Online Version Transcribed By Nancy Piper
Pages 26 -32
American Fur Company
On the east side of the river, a short distance below the mouth of Bureau creek, was standing in the fall of 1821, a double log cabin, which belonged to the American Fur Company, and occupied by its agent, Gerdon S. Hubbard.* Close by stood two other cabins , which were built by the Fur Company. In one of these lived Rix Robinson, a Connecticut Yankee, and in the other, the well known Bulbona. Both of these men had married squaws, and raised a large family of half-breed children. Some years afterwards, Bulbona established a trading house at Bulbona Grove, where he conducted business on his own footing. A further account of him will be given in a subsequent chapter. Robinson and Bulbona were not settlers, but employees of the Fur Company, and occupied by its agent, Gerdon S. Hubbard.* (*In 1818, Mr. Hubbard, then a boy of sixteen years of age, came to this country, and was employed as a clerk at this trading post. He hunted on Bureau, and traded with the Indians on Green river, ten years before a white person had settled here. Mr.Hubbard was one of the commissioners to locate the canal, and he is now living in Chicago. To him, the writer is indebted for many of the incidents related in this story.) Close by stood two other cabins , which were built by the Fur Company. In one of these lived Rix Robinson, a Connecticut Yankee, and in the other, the well known Bulbona. Both of these men had married squaws, and raised a large family of half-breed children. Some years afterwards, Bulbona established a trading house at Bulbona Grove, where he conducted business on his own footing. A further account of him will be given in a subsequent chapter. Robinson and Bulbona were not settlers, but employees of the Fur Company, whose trading posts were found along the principal rivers of the northwest. A few years previous to the time of which we write, Antoine Deschamps, a Frenchman, of Fort Clark (now Peoria), while acting as general agent of this company, established trading posts, at short intervals, along the river between St. Louis and Chicago. The goods to supply these posts were brought by river in bateaux; and furs, pelts, &c., returned in a like manner. At that time there was no permanent settlement north of Springfield, and the whole northern part of the State was without white people, except the trading post above alluded to. Gerden S. Hubbard, in conversation with the writer, said in passing down the river from the trading post, near the mouth of Bureau creek, he did not see a white person, except these engaged in the fur trade, unti he came within eighteen miles of St. Louis.
Mike Girty, The Outlaw
As Mike Girty figures somewhat extensively in our story, it may be of interest to the reader to know something of his history. Mike is said to have been the son of Simon Girty, a well known and notorious outlaw, who, in the year 1780, escaped from justice in Western Pennsylvania, and found refuge among the Indians in Ohio. Among the Indians Girty exercised great influence, and by him they were induced to make war on the frontier settlements. At different times he led a party of warriors against defenceless settlers on the Ohio river. Even his former place of residence was visited in one of these raids, and some of his former neighbors carried off prisoners to be burned at the stake. Col. Crawford, when a prisoner among the Indians, and bound to a tree, beseeched Girty to shoot him, and thus save him from the torture of the flames. But Girty only laughed at his sufferings, and with the Indians, danced around their victim, while he was being consumed by the flames. Not only Col. Crawford, but many others of the early settlers, on the Ohio river fell victims through this outlaw. For many years the name of Girty was a terror to border settlers; and persons are still living, whose parents were sacrificed by this white savage.
Mike Girty, the subject of our sketch, was born of a squaw, and his early life was spent among the Indians, in the wilds of Ohio. On arriving at manhood, he left his Indian friends, for a home among the whites on the Muskingum river, near Zanesville. But the influence of civilization did not change his savage nature, for soon afterwards he committed a cold-blooded murder, and fled his country to escape punishment. In the fall of 1821, Girty came to this country, and for some time afterwards was employed as an interpreter by the agent of the Fur company. Soon after coming here he married a squaw, and raised a number of sons, one of whom the writer met a few years ago in the city of Washington, being there on business for his tribe, who now live in Western Kansas. Although the name of Girty was unknown to the early settlers, yet many of them knew him by sight, under a different name, and they well recollect depredations committed by him, without ever suspecting the author.
