William Henry Perrin.

History of Jefferson County, Illinois online

. (page 4 of 76)
Online LibraryWilliam Henry PerrinHistory of Jefferson County, Illinois → online text (page 4 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

noticed, being those at St. Vincent (Vin-
cennes). Kohokia or Cahokia, Kaskaskia
and Prairie du Rocher, on the American



Bottom, a large tract of rich alluvial soil
in Illinois, on the Mississippi, opposite the
site of St. Louis.

By the treaty of Paris, the i-egions east
of the Mississippi, including all these and
other towns of the Northwest, were given
over to England, but they do not appear to
have been taken possession of until 1765.
when Captain Stirling, in the name of the
Majesty of England, established himself at
Fort Chartres bearing with him the procla-
mation of General Gage, dated December
30, 1764, which promised religious freedom
to all Catholics who worshipped here, and
a right to leave the country with their
effects if they wished, or to remain with
the privileges of Englishmen. It was
shortly after the occupancy of the West by
the British that the war with Pontiac
opened. It is already noticed in the sketch
of that chieftain. By it many a Briton lost
his life, and many a frontier settlement in
its infancy ceased to exist. This was not
ended until the year 1764, when, failing to
capture Detroit, Niagara and Fort Pitt,
his confederacy became disheartened, and,
receiving no aid from the Frencli, Pontiac
abandoned the enterprise and departed to
the Illinois, among whom he afterward
lost his life.

As soon as these difficulties were defi-
niteh' settled, settlers began rapidly to sur-
vey the country, and prepare for occupa-
tion. During the year 1770, a number of
persons from Yirginia and other British
provinces explored and marked out nearly
all the valuable lands on the Monongahela
and along the banks of the Ohio, as far as
the Little Kanawha. This was followed by
another exploring expedition, in which
George Washington was a party. The

latter, accompanied b}' Dr. Craik, Capt.
Crawford and others, on the 20th of Octo-
ber, 1770, descended the Ohio from Pitts-
burgh to the mouth of the Kanawha ; as-
cended that stream about fourteen miles,
marked out several large tracts of land,
shot several buffalo, which were then abun-
dant in the Ohio valley, and returned to
the fort.

Pittsburgh was at this time a trading
post, about which was clustered a village
of some twenty houses, inhabited by In-
dian traders. This same year, Capt. Pitt-
man visited Kaskaskia and its neighbor-
ing villages. He found there about sixtj'-
five resident families, and at Cahokia only
forty-five dwellings. At Fort Chartres was
another small settlement, and at Detroit
the garrison were quite prosperous and
strong. For a year or two settlers con-
tinued to locate near some of these posts,
generally Fort Pitt or Detroit, owing to
the fears of the Indians, who still main-
tained some feelings of hatred to the Eng-
lish. The trade from the posts was quite
good, and from those in Illinois large quan-
tities of pork and flour found their way to
the New Orleans market. At this time
the policy of the British Government was
strongly opposed to the extension of the
colonies west. In 1763, the King of Eng-
land forbade, by royal proclamation, his
colonial subjects from making a settle-
ment beyond the sources of the rivers
which fall into the Atlantic Ocean. At the
instance of the Board of Trade, measures
were taken to prevent the settlement with-
out the limits prescribed, and to retain the
commerce within easy reach of Great

The commander-in-chief of the king's



forces wrote in 1769 : '" In the course of a
few years necessity will compel the colo-
nists, should they extend their settlements
west, to provide manufactures of some kind
for tlieniselves, and when all connection
upheld by commerce with the mother coun-
try ceases, an independency in their gov-
ernment will soon follow."

In accordance with this policy, Gov.
Gaze issued a proclamation in 1772, com-
manding the inhabitants of Vincennes to
abandon their settlements and join some
of the Eastern English colonies. To this
they strenuously objected, giving good
reasons therefor, and were allowed to re-
main. Tlie strong opposition to this pol-
icy of Great Britain led to its change, and
to such a course as to gain the attachment
of the French population. In December,
1773, influential citizens of Quebec peti-
tioned the king for an extension of the
boundary lines of that province, which was
granted, and Parliament passed an act on
June 2, 1774, extending tlie boundary so
as to include the territory lying within the
present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois
and Micliigan.

