Past and Present of Will County, Illinois
By W. W. Stevens President of the Will County Pioneers Association Assisted by an Advisory Board, consisting of Hon. James G. Elwood, James H. Ferriss, William Grinton, Mrs. Kate Henderson and A. C. Clement ILLUSTRATED Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company 1907 Dedicated to the Pioneers of Will County
DEDICATION To the Will County Pioneers’ Association: To you, the pioneers and early settlers of the county, who have witnessed the wonderful improvements made since you first beheld its fair surface, and who have with willing hands, and brave hearts, exerted both mind and strength in aiding in the development of its many and varied resources, this work is most respectfully and affectionately dedicated by your friend, W. W. STEVENS.
INTRODUCTION. Within the last twenty-eight years, this fertile portion of the prairie state has assumed a new aspect. In the moral and physical changes that have produced this result, in the improvements of its soil, and the establishment of its political and literary institutions, you the inhabitants of the county have ever been the zealous actors. In the progress of this great change, much is due to the kind and fostering care of a good government in promoting the settlement, and eliciting the latent resources of this portion of the State. But the slightest reflection will make it evident that still more is due to manly enterprise, individual hardihood, and personal exertion of the inhabitants of the county. In this personal devotion, many persons have rendered themselves conspicuous, and their names are engraved upon the minds of a posterity that has arisen to take their places. The active part that they and their ancestors have taken in the work of subduing this, our common country, their zeal and services in promoting the general welfare, is generally known and appreciated by all. The country is now in a most prosperous condition. Its agricultural resources have been improved and developed, its natural improvements fostered and encouraged; large manufacturing establishments have been erected; schools and institutions of learning built up and maintained, while its churches and religious institutions have received the support and encouragement of a whole, united people.
EARLY EXPLORATIONS. In writing a history of Will county, some reference must be made to the State of which the county forms so important a part, and not only of the State, but also of the great Northwest, where the first explorations and discoveries were made, and where the pioneers of these many explorations, the Jesuits, first landed to prosecute their journeys through the country. The Great Northwest territory, which was ceded by Virginia to the United States, in 1784, embraced what is now five of the larger of the Middle Western States, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, and that portion of Minnesota lying east of the Mississippi river. It is a mighty Empire in itself, and now contains many millions of inhabitants. Its great lakes are inland seas of fresh water, while its rivers are among the largest on the North American Continent. When the act of ceding this vast territory was consummated, there were comparatively few white inhabitants included within its borders, while some very extensive portions had not probably a single white inhabitant.
FIRST EXPLORATIONS. The first explorations made in that portion of the territory now embraced within the borders of the great State of Illinois was in 1673, when Father Marquette and his companion, Louis Joliet, set out from what was then known as the Straits of Mackinac, or Michilimackinac, on a voyage of exploration and discovery. Previous to this, one Jean Nicolet, a native of Chebourg, France, came to Canada and dwelt for several years with the natives, learned their language and adopted their mode of living, and to him it is claimed, belongs the honor of having discovered Lake Michigan, then generally called by the French “Lac des Illinois.” That he first saw it July 4, 1634, and that on the same voyage he went into Green Bay, known to the French as “Baye des Puens,” and visited the Chippewa tribe of Indians, and the Winnebagoes on the lake of that name. But very little is known of Nicolet’s voyage at that time, as he kept but few records of his adventures. Nicholas Perrot was another of the daring spirits in those days to brave the dangers in exploring the great western country. He discovered the first lead mines in the west, and was for several years in command of the country around Green Bay. He was a man of learning and intelligence, and committed to writing an interesting account of his labors and explorations from 1670 to 1690, a period of twenty years. It was during his journeyings in the west that the notable conference was held between the French and seventeen tribes of nations at Sault Ste. Marie, June 14, 1671. It was at this conference that the French gained possession of Lakes Huron and Superior “and all the countries contiguous thereto, and southward to the sea.” In 1667, Father Marquette, with that fearless and entrepid man, Claude Allouez, and a companion, Claude Dablon, both brothers in the same order, with himself, went up the river that forms the outlet to Lake Superior, to the falls, and there established a mission, which they named “The Mission of Saint Mary” but now known as Sault Ste. Marie. They named the river “Saint Mary,” and then started on a journey up the great lake, with the object of discovering, if possible, its western extremity. They coasted the whole southern shore of the lake, passing through some beautiful islands when near the western end, and the islands being twelve in number, they named them the “Twelve Apostles,” and they are now known as the Apostle Islands. They reached the end of the lake to the site of the present city of Duluth, occupying three years in their journey. There the natives informed them of a mighty river far toward the setting sun, and of the savage tribes that lived upon its borders. On their return, Father Marquette established the “Mission of St. Ignace,” opposite the Island of Mackinac, near the straits. This was afterward his rallying point, when in that vicinity, and there he labored long and faithfully for the conversion to his faith of the natives of that region. It was to him a labor of love. His journeys were made in bark canoes, his bed but the ground and in the open air, and his food often but dry corn, or the moss, and lichens from the trees. It was a holy religious enthusiasm that prompted him to undergo these many hardships, and privations, and the great hope of a lasting reward, when his earthly pilgrimage was ended.
FATHER MARQUETTE AND LOUIS JOLIET. Father Jacques Marquette was a native of France, and a son of a wealthy family, who educated and trained him for the priesthood. He was of a quiet disposition, but of strong mind and character also, and just the man to engage in the work of christianizing, and civilizing the natives of the Great Northwest. Louis Joliet was American born, being a native of Quebec, his birth being in 1645. He was educated among the Jesuits, but declined to enter the priesthood. As soon as his education was completed, believing that the life of an explorer was better suited to his tastes, he was dispatched by the Canadian authorities in 1669, to explore the copper mines of Lake Superior, and the country to the west of the Great Lakes. Count Frontenac, who was then governor of the province, confirmed the appointment. Joliet left Quebec in the fall of 1672, and arrived at Mackinac on December 8th. Here he remained until spring, and it was at that time that he first met Marquette, the missionary then in charge of the mission at St. Ignace, on the north side of the straits. He made known to the good father his mission, and desired his companionship, to which the father very gladly consented. He was a most valuable acquisition to the party, for he could speak six of the Indian dialects, and his holy calling proved him to be the peacemaker needed, when trouble with the natives seemed most imminent. The pilgrimage of Marquette, and his companions to the west end of Lake Superior, was a notable event. The wonderful descriptions of the great river that flowed to the south, the vast valley that bordered it, the roving tribes of natives who lived in the valley, the beauties of scenery, and the endless verdure, with which it abounded, was the great incentive to the Father to accompany Joliet in the hazardous enterprise of visiting the country. He desired to view with his own eyes the great river, and the many things of which he had heard. It is to that journey that the world is indebted for the discovery of the Mississippi, and the valley of the Illinois. On the 20th day of May, 1673, Marquette and Joliet, with five French Canadians, left St. Ignace, in two bark canoes, and coasting along the northern shore of Lake Michigan, entered Green Bay, where they established the Mission of St. Francis Xavier, near the mouth of the Fox river. Father Marquette called together the tribes of Indians in that locality, and preached to them of the Christian faith, which was his guiding star in all his wanderings.
THE DISCOVERY OF THE MISSISSIPPI. Having finished his work at the mission, Marquette and his companions, with two Indians of the Algonquin tribe, as guides, embarked upon the waters of the Fox, and went up that river to near the last Indian village, where there was a most remarkable portage, and where upon the same level, and but two miles apart, the stream they had just left, pursued its way northeastwardly, Great Lakes, and thence to the Atlantic, while the other, upon which they were about to embark, took a course southwestwardly to some unknown destiny. They crossed the portage with their canoes and baggage, and on the 10th of June of that year, embarked upon the waters of the Wisconsin river, whose swift current bore them onward to their destination to the great river, and on the 17th of that month, their eyes beheld for the first time the large and beautiful stream of which they had heard so much, and which the pious Father and his companion had for so long a time desired to see. Launching their canoes upon its broad surface, its rapid current bore them swiftly forward, past bold bluffs, which line the stream upon either hand. Great herds of buffaloes appearing upon its banks, viewed the little flotilla of canoes with evident surprise. The rapids at Rock Island were passed in safety, while they gazed with great delight upon the beautiful landscape that everywhere unfolded itself to their view. Since leaving the Wisconsin, no human footprint had been seen by them. It was a wilderness which seemed to them to revel in the beauties of nature. But after passing the lower rapids, a footprint was discovered on the western shore, and they stopped to examine it. Upon following it a short distance, it led them to the bank of another river, which was dotted over with cabins. They were kindly received by the natives. A great council was held, and Marquette told them of his mission, of the great king across the water, and of his power and willingness to protect them. They remained there several days, and were treated with the greatest kindness and hospitality. The tribes told him of another large river coming in from the Northwest, which they called Pekitanoni. On their departure the chief accompanied him with many of his warriors for an escort, and who on parting presented him with the mystic Calumet, beautifully decorated, and instructed him of the many virtues it possessed.
THEY DISCOVER THE ILLINOIS. Again their canoes were pointed south, and they soon passed the mouth of the Illinois, coming from the east, its outlet into the Mississippi being lined with high walls of limestone, and the pictured rocks of Piasan, which are such a wonder even to this day.
