, which
bled profusely. At this juncture a chief discovered his true char-
acter, and he was led to the rear and efforts were made to staunch
his wound. When sufiiciently recovered, he declared the Illinois
were under the protection of the French, and demanded, in consid-
eration of the treaty between the latter and the Iroquois, that they
should be suffered to remain without further molestation. During
this conference a young warrior snatched Tonti's hat, and, fleeing
with it to the front, held it aloft on the end of his gun in view of
the Illinois. The latter, judging that Tonti had been killed,
renewed the fight with great vigor. Simultaneously, intelligence
was brought to the Iroquois that Frenchmen were assisting their
enemies in the fight, when the contest over Tonti was renewed
with redoubled fury. Some declared that he should be immediately
put to death, while others, friendly to LaSalle, with equal earnest-
ness demanded that he should be set at liberty. During their
clamorous debate, his hair was several times lifted by a huge sav-
age who stood at his back with a scalping knife ready for execution.
Tonti at length turned the current of the angry controversy in his
favor, by stating that the Illinois were 1,200 strong, and that there
were 60 Frenchmen at the village ready to assist them. This state-
ment obtained at least a partial credence, and his tormentors now


determined to use him as an instrument to delude the Illinois with a
pretended truce. The old warriors, therefore, advanced to the front
and ordered the firing to cease, while Tonti, dizzy from the loss of
blood, was furnished with an emblem of peace and sent staggering
across the plain to rejoin the Illinois. The two friars who had just
returned from a distant hut, whither thej had repaired for prayer
and meditation, were the first to meet him and bless God for wliat
they regarded as a miraculous deliverance. With the assurance
brouo-ht by Tonti, the Illinois re-crossed the river to their lodges,
followed by the enemy as far as the opposite bank. Not long after,
large numbers of the latter, under the pretext of hunting, also crossed
the river and hung in threatening groups about the town. These
hostile indications, and the well-known disregard which the Iroquois
had always evinced for their pledges, soon convinced the Illinois
that their only safety was in flight. With this conviction they set
tire to their village, and while the vast volume of flames and smoke
diverted the attention of the enemy, they quietly dropped down the
river to join their women and children. As soon as the flames would
permit, the Iroquois entrenched themselves on the site of the vil-
lao-e. Tonti and his men were ordered by the suspicious savages
to leave their hut and take up their abode in the fort.

At first the Iroquois were much elated at the discomfiture of the
Illinois, but when two days afterward they discovered them recon-
noitering their intrenchments, their courage greatly subsided.
With fear they recalled the exaggerations of Tonti respecting their
numbers, and concluded to send him with a hostage to make over-
tures of peace. He and his hostage were received with delight by
the Illinois, who readily assented to the proposal which he brought,
and in turn sent back with him a hostage to the Iroquois. On his
return to the fort his life was again placed in jeopardy, and the
treaty was with great difficulty ratified. The young and inexpe-
rienced Illinois hostage betrayed to his crafty interviewers the nu-
merical weakness of his tribe, and the savages immediately rushed
upon Tonti, and charged him with having deprived them of the spoils
and honors of victory. It now required all the tact of which he was
master to escape. After much difficulty however, the treaty was con-
cluded, but the savages, to show their contempt for it, immediately
commenced constructing canoes in which to descend the river and
attack the Illinois.





Tonti managed to apprise the latter of their designs, and he and
Membre were soon after summoned to attend a council of the Iro-
quois, who still labored under a wholesome fear of Count Frontenac,
and disliking to attack the Illinois in the presence of the French,
thej thought to try to induce them to leave the country. At the
assembling of the council, six packages of beaver skins were intro-
duced, and the savage orator, presenting them separately to Tonti,
explained the nature of each. "The first two," said he, " were to de-
clare that the children of Count Frontenac, that is, the Illinois,
should not be eaten; the next was a plaster to heal the wounds of
Tonti; the next was oil wherewith to anoint him and Membre,
that they might not be fatigued in traveling; the next proclaimed
that the sun was bright; and the sixth and last required them to
decamp and go home."

At the mention of going home, Tonti demanded of them when
they intended to set the example by leaving the Illinois in the
peaceable possession of their country, which they had so unjustly in-
vaded. The council grew boisterous and angry at the idea that
they should be demanded to do what they required of the French,
and some of its members, forgetting their previous pledge, declared
that they would "eat Illinois flesh before they departed." Tonti, in
imitation of the Indians' manner of expressing scorn, indignantly
kicked away the presents of fur, saying, since they intended to de-
vour the children of Frontenac with cannibal ferocity, he would not
accept their gifts. This stern rebuke resulted in the expulsion of
Tonti and his companion from the council, and the next day the
chiefs ordered them to leave the country.

