Online Version Transcribed By Nancy Piper
Introduction To Part
The writer of the following story came to Bureau soon after the settlement had been commenced, and experienced some of the inconveniences common to the settlement of a new country. At that time, the prairies of the country were in a state of nature, without roads, fields, or dwellings, a part of which had not yet been surveyed. The only marks of civilization to be seen were a few log cabins, build here and there in the edge of the timber, and throughout the country there was scarcely a school, or meeting house; not one surveyed road, nor one stream bridged. Indian trails were still to be seen, and traveled both by whites and Indians.
The writer was well acquainted with the first settlers, and from them much of this story was obtained. He also had frequent interviews with Indians, who had spent their youthful days on Bureau, and from them many important facts were gathered.
There are some incidents narrated in this story, which were unknown to the early settlers, but the most of them were well known, and will be confirmed by persons still living. Efforts were made to harmonize the early traditions of this country, as well as the statements of Indians, with well-established facts, and with a few exceptions it has been successful.
In historical sketches, discrepancies in narratives will occasionally appear, which must necessarily be supplied by inference of the writer, and this story is not an exception to the rule.
Neither money nor emulation induced the writer to offer these pages to the public; the necessarily limited circulation would prevent the former, and the criticisms common to local publications the latter. But another motive more laudable in its nature, and more useful in its effects, caused this work to appear, that is the great desire to preserve the early history of the county. The testimony of the early settlers, who are now in their graves, as well as of Indians that have long since passes away, was alone in possession of the writer, and justice required that it should be given to the public.
The labors of the writer may not at present be appreciated, but the time will come when these facts, although crudely expressed, will be regarded of great importance, forming as they do the connecting link of history between the past, present and future.
Princeton, March, 1872
The Missionary And The Outlaw
On the morning of the 25th of June, 1830, two men were seen riding across the prairie between East and Main Bureau, one of whom was a large, portly man, with a high forehead, black, piercing eyes and whose black beard hung in waving clusters over his breast. The man was Adam Paine, a missionary among the Indians, who was well known by many of the early settlers of the northwest. The appearance of his traveling companion was the opposite in almost every particular, being a large, broad-shouldered, heavy-set man, with high cheek bones, a flat pug nose, black eagle like eyes, and whose general appearance indicated a low savage character. The reader will recognize in this description Mike Girty, a half-breed Indian, and an outlaw. The travelers, at the time we introduce them, were returning from a tour among the Indians on the Kankakee river - Paine as a preacher, and Girty as an interpreter - and they were now on their way to Bureau creek to attend at Indian feast. After having swam their horses across the Illinois river, they were slowly pursuing their way across the prairie, and over the very spot the city of Princeton now stands. Instead of a populous town, surrounded by well cultivated farms, with fine buildings and thriving orchards, as we now see it, forty years ago it was in a state of nature, where deer and the wolf roamed undisturbed by Human habitation. No whistling of steam engines, clattering of machinery, nor musical notes of school or church bells were then heard in this wild region. The beautiful rolling prairie at that time, covered with flowers of every hue, extending to the northeast as far as the eye could reach; while to the southwest, the view was obstructed by a large grove of timber, not yet disfigured by the woodman's axe.
The Indian Feast
On Main Bureau creek, near the mouth of Epperson's run, were collected a large body of Indians for the purpose of holding their annual feast, and to attend this feast our travelers were bound. A number of chiefs from a distance were here: among them were Black Hawk, Senachwine, Shaubena, Waba, and many other distinguished chiefs and warriors from the surrounding tribes. The principal object this large delegation of chiefs and warriors had in attending this feast, was to unite the different tribes of the west in a war against the whites. This union was intended by them to be inaugurated under religious influences, and thereby cause the warriors to believe they were acting in accordance with the will of the Great Spirit.
