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

Online Version Transcribed By Nancy Piper

Chapter VIII:

Page 66-73

The Great Indian Council

In February 1832, were collected at Indiantown, a large number of chiefs, belonging to the surrounding tribes: among them were Black Hawk, Waba, Shaubena, and the great Winnebago chief, known as the Prophet.* Previous to this meeting, runners had been sent to all the principal villages throughout the West, notifying their chiefs to meet in council. This meeting was held in the village council house, and its deliberations lasted three days. The object of this council was to effect a union of the different tribes, for the purpose of war. Black Hawk, and the Prophet, made long speeches in favor of this union, explaining to the Pottawatamie chiefs that their only means of retaining their homes and hunting grounds, was by a union of all the tribes of the West, and thereby carry on a war of extermination against the settlers. All the Sacs and Foxes and Winnebagoes favored this union, but the Pottawatamies opposed it.

*This chief lived at Prophetstown on Rock river, and is said to have exercised great influence over his people, dictating for them in spiritual and well as temporal matters. Leonard Roth was the Prophet at Indiantown during the deliberations of the council, and describes him as follows: "He was a large Indian, in the prime of life, tall and straight, with a broad face, eagle-like eyes, and long coarse hair, which was black as a raven. He was dressed in white buckskin, fringed at the seams, and ruffed at the waist. His head dress was also made of white buckskin, raising high above his head, and on the top of which was a bunch of eagle feathers. Around his ankles he wore small wreaths of bells, and in his nose and ears were large gold rings."

Waubonsie* was the only chief of note among the Pottawatamies in favor of war. He had a village near the mouth of Fox river, but was compelled to leave it a short time before, on account of encroachment of the whites; and himself and band found a home at Paw Paw Grove. In his speech, he called on his brother chiefs to raise their tomahawks to drive back the intruders, and maintain their rights.

*Waubonsie was a large fleshy Indian, over six feet in height, and was well known by many of the early settlers. He and his band of followers remained at Paw Paw Grove until the fall of 1836, and then went west of the Mississippi, where most of their tribe had previously gone. In the summer of 1836, Waubonsie came to Princeton, and bought of McCayga Triplett a beautiful spotted horse, for which he paid three hundred dollars in silver, all of which was in twenty-five cent pieces.

But little did the settlers on Bureau think as they set at night around their cabin fires, that these savages were debating among themselves the propriety of cutting their throats, as well as those of their little ones.

Although Senachwine, the great apostle of peace, was now in his grave, there was one left to fill his place. This was Shaubena, the white man's friend. Shaubena was not a great orator, but the earnest manner of his appeals more than counterbalanced the eloquence of others. A few years after the holding of this council, Shaubena said to the writer, if he had favored this union, the whole Pottawatamie nation, from the lake to the Mississippi, would have taken part in the war. Waba, Autuckee, Meommuse, and other Pottawatamie chiefs took part with Shaubena, in opposing the war.

During the deliberations of the council, an Indian was sitting on the ground in the back part of the council room, listening to the speeches of the Pottawatamie chiefs, his teeth occasionally gritting, and his face black with rage. This Indian was Mike Girty, the outlaw. Not being a chief, he had no right ot speak in council, but overpowered by rage, he sprang to his feet, and waving his tamahawk over his head, he denounced the Pottawatamie chiefs as cowards and squaws, and unfit to represent their tribe in council. Autuckee raised his tamahawk, and was about to strike Girty dead on the spot, but was prevented from doing so by the interference of others. Through the influence of the Sacs, and Foxes, and Winnebago chiefs, Girty was allowed to make a speech. In this speech he proposed to head a party of warriors, and attack the settlers on Bureau, as soon the Sacs and Foxes had crossed the Mississippi. But his proposition met with no favor from the Pottawatamie chiefs, they regarding him as a treacherous half-breed, and unworthy of their confidence. Girty, seeing that he would receive no support from his tribe, raised the war whoop, and left the council. The uniting of the different tribes proved a failure, and the council broke up, when the chiefs returned to their respective homes.

The Indians Leave Bureau

About the first of May, 1832, Black Hawk, with his warriors, accompanied by their families, crossed the Mississippi, and commenced ascending Rock river. The squaws and papooses were in canoes, and the warriors, mounted on ponies, followed along the banks of the river. At Prophetstown, they were joined by the great Winnebago chief, known as the Prophet, with his band of warriors. Here they remained two days, to hold a feast and a war dance. From here, runners were sent to the different bands to induce them to join Black Hawk's standard. Two of these runners, one of whom was a son of Black Hawk, came to Bureau, to notify the Pottawatamies that hostilities were about to commence, and also to induce them to take part in the war.