In consequence of the liberal policy pur-
sued by the British Government toward
the French settlers in the West, they were
disposed to favor that nation in the war
which soon followed with the colonies; but
the early alliance between France and
America soon brought them to the side of
the war for independence.

In 1774, Gov. Dunmore, of Virginia,
began to encourage emigration to the
"Western lands. He appointed magistrates
at Fort Pitt, under the pretense that the
fort was under tlie government of that
commonwealth. One of these justices,

John Connelly-, who possessed a tract of
land in the Ohio Valley, gathered a force
of men and garrisoned the fort, calling it
Fort Dunmore. This and other parties
were formed to select sites for settlements,
and often came in conflict with the Imlians,
who yet claimed portions of the valley, and
several battles followed. These ended in
the famous battle of Kanawha, in July,
where the Indians were defeated and driv-
en across the Ohio.

During the years 1775 and 1776, by the
operations of land companies and the per-
severance of individuals, several settle-
ments were firmly established between the
Alleghenies and the Ohio Piver, and west-
ern land speculators were busy in Illinois
and on the Wabash. At a council held in
Krtskaskia, on July 5, 1773, an association
of English traders, calling themselves the
" Illinois Land Company," obtained from
ten chiefs of the Kaskaskia, Cahokia and
Peoria tribes two large tracts of land lying
on the east side of the Mississippi River
south of the Illinois. In 1775, a merchant
from the Illinois country, named Viviat,
came to Post Vincennes as the agent of the
association called the " Wabash Land Com-
pany." On the Stli of October he obtained
from eleven Piankeshaw chiefs, a deed for
37,497,600 acres of land. This deed was
signed by the grantors, attested by a num-
ber of the inhabitants of Vincennes, and
afterward recorded in the oflice of a notary
public at Kaskaskia. This and other land
companies had extensive schemes for the
colonization of the West; but all were frus-
trated by the breaking out of the Revolu-
tion. On the 20th of April, 1780, the two
companies named consolidated under the
name of the " United Illinois and Wabash



Land Company." They afterward made
strenuous efforts to have these grants sanc-
tioned by Congress, but all signally failed.

When the War of the Eevolution com-
menced, Kentucky was an unorganized
countrj', thougii there were several settle-
ments within her borders.

In Hutchins' Topography of Virginia,
it is stated that at that time " Kaskaskia
contained 80 houses, and nearly 1,000
white and black inhabitants — the whites
being a little the more numerous. Caho-
kia contains 50 houses and 300 white in-
habitants and SO negroes. There were
east of the Mississijipi River, about the
year 1771 " — when these observations were
made — " 300 white men capable of bearing
arms, and 230 negroes."

From 1775 until the expedition of Clark,
nothing is recorded and nothing known of
these settlements, save what is contained
in a report made by a committee to Con-
gress in June, 177S. From it the follow-
ing extract is made:

"Near the mouth of the River Kaskas-
kia, there is a village which appears to
have contained nearly eighty families from
the beginning of the late revolution.
There are twelve families in a small village
at la Prairie du Rochers, and near fifty
families at the Kahokia Village. There
are also four or five families at Fort Char-
tres and St. Phillips, which is five miles
farther up the river."

St. Louis had been settled in February,
176'1, and at this time contained, including
its neishborinn; towns, over six hundred
whites and one hundred and fifty negroes.
It must be remembered that all the coun-
try west of the Mississijipi was now under
French rule, and remained so until ceded

again to S]iaiu, its original owner, who
afterwards sold it and the country inchub
ing New Orleans to the United States.
At Detroit there were, according to Capt.
Carver, who was in the northwest from
1766 to 1768, more than one hundred houses
and the river was settled for more than
twenty miles, although poorly cultivated —
the people being engaged in the Indian
trade. This old town has a history, which
we will here relate.

It is the oldest town in the Northwest,^
having been founded by Antoine Lade-
motte Cadillac, in 1701. It was laid out
in the form of an oblong square, of two
acres in length and an acre and a half in
width. As described by A. D. Frazer, who
first visited it and became a permanent
resident of the place, in 1778, it com]irised
within its limits that space between Mr.
Palmer's store (Conant Block) and Capt.
Perkins' house (near the Arsenal building),
and extended back as far as the public
barn, and was bordered in front by the
Detroit River. It was surrounded by oak
and cedar pickets, about fifteen feet long, set
in the ground, and had four gates-east, west,
north and south. Over the first three of
these gates were block houses provided with
four guns apiece, each a six pounder. Two
six-gun batteries were planted fronting the
river, and in a parallel direction with the
V)lock houses. There were four streets
running east and west, the main street be-
ing twenty feet wide and the rest fifteen
feet, while the four streets crossing these at
right angles were from ten to fifteen feet
in width.

