Online Version Transcribed By Nancy Piper
Commencement of Hostilities
The Indians had now left Bureau for other localities, some going to Chicago to claim government protection, others west of the Mississippi, while a few joined Black Hawk's band, and fought against the whites. Among those who fled to Rock river, to join the hostile Indians, was Mike Girty, the outlaw. His principal object in doing so was to avenge himself on the settlers, for some imaginary injury, two of whom, John Hall and John L. Ament, he told a short time before that he intended to kill them as soon as the oak leaves became as large as a squirrel's ear,having, no doubt, reference to the breaking out of the war. One the 14th of May, Stillman's army was defeated at Old Man's creek, after which Black Hawk sent out war parties all over the country, from the lake to the Mississippi. Occupying with their guerrilla bands many of the principal groves, waylaying thoroughfares, and skulking around the frontier settlements.
The Settlers Warned of Their Danger
Next day after Stillman's defeat, Girty, at the head of about seventy warriors, left for Bureau settlement, with the intention of murdering the settlers. The first house they came to was that of Daniel Dimmick, at Dimmick's Grove, but found that their intended victims had fled. The Indians continued their way down the timber until they came to the cabins of John L. Ament and Elijah Phillips, and were much surprised to find them gone also. Ament and family had only left a few hours before, and the fire on the hearth was still burning. The Indians next visited the cabins of Elijah and Eli Smith, and that of Mr. Epperson, but with no better success. Crossing the Main Bureau, they went to the Thomas settlement, but found it deserted likewise. The Indians were much disappointed by their ill success, as it was now evident that the settlers had left the country, and their expedition must prove a failure, without being graved by a single scalp. By a spring in the edge of the timber where Oscar Knox now lives, the Indians made their encampment, hobbled and turned out their horses to graze. Here they remained two days, sending out spies in various directions in search of victims.
The Settlers Warned of Their Danger
It was a warm bright day, on the 16th of May, 1832; the sun was shining in all its brilliancy, without a cloud in the sky. The prairies were now green with early spring
Grass, intermixed with blue bells, and other May flowers of various hues. The forest trees were in full leaf, and the balmy air was made fragrant by the blossoms of the plum and crab apple. All nature appeared clothed in her beautiful garment, and everythin in the surroundings was calculated to fill the pioneer's heart with bright prospects for the future. The settlers along Bureau were busy with their crops, plowing, sowing and planting, unconscious of immediate danger from their red foe. While thus engaged, a lone Indian was seen cantering his pony across the Princeton prairie, in a southwestern direction. He was without gun or blanket, and from his uncovered head, locks of long hair were streaming in the wind. His jet black pony was white with foam, and from its extended nostrils came forth the loud puffs of breath. This lone Indian was Shaubena, the white man's friend, and he was now on an errand of mercy.
Two day's before, Stillman's army had been defeated on Old Man's creek, and a band of hostile Indians were then on their way, as the sequel shows, to Bureau settlement, for the purpose of murdering its inhabitants. Shaubena, being unwilling to trust this important message in the hands of others, mounted his pony and rode with all haste to warn the settlers of their danger. He gave notice to Daniel Dimmick, John L. Ament, Dr. N. Chamberlain, and others, after which he left with his pony, still on a canter, for Indian creek settlement, giving warning likewise to the people of that region.
Flight of the Settlers
When the settlers on Bureau were notified that hostilities had commenced, there was a great panic among them. People were seen riding on a gallop across the prairie, conveying the tidings from cabin to cabin, and within a few hours not a soul was left in Bureau settlement. It was well they left in haste, for, as the sequel shows, a few hours of detention would in all probability have proved fatal to many of them. Some of the settlers went off on foot, others on horseback or in wagons, while a few left on sleds, drawn by ox teams. Some going to Hennepin, others to Peoria or Springfield, while others left the country never to return. Squire Dimmick, who lived at Dimmick's Grove, on being warned of his danger by Shaubena, said he would not leave until he had planted his corn; that he had left the year before, and it proved to be a false alarm, and he believed that it would be so this time. To which Shaubena replied: "If you will remain at home, send off your squaw and papooses, or they will be murdered before the rising of tomorrow's sun."
