Reminiscences of Bureau County : in two parts.
Matson, N.. Princeton, Ill.. Republican Book and Job Office. 1872.

Online Version Transcribed By Nancy Piper


Chapter XVIII

Bearer of the Governor's Dispatch

Pages 162-163

As the Indians were returning to Bureau from the Indian creek settlement, they stopped at Lost Grove, for a few hours, in order to rest their ponies and prepare their dinner. They were encamped in the thick timber near the center of the grove, while tow of their number were stationed as sentinels at the edge of the prairie. While here on the lookout, they discovered a lone traveler going in the direction of the Illinois river. Notice was given to the band, when they all mounted their ponies, and started in pursuit. But on arriving at the head of the grove, they found the traveler far in advance, and mounted as he was, on a fleet horse, which would without doubt far outstrip their ponies, they abandoned further pursuit.

The lone traveler, above alluded to, was a lad of about fifteen years of age, by the name of Joseph Smith, a son of Dad Joe, who has been referred to in a previous chapter of our story. This lad was a bearer of a dispatch from Gov. Reynolds, then at Dixon's ferry, to the commander of volunteers at Fort Wilburn, a temporary fortification which was located on the Illinois river, opposite Peru. The Governor found great difficulty in getting this dispatch carried, as the country was thought to be full of hostile savages; even veteran soldiers, who made war their profession, could not be induced to undertake this perilous journey. But this boy alone and unarmed, without any road, traveled forty-five miles through an unsettled country, regardless of danger, and accomplished the journey without being molested. Before sundown that same day the Governor's dispatch was safely delivered to the proper officer, when the soldiers at the fort swung their hats, giving three cheers to its bearer. Gov. Reynolds has frequently been heard to speak of this affair as one of the most heroic exploits of the Black Hawk war*.

*At incident in connection with this affair, showing the terror existing among the people on account of Indian depredations, is described by an eye-witness: A few days previous to this affair, fifteen persons were killed on Indian creek: Mr. Durley, Mr. Winter, Squire Holly, with many others, wre known to have fallen victims to the savage brutality of the Indians. Col. Taylor rode through the camp, calling for a volunteer to carry the Governor's dispatch, but no one was willing to risk his life in making the perilous journey. Dad Joe, who was dressed in his long hunting shirt, with a large rope tied around his waist, and speaking so loud as to be heard all over camp, said: "God bless you Colonel, I'll have that dispatch carried for you," and turning to his son, he said "Joe, put the saddle on Pat, and carry these papers to Fort Wilburn." As the boy left on a canter, Dad Joe shouted to him, in a voice that could be heard for a mile distant saying, "Joe, keep away from the timber, out of gun shot of Indians, and see that the saddle does not hurt Pat's back."


Girty and His Band Return to Bureau

Page 164-165

After the Indian creek massacre, and the attack on Fox river settlement, the Indians returned to Bureau, with the intention of burning the houses, and killing the stock belonging to the settlers. But on their return here they were met by a runner from Black Hawk, instructing them to remain on the frontier settlements, in order to pick off the settlers as they returned to look after their property. Accordingly, they secreted themselves in the thick timber on Main Bureau, about four miles north of Princeton, and from this place they sent out small guerilla bands in various directions in search of victims.

John Hall and William Hoskins, accompanied by two hired men, left the fort east of Hennepin, and came over to their farms, to look after their crops. Mr. Hoskins was engaged in plowing corn, when his horse, on coming nigh the timber, became frightened, and refused to go further. He suspected that Indians were lying in ambush, for the purpose of shooting him; so he unhitched the horse, and left the field as quick as possible. Next year, after the war, an old squaw told Mr. Hoskins that a party of Indians were, at that time, concealed in the thick bushes, and could have shot him, but were afraid of alarming John Hall and his two hired men, who were at work in the adjoining field, and whom they wished to kill at the same time.

Day after day, small squads of Indians would lay in ambush near cabins, or in points of timber, where people would be likely to pass. Some of the settlers, on returning home after the war, found places near their cabins where Indians had undoubtedly laid in ambush to watch their return. The doors of many of the cabins were broken open, and household goods carried off or destroyed. Mounted rangers from Hennepin made frequent excursions to Bureau settlement but they would avoid the timber as much as possible, so as to be out of the reach of gun shots from lurking savages. The Indians used great caution in secreting themselves, to prevent their presence being known, as this would keep the settlers from returning to their homes, and thereby defeat their plans. During the daytime they would keep their ponies hobbled while feeding and at night tie them to trees around their encampment. As they needed provisions, they would kill fat cattle or hogs, which belonged to the settlers, and also use grain and such things as they required. Chickens, turkeys and young pigs, appeared to be their great favorites, and the premises of some of the settlers were robbed of these articles.


