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

Online Version Transcribed By Nancy Piper


Chapter: VI:

Page 49-55

An Old Land Mark

Everybody has noticed the little round grove, south of the Princeton Court House, where Mrs. Cyrus Bryant now resides. This beautiful little grove, occupying as it does, a slight eminence, and isolated from the main timber, was a noted land mark in the early settlement of the county, being everywhere known at Round Point. The fine rolling prairie, lying to the north and east, at that time unobstructed by houses and farms, presented a beauty of landscape scenery seldom met with in any section of the country. By the side of Round Point once passed an Indian trail, which had been traveled for ages by warriors and hunters; and the first wagon track ever made on the Princeton prairie led to it. In 1831, when the settlers on Bureau were fleeing from the country to escape the tomahawk and scalping knife of the savages, they halted at Round Point, and sent two of their number to confer with Shaubena in relation to remaining longer at their homes.

There is a history connected with this little grove, which may not be without interest to the reader, and therefore will be given, without note or comment. In the spring of 1830, a man from Ohio, by the name of Henry Simmons, came to this country in search of a home. He stopped for a few days with Timothy Perkins, who lived in Leepertown; and accompanied by Leonard Roth, he made a number of excursions along Bureau timber in search of a claim. Many localities were examined, but none of which pleased him so well as Round Point. Although there was but one family living in Princeton township (that of Mr. Epperson), many claims were taken - the claimant cutting the initials of his name on the witness-tree, at the section or half mile corner. This was considered a preliminary step, and by common consent among the settlers, it would secure the right of the claimant to the land, until such time as a cabin could be built. There were many claims made in this way for the purpose of speculation, and with the expectation of selling them to new comers. A man having a number of sons would make claims for all of them, and sometimes for sons in sprospect, or for some imaginary friend, who was expected to come soon into the country. From this cause, bad feelings among neighbors frequently occurred, some of which were settled by arbitration. It was a common saying in those days, that Adam Paine, who lived east of Hennepin, had claimed all the land between the Illinois and Wabash rivers, and Elijah Epperson all between the Illinois and Mississippi.

Murdering of Simmons

Simmons made claims in the grove for himself and all his sons, and to make his intentions known to others in search of claims, he cut the initials of his name, "H. S.," deep into the wood of a witness-tree, at the southwest corner of the south east quarter of section twenty, which initials, I believe, are still to be seen. Simmons had spent some days in looking after corners, marking witness-trees, and had taken formal possession, (for himself and sons), of all the timber and adjoining prairie between Princeton and Deacon Reeve's. After spending some time in exploring the country, Simmons made arrangements to return home by the way of Peoria; and early in the morning he bade farewell to Perkins' family, mounted his horse and left, going by the way of his claim to make some further discovery; and while alone in the grove, west of the present residence of Mr. Douglas, unconscious of danger, the report of a rifle was heard, and he fell lifeless to the ground, pierced to the heart by a rifle ball. Nothing was known of the murder at the time, and the sudden disappearance of Simmons attracted but little attention, as it was thought he had returned to his home in Ohio. Weeks and months passed away, and Simmons did not return with his family to take possession of his claim, as was expected, until the affair was almost forgotten, and other parties had taken his claim. On the day of the murder, Mike Girty was hunting in the grove, and seeing Simmons alone and unarmed, shot him for his money, clothes and horse. After killing Simmons, Girty took off all his clothes, and left the body where it fell, unburied, to be devoured by wolves. Girty arrayed himself in the murdered man's clothes, and mounting on his horse, returned to his home at the Indian village. His squaw, seeing him dressed in the clothes of a white man, and mounted on a fine horse, knew at once that a murder had been committed. She commenced crying, and refused to receive him into her lodge. But, on Girty showing her silver coin, which he had taken from the murdered man, with which he promised to buy her ear-rings and other trinkets, she became reconciled to his conduct. His comrades in the village, knowing that he had committed a murder, would shrug their shoulders as he passed them, saying, "Bad Injun."

Girty was wearing Simmon's clothes, and riding his horse, at the time we introduce him at the commencement of our story. Five years after Simmons was murdered, a skull was found in the woods near where he was killed, and this skull came into the hands of Dr. Wm. O. Chamberlain, who always supposed it to be that of an Indian. For many years afterwards, the doctor kept this skull laying on a shelf in his office, and probably some who read this account will recollect seeing it. Mr. Simmons, not returning home at the proper time, his friends were alarmed at his long absence, and his brother came west in search of him: but nothing was known of the missing man, after leaving Perkins' house, and his fate to them was unknown.