Shaubena had now mounted his pony, and was about to leave, when he raised his hand high above his head, exclaiming in a loud voice "Auhaw puckegee". The meaning of which is "You must leave." And Shaubena's pony was again on the gallop to notify others. When Dimmick noticed the earnest manner in which Shaubena addressed him, he changed his mind, unhitched the horses from the plow, put his family into his wagon, and within two hour left his claim, never again to return to it. John L. Ament was planting corn when he received the tidings, caught his horses, which were feeding on the prairie, placed his wife on one, and mounting the other himself, with his son Thomas, then an infant, in his arms, in this way they started for McLean county. After going about two miles from their home, they discovered on the prairie, what they supposed to be, a band of Indians approaching them. Believing their only means of safety was in flight, they put their horses at the top of their speed. In their flight, Ament's hat flew off, and with his hair streaming in the wind, they urged forward their horses under the whip. On arriving at Joel Doolittle's cabin, the matter was explained; the supposed Indians proved to be a party of rangers, who had come over from Hennepin to look after the settlers. Without a hat, but with a handkerchief tied around his head, Ament continued on his way to McLean county. The settlers in the bend of the timber, southeast of Princeton, which was known at that time as the Moseley neighborhood, fled across the Illinois river, and sought protection in different places.
Henry Thomas was with Stillman's army when it was defeated, and many of the volunteers slain in the fight. The Indians pursued the troops nine miles from the battle-field, overtaking and killing many on the way. Mr. Thomas, being mounted on a fleet horse, soon outstripped the Indian ponies, but one of his companions in the flight was not so fortunate. In crossing a branch, his horse stuck fast in the mud, throwing the rider over his head, and before he could mount his horse again, the Indians came up and tomahawked him. Mr. Thomas continued the flight, making no halt until he reached home, a distance of fifty-two miles.
One the same day that Shaubena gave warning to the settlers, Henry Thomas returned home from the scene of horror, and all prepared to leave the country forthwith. In the West Bureau settlement there were four families, namely: Henry and Ezekial Thomas, Abram Stratton, and John M. Gay. Among these four families there was only one wagon in running condition: some put their children, with a few household goods, on sleds, which were drawn by oxen, and by dark that same night they were aon their road southward. Eli and Elijah Smith took a large box, containing carpenter tools and other valuables, into the woods, hiding it in a thick cluster of hazel brush, and then fled in all haste toward Peoria. Mr. Epperson's family left about the same time, and they fell in with the fugitives from West Bureau near the present site of Providence. About midnight, as the ox teams were slowly dragging the sleds along on the grass, and the men and women walking by their sides, looking after their children who were sleeping on blankets or quilts, unconscious of danger, when all of a sudden behind them were heard the clattering of horses' feet, and the Indian war whoop sounded through the still night air. The women screamed, and the men sprang for their guns, but instead of it being, as they supposed, the deadly foe, it was Pete Bulbona and another half-breed, who only thought of frightening them.
Mr. Epperson and John M. Gay, waling ahead of the teams, came to Boyd's Grove about sun up next morning, and having their blankets wrapped around them, they were mistaken for Indians. Nat, the youngest boy, on seeing them was much frightened, and ran into the house, exclaiming: "Good jemmeny, here are two Injuns." Mr. Boyd picked up his rifle, and was prepared to shoot, when they threw back their blankets, showing themselves to be white men.