Page 165-166

Indians On a Scout

While Girty and his band of cut throats were encamped on Bureau, nine of his party, who were ambitious to acquire fame by taking scalps, started off on a scout. At the mouth of Bureau creek they found an old canoe, and tieing their ponies to trees, they crossed the river. It was near sundown, when the Indians landed on the east side of the river, and as they left the canoe to secrete themselves in the timber, they were discovered by Dr. Hays, who came running into town, with the utmost terror depicted in his countenance, saying, "that he saw a dozen or more Indians a short distance about the fort, skulking in the woods." The presence of Indians alarmed the people very much, as it was thought that a large body of them were secreted in the timber, with the intention of attacking the town that night. Hennepin, at that time, contained but a few log cabins, but there were many families from Bureau and other places, who had come here for protection, and were living in tents. Although they were people enough here to have held at bay half of Black Hawk's army, they were taken by surprise, which had created among them a perfect panic.

People were seen running hither and thither, hollowing at the top of their voice, "Injuns, Injuns." Women with babes in their arms were hurrying to and fro, crying and asking each person they met for assistance to save their little ones from the scalping knife of the savages. Men, without hats or coats, armed with guns, pitchforks, axes, &c, were seen running towards the fort. Williamson Durley, in his haste, left his store door open, but soon ran back again, taking his money, which consisted of seventy-eight dollars in silver, tore up one of the puncheons of the floor, and with a spade dug a hole in the ground and buried it. After replacing the puncheon in the floor, he hurried back to the fort.

Hooper Warren and Mr. Blanchard, having no guns, armed themselves with three tined forks, taken from Durley's store and with them were prepared to give the Indians a warm reception. All the able bodied men were on duty all night, but no Indians appeared. The Indians, knowing they were discovered, re-crossed the river as soon as it was dark, pursued their way southwest, and were next heard of at Boyd Grove.


Page 169-171

Flight of Gen. Atkinson's Party

About the middle of June, 1832, Gen. Atkinson, accompanied by Gov. Reynolds and Col Taylor*, with an escort of twenty-five soldiers, belonging to the regular army, crossed the country from Dixon's ferry to Fort Wilburn. While this party was on the prairie, between Perkins' and Lost Grove, they encountered Capt. Willis' company of rangers. Each party mistook the other for Indians, and both prepared for action. After some maneuvering on each side, the regulars, with Gen. Atkinson at their head, gave way, and were pursued by the rangers. The race continued for a number of miles across the prairie, in the direction of the Illinois river, both pursuers and pursued urging their horses forward under the whip. The rangers, having gained on the fugitives, discovered that they were soldiers, when they raised their blankets and blew their horns, in order to stop them. At last the regulars found that their pursuers were not the painted foe, as they had supposed, so they came to a halt, and sent back two of their number to reconnoiter, when the whole matter was explained.

Gov. Reynolds and Col. Taylor were in camp dress with rifles on their shoulders, having no distinction from a private soldier; but Gen. Atkinson was in full uniform, and wearing a cocked hat of the revolutionary pattern. Gen. Atkinson, being mounted on a fleet horse, which was urged forward by his sharp spurs, and with his sword raised above his head, was seen far in advance of his comrades.

When Capt. Willis came up with Gen. Atkinson he rebuked him for his cowardice, which had caused all parties so much trouble; and probably it was the first time that a commander-in-chief of the north western army was reproved by a militia captain.

Capt. Willis was a resident of this county for a number of years, being owner of a mill which was located on the present site of McManis' mill, and he has frequently been heard to relate this incident. In his company of rangers were Judge Hoskins, John Hall, Charles Leeper, Michael Kitterman, James G. Forristall, and many others of the early settlers of this county.

*At that time, Gen. Taylor, late President of the United States, was a Colonel in the army, and commanded a regiment then quartered at Dixon's ferry. He accompanied Gen. Atkinson to Fort Wilburn, to assist in organizing the volunteers. A short time previous, Gov. Reynolds had issued a call for three thousand volunteers, who were to rendezvous at Beardstown and Hennepin, all of whom were afterwards ordered to Fort Wilburn, where they were mustered into service, under the supervision of Gen. Atkinson. Col. Taylor met some of these volunteers at Hennepin, and escorted them to Fort Wilburn, where they remained a few days. These troops marched to Dixon's ferry, and the trail made by them through Bureau county, could be seen for years afterwards. This trail passed north of Lost Grove, through the south end of Perkin's Grove, and crossed the inlet at Rocky ford.

Back to Bureau County Illinois History and Genealogy