THE MOUTH OF THE MISSOURI SEEN. Soon the swift current of the Missouri is discovered behind some islands upon the west side of the river, and so impetuous was the flood, that it drove their light canoes over to the east shore, which was covered with trees and vegetation of such a rank growth, that it excited their admiration. Some sixty miles below the Missouri, the Ohio was reached, the river being called by the natives Ouabauskijon, because it comes from the lands of the rising sun. Passing this, they began to see the tall canes, or reeds, that grew in such profusion along the banks of the river. Before reaching these, they had not been troubled with insects to any great extent, but now having entered their country, they had to suffer the dire consequences. As a protection against these, the natives built scaffolds on which they slept, with a small fire beneath, the smoke of which kept the troublesome insects away, and Marquette, and his companions were compelled to adopt a like method for protection from their attacks.
THE END OF THEIR JOURNEY SOUTH. At length they reached the mouth of the Arkansas river, below the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude. Here the natives are seen, with steel axes for weapons, but the pipe of peace given Marquette by the Illinois chief, is shown them, and averts all possible danger. They landed, and a religious celebration is held, and the faith of the pious Father is told to the savages, which they received with every evidence of satisfaction. Marquette and Joliet being convinced that the river flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, or Florida, as it was then known, prepared for their return up the river. To the meek and humble Jesuit, the good Father Marquette and his companion, Joliet, is due the honor of being the first white men to float upon the bosom of the Majestic river. Their light bark canoe was the first to stem its current, and their paddles the first to disturb its waters by any white men. Settlements had been made in many parts of the East for many years, but to those then far off inhabitants, no knowledge of the mighty stream had ever been suggested to them, and hence the discovery when made known was the opening of a new world. The natives of the east had no legend or tradition of the river, nor of the mighty tribes of natives who inhabited its borders.
MARQUETTE AND JOLIET ENTER THE ILLINOIS. Marquette and Joliet, with their companions, toiled for many a weary day up against the current of the rapid stream. Annoyed at times with insects, and with but scant supplies of food, yet no murmurs of complaint escaped from them, and no despondency at any time entered their thoughts. It was a high and holy mission in which they were engaged, and therefore they believed with the utmost faith and confidence, that to suffer in a just and virtuous cause, was but the will of Him who had sent them. When they again reached the Illinois, they turned their course up that stream, passed through a country of great fertility, with rich prairies and meadows abounding upon either hand. A great variety of animals and birds were seen by them, “stags, buffaloes, deer, wild cats, bustards, swans, ducks, paroquets, and even beavers.” Their voyage up the Illinois was in great contrast to that up the Mississippi, for the stream had hardly any perceptable current, and they floated along “luxuriating in peace and plenty.” This happy condition continued until they had reached the upper end of Peoria lake, when they encountered a strong and rapid current, until they reached the portage opposite the southern shore of Lake Michigan, at the point we now know as the Summit, a station on the Chicago & Alton Railway. A monument of granite boulders now marks the spot. Transferring their canoes to the waters draining into the Chicago river, they were soon in Lake Michigan. They passed up the west shore to the mission at Green Bay. which they reached the last day of September, 1673.
JOLIET RETURNS TO CANADA. Louis Joliet returned at once to Canada, and thence to France, to make known to his Sovereign, the Mighty Empire, he and his comrades had acquired for his majesty. He had kept a full record of this most important journey, together with a very complete map of the country they had explored, but unfortunately he lost all while on his return to Quebec, by the upsetting of his canoe, while attempting to land at Montreal. Father Marquette had kept a very full record of the journey, and this was preserved to the world and thus he acquired another trophy to the members of his order in all parts of the civilized globe. This voyage of Marquette and Joliet up the Illinois river, was beyond question, the first visit of white men within the present borders of this state. It is quite probable, too, that the party when it reached the junction of the Des Plaines with the Kankakee, passed up the former river to a well-known portage of the Indians across to Lake Michigan.
DEATH OF FATHER MARQUETTE. The fate of the good and pious father, after his return to Green Bay in September, 1673, is thus recorded. After a few weeks stay there, he returned to Canada. He had faithfully promised the Illinois Indians at Peoria lake, that he would return to them, but his health had been sadly shattered, and he had some doubts whether he could keep his solemn pledge. He resolved, however, to try and devote the remainder of his life to their service. It was in the year of 1674, that he returned to the Mission of St. Louis on Peoria lake, and there he labored with the natives teaching them his simple faith, and exhorting them to lead a better life. In the spring following, he started on his return to Green Bay, going down the east shore of Lake Michigan, and on the 18th of May he entered a small stream, and asked to land that he might celebrate mass. Leaving his men with the canoe, he retired a short distance and began his devotions. As much time passed and he did not return, his men went in search of him, and found he was on his knees dead. He had thus passed peacefully away while at prayer. He was buried on the spot, and there by the Great Lake, upon the bosom of which he had journeyed so many miles, in that obscure and forgotten grave, lies the mortal remains of the discoverer of Illinois and the great Mississippi valley—his only dirge being the sad, sullen moan of the waters near which he sleeps his last sleep. Some writers have asserted that the small stream near which he died, bears his name, but we can find no stream on the east shore of the lake bearing his name, nor is it known with any certainty what stream is meant. It is indeed, a sad fate, that a man of such distinction—of such piety and zeal, should find at last such a resting place. He had devoted, for many years, his best energies in the service of his Divine Master, ministering to untamed savages, denying himself every comfort, even enduring cold, hunger and extreme fatigue, that he might uplift and improve the condition of the almost uncounted thousands of degraded humanity.
LA SALLE AND HENNEPIN. In 1679 Robert de La Salle and Louis Hennepin began a voyage up Lake Erie in a small schooner named the Griffin. The vessel had been built for the purpose assigned, and although of but sixty tons burden, yet it was a “staunch and seaworthy craft.” This was the pioneer of all the vessels upon the Great Lakes. In this expedition Chevalier Henry de Tonty, a brave and intrepid soldier, who had lost his right hand in battle, was second in command, and accompanying them were three “bare-footed, gray coated friars” of the medicant order of St. Francis. They passed up the lake through the straits of Detroit, and thence through the river and Lake St. Clair into Lake Huron. In that lake they encountered heavy storms, so that they had much difficulty in reaching the Straits of Mackinac. There they remained for some time, and La Salle built a fort on the main land, on the south side of the straits, which he named Michilimackinac, and by this name it was known for more than a century. This, undoubtedly, was the first fort ever built by white men in the whole western country. He then sailed to Green Bay, where a large quantity of furs had been collected for him by the natives. Loading the Griffin with these, and placing her in charge of a careful pilot and fourteen sailors, started her on her return voyage. The vessel was never again heard of. Whether she and her crew had been swallowed in the angry waves or captured by hostile Indians and destroyed and the crew murdered, nothing was ever known. He then collected his men, thirty in all, and the three monks and started on his great undertaking of binding the country from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico by a chain of forts to his Sovereign the King of France. He passed down the west shore of Lake Michigan to the Chicago river and then by a portage across the country, embarked again upon the waters of the Kankakee, floating down this by easy stages, they entered the Illinois, and about the last days of December of that year, reached a village of the Illinois Indians. They were greatly in need of food. It was the dead of winter and the only-game they had obtained on their voyage down the river was a half-famished buffalo, found struggling in the river. This Indian village as described by Father Hennepin contained about five hundred cabins, and was situated on the bank of “Illinois lake.” It is difficult to determine at this time what body of water was referred to, but it is thought they intended to describe a widening of the river near the present site of the village of Utica, in La Salle county, as there was a large village of the Kaskaskias, a branch of the Illinois Indians,-on a meadow below that village. Upon landing they found the cabins all deserted, the Indians, at the time, being away on a hunt for game, farther down the river. La Salle and his companions being in want of food, searched for it, and found a large quantity of corn concealed in holes excavated beneath the cabins. Securing a sufficient quantity of this for their use, which they stored securely in their canoes, the party again embarked on their journey down the river, and on the evening of “New Year’s Day,” 1680, entered the Peoria lake. This lake is described by them as being “seven leagues in length by one broad, and the country on the borders is called Primitouri, – by the natives, meaning the place where fat beasts abound.” On the shores of the lake they found large numbers of the natives, but they were gentle and peaceable, and soon a friendly intercourse was established between them and the white men. The natives rubbed the uncovered feet of the monks with bear’s oil and the fat of the buffalo, and fed them with meat, placing with much ceremony the first three morsels in their mouths, as a mark of great civility.
LA SALLE BUILDS A FORT. La Salle and his fellow voyagers spent some time with the natives. Some of these Indians at the Lake “Illinois” belonged to the Illinois tribe, and Father Zenabe, one of the monks, desired to remain and return with them to their village, to engage in spiritual labors and “save them from perdition.” There was a mission at the lower end of the Peoria lake, established there, it is claimed, by Father Duguerre in 1657, and which remained in his charge for several years, but it was abandoned previous to 1673, when Father Marquette and Joliet passed up the river, for neither of them made any mention of it whatever. La Salle and his hardy followers were much worn out with fatigue from their long and arduous journeys, and were in an almost hopeless state of despondency. This little band of white men were the only ones in the whole valley of the Mississippi, and surrounded by savages as they were, he resolved to build a fort that should serve to protect them until spring, and as a rallying point in the future. This fort was named “Creve Coeur” or “Broken Heart,” but its exact location cannot now be definitely determined, whether upon the east or west side of the lake.