The Indians had killed a number of their favorite dogs and roasted them whole, on which they were feasting. In the midst of their encampment, an altar was erected, on which were burning sacrifices, that had been offered up to the Great Spirit to appease his wrath, and thereby insure their success in war, hunting, fishing, etc. Skins, war implements, and various kinds of trinkets were burned on the altar while the Indians danced around it, yelling at the top of their voices. A number of priests, dressed in long robes, faces powdered, and their head ornamented with turkey feathers, were directing the exercises. With uplifted hands, and their eyes turned heavenwards, they invoked the blessing of the Great Spirit on the assembled multitude. Many of the Indians were dressed so as to represent different kinds of animals - some in the skin of a deer with large horns on their heads, standing out in bold relief; others in a skin of a dog or wolf, running about on all fours, with their nose to the ground, tail dragging behind and howling in imitation of the animal they represented: many of the Indians had painted their faces in representation of the sun, moon and stars, and the place they occupied in the performance was in accordance with their ideas of the solar system. Their religions exercises consisted principally in loud demonstrations of joy and grief; sometimes running around a circle on their hands and knees, jumping up and down, clapping their hands together, while their whoops and yells could be heard for miles away.* (*For an account of this Indian feast the writer is indebted to Peter Dumont, an old pioneer hunter, who was an eye-witness to these strange performances.)
When the Indians had completed their feast, and the ceremonies connected with their religious exercises, Paine mounted a log and preached to them the words of life, while Girty stood by him interpreting his sermon to the Indians. Paine, with that energy and zeal peculiar to him, explained to his hearers the many errors of their heathen religion, and the great importance of embracing Christianity. Those who have heard Paine preach will recollect his peculiar manner of address, with his body erect, hands uplifted, voice intoned to its highest key; his features gleaming with enthusiasm, while his thick, coal black beard extended down to his waist, giving him a very impressive, as well as reverential appearance. He explained to his hearers the principles of the Christian religion, which enjoined on all its votaries peace and good will to all mankind; admonishing them never again to make war on their white brethren; that war was wicked, the work of the devil, and would result in their ruin. Many of the Indians were converted under his preaching, and declared their intention of giving up the religion of their father's for that of Christianity. A number of warriors in the audience said that they would forever bury the tomahawk, and no longer be under the control of wicked chiefs who were trying to lead them astray.
Black Hawk's Appeal To The Pottawatamie Warriors
The main object of Black Hawk in attending this feast, was to induce the Pottawatamies to join him in a war of extermination against the frontier settlers of the northwest. Many of the chiefs had already pledged themselves to his support, and the scheme was fast gaining favor with the warriors. While Paine was preaching, Black Hawk sat on the ground in front of him, watching the effect of his words upon the warriors. But when he found that the eloquence of the speaker was about to ruin his cause, he sprang to his feet in a terrible rage, and waving his tomahawk over his head, he denounced Paine as an enemy of the red man, his religion as coming from the evil one, and only fit for White men and squaws. He appealed to the warriors for the sake of their fathers to stand by him in his grand scheme for exterminating the whites, and thereby sustain the honor of their race. In this appeal he said:
"The whites have already ordered me and my people away from our beautiful home at Rock Island, compelling us to give up our wigwams, cornfields, and hunting grounds, and leave the graves of our fathers to be plowed over by our enemies. The land which the Great Spirit gave unto our fathers as a possession for themselves and their children forever, is not about to be taken from us. We are compelled to leave our country, the haunts of our youth, with its big rivers, beautiful green prairies, its shady groves and go away into a strange land, leaving all that is dear unto us in the possession of the conquerors. And before many moons you will have to leave your homes and seek a refuge beyond the "Father of Waters." Already the whites are building wigwams among you, and the sound of their axe is heard cutting down the forest to scare away the deer. Soon the game will leave - your trails will be fenced up, and you will be driven from the land of your fathers. Therefore rise in your might, tomahawk the intruders - cut the throats of their squaws and little ones, so that in future no pale face will settle among you."
