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

Online Version Transcribed By Nancy Piper


Chapter XXII

Page 200, 203-205

Girty's Arrival At Princeton

Girty, in his journey homeward from Prairie du Chien, traveled on the Winnebago trail, which ran east of the lead mines and Dixon's ferry, a distance of one hundred and eighty miles. The country through which he passed, was, at that time, an unbroken wilderness, and not a white man's habitation could be seen on the entire route. But here on Bureau it was quite different - people had built cabins along the margin of the timber, and in some places their fences had already crossed the Indian trails. Instead of the Indiantown trail passing through the timber - down Epperson's run and along Bureau creek, as in former days, it was now changed to a great wide road, over which passed a daily mail coach and emigrant wagons, as well as droves of cattle, hogs, & c. Along this road Girty traveled, meditating, no doubt, on the great changes a few years had produced.

It was a clear, bright day, in the early part of June, 1836 - the prairies were covered with wild flowers, and people everywhere busy with their crops, as Girty, on his homeward journey, passed along this road. But great must have been his surprise when he came in sight of Princeton, to see a group of buildings here on the prairie, where a few years before not a home could be seen. On the east side of Main street, stood a frame building, and in front of it hung a large painted sign, which read, "Princeton Hotel, by S. Triplett." Opposite the hotel, on the west side of the street, was a small one storey building, and over the door of which were the words "Post Office." Above the sign of "Post Office", was a larger one, reading thus, "Dry Goods and Groceries; John M. Gay." Outside of the building and fronting the door, stood a tall, spare, dark-complexioned man, known by every one as the proprietor of the establishment and post master, and by his side stood a medium sized, good looking man, wearing a white beaver hat, and a blue dress coat, who was earnestly engaged in explaining to the post master the great importance of baptism. The man, the reader will recognize as Thomas S. Elston, who was for many years a citizen of Princeton. On the open commons, near where Elijah Dee's dwelling now stands, was a small log cabin, over the door of which, and close under its clapboard roof, was a large sign, painted in Roman letters, and reading thus, "Templeton's New Store."

On a slab bench, fronting the cabin, were seated three young men, engaged in conversation, and whose names were Noah Wiswall, R. T. Templeston, and Dr. William O. Chamberlain. While these young men were discussing the all important topics of the day, which were dividing the county, and constructing the canal, Girty, the outlaw, came along the road. He was carrying on his back all of his camp equipage, including gun, blankets, kettles, provision, & c. His once straight, manly form, was now bent, not from age, but by disease and great fatigue. His head was without covering, and on his shoulders and down his back were hanging, in confused masses, locks of coarse, black hair. The appearance of Girty was comical, in the extreme, and the young men were having considerable merriment at his expense, saying that "he was undoubtedly the last of the Mohegans." The traveler was asked many questions, but he appeared sullen and morose, and not inclined to impart much of his history.

On the public square, now occupied by the Court House, stood the Hampshire Colony Church, which was at that time the important land mark of Princeton. Situated, as it was, out on the green, open commons, elevated high above the ground on wooden blocks - painted white, with a projecting cornice, which was in strong contrast with the small unpainted buildings in the surroundings. This notable structure attracted the attention of Girty; probably it was the first painted building that he had ever seen, and pointing to it, he said, "Big wigwam; great chief lives in it, I 'spect." Mr. Templeton told him it was a church. Never having heard of the name church before, Girty paused a moment, and then continued, "I 'spect he is a big warrior, a great brave." At Girty's last remark, Dr. Chamberlain laughed long and loud, when he was reproved by Mr. Wiswall, who said to him, "Now what is the use of laughing at the poor, ignorant creature." Mr. Templeton explained to Girty that the building was not a wigwam, as he had supposed, but a place where white people went to pray to the Great Spirit. On receiving this information, the sad face of Girty was changed to mirthfulness, and he laughed heartily at the fanaticism of white people. Going to so much trouble to build a fine wigwam to pray in, appeared to him ridiculous, and he pitied their ignorance. Slowly and feebly, while bending under his burden, Girty continued his way toward Indiantown. On Bureau bottom he passed the cabins of Robert Clark and Michael Kitterman, the sight of which must have brought fresh to his mind a conspiracy which he entered into a few years before, to murder these families.