When the Bureau settlers arrived at Peoria, it created a great panic among the people, as their flight had left them on the frontier; and to make the matter worse, a rumor was in circulation that a large body of Indians were seen that afternoon going southward, with the intention, no doubt, of attacking the place. That evening, a tall, raw-boned Kentuckian, a resident of Tazewell county, calling himself Lieut. Jones, arrived at Peoria. Jones had been with Stillman's army when it was defeated and in the flight became separated from his companions, lost his reckoning, and had wandered about for three days, without seeing a living soul. He believed that all of Stillman's army were slain, and he alone left to tell the sad story. Lieut. Jones had an Indian scalp tied to his left arm, which he swung to and fro in order that the bystanders should appreciate his bravery. Jones being surrounded by a crowd of listeners, in a boasting manner, gave the following account of Stillman's defeat: Said he, "While our army was encamped on Old Man's creek, Black Hawk, with some twenty thousand warriors, came marching down in solid column, like Wellington's army at the battle of Waterloo, and at once attacked us on three sides. Our troops fought bravely, but soon they were overpowered, and all slain. Major Stillman, Major Hackleton, Col. Stephenson, and myself, with other officers of high rank, were engaged in leading the troops forward to charge the enemy, but almost within a twinkling of an eye, these brave officers, with all the troops under their command, were slain; and I found myself alone on the field of battle, surrounded by large heaps of dead bodies. At a distance I saw a body of troops who appeared in good order, not having suffered much from the ravages of battle, so I hastened to join them, with the intention of putting myself at their head, and avenge the death of my brave comrades. But as I drew nigh, I discovered that these gentlemen wore no hats, and their faces were painted red; so I inferred from that circumstance that they were no friends of mine. Soon rifle balls commenced buzzing about my ears, each one as it passed seemed to whisper in my ear, saying, in language that I well understood, "Stranger, you had better get out of here". So I wheeled my horse about, and throwing my head on his withers, I broke for tall timber, followed by some five hundred Indians, flourishing their tomahawks over their heads, and yelling like demons. The race continued for many miles, across prairie and through timber, when all of the Indians, except one, were left far behind. This one, who was a great war chief, mounted on a fleet pony, came up by my side, and as he was about to tomahawk me, I shot him dead; and here, gentlemen, is his scalp," and at the same time raising his arm to exhibit his trophy. "Out of that brave army under Stillman, that marched north a few days ago in defense of their country, I alone am left to tell the sad story."
Jones' story, although highly colored, was believed by many, and the panic among the people increased. On the bank of the river, a short distance above the ferry, stood an old dilapidated block house, surrounded by barricadses, and called by courtesy, "Fort Clark". Into this fort, both citizens and strangers went, so they would be protected, should the town be attacked during the night. Owing to the crowded condition of the fort, Eli and Elijah Smith, with their wives, took lodging in the bushes close by. During the night they thought of their exposed situation, in case the Indians should come, and concluded to go to the fort. As they approached the fort, some of its inmates mistook them for Indians and raised an alarm. The matter, however, was soon explained, when all went to sleep again, to dream of Lieut. Jones' wonderful adventure.
Rev. James Sample and Wife
Soon after the marriage of the Rev. James Sample to Lucy May, as narrated in a previous chapter, and before the honeymoon was over, he concluded to go further west to seek his fortune, on the banks of the Father of Waters. At that time, there was no wagon road between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers; the Indian trail, over which people passed, was only accessible for foot and horseback travelers. Everything being prepared for their journey, Sample and his young wife left for the west, each mounted on a horse, while on the third one was packed all of their household goods. Sample settled near Rock Island, and built a cabin on the site of the old Indian village.
Everything went off smoothly during the winter, but in the spring the war cry was raised, and people were alarmed at the situation of things. Rumors were in circulation that the Sacs and Foxes were about to cross the river, and take possession of their old village. People were not long kept in suspense, for on a bright morning in the latter part of April, it was discovered that the river was full of Indian canoes, and the water was darkened by their ponies swimming the stream. The return of the Indians created a great panic among the settlers, all of whom left their cabins, and took refuge in Fort Armstrong, which was situated on the Island. The Indians did not molest any one, nor take possession of their old village, as was expected, but continued their way up Rock river, with their squaws and papooses in canoes, while the warriors, mounted on ponies, followed along the banks.
Sample and wife had been in the fort a few weeks when they concluded to leave it, and return to their friends east of the Illinois river. Having heard of no Indian depredations, it was thought perfectly safe to make the journey. Accordingly they disposed of all their effects, except two horses, and on them they left Rock Island.
It was a bright, clear day, on the 18th of May, when Sample and his wife left Rock Island for Hennepin, a distance of about seventy miles. Being mounted on fine, spirited horses, which were full of mettle, and as they cantered proudly across the prairie, the tourists expected to reach Bureau settlement before dark. The road traveled by them was the Sac and Fox trail, which extended from Lake Michigan to Rock Island, and was at that time a great thoroughfare from east to west, being traveled both by whites and Indians. For ages this trail had been the great highway for Indians from east to west. Over it Black Hawk, with his warriors, passed to join the British forces in Canada, at the time of the late war with England; and for twenty years afterward they made annual trips over it, to receive annuities from the British government in Canada. This trail passed through Bureau county, almost in an east and west direction - crossing Coal creek immediately north of Sheffield, main Bureau east of Dr. Woodruff's, passing near Malden and Arlington, in the direction of Chicago. In some places on high prairie, the trail was worn down from one to two feet below the surface, and its course can still be traced through many of the farms of this county, although thirty-five years have now passed away since it ceased to be used. There was no settlement along this trail between the Mississippi river and Bureau, which made it necessary to perform the journey in one day.