At the date spoken of by Mr. Frazer,
there was no fort within the enclosure, but
a citadel on the ground corresponding to



the present northwest corner of Jefferson
Avenue and "Wayne Street. The citadel
was inclosed by pickets, and within it were
erected barracks of wood, two stories higli,
sufficient to contain ten officers, and also
barracks sufficient to contain four hundred
men, and a provision store built of brick.
The citadel also contained a liospital and
a guard-house. The old town of Detroit,
in 1778, contained about sixty houses,
most of thera one story, with a few a story
and a half in height. They were all of
logs, some hewn and some round. There
was one building of splendid appearance,
called the " King's Palace," two stories
high, which stood near the east gate. It
was built for Governor Hamilton, the first
governor commissioned by the British.
There were two guard-houses, one near tlie
west gate and the other near the Govern-
ment House. Each of the guards con-
sisted of twenty-four men and a subaltern,
who mounted regnlarl}' every morning be-
tween nine and ten o'clock. Each fur-
niilied four sentinels, who were relieved
every two hours. There was also an offi-
cer of the day, who performed strict duty.
Each of the gates was shut rea-nlarlv at
sunset ; even wicket gates were shut at
nine o'clock, and all the keys were deliv-
ered into the hands of the commanding
officer. They were opened in the morning
at sunrise. No Indian or squaw was per-
mitted to enter town with any weapon,
such as a tomahawk or a knife. It was a
standing order that the Indians should de-
liver their arms and instruments of everv
kind before they were permitted to pass
the sentinel, and they were restored to
thera on their return. No more than
twenty-five Indians were allowed to enter

the town at any one time, and they were
admitted only at the east and west gates.
At sundown the drums beat, and all the
Indians were required to leave town in-
stantly. . There was a council house near
tlie water side for the purpose of holding
council with the Indians. The population
of the town was about sixty families, in all
about two iiundred males and one hundred
females. This town was destroyed by fire,
all except one dwelling, in 1805. After
which the present " new " town was laid

On the breaking out of the Kevolution.
the British held every post of importance
in tlie West. Kentucky was formed as a
component part of Virginia, and the sturdy
pioneers of the West, alive to their inter-
ests, and recognizing the great benefits of
obtaining the control of the trade in this
part of the Xew World, held steadily to
their purposes, and those within the com-
monwealth of Kentucky proceeded to ex-
ercise their civil privileges, by electing
John Todd and Ricliard Calloway, burgess-
es to represent them in the Assembly of
the parent state. Early in 8eptember of
that year (1T77) the first court was held in
Harrodsburg, and Col. Bowman, afterward
major, who had arrived in August, was
made the commander of a militia organiza-
tion which had been commenced the March
previous. Thus the tree of loyalty was
o-rowing. Tiie ciiief spirit in this far-out
colony, who had represented her the year
previous east of the mountains, was now
meditating a move unequaied in its bold-
ness. He had been watciiing the move-
ments of the British throughout the North-
west, and understood their whole plan.
He saw it was through their possession of



tlie posts at Detroit, Vincennes, Kaskaskia,
and other places, which would give them
constant and easy access to the various In-
dian tribes in the Northwest, that the Brit-
ish intended to penetrate the country from
the north and south, and annihilate the
frontier fortresses. This moving, energetic
man was Colonel, afterward General,
George Rogers Clark. He knew the In-
dians were not unanimously in accord with
the English, and he was convinced that,
could the British be defeated and expelled
from the Northwest, the natives might be
easily awed into neutrality ; and by spies
sent for the purpose, he satisfied himself
that the enterprise against the Illinois set-
tlements might easily succeed. Having
convinced himself of the certainty of the
jiroject, he repaired to the Capital of Vir-
ginia, which place he reached on November
5tli. AVhile he was on his way, fortunately,
on October 17th, Bnrgoyiie had been de-
feated, and the spirits of the colonists
greatly encouraged thereby. Patrick Henry
was Governor of Virginia, and at once
entered heartily into Clark's plans. The
same plan had before been agitated in the
Colonial Assemblies, but there was no one
until Clark came who was sufficiently
acquainted with the condition of affairs at
the scene of action to be able to guide them.
Clark, having satisfied the Virginia lead-
ers of the feasibility of his plan, received,
on the 2d of January, two sets of instruc-
tions — one secret, the other open — the lat-
ter authorized him to proceed to enlist
seven companies to go to Kentuckj-, sub-
ject to his orders, and to serve three months
from their arrival in the West. The secret
order authorized him to arm these troops,
to procure his powder and lead of General

Hand at Pittsburgh, and to proceed at
once to subjugate the country.