The Indian Village
On the present site of Tiskilwa was located an Indian village, called by the natives Wappe, but known among the whites by the name of Indiantown. This village contained some three hundred wigwams, or lodges, and at some seasons of the year, about fifteen hundred inhabitants. The lodges were constructed of bark or reeds, with an opening in the south, and a hole in the top, to let out the smoke. Streets, or alleys, were disregarded, as the lodges were built close together, and on both side of the spring branch, which runs immediately west of the Tiskilwa house. On a little green knoll, by the creek bank, and between the depot and Stevens' mill, was located their council house, and by the side of which was their dance ground. In the bottom prairies above and below the village, was located their cornfield. These cornfields consisted of small patches, fenced in by driving sticks into the ground and tying on poles with bark or withes to prevent the ponies from destroying their crop. In the fall they would gather and dry their corn, and bury it in the caches (caves in the ground), where it would be safe for future use; after which a large portion of the Indians would leave the village, and scatter all over the country, some along the Bureau timber and Illinois river, others on Green river, for the purpose of hunting and procuring furs.
The principal chief of the village was known by the name of Autuckee, and the next in authority under him was called Meommuse. Both of these chiefs were well known to many of the early settlers. Such was the condition of things at Wappe, or Indiantown, when Girty became one of its inhabitants. Understanding well the English language, he acted as interpreter of the band in many of their transactions with the Indian traders. For a number of years, Girty tried to gain the confidence of the Indians, so that he might become a leader among them, the same as his father had been among those of Ohio. But in this he did not succeed, being reguarded by them as a treacherous half-breed, and unworthy of their confidence.
General Cass In Council
In the spring of 1827, an effort was made to unite the different tribes of the West in a war against the whites. The trouble originated among the Winnebagoes, but disaffection had extended to other tribes, and they, too, commenced preparing for war. Councils were held at different places, and the smoke of signal fires were seen to ascend from every village throughout the country. In order to pacify them, Gen. Cass, who was at that time general Indian agent for the northwest, descended the Mississippi river, in a keel boat, and ascended the Illinois river, in a bateau, as far as the mouth of Bureau creek, at the trading post of the American Fur company. Here he remained a few days, sending out runners to the Indian villages to notify their principal chiefs to meet him in council. One of the runners came to Indiantown, and its chiefs, with many of its warriors, including Girty, attended the council. This council was held on the river bank, near the mouth of Crow creek, on the 21st day of June, and was attended by a large number of the Pottawatamie chiefs. Gen Cass, in his speech to the chiefs, promised the, in behalf of the government, a compliance in full of all their demands, providing they would remain at peace. Speeches were also made by many of the chiefs, declaring their willingness to give up their alliance with the Winnebagoes, and continue their peaceful relations with the government. Pledges of friendship were made between the chiefs and Gen. Cass, after which he distributed presents among them. At this council, Girty interpreted the speeches of some of the chiefs, and for this service Gen. Cass gave him a silver medal, as a token of friendship. This medal, suspended by a buckskin cord around his neck, was carried by Girty until the day of his death.
Twenty eight years after this event, the great Michigander stated, while in conversation with the writer, that the Indian council on the Illinois river, was to him the most agreeable of any that he had held in the west. He spoke of Senachwine, Shaubena, Waba, Wabonsie, and others. The names of the two former, he said, were signed to the great Indian treaty of St. Louis, in 1816, whereby the Indian title to all the military tract was relinquished. Gen. Cass also spoke of the personal appearance of Senachwine; of his fine oratory; pleasing address, &c., but said much of his speech was lost to him on account of his interpreter having only an imperfect knowledge of the Pottawatamie tongue. This defect, he said, was remedied in the speeches of other chiefs, by having them interpreted by a half-breed.
This half-breed spoken of by Gen. Cass is supposed to have been Mike Girty, the outlaw.
*In 1818, Mr. Hubbard, then a boy of sixteen years of age, came to this country, and was employed as a clerk at this trading post. He hunted on Bureau, and traded with the Indians on Green river, ten years before a white person had settled here. Mr.Hubbard was one of the commissioners to locate the canal, and he is now living in Chicago. To him, the writer is indebted for many of the incidents related in this story.