LA SALLE RETURNS TO CANADA. Winter passed away ere the fort was finished, and the broad prairies were again green with verdure. The intrepid leader of the expedition despairing of receiving reinforcements long since promised him, resolved to return to Canada for help to prosecute his voyage to the Gulf, and also obtain rigging and tackle for a small vessel they had commenced building for their journey down the river. Leaving Tonty, one of his most faithful followers, in charge of the fort, there to await his return, he directed that Father Hennepin, with two men, should proceed down the Illinois, to its junction with the Mississippi, thence up that stream to discover, if possible, its source. He then turned his face toward Canada, taking a new route. He pursued his lonely way upon foot over snow banks and ice, with no provisions but such as his gun could procure. He found his way back to Frontenac, the governor of Canada, and asked for further means to prosecute his desired adventure. While passing Starved Rock, then known as Le Rocher, or the Rock, he was forcibly struck with the spot, as a most suitable place for a fort, and dispatching a message back to his faithful Tonty, ordered him to occupy the Rock for a fort. There is not probably, in the whole Illinois valley, a place more capable of defense than that. It is 160 feet in height, with three sides perpendicular, while the fourth is so steep that a few men could stop a whole army when equipped with the weapons then in use.
TONTY OCCUPIES THE ROCK. Tonty, with a part of his garrison at Creve Coeur, went to the Rock and engaged at once in fortifying it, but while so engaged, he was alarmed by a report of the revolt of the men left at Creve Coeur. He returned there with all speed, and found that one-half of the men had deserted, taking with them such arms and provisions as they could carry. Tonty had no alternative but to leave the fort at once and return up the river. Taking with him Father Gabriel, and those of the men that were faithful, he went to the Indian village at “Illinois lake,” where he remained for six months, where he devoted his time in teaching the natives the use of fire arms, and the construction of a rude fortification for their village.
TONTY RETURNS TO GREEN BAY. Soon after it was announced that a war party of the Iroquois, numbering five hundred warriors, was advancing into their country, Tonty and a companion, one Zenabe Membre, acted as ambassador between the two powers, and soon the Calumet was smoked, and a peace arranged, but the Illinois warriors considering that “discretion was the better part of valor,” fled, leaving Tonty and his five companions alone. Tonty had but one recourse then, and that was to return as best he could to Green Bay. He left the village in an old canoe, without any supplies, and started up the river with all speed. On the way up, Father Gabriel was cruelly murdered by the Kickapoo scouts, and his body was left where it fell, a prey to the wild beasts. The remainder of the party passed up the west shore of Lake Michigan to the bay, thence to Mackinac, there to await the return of their leader.
HENNEPIN STARTS FOR THE GREAT RIVER. Meanwhile, Father Hennepin and his companions, soon after the return of La Salle to Canada, prepared for their long and tedious voyage to the headwaters of the Mississippi. On the morning of the last day of February, 1680, the light bark canoe is pushed from the shore, the provisions and arms having been carefully stored in it, and the three companions leap into it. The light paddles are seized, and as they float down the swift current, the good old Father Gabriel advances to the waters edge, and bestows upon the little company his parting benediction. They are once more upon the water, bound for—they hardly know where, but this they know, that they have a long and tedious journey before them—that untold dangers await them, and that perhaps they have looked upon the faces of their comrades for the last time. The canoe moved swiftly down the gentle current, and Father Hennepin, as was Marquette before him, was charmed with the beautiful country through which they were passing, bestowing upon it the title of “The Delight of America.” The mouth of the river is reached in safety, and they then beheld, with dismay, the surface of the great river filled with floating ice, a sight at once disheartening in the extreme. They remained there three days in order to prepare for their hazardous journey up the mighty river, and on the 12th of March, 1680, commenced the ascent, paddling up the icy stream for a month, reaching the mouth of the Wisconsin, April 12th. Here they were surprised and taken prisoners by a band of Chippewa Indians, who took them up the river through Lake Pepin to the falls, which he named St. Anthony, in honor of his patron Saint. They remained in the vicinity of the falls for several weeks, hunting the buffalo and other games, Hennepin, during their stay, baptizing many of the native children. Their captivity continued until fall, when Hennepin, having obtained permission of the chief to return to Canada, provided him with a map, sketched on bark, of the country through which they were to pass, their route being by way of the Wisconsin river.
HENNEPIN RETURNS TO CANADA. Once more these hardy adventurers are in their canoe bound for home and civilized life. Entering the Wisconsin, they paddled up that stream to the portage into the Fox, thence down that and across Green Bay to Mackinac, reaching there in November, 1680. He wintered there with Father Pearson, a Jesuit, and on the last day of March, 1681, re-embarked on Lake Huron, passed over Lake Erie to the falls, thence by portage to Lake Ontario, and to Frontenace and Montreal, and on the last day of April reached Quebec, having been absent two years and a half.
LA SALLE RETURNS TO ILLINOIS. In the meantime, La Salle had obtained from the governor of Canada his recruits and supplies, and started on his return trip to the Illinois, reaching which he passed down the river to the Rock, which he found deserted, as was also the fort Creve Coeur. Almost discouraged at what he there found, he went back to Green Bay, where he soon after met his old companion, Tonty. Once more this intrepid man entered upon his scheme of discovering the mouth of the Mississippi. Gathering together his scanty resources as best he could, and with his ever faithful Tonty, and a few Frenchmen, started once more for his long and adventurous journey. Tonty and a few of the companions had preceded him, and they were to meet at the mouth of the Chicago creek. They met there, and as it was then winter, and the rivers frozen over, they prepared sledges and traveled across the country to Peoria lake, which then being open water, they launched their canoes once more, and started on their hazardous enterprise.
LA SALLE DISCOVERS THE MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI. From Peoria lake they descended to the Mississippi, and are then borne upon its swift current, reaching the gulf on the 9th day of April, 1682, where the necessary forms were gone through with, and the whole country through which they had journeyed was taken possession of in the name of the King of France. A leaden plate with the Arms of France, and with an appropriate Latin inscription upon it, was buried near a tree, and a rude cross erected in token of the annexation of the country to the Kingdom of France. Hennepin claimed to have discovered the mouth of the river in 1680, but the claim has since been proved to be a false one.
LA SALLE AND TONTY RETURN TO ILLINOIS. In the summer of 1683, La Salle and Tonty returned to the Illinois, and caused the fort on “The Rock” to be completed and occupied, and leaving Tonty in command of it, in the fall of that year returned to Quebec, and thence to France to lay before his Sovereign his plans for the occupation and settlement of the vast country of which he had taken possession.
LA SALLE’S EXPEDITION BY SEA. In 1685 he started from France on another expedition by sea to the mouth of the Mississippi, intending to erect a fort at the mouth, and thus possess the country in fact. He met with many accidents and disasters, and failed to find the mouth of the river, but landed far west of it in Matagorda bay. He there erected a fort, naming it Saint Louis, and then attempted to return to the Mississippi by land. But the whole country was a wilderness, without road or trail to lead them on their journey, and the attempt was a disastrous failure. This attempt was repeated several times, but without success.
DEATH OF LA SALLE. Finally in 1687, in one of those attempts, he was assassinated in a cowardly manner, by one of his own men, who had a few days previously killed with an axe, three of his most faithful followers, one of them being his nephew, to whom he was greatly attached. La Salle did not speak after he was shot, but grasping the hand of his only companion, Father Anastasius, he died calmly, and his body was left where it fell, to be devoured by beasts, the place of his death being on a small branch of the Trinity river. The spot where this cruel tragedy occurred has forever been unknown, although careful search was made for it through many years. After his death, the party went forward, and in time reached Fort St. Louis on the Rock. There Tonty received them with open arms, and informed them that the year previous he had descended to the mouth of the Mississippi with a party of followers, expecting to find La Salle there, but being disappointed he returned up the river, and at the mouth of the Arkansas built a fort which the party from the La Salle expedition saw on their way up the river.
FORT SAINT LOUIS AT “THE ROCK.” The friendly Indians of Illinois had gathered around Fort Saint Louis in large numbers, and had built their cabins there, and under the leadership of Tonty, had repelled an attack upon it in 1684, by the warlike Iroquois. This fort was then the seat of the French, power in Illinois, and it was considered a post of the highest importance. But not long after that time, its history became obscure, and the Rock was not mentioned in the history of the country until 1770, when the remnants of the Illinois tribes gathered upon it to make their last stand, and were almost totally annihilated, and thenceforth it was known to the white settlers, as well as the Indians as “Starved Rock,” and by that name it has become one of the most celebrated of the historic spots in the state.