With these instructions Clark repaired
to Pittsburgh, choosing rather to raise his
men west of the mountains, as he well
knew all were needed in the colonies in
the conflict there. He sent Col. W. B.
Smith to Holston for the same purpose,
but neither succeeded in raising the re-
quired number of men. The settlers in
these parts were afraid to leave their own
firesides exposed to a vigilant foe, and but
few coidd be induced to join the proposed
expedition. With three companies and
several private volunteers, Clark at length
commenced his descent of the Ohio, which
he navigated as far as the Falls, where he
took possession of and fortified Corn Isl-
and, a small island between the present
cities of Louisville, Kentucky, and New
Albany, Indiana. Remains of this forti-
fication may yet be found. At this place
he appointed Col. Bowman to meet him
with such recruits as had reached Ken-
tucky by the southern route, and as many
as could be spared from the station. Here
he announced to the men their real desti-
nation. Having completed his arrange-
ments, and chosen his party, he left a small
garrison upon the island, and on the 24111
of June, during a total eclipse of the sun,
which to them augured no good, and which
fixes beyond dispute the date of starting.
he with his chosen band, fell down the
river. His plan was to go by water as far
as Fort Massac or Massacre, and thence
march direct to Kaskaskia. Here he in-
tended to surprise the garrison, and after
its capture go to Cahokia, then to Vincen-
nes, and lastly to Detroit. Should he fail,
he intended to march directly to the Miss-



issippi River and cross it into the Spanish
country. Before his start lie received two
good items of information ; one that tlie
alliance had been formed between Fi-ance
and the United States ; and the other that
the Indians throughont the Illinois conntry
and the inhabitants, at the various frontier
posts, had been led to believe by the Brit-
ish that the " Long Knives" or Virginians,
were the most fierce, bloodthirsty and cruel
savages that ever scalped a foe. With this
impression on their minds, Clark saw that
proper management would cause them to
submit at once from fear, if surprised, and
then from gratitude would become friendly
if treated with unexpected leniency.

The march toKaskaskia was accomplish-
ed through a hot July sun, and the town
reached on the evening of July 4. Recap-
tured ■ the fort near the village, and soon
after the village itself by surprise, and with-
out the loss of a single man or by killing
any of the enemy. After sufficiently work-
ing upon the fears of the natives, Clark
told them they were at perfect liberty to
worship as they pleased, and to take which-
ever side of the great conflict they would,
also, he would protect them from any bar-
barity from British or Indian foe. This
had the desired effect, and the inhabitants,
so unexpectedly and so gratefully surprised
by the unlooked-for turn of affairs, at once
swore allegiance to the American arms, and
when Clark desired to go to Cahokia on
the 6th of July, they accompanied him,
and through their influence the inhabitants
of the place surrendered, and gladly placed
themselves under his protection. Thus
the two important posts in Illinois passed
from the hands of the English into the pos-
session of Virginia.

In the person of the priest at Kaskaskia,
M. Gibault, Clark found a powerful ally
and generous- friend. Clark saw that, to
retain possession of the ^furthwest and
treat successfully with the Indians within
its boundaries, he must establish a govern-
ment for the colonies he had taken. St.
Yincent, the next important post to De-
troit, remained yet to be taken before the
Mississippi Valle}- was conquered. M. Gib-
ault told him that he would alone, by per-
suasion, lead Vincennes to throw off its
connection with England. Clark gladly
accepted his offer, and on the 14th of July,
in company with a fellow-townsman, M.
Gibault started on his mission of peace
and on the 1st of August returned with the
cheerful intelligence that the post on the
"Oubache" had taken the oath of allegi-
ance to the Old Dominion. During this
interval, Clark established his courts, placed
garrisons at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, suc-
cessfully re-enlisted his men, sent word to
have a fort, which proved the germ of Louis-
ville, erected at the Falls of the Ohio, and
dispatched M. Rocheblave, who had been
commander at Kaskaskia, as a prisoner of
war to Richmond. In October the County
of Illinois was established by the Legis-
lature of Yirginia, John Todd appointed
Lieutenant Colonel and Civil Governor,
and in November General Clark and his
men received the thanks of the Old Do-
minion through their Legislature.