Two Great Paper Cities

Page 205-208

If Girty was surprised on seeing Princeton, he must have been more so on his arrival at Indiantown. Instead of finding a quiet Indian village, containing the wigwam of his squaw and those of his friends, which he had left a few years before, he found strange buildings and strange faces. All was now changed; every relic of the Indian village had disappeared, and on its ruins stood the great city of Windsor. Rip Van Winkle, after sleeping twenty years, found things very much changed; but with Girty the same had been done in one fifth of the time. Here was a great city, which extended for a long ways, up and down the Bureau bottom, including within its boundaries, timber, prairie, Indian village, cornfield, dance grounds, caches, &c. Running up and down the bottom, and crossing each other at short intervals were many wide streets. Here, too, were boulevards, connecting together important places, and intended as great arteries of the city. At the crossing of these were large public parks, to which the inhabitants could retreat from the crowed streets of the city. Near the center of the city was the great county square, intended for the court house, jail, and other county buildings. To the left of the County square, was Market, and to the right was Liberty square, both of which were intended for public parks. In various parts of the city, were reservations for churches, cathedrals, seminaries, colleges, and other public buildings, all of which had been donated by the generous proprietor for public use. Passing through the northern wards of the city, and following the windings of the Bureau creek, was the great ship canal, connecting the Illinois with the Mississippi river. By the side of this canal, was a large haven, or harbor, which was intended to hold much of the shipping of the west, and around it was room for large business blocks. State roads branched off in various directions, by which Windsor was connected with all the principal cities of the west.

Adjoining Windsor, on the west, and including that part of Tiskilwa, which lays in Indiantown, was another great city called West Windsor. Its boundaries extended from the bluff, on the south, to the Kinney farm, on the north, and at the west far up Rocky Run. Many of the streets of this city were named after the Presidents - great statesmen and warriors of past ages. It also contained many parks, the most conspicuous of which were, Judicial and Pleasant, intended no doubt, as breathing places of its (prospective) crowded population.

We have described these cities as they appeared on paper; but their real appearance was different. In West Windsor, south of Rocky Run, in a double log cabin, lived Sampson Cole, and boarding with him was R. R. Pearce, who was a cabinet maker, a surveyor, a justice of the peace and post master. Close by Cole's residence, Rodrick Owen, had a slab blacksmith shop, and these constituted all the buildings, and all the inhabitants of West Windsor. This city existed only a few months, its proprietor, J. W. Kinney, having mortgaged it to the state bank for money, and in order to beat the mortgage, had the town plat vacated, when it fell into ruin and nothing more was heard of it.

In Windsor proper then were two log cabins, and two board shanties and its inhabitants were Dr. Langworthy, Amariah Watson, and Ferrill Dunn. This town was laid off a few months before, by Dr. A. Langworthy, and stakes, marked at the top with red keel, and with the few shanties above referred to, was all that could be seen of this great paper city.


Girty's Arrival at Indiantown

Page 208-209

Such was the appearance of Indiantown when Girty returned to it; wigwams and cornfields were no longer to be seen; even the great council house, where chiefs and warriors had met for deliberation, had disappeared. The little green knoll by the creek bank, which had for ages been used for a dance ground, where young warriors and timid maidens, at the sound of drums, or rattling gourds, had danced around their trophies of war, was now fenced in by Mr. Watson for a goose pasture. With a sorrowful heart, Girty passed through the town; his old haunts were scarcely recognized by him, and not one familiar face could he see. His worst fears were now realized; sick and alone, he found himself a stranger at his own home. At a spring, near the foot of the bluff, Girty camped for the night, being overcome by sickness and fatigue, he have himself up to feelings of despair. The smoke of his camp fire, and his loud coughing, attracted the attention of Dr. Langworthy, who visited his camp, and offered him provisions, as well as medical treatment. Out of curiosity others visited Girty's camp, and tried to learn something of his story; but he appeared sullen and morose; to all their inquiries he would only shake his head. Probably the murder of Simmons, Sample and wife, Phillips, and other victims, were still fresh in his mind, and if known he could expect no mercy from people who had suffered so much at his hands.

The Last of Girty

On the third day after Girty arrived at Indiantown, he was seen to take up his line of march for the west, still carrying his camp kit on his back. Near the present site of Sheffield, he was met by Caleb Moore, slowly and feebly plodding his way westward. About one week after Girty started west, a man, while traveling on the old Sac and Fox trail, saw on the prairie, north of Barren Grove, two wolves eating a carcass. Out of curiosity he rode out to see what they were eating, and found it to be the remains of an Indian, partly devoured. Near the remains were found a gun, knife, tomahawk, two blankets, a small copper kettle and a pot. Around the neck of the remains, which was almost a skeleton, was a large buckskin cord, to which was attached a silver medal. This medal was taken off by the traveler, and the other trinkets, with the remains, were left on the prairie where they were found.

This was the last of Girty; although his crimes were great, the retribution was equally so.

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