It was about sundown when the travelers arrived at the residence of Henry Thomas, where they intended to stay over night, but unfortunately they found the house deserted, and the doors and windows barricaded with heavy puncheons. Again they mounted their horsed to pursue their journey, with the intention, no doubt, of spending the night at Smith's cabin, which was east of Bureau creek. Soon after leaving Thomas' night came on, and with it a terrible rain storm, and in the darkness they lost the trail, and were unable to find it again, but they continued eastward until they came to Main Bureau, which they found so high as to make it hazardous to cross in the dark. They had now rode about sixty miles, were tired and hungry, their clothes wet, and the rain still continued to pour down in torrents. But here they were compelled to spend the night, without one dry spot to lay their heads. Tying their horses to a tree, and taking their saddles for pillows, they laid down to rest until morning. After a long, dreary night, morning came, and with it a bright sun and clear sky, but the creek was still high, not being fordable. This obstacle must be overcome, so they selected a place where the banks were favorable, swam their horses across, and continued their journcy.
On the top of the bluff, by the side of the trail, stood, at that time, a double log cabin, which belonged to Eli and Elijah Smith. Here the travelers intended to rest, dry their clothes, and have something to eat. But they found the cabins deserted, the families having fled from their homes the day before. On leaving the trail here, and going south one mile, brought them to Epperson's cabin, which they also found deserted. The premises were searched for something to eat, as well as feed for their starving horses, but without success. It was with heavy hearts that our travelers again mounted their horses to continue their journey, being fatigued, hungry and their clothes still wet from the drenching rain, as well as from swimming the creek. But on reaching the prairie, the beauty of landscape scenery which was there presented, dispelled their gloomy feelings. The prairie was now covered with yearly spring grass, intermixed with flowers of various hues, the forest trees were in full leaf, and the air was made fragrant with the blossoms of wild fruit. Birds were singing among the branches of the trees; around them were sporting meadow larks, with their musical notes, while on the distant prairie was heard the crowing of prairie chickens. This enchanting scenery of the surroundings, had good effect on the travelers, and their despondent spirits were now revived. Over sixty miles of their journey had already been made, and a few hours more would terminate it. Their jaded horses were slowly plodding their way across the prairie, and over the very spot where the city of Princeton now stands. The travelers, unconscious of danger, were talking of the perils of the past night, and the happy termination of their journey, when they would be embraced by kind friends. When all of a sudden they heard a noise behind them, and on looking back, they saw some twenty Indians pursuing them at full speed.
Their Flight and Capture
While Sample and wife were at Epperson's cabin, an Indian, who was on the lookout, saw them, and immediately gave notice to his comrades, who started in pursuit. The Indians approached quietly without being discovered, until almost within gun shot of the travelers, when they raised the war whoop, and put their ponies on a gallop. Sample was riding the horse which he had of John Hall, and his wife was mounted on one equally spry, but owing to the jaded condition of these animals, the Indians came within a few yards of them before they were brought to a gallop. Many shots were fired at the fugitives, one of which slightly wounded Sample, and his wife was also wounded by a tomahawk thrown by one of the Indians. The horsed, on getting their mettle up, went off at great speed, leaving the Indian ponies far behind; but the Indians continued the chase, urging their ponies forward under the whip, and yelling at the top of their voice. The fugitives had so far outstripped their pursuers that they regarded their escape as almost certain; but an accident occurred which blasted their fond hopes, and caused them to fall into the hands of the savages. As they approached the timber, Mrs. Sample's horse, while crossing a small branch, stuck fast in the mud, floundered and fell, throwing the rider over its head. Mr. Sample, at the time, being so far ahead of the Indians, he could have made good his escape, but unwilling to leave his wife to her fate, returned, and thereby sacrificed his own life. While Sample was assisting his wife to remount her horse, the Indians, with deafening yells, came up with them. Knowing that escape was now out of the question, Sample only thought of selling his own life as dear as possible, and drawing forth a pistol, shot one of the Indians dead on the spot. The Indians bound their victims with strong cords, put them on their own horses, and carried them back to camp.On arriving at camp, the warriors held a council over their prisoners, and it was decided, in order to avenge their dead comrade, they should be burned at the stake. Sample was well acquainted with Girty, having met him a number of times on Bureau, while on his ministerial excursions, and offered him all he possessed as a ransom for the life of himself and wife. But all to no purpose, nothing but revenge could satisfy this blood-thirsty savage.