In a speech a few days afterward, Clark
made known fully to the natives his plans,
and at its close all came forward and swore
allesiance to the Long Knives. While he
was doing this Governor Hamilton, having
made his various arrangements, had left
Detroit and moved down the Wabash to



Yincennes intending to operate from tliat
point in reducing the Illinois posts, and
then proceed on down to -Kentucky and
drive the rebels from the West. Gen.
Clark had, on the return of M. Gibault,
dispatched Captain Helm, of Fauquier
County, Virginia, with an attendant named
Henry, across the Illinois prairies to com-
mand the fort. Hamilton knew nothing
of the capitulation of the post, and was
greatly surprised on his arrival to be con-
fronted by Capt. Helm, who, standing at
the entrance of the fort by a loaded cannon
ready to fire upon his assailants, demanded
upon what terms Hamilton demanded pos-
session of the fort. Being granted the
rights of a prisoner of war, he surrendered
to the British General, who could scarcely
believe his eyes when he saw the force in
the garrison.

Hamilton, not realizing the character of
the men with wliona he was contending,
gave up his intended campaign for tiie
winter, sent his four hundred Indian war-
riors to prevent troops from coming down
tiie Ohio, and to annoy the Americans in
all ways, and sat quietly down to pass the
winter. Information of all these proceed-
ings having reached Clark, he saw that
immediate and decisive action was neces-
sary, and that unless he captured Hamil-
ton, Hamilton would capture him. Clark
received the news on the 29th of January,
1779, and on February 4th, having suffi-
ciently garrisoned Kuskaskia and Cahokia,
he sent down the Mississippi a " battoe,''
as Major Bowman writes it, in order to as-
cend the Ohio and AVabash, and operate
with the land forces gathering for the

On the next day, Clark, with his little

force of one hundred and twenty men, set
out for the post, and after incredible hard
marching through much mud, the gi'ound
being thawed by the incessant spring rains,
on the 23nd reached the fort, and being
joined by his " battoe," at once commenced
the attack on the post. The aim of the
American backwoodsmen was unerring,
and on the 24th the garrison surrendered
to the intrepid boldness of Clark. The
French were treated with great kindness,
and gladly renewed their allegiance to Vir-
ginia. Hamilton was sent as a prisoner to
Virginia, where he was kept in close con-
finement. During his command of the
British frontier posts, he had offered prizes
to the Indians for all the scalps of Ameri-
cans they would bring to liim, and had
earned in consequence thereof, the tttle
"Hair-buyer General," by which he was
ever afterward known.

Detroit was now without doubt within
easy reach of the enterprising Virginian,
could he but raise the necessary force.
Governor Henry being apprised of this,
promised him the needed reinforcement,
and Clark concluded to wait until he could
capture and sufficiently garrison the posts.
Had Clark failed in this bold undertaking,
and Hamilton succeeded in uniting the
western Indians for the next spring's cam-
paign, the "West would indeed have been
swept from the Mississippi to the Allegheny
Mountains, and the great blow struck,
which had been contemplated from the
commencement, by the British.

" But for this small army of dripping,
but fearless Virginians, the union of all
the tribes from Georgia to Maine against
the colonies might have been effected, and
the whole current of our history changed."



At this time some fears were entertained
by the Colonial Governments that the In-
dians in the North and Northwest were in-
clinino: to the British, and under the in-
structions of Washington, now Commander-
in-Chief of the Colonial army, and so
bravely fighting for American independ-
ence, armed forces were sent against the
Six Nations, and upon the Ohio frontier,
Col. Bowman, acting under the same gen-
eral's orders, marched against Indians
within the present limits of that State.
These expeilitions were in the main suc-
cessful, and the Indians were compelled to
sue for peace.

During the same year (1779) the famous
'Land Laws " of Virginia were passed.

Online LibraryWilliam Henry PerrinHistory of Jefferson County, Illinois → online text (page 4 of 76)