Tonti had now, at the great peril of his life, tried every expedient
to prevent the slaughter of the Illinois. There was little to be ac-
complished by longer remaining in the^country, and as longer delay
might imperil the lives of his own men, he determined to depart, not
knowing where or when he would be able to rejoin LaSalle. With
this object in view, the party, consisting of six persons, embarked in
canoes, which soon proved leaky, and they were compelled to land
for the purpose of making repairs. "While thus employed, Father Ri-
bourde, attracted by the beauty of the surrounding landscape, wan-
dered forth among the groves for meditation and prayer. Not return-
ing in due time, Tonti became alarmed, and started with a compan-


ion to ascertain the cause of the long delay. They soon discovered
tracks of Indians, by whom it was supposed he had been seized, and
guns were fired to direct his return, in case he was alive. Seeing
nothing of him during the day, at night they built fires along the
bank of the river and retired to the opposite side, to see who might
approach them. Near midnight a number of Indians were seen
flitting about the light, by whom, no doubt, had been made the tracks
Been the previous day. It was afterward learned that they were a
band of Kickapoos, who had for several days been hovering about
the camp of the Iroquois in quest of scalps. They had fell in
with the inofiensive old friar and scalped him. Thus, in the 65th
year of his age, the only heir to a wealthy Burgundian house per-
ished under the war-club of the savages for whose salvation he had
renounced ease and affluence.


During this tragedy a far more revolting one was being enacted
in the great town of Illinois. The Iroquois were tearing open the
graves of the dead, and wreaking their vengeance upon the bodies
made hideous by putrefaction. At this desecration, it is said, they
even ate portions of the dead bodies, while subjecting them to every
indignity that brutal hate could inflict. Still unsated by their hell-
ish brutalities, and now unrestrained by the presence of the French,
they started in pursuit of the retreating Illinois. Day after day
they and the opposing forces moved in compact array down the
river, neither being able to gain any advantage over the other. At
length the Iroquois obtained by falsehood that which number and
prowess denied them. They gave out that their object was to pos-
sess the country, not by destroying, but by driving out its present
inhabitants. Deceived by this false statement, the Illinois separa-
ted, some descending the Mississippi and others crossing to the
western shore. The Tamaroas, more credulous than the rest, re-
mained near the mouth of the Illinois, and were suddenly attacked
by an overwhelming force of the enemy. The men fled in dismay,
and the women and children, to the number of 700, fell into the
hands of the ferocious enemy. Then followed the tortures, butch-
eries and burnings which only the infuriated and imbruted Iroquois
could perpetrate. LaSalle on his return discovered the half-charred
bodies of women and children still bound to the stakes where they
had suffered all the tornjents hellish hate could devise. In addition


to those who had been burnt, the mangled bodies of women and
children thickly covered the ground, many of which bore marks of
brutality too horrid for record.

After the ravenous horde had sufficiently glutted their greed for
carnage, they retired from the country. The Illinois returned and
rebuilt their town.


After the death of Ribourde, Tonti and his men again resumed
their journey. Soon again their craft became disabled, when they
abandoned it and started on foot for Lake Michigan, Their
supply of provisions soon became exhausted, and they were
compelled to subsist in a great measure on roots and herbs.
One of their companions wandered off in search of game, and lost
his way, and several days elapsed before he rejoined them. In his
absence he was without flints and bullets, yet contrived to shoot
some turkeys by using slugs cut from a pewter porringer and afire-
brand to discharge his gun. Tonti fell sick of a fever and greatly
retarded the progress of the march. Nearing Green Bay, the cold
increased and the means of subsistence decreased and the party would
have perished had they not found a few ears of corn and some froz-
en squashes in the fields of a deserted village. Near the close of
November they had reached the Pottawatomies, who warmly greet-
ed them. Their chief was an ardent admirer of the French, and
was accustomed to say: " There were but three great captains in the
world, — himself, Tonti and LaSalle." For the above account of
Tonti's encounter with the Iroquois, we are indebted to Davidson
and Stuve's History of Illinois.

lasalle's return.

LaSalle returned to Peoria only to meet the hideous picture of
devastation. Tonti had escaped, but LaSalle knew not whither. Pass-
ins down the lake in search of him and his men, LaSalle discov-
ered that the fort had been destroyed; but the vessel which he had
partly constructed was still on the stocks, and but slightly injured.
After further fruitless search he fastened to a tree a painting repre-
senting himself and party sitting in a canoe and bearing a pipe of
peace, and to the painting attached a letter addressed to Tonti.