THE NORTHWEST IN 1689. At the time of which we write, there was not a single permanent settlement in the whole northwest territory. The forts that had been erected by La Salle and Tonty, were soon afterward abandoned, and their very sites were lost in the years that followed. Fort Dearborn, the first fort built on the shore of Lake Michigan in Illinois, was not built for more than a century later, while many other points that had become familiarly known to the settlers in the east and Canada, have long since gone to decay, obliterated and lost. Even Fort Michilimackinac, at the Straits of Mackinac, that had been built with so much care, was abandoned, and the mission at St. Ignace on the north side of the straits was the only rallying point for the few religious enthusiasts, who at times visited those shores.
THE GREAT LEADERS. The indomitable spirit and energy that his prevaded the minds and controlled the actions of Father Marquette and Louis Joliet, of the intrepid La Salle and Father Hennepin, had expired when those great leaders passed from the stage of action and henceforth it was but the solitary monks and friars, the voyagers and traders, who passively filled the places left vacant by the zealous men, who first beheld these fair prairies, and these majestic rivers. The trader had entered the field with his “firewater,” and that was dealt out to the natives instead of the religious faith, the glorious example, and the earnest love, and good will of the fathers. That deadly poison to the untamed savage, he exchanged for their buffalo robes, their beaver skins and other fine peltries, which they had with so much labor gathered.
AREA AND BOUNDARIES. The state of Illinois, long known to the world at large as the “Prairie state,” is situated between the 37th and the 42.30 degrees of north latitude, north and south, and from the Indiana state line to the middle of the Mississippi river, east and west, being 385 miles in extreme length, and 218 miles in extreme width, containing 56,000 square miles of land, and including its shore of Lake Michigan, 56,640 in all, or 35,840,000 acres of land surface. It was admitted into the union, as a state, by act of Congress, which was passed April 18, 1818, and by that act, these boundaries of the state were fixed: from the confluence of the Ohio with the Mississippi river, at Cairo, up the Ohio to the mouth of the Wabash; thence ascending that river to the Meridian of Vincennes, then in a straight line to Lake Michigan, from which point it takes a turn east along the northern line of Indiana to the middle of Lake Michigan, thence North along the middle of the Lake to North latitude, forty-two degrees and 30 minutes, thence West along said line, which divides it from Wisconsin to the middle of the Mississippi river, thence down that river to place of beginning.
CONSTITUTION ADOPTED. Following this, a convention was held in the Village of Kaskaskia, then the capitol of the territory, on August 26th, 1818, when a state constitution was adopted, and that constitution was ratified by Congress, on December 3rd, of that year. At the time of its admission as a state, it had a population of about 50,000, having 55,211 at the time the census was taken two years later. The state was a part of the great northwest territory, which was ceded to the United States by Virginia in 1784. It was created into a territory April 24, 1809, by act of Congress, and President Madison appointed Ninian Edwards, the first governor of the territory. He was a native of Maryland, and was born in 1775, studied law, and removed to Kentucky, and was a citizen of that state when appointed governor. He died at Belleville, Illinois, July 30, 1833, and the county of Edwards was named in his honor. At the time of its formation into a territory, it extended from the Ohio river to Lake Superior, and included within its borders, the present state of Wisconsin. The year following its admission as a territory, it contained a population of 12,282.
AFTER IT BECAME A STATE. When admitted as a state, it contained in all sixteen counties, and the state capital was located at Kaskaskia, a small village on the river by that name, six miles above its junction with the Mississippi, and about two miles from that stream. At the first election, Shadrach Bond was elected Governor, and Pierre Menard, Lieutenant Governor, and they were inaugurated October 6th, 1818. The first Legislature passed a law removing the capital of the state to Vandalia, a small town near the center of the state, in Fayette County, and the government records were removed there in December, 1820. At the session of the Legislature at Kaskaskia, four new counties were formed, and at the first session at Vandalia, in January, 1821, six more were formed, giving the state at that time twenty-six counties. Among the last counties formed, was that of Pike County, a most remarkable as well as extensive one, for it included within its borders the whole northern part of the State. Chicago was then “A village of Pike County, situated on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago Creek, and contained twelve or fifteen houses, and between fifty and sixty inhabitants.” The whole county did not have to exceed 2,000 white settlers in it.
THE STATE BANK. It was at the session of the Legislature in January, 1821, that the law was enacted creating a State Bank. It was to be located at Vandalia, with four branches, namely, at Brownsville, Edwardsville, Shawneetown and at the seat of justice in Edwards County. The measure met with a very violent opposition from some of the very best men in the State, but owing to the then depressed financial condition of the state, the poor settlers were so heavily in debt for their land and improvements, and aided by the many land sharks, the bill passed successfully, and became a law. It proved exceedingly popular for a time, and some $300,000 in state paper was issued to the impecunious settlers, and security was taken upon most anything offered, and to whoever wanted it. But there was no redemption provided for the paper, and soon it began to depreciate in value, so that in less than two years from the time of the passage of the act, it took three dollars of it to pay one in debts. The property upon which it was loaned, was, in most instances, of very doubtful security, and the borrowers were exceedingly dilatory in discharging their obligations to the state, and the result was, in five years, the state had lost a quarter of a million of dollars. One of the most vigorous of the opponents to the bank, was John McLean, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, and so violent was the fight he made against it, though defeated, yet a grateful people realizing his worth, and his eminent ability as a stateman, elected him United States Senator, and; his name is perpetuated in the history of the state, for the great county of McLean was named after him.
FIRST EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE STATE. The first county formed in the state was that of St. Clair, in 1790. It occupied the extreme southern point, extending up both the Ohio and Mississippi rivers,—the Illinois being its northern boundary. Soon after, the county was divided into St. Clair and Randolph Counties. The first cabin built by a white man, within the borders of the state, as it now is, was that built by Father Marquette, early in the winter of 1674, on the site of the present city of Chicago. It was located near the Chicago Creek, now known as the south branch of the Chicago river, and was occupied by him until the following spring. That was the first home of any white man in the state. The first fort built in the state was that built by La Salle in the winter of 1679, and which he named Creve Coeur. Father Hennepin in his records, at the time, says it was built “on the east side of the river, on a little mound.” And from the best information that can be obtained at the present day, it was located at what is known at the present time, as Wesley City, in Tazewell County, some five miles down the river from Peoria Lake. A monument has been erected on the spot where it stood, by the Peoria Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The first railroad in the state was one built by Ex-Governor Reynolds, in 1837, from the site of the present city of East St. Louis, eastward across the American bottoms to the bluffs some six miles distant. These bluffs contained large quantities of coal, and the object of the building of the railroad, was to get the coal to the market in St. Louis. It was for a while a horse power road, horses being used to draw the cars, but later iron rails were shipped there from Pittsburg, and on their arrival, holes were drilled in them, the blacksmiths made the spikes to fasten them down, and then small engines drew the cars back and forth, and thus the first Illinois railroad became a reality. The first white persons to behold the fair beauties of the state, or tread upon its soil, were Father Marquette, and Louis Joliet, who, on their memorable voyage down the Mississippi river, in 1673, landed at the Indian Village near the mouth of the Illinois river. There have been statements and surmises of white men having visited the Illinois country previous to that time, but there is little or no certainty of their having done so. The first legal execution in the state, was in 1821. It was the result of what was intended as a sham duel, between Alonzo C. Stuart and Timothy Bennett. It was known to all that it was meant for a hoax on Bennett, and when they met, they were placed forty yards apart, with rifles, as supposed, loaded only with powder. But when Bennett fired his rifle, he lodged a ball in the breast of Stuart, killing him instantly. The Grand Jury of St. Clair County indicted Bennett, but when the sheriff went to arrest him, he could not be found—he had left the state. He remained away two years, and then returned, and was arrested. He was tried by the Circuit Court of the county, found guilty by the jury, and sentenced to be hung, and on Monday, September 3, 1821, the execution took place. It was shown at the trial that Bennett had secretly placed a ball in his rifle, and he, therefore, paid the penalty of his crime on the gallows. The first “American Schoolmaster” in the state, was one John Seeley, who taught a school in 1683, at a place called New Design, near where Cahokia was afterward founded, but it was continued only for a few months. The first newspaper ever published in the state was that begun by Mathew Duncan, at Kaskaskia, September 6th, 1814, named the “Illinois Herald.” It was not very long lived, but it was the beginning of the great newspaper fraternity in Illinois, that have since been such dominant factors in molding and shaping public opinion upon all important events in the history of the state. There are now more than seventeen hundred newspapers, and periodicals published in the state, and these have an incalculable effect upon the public and private life, of the five million inhabitants of the state.