At that time, Shaubena, with his band of followers, was encamped on Corss run, east of the Doolittle farm, near where the road now crosses that branch. Mr. Doolittle was at that time, engaged in building his cabin, and some of the Indians came and assisted him in handling the logs. Next day two strange Indians, who proved to be emissaries from Black Hawk, with painted faces, and wearing a peculiar head dress, were seen in camp. There appeared to be great excitement in Shaubena's camp, and the Indians broke up their encampment, caught their ponies, and left in great haste. The next day signal fires were seen lighted all over the county, and in every grove where Indians were encamped, the smoke of these fires were seen to ascend. The settlers noticed these signals, and became much alarmed. Some of them left the country immediately, without further warning. Others remained some days longer, but were on the alert to avoid being surprised by the savages.

At different places Indians were seen skulking around people's houses, with their faced painted red, a token of war. These Indians appeared shy, unfriendly, and unwilling to hold communications with the whites. A party of warriors came to the cabins of Eli and Elijah Smith, in the absence of the men, and their conduct was such as to frighten the women. They went into the house, took down the guns to examine their locks, as well as the doors of the cabins, and other things about the premises. They also sharpened their knives and tomahawks on the grindstone, with the intention, no doubt, of using them in murdering the settlers. Many Indians were seen riding at full speed across the prairie, conveying the news from one to another; and within two days from that time not a red skin could be seen in the Bureau settlement.

Indians At the Graves of Their Fathers

When the Indians on Bureau were notified by runners from Black Hawk's band, that hostilities were about to commence, they were greatly alarmed, knowing that their lives would be endangered by remaining longer in the country, and they prepared for a hasty departure. At their village, where Tiskilwa now stands, about seven hundred had collected, to deliberate on the means of making their final exit. After making the necessary preparations, the Indians en masse, old and young, repaired to their village burying ground, to pay their respects to the graves of departed loved ones.

Indians everywhere are attached to their homes, the land of their nativity; and it was with feeling of regret that they gave up their cornfields and hunting grounds; but there is another place still more sacred to them, and from which they departed with sorrowful hearts. This was the graves of their fathers.

On the bottom prairie, a short distance below Tiskilwa, is an oblong knoll, which overlooks the valley, and presents a fine view of the surroundings. This knoll had been the village burying ground for many generations. Here was buried their prophets and great warriors, as well as their fair maidens, and of their graves the Indians were about to take their last farewell. The ceremonies connected with this affair, is described by an eye witness, (Amos Leonard) as being very solemn. The faces of all the Indians, old and young, were painted black, an emblem of mourning, and the young squaws had powdered their hair, making it white as snow, in in representation of their purity. In the midst of the group was seen the tall form of Autuckee, the principal chief of the village. On the head of this chief was a crown of turkey feathers, and from his neck was suspended an Indian drum. At the tap of this drum, all the Indians fell on their knees, while the chief with uplifted hands, and eyes rolled back in their sockets, prayed to the Great Spirit, for the preservation of the bones of departed friends. For some time the Indians remained on their knees chanting, while the squaws stood by beating their breast with their hands, weeping and wailing with loud acclamations of grief for departed loved ones. Again the chief tapped his drum, when the Indians sprang to their feet, and commenced singing a song to the dead. This song was sung on a low plaintive key, and sounded like a funeral dirge; while thus engaged, the squaws with baskets of flowers, which had been gathered for the occasion, strewed them over the graves. After the conclusion of these exercises, the Indians again returned to their village. One of their number, an old man of more than four score years, refused to leave the graves, saying: "Here lie my father, my squaw, and my papooses, all that was near and dear unto me; no one is now left to love or car for me, and my blood no longer runs in the veins of any human being." Over the graves of his departed friends, the old man's form was bent, and here he wished to die; no persuasion could induce him to leave this spot, and by force alone he was taken away, and placed on a pony, to be carried westward with the rest of the band.

At the village, the Indians loaded their ponies with camp equipage, preparatory to their departure. On some of the ponies were placed willow baskets, filled with papooses, and these ponies were turned loose, without bridle or halter, to follow the procession. The squaws rode astride of their ponies, many of whom carried an infant on their back, placed in a pocket in their blanket, with its head sticking out. Everything being ready, the procession started for the west, when old and young joined in singing their farewell song.