LaSalle was.born in France in 1643, of wealthy parentage, and edu-
cated in a college of the Jesuits, from which he separated and came
to Canada, a poor man, in 1666. He was a man of daring genius,


and outstripped all his competitors in exploits of travel and com-
merce with the Indians. He was granted a large tract of land at
LaChine, where he established himself in the fur trade. In 1669
he visited the headquarters of the great Iroquois confederacy, at
Onondaga, New York, and, obtaining guides, explored the Ohio
river to the falls at Louisville, For many years previous, it must
be remembered, missionaries and traders were obliged to make their
way to the Northwest through Canada on account of the fierce
hostility of the Iroquois along the lower lakes and Niagara river,
which entirely closed this latter route to the upper lakes. They
carried on their commerce chiefly by canoes, paddling them through
Ottawa river to Lake Nipissing, carrying them across the portage
to French river, and descending that to Lake Huron. This being
the route by which they reached the Northwest, we have an explana-
tion of the fact that all the earliest Jesuit missions were established
in the neighborhood of the upper lakes. LaSalle conceived the
grand idea of opening the route by Niagara river and the lower
lakes to Canada commerce. by sail vessels, connecting it with the
navigation of the Mississippi, and thus opening a magnificent water
communication from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mex-
ico, This truly grand and comprehensive purpose seems to have
animated him in his wonderful achievements, and the matchless
difliculties and hardships he surmounted. As the first step in the
accomplishment of this object he established himself on Lake
Ontario, and built and garrisoned Fort Frontenac, the site of the
present city of Kingston, Canada. Here he obtained a grant of
land from the French crown, and a body of troops, by which he
repulsed the Iroquois and opened passage to Niagara Falls, Hav-
ing by this masterly stroke made it safe to attempt a hitherto
untried expedition, his next step, as we have seen, was to build a
ship with which to sail the lakes. He was successful in this under-
taking, though his ultimate purpose was defeated by a strange com-
bination of untoward circumstances. The Jesuits evidently hated
LaSalle and plotted against him, because he had abandoned them
and united with a rival order. The fur traders were also jealous of
his success in opening new channels of commerce. While they were
plodding with their bark canoes through the Ottawa, he was con-
structing sailing vessels to command the trade of the lakes and the
Mississippi. These great plans excited the jealousy and envy of


small traders, introduced treason and revolt into the ranks of his
men, and finally led to the foul assassination by which his great
achievements were permanently ended.

lasalle's assassination.
Again visiting the Illinois in the year 1682, LaSalle de-
scended the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. He erected a
standard upon which he inscribed the arms of France, and took
formal possession of the whole valley of this mighty river in the
name of Louis XIY., then reigning, and in honor of whom he named
the country Louisiana. LaSalle then returned to France, was
appointed Governor, and returned with a fleet of immigrants for the
purpose of planting a colony in Illinois. They arrived in due time
in the Gulf of Mexico, but failing to find the mouth of the Missis-
sippi, up which they intended to sail, his supply ship, with the
immigrants, was driven ashore and wrecked on Matagorda Bay.
"With the fragments of the vessel he constructed rude huts and
stockades on the shore for the protection of his followers, calling
tiie post Fort St. Louis. He then made a trip into New Mexico
in search of silver mines, but, meeting with disappointment,
returned to find his colony reduced to forty souls. He then resolved
to travel on foot to Illinois. With some twenty of his men they
filed out of their fort on the 12th of January, 1GS7, and after the part-
ing, — which was one of sighs, of tears, and of embraces, all seeming
intuitively to know that they should see each other no more, — they
started on their disastrous journey. Two of the party, Du Haut
and Leotot, when on a hunting expedition in company with a
neohew of LaSalle, assassinated him while asleep. The long
absence of his nephew caused LaSalle to go in search of him. On
approaching the murderers of his nephew, they fired upon him, kill-
ing him instantly. They then despoiled the body of its clothing,
aiic left it to be devoured by the wild beasts of the forest. Thus,
at the age of 43, perished one whose exploits have so greatly
enriched the history of the New World. To estimate aright the
marvels of his patient fortitude, one must follow on his track
through the vast scene of his interminable journeyings, those thou-
sands of weary miles of forest, marsh and river, where, again and
again, in the bitterness of baffled striving, the untiring pilgrim
pushed onward toward the goal he never was to attain. America
owes him an enduring memory ; for in this masculine figure, cast


in iron, she sees the heroic pioneer who guided her to the possession
of her richest heritage.