The Disputed Claim

Although poor Simmons never returned to make good his claim to Round Point, such a desireable location was not long without a claimant, and the sequel shows its possession was a matter of controversy for a number of years afterward. Shortly after the murder of Simmons, Curtis Williams made a claim here, and cut the initials of his namw, "C.W.," on the witness-tree, at the south west corner of section sixteen, which was to be seen for many years afterwards. Time passed on, and Williams made no improvements on his claim, and it was reported that he was holding other claims, for the sake of speculation. These facts coming to the knowledge of Michael Kitterman, who was also captivated with the beauty of Round Point, he "jumped" Williams's claim. At that time Mr. Kitterman was working for John Hall, at nine dollars per month, and unwilling to lose any time in his engagements with Hall, occupied Sundays in improving his claim. Each Sabbath he would take his axe, with his horse, harness and chain, go over to his claim, eight miles distant, cut and haul a few logs, and put them into the building until he had raised the walls of a cabin as high as a person's head. One day, Williams, on looking after his claim, was surprised to find a cabin commenced on the south side of the little round grove, and he notified Kitterman that he was trespassing on his rights. In order to avoid trouble, Mr. Kitterman abandoned his improvements, and made a claim on Bureau bottom, where he now lives.

Two years after Kitterman had abandoned his claim to Round Point, Cyrus Bryant selected it for his future home. With the permission of Kitterman, whom he considered the proper claimant, he took possession of it, and completed the cabin which had been commenced. While at work on the cabin, Williams gave him notice of his prior claim, but Mr. Bryant paid no attention to it. When the cabin was completed, Mr. Bryant was much surprised one morning, on returning from Roland Moseley's, his boarding place, to find that Mr. Williams, with his large family, had moved into it. Beds and clothing, tied up in quilts, were lying in one corner of the cabin, while pots and kettles occupied another corner; but not one chair or stool could be seen. Mr. Williams met Mr. Bryant at the cabin door, appearing glad to see him, and invited him in to take a seat; but Mr. Bryant, not seeing anything to set on, and not feeling in very good humor, did not set down. The case was arbitrated, and Williams was allowed twenty-five dollars for his claim. On receiving the money, he moved out of the cabin, and thereby gave up possession of the long disputed claim.

Chapter VII:

Page 56-65

A Search For a Lead Mine

In passing over the road between Mr. Pendleton's and Stevens' mill, the traveler will notice near the top of the bluff a circular embankment, which resembles an ancient earth fortification. Many persons have noticed this embankment, and many have been their conjectures concerning its origin. Instead of its being a relic of antiquity, the work of mound builders, as a contributor to one of the Chicago papers sometime ago would have us believe, it was done at the time of the early settlement of this county, and under the following circumstances.

In the first settlement of this county, a report was current among the settlers, that a lead mine existed somewhere on Bureau, and from which the Indians obtained their supply of lead. But when the whites came here, they covered up the mine, secreting all traces of it, so that it should not fall into their hands. These rumors, coming to the ears of John Hall, Amos Leonard, Timothy Perkins, and others, they organized themselves into a mining company, and set about investigating it. On the subject of lead mine discovery, they became much excited, and for the time being everything else was laid aside. Indians were applied to, and rewards offered them for information on this point, but all to no purpose. Some time previous, John Hall gave a party of Indians five bushels of potatoes to show him the lead mine. Hall, with two hired men, dug three days, at the place pointed out, but found no lead: consequently he lost his labor, as well as his potatoes. On account of the impending war, the Indians suddenly disappeared from Bureau: and after their departure, our friends of the mining company examined their village, with its surroundings, for the hidden mine, but without success. Amos Leonard professed to be a water witch, and he applied his magic power in searching for lead. Different placed were found where the forked stick would turn in his hand, but on sinking a shaft at these places, no lead mine was found.

Patrick O'Lear and His Wonderful Revelation

At the time of the lead mine excitement, a jolly, red faced, and red headed Irishman, by the name of Patrick O'Lear, came into the settlement in search of his fortune. There were no canals or railroads building in those days, and Pat found work in his line very scarce.

Working on a farm, at low wages, slow pay, and without whisky, was regarded by him poor business, and he longed for something favoring his fortune to turn up. At that time the lead mine excitement was at its height, and Pat thought of many plans how he might turn it to his own account. But all of his plans were more or less objectionable. At last he caught a bright idea, and slapping his hands on his thighs, he exclaimed; "Be jabbers, me fortune is made." A meeting of the mining company was called, and Pat laid before them his revelation, in the following words: "A few nights ago, while laying on me back, fast asleep, I thought what poor miserable critter I was, far from home and friends, and without one cent in me pocket. And while in a trance, I prayed to the Holy Virgin, for the love of St. Patrick to assist me for this one time. And in me dream a still small voice whispered in me ear, saying, arise, as soon as it is light, and go to Oshaw, an Indian, whose wigman stands on the bank of the creek, near the village council house, and he will reveal unto thee great things. Next morning, after taking a wee drap of the critter, I went to Oshaw's wigwam, as directed in me dream, and he said to me that he and his people were about to leave the country, perhaps never to return, and the Great Spirit had impressed it on his mind to make a confidant of me." He continued, "If I would give him the bottle of Whasky which I had in me coat tail pocket, he would tell me all about the lead mine. You know, yer honors, it was a trying ordeal for me to part wid me best friend, but for the love of me country, and the advancement of your interest jintlemen, I made this great sacrifice, by giving up me whasky. Oshaw then took me into the woods to show me the mine, but before he would point out the spot, he made me sware upon me honor, that I would not let the bloody barbarians (meaning the settlers), know where it was."