Pages 74-81


At Dad Joe Grove lived Joseph Smith, who was generally known by the name of Dad Joe. For many years he had been a pioneer, living at different places among the Indians, and was wen acquainted with their customs and habits. In advance of the settlement, Dad Joe had lived at Peoria, Rock Island, and at the lead mines, near Galena; and two years before the time of which we write, had settled at the grove for the purpose of entertaining travelers.

Dad Joe was a thick, heavy-set man, of great physical power, and was always clothed in loose garments, with a rope or leather girdle about his loins. He had a heavy bass voice, and in common conversation spoke so loud as to cause strangers to look at him with astonishment. His remarkable personal appearance, peculiar manners, and his lion-like voice, gave him great notoriety, and there was but few people in those days, living in Illinois, who had not heard of Dad Joe. He was kind and benevolent, almost to a fault; and he is probably the only man who lived and died in Bureau County without ever having an enemy.

Frightened By the Indians

About two miles west of Dad Joe's residence, and at the east end of Red Oak Grove, lived a man by the name of James Magby, who had a wife and a large family of children. Besides these two families, there was no one living within twelve miles. One day while Mr. Magby's two daughters were on the prairie engaged in gathering flowers, they saw a large body of Indians approaching them, and believing that they were about to be murdered, fled with all haste to the residence of Dad Joe. On arriving at the house, they stated that the Indians had killed their mother, brothers and sisters (Mr. Magby being absent at the time.) This announcement created a great panic in Dad Joe's family, as they too expected to be attached within a few minutes. Dad Joe, whose courage never forsook him, made a hasty preparation to protect himself and family from the tomahawks and scalping knives of the saves. Although at that time Dad Joe was laid up with a lame back, through the excitement of the moment, he sprang from his couch, caught his rifle, which hung on pegs above the door, and prepared himself to give the Indians a warm reception.

Young Joe, a lad of fifteen years of age, mounted his horse and started for Bureau, to notify the settlers of their danger. In his haste to be off, he forgot to let down the barnyard bars, and urging his horse forward to make him jump them, he fell, throwing the rider over his head. Joe again mounted his horse, and put him at the top of his speed for Bureau settlement.

This affair turned out to be a false alarm. The Indians, (about three hundred in number), were Pottawatamies, from Bureau, and were on their way to a country west of the Mississippi. When the Indians saw the frightened condition of Magby's family, they did not stop at the grove, but continued on their way westward.

A few days after this Indian fright, Dad Joe sent his family off to a place of safety, while himself and son, (Young Joe), remained on the farm in order to put in a crop. Each day they carried their guns with them while at work in the field, and they also kept their saddles close at hand, so they could mount their horses at a moment's notice. For many days they saw no one, as traveling through the country was now at an end. The great Galena road, that passed by the house, over which formerly had ran a daily mail coach, as well as crowds of people passing to and from the lead mines was now deserted: no traveler would risk his life in passing through a country then thought to be full of hostile savages.

Indians Approaching The Grove

One day while Dad Joe and son were at work in the field, they saw on the prairie, in the direction of East Grove, about sixty Indians approaching them. These Indians were armed with guns, were mounted on ponies, and their faces painted red - a sign of war. On seeing the Indians, Dad Joe and son gathered up their rifles, mounted their horses, and fled southward. But as the Indians did not discover them, they returned to a high piece of ground, where they could watch their movements, and also be ready to flee if pursued. The Indians went to the house, but finding no one there, they helped themselves to what they wished to eat, and carried away with them such articles as they could use. They also took with them four young pups, which they no doubt intended to roast for their supper. After leaving the house, the Indians discovered Dad Joe and his son on the prairie, and started towards them; but prudence required that the enemy should be kept at a proper distance and they retired as the Indians approached. At last one of the Indians dismounted from his pony, and laying down his gun and tomahawk, approached them for the purpose of holding conversation. But as he came nigh to where they were standing, seeing the determined appearance of Dad Joe, who stood with a rifle in his hand, the Indian's courage failed him, and he turned pale and stopped; but on being addressed by Dad Joe in a friendly manner, he took courage, and came forward to offer his hand.