A few rods south of what is now known as the Knox graveyard, stood thirty years ago, an old burr oak tree, isolated from other forest trees, and around which was a beautiful grass plot. Some of the early settlers had noticed this tree, and probably still recollect it, as it was burned at the root, as though a camp fire had been built against it. To this tree the victims were taken, and to it they were bound with large deer skin thongs. Divested of all their clothing, bound hand and foot, they stood waiting their doom. A fire of dry limbs was kindled around them, while the Indians stripped themselves of their clothing, with their faces painted red, in preparation for a dance. Everything being now ready for the execution, Girty took his long knife and scalped the prisoners, saving the scalps as a trophy of war. Taking the scalp of Mrs. Sample, and tying the long hair around his neck, leaving the bloody scalp to hang on his breast. In this way, Girty, assisted by the other Indians, danced around their victims, jumping up and down, and yelling like demons. Mr. And Mrs. Sample, being bound to the tree, surrounded by burning fagots, their scalps taken off, with the blood running down over their faces, and covering their naked bodies with gore. Soon the flames began to take effect on the victims, and in their agony they besought the Indians to shoot or tomahawk them, and thereby terminate their sufferings. But their appeals were in vain; with fiendish laugh the Indians flourished their tomahawks over their heads, dancing and yelling in mockery of their sufferings. Mrs. Sample, whose youth and innocence ought to have moved the hardest heart, appealed to Girty, for the sake of humanity, to save her from this terrible death. But her appeals were without effect; nothing could change the purpose, or soften the heart of this devil incarnate. When life was extinct, more fagots were put on the fire, until the remains were consumed. Nothing was known of these murders at the time, and for more than thirty years the sudden disappearance of Sample and wife remained a mystery to their friends.
The next year after this tragedy occurred, James Hayes made a claim here and built a cabin by the side of the spring, where the residence of Mr. Knox now stands. Around the tree where Sample and wife were burned, Mr. Hayes had noticed many human bones, and in a ravine close by, a human skull was found. But little was thought of this affair at the time, as these bones were supposed to be those of Indians, it being well known that they were in the habit of burying their dead so near the top of the ground that wolves frequently dug up and devoured the corpse.
Nearly forty years have now passed away since these murders were committed, and this place, with its surroundings, has underwent a great change. Here where timber once grew, is now cultivated land. Instead of being surrounded by a wild, uninhabited region, it now shows everywhere the marks of civilization. To the east, and in plain view, lies the city of Princeton, with its beautiful landscape scenery, its shad trees and parks, while its tall spires are seen to glitter in the sunbeams. The old burr oak tree, where the victims suffered, and around which the Indians dances, has long since fell by the woodman's axe, but its stump still remains as a relic of the past. And as you look on this stump, and the scene around it, you will be reminded of the awful tragedy which took place on this spot.*
*This tragical story came principally through Indian sources, and was unknown to the early settlers of this county. The manner of capturing and executing the victims was narrated to the writer, a few years ago, by two Pottawatamie chiefs, named Half Day and Girty. During the time of the Black Hawk war, a rumor was current among the people, that a man and his wife was lost while traveling from the Mississippi to the Illinois river. Four years after the war, Shaubena told the writer that the Indians had burned a man and woman, whose names were unknown to him. Also, Squire Holly, a well known pioneer, and whose face was familiar to many of the Bureau settlers. Many years ago, a young man named Britt Sample, lived north of Dover, and for some time made his home with James G. Forristall. Sample said his uncle and aunt disappeared at the commencement of the Black Hawk war, and were thought to have been killed by the Indians.
The writer has spent much time in the investigation of this tragical affair, corresponding with those who would be likely to have some knowledge of the matter, also visiting the place where the friends of the victims are said to have live, and find the accounts conflicting. One account says the parents of Mrs. Sample, whose names were May, lived in a hovel, partly dug out of the bluff, on the site of an ancient Indian village, nearly opposite the mouth of Lake De Pue. They had lived in the country but a short time, and at the commencement of the war they boarded a steamboat at Fort Wilburn, and went to Missouri, where they had formerly lived.