Speech of Senachwine
Seated on the ground in front of Black Hawk, and listening to his speech, was an Indian stricken in years, but whose countenance, at the remarks of the last speaker, became flushed with excitement, and for the time being showed some of the vigor of youth. For more than fifty years the voice of this Indian had been heard in council, and by his wisdom and goodness he had long since been styled the father of his people. He had acquired great celebrity throughout the west, and his fine oratory eulogies from writers, both in prose and poetry. The Indian was Senachwine, the principal chief of the Pottawatamies. At the conclusion of Black Hawk's speech, he rose to his feet, his face glowing with enthusiasm, while around his massive brow, and blowing to and fro by the wind, were long locks of hair whitened by the snows of eighty-six winters. Throwing his blanket from his shoulders, and straightening himself up to his full height, he said:
"For more than seventy years I have hunted in this grove and fished in this stream, and for as many years I have worshipped on this ground. Through these groves, and over these prairies in pursuit of game, our fathers have roamed, and by them this land was left unto us an heritage forever. No one is more attached to their home than myself, and no one among you is so grieved to leave it. But the time is near at hand, when the red men of the forest will have to leave the land of their nativity, and find a home towards the setting sun. The white man of the east, whose numbers are like the sand of the sea, will overrun and take possession of this country. They will build wigwams and villages all over the land, and their domain will extend from sea to sea. In my boyhood days I have chased the buffalo across the prairies, and hunted elk in the grove; but where are they now? Long since they have left us; the near approach of the white man has scared them away. The deer and the turkey will go next, and with them, the sons of the forest. Resistance to the aggression of the whites is useless; war is wicked and must result in our ruin. Therefore let us submit to our fate, return not evil for evil, as this would offend the Great Spirit and bring ruin upon us. The time is near at hand when our race will be extinct, and nothing left to show to the world that we ever did exist. As for myself I have no reflections for the past, nor have I any misgivings for the future; my race is nigh run, and soon I will be gathered to my fathers. My bones will be laid away in that beautiful green knoll, which overlooks the valley of Senachwine, and my spirit will go to that happy hunting ground, where my fathers before me have gone. Our white friend (Paine) has been telling us of a Savior who died to save the world. Of this Savior I know nothing; but this I do know, the monitor within my breast has taught me the will of the Great Spirit, and now tells me that good Indians will be rewarded, and bad ones punished. My friends do not listen to the words of Black Hawk, for he is trying to lead you astray. Do not imbrue your hands in human blood; for such is the work of the evil one, and will only bring retribution upon your own heads."
At the conclusion of Senachwine's speech, the warriors with loud acclamations, declared their intention of following his advice, and remain at peace with their white neighbors. By this speech Black Hawk's cause was ruined, and when he found the Pottawatamies would not join his standard he left for his home, when the feast broke up.
Senachwine's Death and Burial
About one year after the events above narrated, as Senachwine was returning from a neighboring village where he had been spending a few days, as he came cantering his pony into his own village, old and young ran out to meet him, and welcome his return. But as he raised his hand to address them, he fell to the ground and expired almost instantly. To his people it was like the falling of a mighty oak in the stillness of the forest. All mourned his death as that of a father, for long since he had been regarded as the benefactor of their tribe. His three wives, with his numerous children and grand children, painted their faces black, and accompanied by the whole village, with loud wailing, followed his remains to its long resting place. According to Senachwine's request, he was buried on the bluff overlooking the village and valley of Senachwine, and for many years afterwards Indians from a distance mad an annual pilgrimage to the grave of the sainted dead. The following lines are supposed to represent Senachwine's last farewell to his beloved people, as he departed for the spirit land.
Senachwine village as well as the stream
Visit To Senachwine's Grave
In passing down the valley of Senachwine a short distance below the county line, a curve in the bluff may be seen, and below which is spread out to the view a small fertile plain, or bottom prairie, now under a high state of cultivation. On this little plain, by the side of a small creek, whose rippling waters are heard as they glide onward to Senachwine lake, once stood the village of Senachwine. High above the plain, overlooking the valley and surrounding country, is a beautiful green knoll, shaded by a few outspreading oaks, beneath whose boughs is still to be seen the grave of Senachwine.
"He sleeps beneath the spreading shade
A few years ago, as I stood by the side of Senachwine's grave, while taking a view of the vally and surrounding country, I thought how well the old chief's prophecy had been fulfilled. The puffing of steamboats on the river, and the rattling of cars on the railroad, as well as the fine farms and farm buildings in the surroundings, all go to show a different age from that in which Senachwine lived. The same bluffs and valleys over which he roamed, while in pursuit of game still remain, and the same stream where he used to fish continues to run as in former days. But not a vestige of Senachwine's village remains, nor is there one thing left to mark the spot where he lived, or show to the world that he or his people ever did exist. While these old land marks have all passed away, and are almost forgotten, the memory of Senachwine remains, and by many held sacred. For it is now quite evident that it was through his friendship for the whites, and in counseling his people to remain at peace, that many of the early settlers of this county owe the preservation of their lives.