This Indian wished to know if any army had gone north, and if it was the intention of the whites to fight them. Dad Joe, in reply, said no army had passed that way, and he had not seen a person for twelve days. The Indian said they did not wish to fight, but if attacked by the whites, they would carry the war into the settlement, and tomahawk every woman and child they could find. By the Indian's dress and language, Dad Joe recognized him as one of Black Hawk's band, having lived at Rock Island among them a few years before. While living there, one of these Indians (being exasperated on account of the whites settling on their land, and also being under the influence of liquor), tomahawked Dad Joe's wife, and she was only saved from instant death by Young Joe, then a lad of twelve years of age, riding his horse on the Indian. These things, coming fresh to Dad Joe's mind, he felt like taking revenge on the Indian. He said afterwards to the writer, that he was tempted to shoot him on the spot, and trust to the fleetness of their horses to make their escape.

The Lone Traveler.

The night after their adventure with the Indians, Dad Joe and son, as usual, had barricaded the door of their house with puncheons, and with loaded guns by their side, they retired to the attic to sleep. They had been asleep but a short time, when they were awakened by a person holloing and rapping at the door, asking admittance. Dad Joe suspected that it was an Indian in disguise, and had taken this plan to gain admittance to the house, so that he and his comrades could murder the inmates. The man at the door said he was a traveler, and wished entertainment only. After a long parley, Dad Joe said he would open the door, but if betrayed, his life should pay the forfeit, as he would shoot him down on the spot. He removed the barricades, and opened the door with one hand, while in the other he held his trusty rifle ready for use if betrayed. The man at the door proved to be a long traveler from the lead mines, and on his way home at the south. Being mounted on a fleet horse and armed with a large holster pistol, he had undertaken the hazardous task of passing through a country which was thought to be full of hostile savages.

Approach of Stillman's Army

On the 12th of May, Stillman's army, consisting of about seven hundred mounted rangers, mostly from the southern part of the State, arrived at Dad Joe Grove. The troops had no halt here, but continued on their way to Dixon's ferry. The baggage train, consisting of six wagons drawn by oxen, remained at the grove over night. This train was guarded by fifty mounted rangers, under the command of Captain Hackleton. In this company of rangers, was a young man from Sangamon county, that every one called Abe. He was tall and slim, with long black hair, heavy eyelashes and whose general appearance was awkward and unprepossessing, but his witticism, as well as his peculiar gift in telling stories, kept his comrades all the while in a state of merriment. This young man was a private in Hackleton's company but before the close of the war, he rose to be a captain, and thirty years afterwards he became President of the United States. His name was Abraham Lincoln. The wagons, belonging to the baggage train, were left in the edge of the grove, and the oxen, with bells on them, turned out on to the prairie to feed. About midnight, the bells were heard to ring, and a party of rangers went in pursuit of the oxen. Between Dad Joe and East Grove, they overtook a party of Indians, driving off the oxen; and on coming up with them, they fled in great haste, by putting their ponies at full speed. The night being dark and rainy, the rangers did not pursue them, but returned to camp with the stolen cattle. Means were used to guard against a surprise, as they were now in an enemy's country, and liable to be attacked at any moment. Rumors were afloat that a large body of Indians were seen that afternoon in the direction of Winnebago swamps. Picket guards were established around the encampment, and the men ordered to sleep on their arms. The horses were tied to trees by the camp, so they could be mounted at a moment's notice.

The Camp Attacked - A Joke of Captain Hackleton

Captain Hackleton was a man fond of fun, always enjoying a good joke, he now fell upon a plan of having some sport at other's expense. He also wished to test the courage of his men, and thereby ascertain whether or not they were reliable in case of emergency. He made his plans known to the guards, and a few friends, and immediately went to work to execute them. About an hour before the day, the plans being all matured, a number of men went back in the grove, and raised the Indian war hoop, and at the same time picket guards fired off their guns. Captain Hackleton , and others who were in on the plot, called on the men as they were sleeping in their blankets, to flee for their lives, as they were attacked by over a thousand Indians. Nothing could exceed the panic among the troops. Some prayed, others swore, but all sprang for their horses , with the intention of fleeing for their lives.

The surgeon of the company, who for many years after the war was well known in this community as a skillful physician, mounted his horse, but in his haste forgot to untie him from the tree; under the spur the horse sprang forward the length of the rope, then back again, bringing the doctor's head against the limb of a tree. The doctor, believing himself struck by an Indian war club or tomahawk, abandoned all hopes of escape, and at the top of his voice he sang out: "Mr. Injun, I surrender, spare my life."

Next morning Dad Joe and son left with the troops for Dixon's ferry and returned to the grove no more until the war was over.

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