THE ABORIGINIES OF ILLINOIS. At the time of the discovery and exploration of Illinois, it was in possession of the natives, who had held it from time immemorable. They were savages in every sense of the word, with hardly a good redeeming trait of character. They were cruel, selfish, brutal in the extreme, and never made friends, unless it was to their advantage to do so. Their government was tribal, and each chief a petty tyrant. Their religion a mere superstition, a blind worship of some, to them, undefined Great Spirit or Manitou, they were without learning or knowledge of the great world around them; they had no definite knowledge of property or human rights, nor did they care for any. They lived in tepees, or rude cabins, and were clothed only with the skins of beasts they had killed in the chase. Their arms and implements were of the rudest sort, made from stone, wood and the bones of the buffalo. They were ruthless and revengeful in the extreme, as well as lazy and horribly dirty. Their only object in life was to procure food, which they devoured like gluttons, and to subdue and scalp their enemies. The tribes inhabiting the Illinois country, and who were generally the “Illinois Indians” were the Illinois or “Illini,” Miamis and Kickapoos. These all belonged to the Algonquin family, while the Kickapoos, including the Cahokias, Tamaroas, Peorias and Mitchigamies, from whom Lake Michigan was named, were generally classed as Illinois Indians. The Illinois at the time of Father Marquette’s and Louis Joliet’s entry into the state, in 1673, had as their possessions, from Lake Michigan, and Des Plaines and Kankakee rivers, down the Illinois to the Mississippi, and thence to the confluence of that stream with the Ohio. Their principal localities were, however, in the central and northern portions of what afterward became the state, where they had in all, seventeen villages. The largest of these, and which was to them their metropolis, was on the Illinois river, at the place heretofore described as “Illinois Lake.” This village was called by the French, La Vautum, but by the Indians, as Kaskaskia, as that tribe was the chief inhabitants of it. It had in 1680, from the best information that could be obtained, some 8,000 inhabitants. The chief village of the Peorias was located at Peoria Lake, while, the Tamaroas, and Cahokias had their villages below the mouth of the Illinois river, nearly opposite St. Louis. The Illinois Indians claimed that their name meant as implied, “Superior Men.” Yet the French Missionaries asserted that they were not in any way or manner different from the other tribes. That while they were generally tall and robust, swift runners, good archers, proud and at times affable, yet they were “Idle, revengeful, jealous, cunning, dissolute and thievish.” They lived on beans, Indian corn, many kinds of roots, fruits and nuts, fish and game. The Illinois country, to its fullest extent, was beautiful and productive, abounding in the finest game, and it was not at all surprising that such a country should be coveted by the surrounding tribes. The Sioux from the west, the Pottawatomies from the north and the warlike Iroquois from the far east, each made hostile excursions and raids into the country, and were determined to possess it. Prior to 1673, frequent raids had been made into it, and they were generally successful. In one of these raids, however, through the heroism of an Indian woman, they were compelled to acknowledge a most signal defeat. The narrative, as told soon after the event, is an interesting chapter on female prowess and bravery worthy of any people, and in any age.
A BRAVE SQUAW. The Iroquois had attacked a village upon the banks of a river, and had succeeded in driving out the inhabitants with great slaughter. A young, courageous and patriotic squaw of the tribe, named Watch-e-kee (the orthography of which has been changed to Watseka), learning that their enemies were then exulting over their victory, and rioting upon the spoils secured in the village, urged her tribe to take advantage of the situation, and attack them in return. But the warriors smarting under the sense of their recent defeat, refused to respond to her urgent call. She pointed out to them the darkness of the night, and the almost certain chances of a successful surprise. The “Braves” still refusing, she called for volunteers from among the squaws, urging upon them that death in battle was preferable to torture and captivity, which might be their fate on the morrow. The squaws came forward in great numbers, and offered to follow their brave leader. Seeing the determination of their wives and daughters, the braves became ashamed of their cowardice and inspired with a valor they had not lately exhibited, rushed to arms. A plan of attack was speedily arranged, and the Iroquois being taken unawares in turn, suffered a most overwhelming defeat. The stream near which this sanguinary engagement took place, was called the “Iroquois,” as has been the county, through which it flows, while to the county seat has been given the name of the heroic Indian maiden, who so bravely compassed the overthrow of her enemies.
THE INDIANS AND THE FRENCH. When the French came into the country, they were received not only without opposition, but with much friendliness. Their arms and equipments for war they saw were a great advantage, and they were not slow in accepting them. The priests were made welcome for the reason that they came in the name of peace, and that was what they desired. The two nations, though so entirely unlike in habits of life, civilization, training and disposition, yet they readily united on a common ground, hunted and traded together, and eventually many of them married and lived together.
THE IROQUOIS AGAIN RAID THE ILLINOIS. In 1680, the Iroquois and their allies to the number of some six hundred braves, attacked the Indian village at La Vautum, and, it is said, killed twelve hundred of them, and then drove the rest beyond the Mississippi river. But in 1684, the French having fortified the rock, since known as “Starved Rock,” and placed a strong garrison there, many of the Indians returned and placed themselves under the protection of the French. The Iroquois attacked them there, and with the aid of the French, they were repulsed by the Illinois with great slaughter. That was the last raid the Iroquois ever made into the Illinois country. The fort at the Rock was abandoned in 1700, and from that time until the total annihilation of the Illinois Indians at the Rock, in 1769, no mention is made of it in history.
THE FRENCH AT KASKASKIA. The French established a military post at Kaskaskia, near the river, about the year 1700, and the Kaskaskia Indians learning of the fact, removed thither, and that was their village and home for many years. They were useful to as well as dependent upon the whites, and therefore they got along very well together. In 1736, a numbering of the scattered tribes of the Illinois was made, and they were found to be about 600 in all, and these were but the remnants of the many thousands that once roamed the prairies and hunted the buffalo and deer, as lords of the soil.
THE LAST OF THE ILLINOIS. The Illinois were charged with being concerned in the death of Pontiac, at Cahokia, and the friends of that chieftain then rallied to their destruction. They were hunted from place to place about the country, until they made their final stand upon the Rock, and then their sun set in eternal darkness. After gaining the Rock, they held out for twelve days, defying hunger and thirst, beset upon all sides by their cruel enemies, until at last rendered desperate by their condition, they made a desperate sortie, resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible, but only one of the number, a half-breed, escaped to tell the tale. “And thus perished the large tribe of the Illinois Indians, which with the exception of the solitary warrior, became extinct. Judge Caton, in his work, “Last of the Illinois,” fixes the number at eleven that escaped. The Rock has been known since that date, as “Starved Rock.”
ILLINOIS CEDED TO THE UNITED STATES. In 1803, a treaty was made with the few remaining Indians upon the Illinois territory, by which they surrendered to the General Government, all their lands in the territory, and they were soon afterward removed to the Indian Territory, where they took the name of “Peorias,” and, in 1885, numbered one hundred and forty-nine. They are reported by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to be “For the most part, an active, well-to-do race of farmers, who live in comfortable frame houses.”
THE NORTHERN INDIANS. In the extreme northern part of the Illinois territory, were a few remnants of tribes, once numerous and powerful, but their frequent wars with the neighboring tribes had reduced their numbers until there remained but a handful of warriors to rally at the call of their chief. The Miamis, a warlike tribe, were located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, and on the St. Joseph river. They were originally allied to the Illinois, but separated prior to 1673, and thereafter they were most bitter enemies. The Pottawattomies were scattered. A portion of the tribe were in Northern Michigan. Still another portion were in Northern Ohio, while still another were located in the Illinois territory, north of the Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers, and west of the territory of the Miamis and Sacs and Foxes. The name signifies, “We are making a fire,” hence the other natives called them “Fire-makers.” They are described as being tall, fierce and haughty, fond of hunting and war, and were, previous to their meeting with the French, the most numerous and powerful of all the Northwestern tribes. They were ever friendly with the whites, but in the war of 1812, united their fortunes with Tecumseh. After the death of that warrior, they ceded their lands to the Government, and removed beyond the Mississippi. The Kickapoos were first found near the source of the Fox river, in Wisconsin, by Father Allouez in 1670. They afterward fought their way south to the Vermillion and Sangamon rivers, where they remained for more than one hundred years. Their villages were on the Vermillion and other streams in that portion of the territory. They were fierce and warlike, unwilling to mix with other tribes, and ever hostile to the whites, and never would have aught to do with them. Even the French, who were so friendly with the Illinois tribes, could never have the least influence with or tame them. They would rove over the country in small bands, and swoop down upon the unprotected settlements of the whites, murdering or taking captive all who were to be found, kill their cattle and make off with their horses, before any alarm could be given. They finally ceded their lands and removed from the country to Texas and Mexico. The Sacs and Foxes, called by the French, Outagamies, were first found in 1666, near Green Bay, and numbered some four hundred warriors. They were a restless and discontented tribe. Always at war with their neighbors, never allying with, or holding any trade or barter with them. In truth it was said of them, “That they were the Ishmaelites of the lakes, their hands against every man, and every man’s hand against them.” They often made raids down into the country of the Illinois for the purpose of plunder. They some time afterwards established themselves on the Rock river, and there they remained until the Black Hawk war, when they were removed from the territory with the rest of the Indians that allied themselves with that chieftain, in his war upon the white settlers.
OTHER TRIBES. There were other small tribes scattered through the northwest, but located outside the Illinois territory, and hence not of interest in this history. What few are now left of all these tribes of natives, are now the “Nation’s Wards,” and so removed are they from our doors, that but few of the people of the present day ever see one. They have passed from our view. Their ancient hunting grounds are now occupied by the agriculturist, who, with his well tilled farm, can but wonder at the great progress that has been made in the country since these lords of the soil trod these prairies, or paddled their light canoes upon the bosoms of our rivers. A noted orator, in speaking of the fast disappearance of the Indian tribes of the country, said, “Here and there a stricken few remain, but how unlike their untamed, untamable progenitors. The Indian of the falcon glance, the lion bearing the theme of a touching ballad, the hero of the pathetic tale is gone, and his degraded offspring crawl upon the soil, where he once walked in majesty, to remind them how miserable is man when the foot of the conqueror is on his neck. As a race, they have withered from the land. Their arrows are broken, their springs are dried up, and their cabins are in the dust. Their council fires have long since gone out on the shores and their war cry is fast dying in the out-trodden west, and they will soon hear the roar of the last wave that will settle over them forever.”