Tonti, who liad been stationed at the fort on the Illinois, learning
of LaSalle's unsuccessful voyage, immediately started down the
Mississippi to his relief. Reaching the Gulf, he found no traces of
the colony. He then returned, leaving some of his men at the
mouth of the Arkansas. These were discovered by the remnant of
LaSalle's followers, who guided them to the fort on the Illinois,
where they reported that LaSalle was in Mexico. The little band
left at Fort St. Louis were finally destroyed by the Indians, and the
murderers of LaSalle were shot. Thus ends the sad chapter of
"Robert Cavalier de LaSalle's exploration.



The first mission in Illinois, as we have already seen, was com-
menced by Marquette in April, 1675. He called the religious
society which he established the " Mission of the Immaculate Con-
ception," and the town Kaskaskia. The first military occupation of
the country was at Fort Crevecoeur, erected in 1680; but there is no
evidence that a settlement was commenced there, or at Peoria, on
the lake above, at that early date. The first settlement of which there
is any authentic account was commenced with the building of Fort
St. Louis on the Illinois river in 1682; but this was soon abandoned.
The oldest permanent settlement, not only in Illinois, but in the val-
ley of the Mississippi, is at Kaskaskia, situated six miles above the
mouth of the Kaskaskia river. This was settled in 1690 by the
removal of the mission from old Kaskaskia, or Ft. St. Louis, on the
Illinois river. Cahokia was settled about the same time. Tlie
reason for the removal of the old Kaskaskia settlement and mission,
was probably because the dangerous and difficult route by Lake
Michigan and the Chicago portage had been almost abandoned, and
travelers and traders traveled down and up the Mississippi by the
Fox and Wisconsin rivers. It was removed to the vicinity of the
Mississippi in order to be in the line of travel from Canada to
Louisiana, that is, the lower part of it, for it was all Louisiana then
south of the lakes. Illinois came into possession of the French in
1682, and was a dependency of Canada and a part of Louisiana.
During the period of French rule in Louisiana, the population


probably never exceeded ten thousand. To the year 1730 the fol-
lowing five distinct settlements were made in the territory of
Illinois, numbering, in population, 140 French families, about 600
" converted " Indians, and many traders ; Cahokia, near the mouth
of Cahokia creek and about five miles below the present city of
St, Louis; St. Philip, about forty-five miles below Cahokia; Fort
Chartres, twelve miles above Kaskaskia; Kaskaskia, situated on the
Kaskaskia river six miles above its confluence with the Mississippi,
and Prairie du Kocher, near Fort Chartres. Fort Chartres was
built under the direction of the Mississippi Company in 1718, and
was for a time the headquarters of the military commandants of
the district of Illinois, and the most impregnable fortress in North
America. It was also the center of wealth and fashion in the West.
For about eighty years the French retained peaceable possession
of Illinois. Their amiable disposition and tact of ingratiating them-
selves with the Indians enabled them to escape almost entirely the
broils which weakened and destroyed other colonies. Whether
exploring remote rivers or traversing hunting grounds in pursuit
of game, in the social circle or as participants in the religious exer-
cises of the church, the red men became their associates and were
treated with the kindness and consideration of brothers. For more
than a hundred years peace between the white man and the red was
unbroken, and when at last this reign of harmony terminated it
was not caused by the conciliatory Frenchman, but by the blunt
and sturdy Anglo-Saxon. During this century, or until the coun-
try was occupied by the English, no regular court was ever held.
When, in 1765, the country passed into the hands of the English,
many of the French, rather than submit to a change in their insti-
tutions, preferred to leave their homes and seek a new abode.
There are, however, at the present time a few remnants of the old
French stock in the State, who still retain to a great extent the
ancient habits and customs of their fathers.


During the earliest period of French occupation of this country,
M. Tonti, LaSalle's attendant, was commander-in-chief of all the
territory embraced between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, and
extending east and west of the Mississippi as far as his ambition or
imagination pleased to allow. He spent twenty-one years in estab-
lishing forts and organizing the first settlements of Illinois. Sep-


tember 14, 1712, the Frencli government granted a monopoly of all
the trade aud commerce of the country to M. Crozat, a wealthy
merchant of Paris, who established a trading company in Illinois,
and it was by this means that the early settlements became perma-
nent and others established. Crozat surrendered his charter in
1717, and the Company of the West, better known as the Missis-
sippi Company, was organized, to aid and assist the banking system
of John Law, the most famous speculator of modern times, and
perhaps at one time the wealthiest private individual the world
has ever known; but his treasure was transitory. Under the
Company of the West a branch was organized called the Company

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 3 of 79)