Bureau County In A State Of Nature
At the time our story commences, the territory which is now embraced within the limits of Bureau, as well as the adjacent counties, was in a state of nature. Scarcely a house or cultivated field could be seen on those western prairies. Roving bands of Indians were the occupants of the country, and over which roamed undisturbed by the marks of civilization, herds of deer and packs of wolves. Different localities throughout the country, were only known by steams, groves, or points of timber, and these localities were unconnected by roads, save here and there an Indian trail. The country, in a state of nature, presented a wild, romantic appearance, without a house or filed, or any evidence of civilization on which the eye could rest. The prairies, during the summer, were covered with flowers and every hue, presenting a beauty of lanscape scenery seldom met with at the present day. Here and there were seen groves of timber, which acted as landmarks to guide the traveler in his rambles across the great savannas of the west. The water in the streams was clear as crystal, at all seasons of the year; no plowman had yet broken the sod to muddy their fair current. Almost every day deer were seen feeding on the prairies, and the gobbling of wild turkeys was heard in the groves. At night the howling of wolves and the shrill notes of the catamount would remind a person that he was among the wilds of the west, far from the abode of civilization.
Two years before, Henry Thomas, the first settler of this county had built a cabin on the Galena road, and on the west side of West Bureau timber. The same spring John L. Ament, and brothers, settled at Red Oak Grove. A year or two later, Dad Joe, (Joseph Smith) settled at Dad Joe Grove; Charles Boyd, at Boyd's Grove, and Elijah Epperson a short distance north of the present site of Princeton. About this time Amos Leonard, Daniel Dimmick, John Hall and Timothy Perkins, settled in the east part of the county. John M. Gay, Ezekial Thomas, and Abram Stratton, between the Bureaus, and William Hall at Dimmick's Grove, his cabin being located on the present site of La Moille. Subsequently, others came in, many of whom built their cabins in the timber by the side of springs. Most of the early settlers were poor, possessing nothing but their teams and their scanty household furniture; being pioneers, or adventurers, who had left the land of their nativity for a home among the savages of the west. For some years they lived in constant fear of the Indians, not knowing at what moment they would be attacked and murdered by them. In times of the greatest danger, some carried their guns with them while at work in the field, and would leave their cabins at night to sleep in the grove, in order to avoid being surprised by savages. At different times the settlers were compelled to leave their homes and seek refuge in forts, or settlements further south, leaving crops to be destroyed, and their horses and cattle to run wild on the prairie. Such was the appearance of the country at the time our story commences, and such were the character of the persons who figure in it.
Religion Among The Pioneers
Many of the pioneers were professors of religion, two of whom, Elijah Epperson and grandfather Hall, were preachers of the gospel. It was common in those days for missionaries from different denominations to make frequent excursions through the new settlements, holding meetings, and establishing societies. But no church was as persevering in their efforts, and would carry out their plans with so much energy, as the Methodist. It has frequently been said, in regard to the settlements of the west, as soon as a squatter builds a cabin in any of the unsettled groves, the next day he was sure to be called upon by a Methodist preacher, in search of a place to hold meetings. And it was not uncommon in those days for them to have appointments forty or fifty miles apart, traveling back and forth on horseback, and carrying in their saddle-bags a pocket bible, hymn book, and a change of linen. These pioneer ministers preached free salvation, almost without money and without price. At their own expense, they traveled from settlement to settlement, proclaiming the gospel to all those who were willing to hear. Sometimes on foot, at other times on horseback, they traveled through a thinly settled country, frequently swimming streams, sleeping in the open air, and suffering from cold and hunger, at a time when a paid ministry could not be sustained. Among the Methodist ministers of note in those days, were the Revs. Jesse Walker, John St. Clair, Rufus Lumery, Stephen R. Begg, William Royal and A. E. Phelps. These men possessed talent and energy, and did much in shaping the destiny of the church in Northern Illinois. Their lives, too, were models of piety and energy, worthy of imitation at the present day.