THE FRENCH MISSIONARIES. To the French is due the first permanent settlement in the Illinois country. The French missionary, with the explorer and the trader, entered the field hand in hand, the latter protecting the former, while the former in return aided the latter in making peace with the natives. The Jesits were all powerful with the Government of Canada, and therefore controlled the sale of the “Firewater” dealt out so liberally to the natives, fixed the price of peltries, and, in fact, ruled the settlement with a despotic sway. The early history of Illinois is derived wholly from the letters, records and narratives of the missionaries, who first entered this wilderness in search of converts to their faith. The explorers and traders, as a rule, were wholly incapable of writing any intelligent account whatever of their discoveries, while the priests were educated, ready with the pen, and always used it to their own advantage. To them, therefore, are we indebted for almost everything we know of the early history of Illinois. After the decease of Father Marquette upon the banks of a small stream on the east shore of Lake Michigan, in 1675, Father Claude Jean Allouez, was the most distinguished of the early missionaries. He was a native of France, and came first to Canada in 1658, where he labored for twelve years establishing missions in that province, and various points on the northern lakes, among which was that at St. Ignace, at the Straits of Mackinac. After the demise of Father Marquette, he was selected to complete the mission at Kaskaskia village, at “Illinois Lake.” He arrived there April 27th, 1677, and erected a cross of wood twenty-five feet in height, and preached to the tribes there assembled. He remained there, and in that vicinity, until 1684, when he returned to Green Bay. He died at Fort St. Joseph on the southeast shore of Lake Michigan, in 1690. Father Jaques Gravier was the next priest to care for that mission. He labored there and among the Peorias until 1699, when he was recalled to Mackinac. In 1700, he started on a voyage down the Mississippi. The year following he returned, and for awhile labored with the Peorias. Here he was severely injured by an assault made upon him at the instance of the medicine men, and died of his injuries in 1706. Since Marquette, he was one of the most zealous and faithful of the Fathers. Not long after this, the mission among the Peorias was discontinued, at least there is no reliable record of its existence. The natives had scattered, many of them going to and joining the mission at Cahokia, then called “Tamaroa.” That was about the year 1700, for Father Gravier, in the journal of his voyage down the Mississippi in that year, mentions the fact of his stopping there and visiting them. From that time until 1741, many priests were sent into the country, and labored long and earnestly with varied success. Their great obstacle in the work was “firewater,” brought into the country by the traders, and dealt out by them to the natives, with a liberal hand. They would exchange their peltries for that when nothing else would be an inducement to part with them. It was in the year 1741, that the feeling of hostility to the Jesuits was started in Europe, which was carried out with extreme bitterness for many years, so that in 1764, the order was issued banishing them from the country. Illinois had then been ceded to Great Britain, but that availed nothing, the vestments and vessels of the Jesuit chapels were seized by the “King’s Attorney,” and the chapels leveled to the earth. The priests were soon sent after down the river to New Orleans, and from there to France. The order of banishment to the priests was a gross injustice to the priests, as well as a gross violation of the precepts of Christian charity. It was a profanation of the Christian worship, and a ruthless and cruel revenge inflicted upon the men who had labored so long and arduously for the improvement of the native races of America. The priests, with one exception, were all expelled from the whole northwest territory, and he was allowed to remain only on condition that he must not interfere in any way in the religious matters of the country. The settlements throughout the entire Illinois country were abandoned, except at Cahokia, and at Kaskaskia, and they were only tolerated as trading posts for the few inhabitants who had settled in that vicinity.
FIRST SETTLEMENTS. The first permanent settlement made in Illinois was at Kaskaskia, about the year 1700. The village was located on the west bank of the river of that name, and between that and the Mississippi, and about two miles from the latter. The present city of Chester, where the southern penitentiary is located, is seven miles below the old site. It nourished with varied fortunes for nearly two hundred years, until the Father of Waters cut a channel above it across the country into the Kaskaskia, making the site an island. The river then gradually washed away the island, taking the farms and gardens, until but little of it now remains. The village was removed several years ago to a site on higher ground. The village was, for more than a century, the capital of the territory, and was the first capital of the state, when it was admitted into the Union in 1818. The old cemetary, located near the village in which the pioneer dead had, for two centuries, been buried, being in danger of being washed away, the Legislature, in 1891, appropriated $10,000 for the removal of the dead buried there. Twenty acres of land on a hill, on the east side of the river, was purchased, and the bones and remains of thirty-eight hundred were gathered into as many boxes, taken to the new cemetery, and there reinterred. The most of them being marked “unknown.” The present village of Kaskaskia is located on the east side of that river, about two miles from its former site.
CAHOKIA FOUNDED. Cahokia claims to have been founded at about the same time as Kaskaskia, and some writers have asserted that it was settled in 1695, but there is no authority for the assertion. No doubt there were priests and traders there, and at times large numbers of the natives, but no permanent settlement was made there until about the year 1700. It was located on the Mississippi, some ten miles below the present city of East St. Louis. The place was never else but a small village of some two hundred inhabitants. It was the village visited by Father Gravier when he went on his voyage down the Mississippi in 1700.
FORT CHARTRES. In the year 1718, Fort Chartres was built by a French company upon the east bank of the Mississippi, in what is now the county of Randolph. It was located four miles west of the village of Prairie du Rocher and twenty-two miles northwest, of Kaskaskia. When first built, it was enclosed with a stockade, but later a substantial stone wall, sixteen feet high was built, the wall enclosing about four acres of ground. Within the enclosure were barracks, stables, store houses, etc. It was well supplied with guns and ammunition, and was considered, at the time, as the most impregnable fortress in the whole country. The erection of the fort greatly favored the settlements, and particularly Cahokia and Kaskaskia, so that the latter became a very important post and was the headquarters for the whole Illinois country. In 1725, it became an incorporated town, and the King of France granted its inhabitants a commons, or pasture grounds for their stock. Fort Chartres was abandoned in 1772, through the encroachment of the river upon its walls, and the garrison and property were removed to Kaskaskia.
AN INDIAN MASSACRE. The settlements of southern Illinois flourished and large numbers of French immigrants, both from France and Canada, came into the country and established fine homes, cultivated the rich lands, and peace and prosperity was everywhere visible. But a terrible calamity befell the inhabitants upon the 28th of November, 1729. The Natchez and Choctaw tribes at the south became jealous of the whites and the progress they had made, and therefore resolved to wipe out the last vestige of French encroachment in the west, and upon that date, fell upon the peaceful inhabitants with fearful slaughter, murdering some seven hundred males, and taking all the females and children captives. As soon as the massacre became known, dispatches were sent to France for troops, and supplies of ammunition to endeavor to recover the captives, if possible. In the meantime, the natives that were friendly to the French, were induced to go upon the war path, and soon some twelve hundred warriors were gathered together, and set forward against the murderers. The Natchez were still at their carousals unaware of the danger that awaited them. The friendly natives, led by the French, attacked the enemy, and a great slaughter ensued, gaining a great victory. Not long after the French troops arrived, completing the victory, and releasing the prisoners. The larger part of the Natchez and Choctaw natives fled across the Mississippi, but were followed by the troops and large numbers of them killed, four hundred being taken prisoners and sent south to New Orleans, and then to Jamaica and sold as slaves. That was the last massacre upon Illinois soil, until the massacre at Fort Dearborn, in the war of 1812.
A GALLANT DEED. It was during the war of the American Revolution, that George Rogers Clark, a young Virginian, performed a most gallant deed, which enrolled his name forever among the noble heroes who performed such heroic acts of valor in the early settlement of the great west. Young Clark applied to Patrick Henry, then governor of Virginia, for troops, arms and supplies, with which he intended to obtain possession of the British outposts in the Illinois territory, and thus strike a blow at the British power in the great Northwest. Clark had been active in some military operations against the Indians in Kentucky, just previous to the war and had gained a most splendid reputation in the gallant deeds there performed. Governor Henry cordially approved of the enterprise, as planned by Clark, and issued orders at once for the necessary troops and equipments. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the Virginia Militia, and given twelve hundred pounds in the depreciated currency of the state, with which to purchase supplies necessary for such an expedition, and authorized to enlist three hundred and fifty men. His instructions from the governor were very explicit in every detail. He enjoined upon Colonel Clark generosity and humanity in dealing with the enemy, which was in striking contrast to that adopted by the British, who were then paying bounties to the savages for the scalps of the women and children of the rebels, as they called the Americans. Colonel Clark raised but a part of the men necessary for the expedition, but rather than wait for more, resolved to proceed with those he had. He proceeded to Fort Pitts, and then embarked upon the Ohio. After starting on the voyage down the river, Colonel Clark informed the men that the object of the expedition was to take Kaskaskia, then the only stronghold in the Illinois territory. He landed on a small island in the river, opposite where Louisville now stands, where he erected a port to protect his base of supplies. Everything being in readiness, on June 24th, 1778, he left the island with but one hundred and fifty-three men, and floated down the river, to Fort Massac, opposite the mouth of the Tennessee river. Here they landed, and hiding their boats in a small stream near the fort, with two guides he started overland for Kaskaskia, one hundred and twenty miles distant. The country was a wilderness, and the little army depended almost wholly for subsistance upon the game found in the country. They arrived in the vicinity of Kaskaskia on the afternoon of July 4th, and having obtained a very good description of the village and fort, divided their forces into three companies, and when darkness had set in started for the fort. The attack was a complete surprise, and the town and fort were taken, without the shedding of a drop of blood. The commandant of the place had nicknamed the Virginians “Long Knives,” and when the troops entered the town, that was the cry from the inhabitants on every hand. Kaskaskia contained, at that time, some two hundred and fifty houses, and hence was quite a large village for that part of the country to have. Order having been restored in the town, Colonel Clark then started for Cahokia, and reached there before the town had heard of the taking of Kaskaskia. It was taken without resistance, and thus the gallant Colonel had become the conqueror of the whole territory, which he came in possession of in the name of his state, and patron in the enterprise. On the 23d of November, 1778, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a vote of thanks to Colonel Clark and his brave “little army” for the very important services they had rendered their state.