The mining company believed Pat's revelation, or at least that part of it in relation to his knowledge of the lead mine, and they offered to take him as a partner, giving him a large percentage of all the profits from the sale of lead. Pat said he did not want to be bothered with a lead mine, as he was going back to Ireland as soon as he could obtain money enough; but if they would give him ten dollars in hand, pay him wages each night for his labor, with all the whisky he could drink, he would point out the mine and commence work immediately. Pat's terms were acceded to, and the next day a number of hands commenced work. Whisky was brought there in a keg, and some of the operatives, including Pat O'Lear, Mike Leonard, and Dave Jones, would get beastly drunk every day. Shaft after shaft was sunk and the vein of lead was not struck. Pat would scratch his head, at every failure, saying that he had made a slight mistake in his reckoning, and commence a new one, extending around in a circular form as we now see it. While the mining operation was progessing finely, an incident occurred which put a stop to the work, broke up the company, and from that day forward all hope of finding lead on Bureau was abandoned.

False Alarm and Flight of the Settlers

One day while Mike Leonard was hunting deer on East Bureau, near where Mr. Fox now lives, he concocted a plan to frighten the settlers, by raising a false alarm. Taking off his hat, he put it up for a mark, and shot two ball holes through it. He then ran with all haste, out of breath, and much excited, to the house of Mr. Hall, saying that he had been attacked by a large body of Indians; many shots were fired at him, and he barely escaped with his life. To confirm this statement, he exhibited his hat with two ball holes through it. This affair created a great panic among the settlers. People were seen running hither and thither, conveying the news from cabin to cabin. Women, with children in their arms, were running to and fro, crying at the top of their voice, and beseeching every one they met to save them from the tomahawk of the savages. Within one hour from giving the alarm, every person in the neighborhood had left for Hennepin; some on foot, others on horseback, all of whom were going at the top of their speed, expecting every moment to be overtaken and murdered by the Indians.

Pat O'Lear Killed and Scalped, But Comes To Life Again - Escape of Dave Jones and Family

While the miners were having a jolly time of it, between digging, smoking, and drinking whisky, unconscious of danger, Amos Leonard's oldest son Eli, a lad of fifteen years of age, come running, much excited, with tears flowing down his cheeks, and said the country was full of hostile Indians; that his uncle Mike had four rifle balls shot through his head; the families of John Hall, William Hoskins, and others, were murdered; and while on the way he was a large body of Indians coming in the direction of the lead mine. On the reception of this news, the miners dropped their spades, and fled for their lives. As Pat O'Lear crawled out of the pit where he was at work, he exclaimed: "Be jabbers, if the bloody savages take off me scalp, me mother won't know her darling son when he goes back to Ireland." Although Pat at the time was quite drunk, the thoughts of losing his scalp put new life in him, and at the top of his speed he started for Hennepin. As he ran down the bluff, and through the thick timber bottom, he saw, (in his imagination), an Indian behind every tree. He also heard the report of the rifles, as they shot at him, and felt the balls of each shot pass through his body. At last, overcome by wounds and loss of blood, he fell down dead, while at the same time he felt the Indian's big knife grit against his skull bone and the scalp was being taken off. For some time Pat lay there, believing himself dead and scalped, having sacrificed his life, while advancing the interests of the mining company. Put when the effects of the whisky and the fright passed off, Pat came to life again, and putting his hand on his bushy red locks, was surprised to find that his scalp was not gone; and not being able to find any holes in his body where rifle balls had entered, he was convinced that he was not killed, and started again on a run for Hennepin.

Dave Jones was working at the mine when news came that Hall's and Hoskin's families were massacred. Dropping his spade, he ran for his cabin. His family, without hat or bonnet, left of foot for Hennepin, Mrs. Jones, with the children, running at the top of their speed, while Jones followed after, with the youngest child in his arms, cursing the red skins at every jump.

Panic Subsides and Settlers Return to their Homes

When the settlers were safely landed on the east side of the rive, they began to investigate the cause of alarm. A committee was appointed to examine Leonard's hat, and it was found that the ball holes were too low down, and could not have passed through the hat while wearing, without passing through the head also. All came to the conclusion that Leonard had shot his own hat, and therefore the alarm was a false one. On the next day the settlers returned to their respective homes, with loud denunciations against Leonard for causing them so much trouble.

Pat O'Lear did not fully recover from his fright, appearing wild and confused, believing that the Indians were still after him. In his flight, he had left his hat and coat at the lead mine, but nothing could induce him to go after them; not even the keg of whisky which was left behind could tempt him to cross the river again. With a knapsack on his back, he left next day for the east, swearing that he would stay no longer in a country that was full of bloody savages.

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