COLONEL CLARK TAKES VINCENNES. After arranging the affairs for the government of the territory, he started across the country to Vincennes to obtain possession of a British post at that place, and as it was a surprise to the garrison in the place it was easily taken and held, and thus the last British post in the whole Northwest was wrested from British control. Soon after the Virginia House of Delegates erected the whole country taken possession of by Colonel Clark, into a county, and named it Illinois. This included all the country north and west of the Ohio to the Mississippi.
DEATH OF COLONEL CLARK. Colonel Clark served in several campaigns in the west with great gallantry, and after the attempt at betrayal by the traitor, Arnold, he enlisted in the Continental army, and served under Baron Steuben until the close of the war, and independence was gained. His after life was passed in private, and as age advanced, he suffered intensely from rheumatism contracted from exposure in his many campaigns. He died at Locust Grove, near Louisville, in 1818, and his remains were deposited near the river that forms the southern boundary of the land he was so instrumental in recovering to his state and the nation. The memory of Colonel Clark is perpetuated in the state where his gallant deeds are so well remembered and appreciated, for the year following his death, the legislature of the new state gave his name to a county then formed, and a few years later when the infant city by the Great Lake took form, one of the first streets settled and named was Clark street, now the leading business street in the great metropolis of the west.
THE ORDINANCE OF 1787. On July 13, 1787, Congress passed an act, entitled, “Ordinance of 1787” for the government of the Great Northwest Territory, ceded by Virginia to the United States three years before. That act was the law of the land, and regulated not only the government of the territory, but made special provision regarding inheritances, descents, wills, conveyances, sales, etc., saving, however, to the French and Canadian inhabitants their laws and customs. The law provided for a governor, secretary and three judges, and the governor and judges had the power to make the laws for the territory, subject to the approval or disapproval of Congress. The governor was all powerful, and ruled the territory at will, subject only to the ordinances and as Congress dictates from time to time. Not less than three, nor more than five states were to be formed in the territory. The boundaries of each state were fixed, though no names were given to them. They were designated, however, as the Eastern, now Ohio, the Western, now Illinois, the Northwestern, now Wisconsin, the Northern, now Michigan, and the Middle State, now Indiana. It provided further, that there should be “Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude,” except as a punishment for crimes, but provided for the return of fugitives to the original states when such service or labor could be lawfully claimed. It was that latter provision that in after years led so much to the making of history upon the subject of slavery, and resulted in placing Illinois as a prominent factor in the settlement of the question, as results show. But the most important article in the ordinance, and the one that the people of these five great states should be forever grateful to the framers for, was as follows: “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government, and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education, shall forever be encouraged.” That was the great bulwark of the liberties of the country, and upon that the foundation was built, the splendid system of education which has ever been the great leading feature in the settlement of the country, and which has certainly placed Illinois in the van of modern civilization.
THE FIRST GOVERNOR. General Arthur St. Clair was the first territorial governor, with his headquarters or seat of government at Marietta, Ohio. He was born in Scotland, and served with distinction in the French and Indian war, and also in the Revolution, and had been in public life so much that he became identified with the interests of the west to that extent, which made his appointment most appropriate, and satisfactory to the people.
PROTESTANTISM IN ILLINOIS. In 1790, the white population of Illinois, in round numbers, was about 2,000. A year or two previous to that, James Smith, a Baptist minister, came to New Design, a small village in Monroe County, and commenced his labors, and that is placed by historians as the beginning of Protestantism in. the state. In 1793, one Joseph Lillard, Methodist missionary, arrived there, and from that time forward, Protestantism became an important factor in the religion of the state.
ILLINOIS A PART OF INDIANA. From 1787 to 1809, Illinois was a part of Indiana Territory, but in the latter year it was formed into a territory by itself, as before stated in this work. This territory, which was created to commence its existence on the first day of March in that year, embraced the tract west of the Wabash river, and north to Canada.
AN EARTHQUAKE. November 11th, 1811, an earthquake occurred, which caused great fear among the then scattered hamlets of the territory, and especially in the American bottom along the Mississippi river, where chimneys were thrown down, houses damaged and bells rung. That was the first earthquake mentioned in the history of the state, and pretty much the last, although slight tremblings have since been felt.
THE MAMMOTH. There was a time when the mammoth and mastodon roamed these prairies in great numbers, and their bones were often to be found in the marshy places where they had become mired, or had gone there to drink. At what time this was, is a mystery. The Illinois knew nothing of them, nor had they even a tradition of any such an animal. But there is one thing certain, and that is, that people lived here at the same time those huge animals did. In exhuming the bones of one of them near Beardstown, several years ago, an arrow head, and the broken point of a copper spear were found among the bones, showing that the animal came to its death by the hand of man. Another skeleton was found in a marsh standing erect. A fire had been kindled against its side, and ashes, pieces of charred wood, arrow heads and stone axes were found with the bones. It is the theory that it became mired in the mud and was then attacked and killed by the natives. A short distance from Peoria Lake, numerous bones were found in the early settlement of the country. The place was a salt lick, and quite marshy. Some of the bones were of immense size, showing the animal in life, at least fifteen feet in height, and twenty-two in length. The largest elephant of the present day would be but a pigmy in comparison with it.
THE ILLINOIS RIVER. The Illinois river from its junction with the Des Plaines and Kankakee, is two hundred and sixty miles in length, exclusive of its many windings, and two hundred and ten miles of it are navigable for steamboats. It is a sluggish stream with only twenty-eight feet fall, nearly all of which is above Peoria Lake. The mouth of the river where it enters the Mississippi, is twelve miles wide between the bluffs, and when that river is high, it backs the water up the Illinois seventy-two miles. The bottom lands along the river are very fertile, but much of them are overflowed, especially since the Drainage Canal from Chicago to Joliet was opened. The scenery along the river is beautiful, the stream being dotted along its whole course with innumerable islands, some of which are quite large. The first fort ever built in the Illinois country was upon the banks of the stream, as was also the first Catholic Mission. It was a favorite stream with the natives, its sluggish current being just the place for their light bark canoes. At a later period, the Mackinaw boat of the American Fur Company, took the place of the canoe, and was used until navigation by steam supplanted it.
A FARMER MECHANIC. An anecdote is related of an old farmer down in Monroe county, by the name of James Lemon. He was one of the old sort of Baptist preachers, but an excellent man, and just the right sort to settle up a new country, for he was quite a mechanical genius, and made all his tools used on his farm, even his harness for his horses. The collars he made of straw or corn husks, which were plaited and sewed together by himself. Being engaged in plowing a piece of stubble ground, and having turned out for dinner, he left his harness on the beam of his plow. His son, a wild youth, who was employed with a pitch fork to clean the plow of the accumulated stubble, stayed behind and hid one of the horse collars. This he did that he might rest while his father made a new collar. But the old man returning, soon missed the collar, and after reflecting for a few moments, very much to the disappointment of his truant son, pulled off his leather breeches, stuffed the legs of them with the stubble, and then straddled them upon the horses neck for a collar and then proceeded with his plowing as bare-legged as when he came into the world.
INSTRUCTING A JURY. In some of the trials by jury in Southern Illinois, at an early day, the judges had some very queer experiences. In a certain trial, the judge, when he came to instruct the jury as to the law, gave his instructions to them in such an off-hand way that some of the jurors considered them as but a talk to them on the part of the learned judge. The instructions, however, were sound and very much to the point. Still the jury could not agree on a verdict, and therefore returned to the court room. The judge asked the jury the reason why they could not agree, when the foreman answered with great apparent honest and simplicity. “Why, judge this ‘ere is the difficulty. The jury want to know whether that ‘ar you told us when we first went out was raly the law, or only just your notion.” The judge, of course, informed them that it was really the law, and they soon found a verdict accordingly.
THE WAR OF 1812. Of course the war of 1812 reached Illinois, and was severely felt in several localities. War was declared by President Madison on June 18th, and on August 15th, following, occurred the massacre at Fort Dearborn, on the Chicago river. The fort had been erected by the Government at the mouth of the river, in 1804, and was occupied by a small garrison, under Captain Heald, as commandant. The garrison consisted of seventy men, and in the fort were quite a number of women and children. Orders were issued for the evacuation of the fort, and on that day all marched out, but they had only gone a short distance when they were attacked by a large body of savages, and nearly all murdered. Steps were taken at once to suppress the Indian uprising, and avenge the bloody deed, and an expedition was planned to attack a considerable number of the savages at Peoria Lake. The expedition, however, proved a failure, and only some of the native villages were burned. The year following another campaign was undertaken to Peoria, where another fort was built and named “Fort Clark,” in honor of Colonel George Rogers Clark. The soldiers scoured the country driving the Indians before them, but no general engagement took place. In 1814, a force was sent to Rock Island, under Major Campbell, where an engagement with the Sacs and Foxes took place, but without any definite result. Later in the same year, Major Zachary Taylor (afterwards President of the United States), also went to Rock Island, and had an engagement with the Indians and the British. Towards the end of the year, hostile operations began to slacken, and, in the summer of 1815, peace was restored between the United States and the Indian tribes of the northwest, and the settlers of the state enjoyed comparative peace and quiet for many years, there being no further trouble with the natives until 1832, when Black Hawk stirred up the spirit of revenge in the Indian breast, and sought to drive the white settlers from the state. The soldiers in the war of 1812 were given bounties in the lands, which are known as the Military tract, which extended between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, from the mouth of the Illinois, northward one hundred and sixty-nine miles.
ILLINOIS FROM 1815 TO 1818. The territory from the close of the war of 1812, to the time of its admission into the Union, as a state, continued to improve and increase in population, and the territorial laws were well and faithfully administered. The population in 1815, was estimated at about 16,000, but when admitted as a state, as heretofore stated, it was about 50,000, showing a degree of prosperity seldom equalled in so remote a territory. On the 16th of September, 1805, there were five counties in the territory, and the governor, by proclamation, ordered an election to be held for six councilmen, and six representatives, one of each for each county, except Gallatin, which was apportioned two of each. They were to meet at Kaskaskia, then the seat of the territorial government, on the 10th day of November. The election was held as directed, and all met at the appointed time, and all of the twelve were boarded at one house, and lodged in one room.
ONE ILLITERATE MEMBER. Among the members assembled was one John Grammar, from Johnson County. This was his first appearance in public life. He was of no education, could neither read nor write, and yet he was a man of much natural shrewdness. He knew nothing of legislation or laws, and so he adopted a rule to vote against every new measure that came up for passage, whether good or bad, he deeming it easier to conciliate his constituents by voting against a good measure, than by voting for a bad one. He wore the most unique and original clothing of any of the members, and for that matter, it was probably the most original, as well as odd suit, that any member of a public body has worn since that time. Not having suitable clothing to wear to the legislature, it is recorded of him that he and his family gathered a quantity of hickory nuts. These he took to the Ohio Salines, and traded for blue stranding, such as the Indians wore for breech cloth. When the women of the neighborhood got together to make up the cloth into garments, they found it very scant, and so they decided to make a bob-tailed coat and knee pants, with long leggins. Arrayed in this primitive suit, he appeared at the seat of Government, and attended the daily sessions as though arrayed in broadcloth and fine linen.
THE LAWS PASSED. The most of the laws passed by this legislature, were good and beneficial, and some of them were so popular that they were re-enacted by the new state after it was admitted to the Union. But there were some laws passed that were barbarous in the extreme. Punishment of crimes and misdemeanors was by whipping on the bare back, confinement in the stocks, standing in pillory and branding with a hot iron. These several punishments were ordered administered by the court that tried the culprit. The number of stripes that could be inflicted, was from ten to five hundred. It was not the worst that received the most stripes by any means. For instance, burglary and robbery, was punished with not exceeding thirty-nine, while for bigamy, three hundred could be inflicted. Another law was passed, placing a bounty of fifty to one hundred dollars for the killing of an Indian warrior or the taking of a squaw or child captive.
TRADE AND COMMERCE. Commerce at that time was in its infancy. All foreign goods, and articles not produced in the territory, were brought from New Orleans, by way of the river, in keel boats, pushed up against the current by long poles, and with the most severe labor, and towed around the points with long ropes. The only other way they had of obtaining goods, was by wagons over the Allegheny mountains, from Philadelphia to Pittsburg, thence in flat boats down the Ohio, and landed at convenient points, and then taken in wagons and carried where wanted. The trip down the Mississippi and back took fully six months, while that east required at least three.
THE FIRST STEAMBOAT. The first steamboat to ascend the Mississippi to St. Louis, was the General Pike, and that was on August 2d, 1817. Agriculture was the principal pursuit of the people during territorial times, but hunting and trapping was followed in winter by nearly all. There were few merchants, and they only kept such articles as were mostly needed by the settlers. Tea, coffee and sugar were but little used, and seldom to be found in the stores. Coarser goods for clothing were usually kept, and articles indispensable to the housekeeper. Cabins were built without glass, nails, locks or hinges, and the furniture was manufactured in the same rude fashion. The settlers all learned to make what was needed for use, and that answered all purposes.
EDUCATION. We have already alluded to the provision in the ordinance of 1787, regarding free schools, and the Constitutional Convention that met in Kaskaskia, in 1818, to form the first constitution, inserted in that first organic law of the state, the very letter, as well as the spirit of the provision for free schools, and the act of Congress that enabled the territory to prepare for statehood, provided Section sixteen in every township in the state, should be “For the use of Schools.” Also that five per cent of the net proceeds from the sale of public lands in the state, should be divided, two-fifths of which should be devoted to the making of roads, and three-fifths to the cause of education. Those provisions were accepted by the state, and became the basis of our present school system. Thus with every settlement, a provision was made for a public school, and although funds were low, and often hard to obtain, yet the “school master” was abroad in the land from the very beginning of the state government.
STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS. In 1854, the law was passed creating the office of State Superintendent of Schools, and also for a complete system of free schools. The State Normal University was established by law in 1857, and located north of Bloomington, some two miles; the purpose for which it was established was “To qualify teachers for the common schools of the state.” The Constitution of 1870, gave the legislature power to “Provide a thorough and efficient system of free schools, whereby all the children of this state may receive a good common school education.”
THE FIRST GOVERNOR. We have already alluded to the election of Shadrach Bond as the first governor, the act removing the State Capital from Kaskaskia to Vandalia, and of that establishing the State Bank. The total revenue of the state for the year 1818, was but $7,510.44. It was during his administration that the first steps were taken to construct the Illinois and Michigan Canal, though but little was done, except the recommendation of Governor Bond, that some steps should be taken for the construction of such a waterway. In 1822, Edward Coles was elected governor, and held the office until 1826. During his administration, the state was seriously embarrassed by its financial conditions brought upon it by the State Bank, and some attempt was made to remedy the difficulty, but without much success. The governor, in his first message, also recommended the importance of a great waterway, from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi river, and by act of the legislature, January 17th, 1825, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was incorporated, but nothing further was done in the matter. Almost every measure recommended by Governor Coles was so bitterly opposed, even by his own party, that but little benefit accrued to the state during his administration. December 6th, 1826, Ninian Edwards was inaugurated governor, and it was during his administration that an appropriation was made for the erection of a penitentiary at Alton. The act was passed and work begun. January 20th, 1826, the act incorporating the Illinois and Michigan Canal, was repealed, and thus the first chapter in the construction of that work was ended. The great objection to the act was that the state should construct the canal instead of a private company. Educational interests were greatly advanced during Governor Edwards’ administration, by the establishing of several higher institutions of learning. In 1827, John M. Peck, a Baptist minister, built a two-story frame house, about half way between Lebanon and O’Fallon, which he named “The Rock Spring Theological Seminary and High School,” and that was the beginning of Shurtliff College, now located at Upper Alton. McKendree College was established three miles east of the Rock Spring institution, in the village of Lebanon, where it is still flourishing. Illinois College at Jacksonville, is one of the pioneers of that period, and has been one of the great institutions of learning of the state. The population of the state in 1830, was 157,445, nearly three times what it was ten years before. December 9th, 1830, John Reynolds was inaugurated governor. He favored the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and the finishing of the penitentiary at Alton. It was during his administration that the County of Cook was formed, January 15, 1831, and that was the beginning of Will County, as it was taken from that county in 1836. The Black Hawk war took place during Governor Reynolds’ administration, but we shall refer to that at greater length in a separate article hereafter. Joseph Duncan was inaugurated governor, December 3d, 1834. In his message to the legislature, he strongly urged the construction of the Canal, to connect Lake Michigan with the Illinois river, and a general system of internal improvements. The charter of the old State Bank at Shawneetown was revived, and a new one granted. In 1837, the capital stock of the bank, was $2,000,000, the whole to be subscribed for the state by the fund commissioners, an executive body of the internal improvement system. The bank had six branches, but it was short lived. Like its predecessor, it succumbed to the inevitable in 1842, and that was the last of State Banks.