Shabbona's Grove, twenty-five years ago, was one of the finest bodies of timber in the State, containing about fifteen hundred acres, well covered with heavy white, burr and black oaks, and black walnut. It is situated on the Big Indian Creek, and is named after an old Pottawattamie chief, Shabbona, who at that time, with' his tribe, lived at the north end of the grove, where his headquarters, a large, long log house, now stand in a good state of preservation. It was surrounded by an immense tract of high, rolling prairie, well watered and well drained, towards the east and south by the Somonauk, Little Indian and Big Indian Creeks, into Fox River, and towards the north by its tributaries into the Kishwaukee. All this country, now comprised in the towns of Shabbona and Clinton, was then called Shabbona's Grove. On account of the excellence of the land, its dry and healthy location, and the quality of the timber in the grove, it was very attractive to the early emigrants; and the settlement increased and flourished, outstripping other localities more conveniently situated.
After the railroads were built, which, preferring on account of speculation the wide, unsettled prairies, were located on either side of our dividing ridge, emigration tended towards either line of road, emigrants preferring convenience to market, and cheaper lands to this naturally more desirable location.
Eighteen years ago, almost every resident of Chicago could tell you where Shabbona's Grove was, and all about it; now, scarcely a citizen knows that there is such a place on the face of the earth.
In another chapter will be found a brief history of the honest and kindly old chief who has given name to this grove and this town, and whose manly and generous treatment of the whites entitles him to lasting remembrance; and also of his band of Indians, who, within the memory of men yet young, were living here in patriarchal style, these groves their towns, and these vast prairies their fields; the one furnishing them shelter and fuel, the other food from the chase.
In the treaty made at Prairie DuChien,in 1824, by which the Pottawattomies ceded this section of country to the United States, two sections of land at this grove were made a reservation to Shabeney. In another treaty, made at Tippecanoe, Indiana, in October, 1832, these lands were again reserved to Shabonier, a French method of spelling the same name. In a third treaty, made in September, 1833, it is provided that these lands reserved shall be grants in fee simple, which might be sold and conveyed by the recipient, a privilege which he had not before possessed; but in the following year this provision of the treaty was rejected by the Senate, leaving them, as before, simple reservations.
This fact becomes important, as explaining the difficulty in the titles to these lands, which has caused a vast deal of perplexity and loss to those of the white settlers whose title to the grove came through the old chief.
In 1845 Old Shabbona, ignorant of the repeal of that provision of the treaty which gave him a right to sell his land, sold to Azell A. Gates and Orrin Gates his entire reservation. This was speedily divided into tracts, and re-sold by the Gatea to the inhabitants of the adjoining prairies.
But three years later, these purchasers were astonished at finding that these lands were offered for sale by the United States government, as were the adjoining prairies. An investigation, made through lion. John Wentworth, then member of Congress for this district, disclosed the fact that the deed of Shabbona to the Gates was void; and that the government held that, as Shabbona, by transferring and giving up possession, had forfeited the use of the reservation, it was competent for the government to sell it as other public lands in this department were sold.
Nothing remained for the purchasers to do but to purchase the lands again of government. But they were now worth twenty, perhaps forty, times the government entry price, and it was supposed that upon their being offered at auction the price would be raised by speculators to rates which they could not afford to pay. To provide for this emergency, the purchasers met in council, selected William Marks and Reuben Allen, two of their most respected fellow-townsmen, to bid in the land at the minimum rate of $1.25 an acre, and, arming themselves with clubs and pistols, they went, an army of one hundred and fifty determined men, fully resolved to prevent (by force if necessary) all others from bidding upon the lands.
Arrived at Dixon, they found a number of men prepared to purchase their lands, and they arranged to seize any such bidder, and drown him in Rock River. Their resolute aspect overawed all opposition, and they secured their lands at the minimum rate.
They had almost forgotten their difficulties with their titles when, in 1864, they were again alarmed by notice from a lawyer of Chicago that he was about to proceed to secure the title to the lands for the heirs of Shabbona, upon the ground that the government had wrongfully dispossessed him, that he had not forfeited his use of the reservation, that his heirs still held title to the property, and that it was made a grant in fee simple, by an act of Congress passed as late as March 9th, 1848.
The owners of these lands now placed the matter in charge of Mr. C. W. Marsh, who visited Washington, and made a thorough examination of the question of title; and from his elaborate report, made to a meeting of settlers upon his re- turn, the foregoing facts are obtained.
Following this ventilation of the subject, the attempt of the Chicago lawyer to force the purchasers to pay a third time for their lands was abandoned; but the question of the security of the title is one upon which lawyers still disagree.
Shabbona and his twenty or thirty immediate descendants occasionally returned, and lived at intervals upon his reservation, but did not make a permanent residence there till 1844. New-Year's Day of 1836 was celebrated at Shabbona Grove by the erection of the first white man's dwelling at this place. Mr. Edmund Town and David Smith, the first white inhabitants, who had lived for a few weeks in the wig-wams which the Indians had abandoned for awhile, assisted by Mr. Russell Town, the first resident of PawPaw Grove, rolled up the logs, and speedily enclosed a dwelling, celebrating the event with some bottles of liquor, which the Indians had left hidden in a tree near by.
In the following year came Messrs. William, Lewis, and Colman Olmstead, Darius Horton, William Lyman, and Jefferson Sturtevant, who made extended claims and erected for themselves comfortable log dwellings and stables. The Indians, when not abroad upon their roving excursions, lived by their side in perfect peace and good fellowship. The children of the white families were numerous, and in 1842 two school houses were built at the grove for their instruction. In 1845, the population had been increased by the immigration of the families of Mr. June Baxter, William Marks, Peter Miller, and William White. They were an honest and law-abiding population, and struggled courageously with the poverty and many hardships which were common to all the inhabitants at this early day. The deer in the neighboring groves and prairies furnished them with a considerable supply of venison, and from their skins they made durable garments. Prairie fowls, which were then vastly more numerous than now, together with sand-hill cranes, swans, ducks, and geese, contributed liberally to the supply of their tables. The Indians living near them baked these fowls in the ashes, or boiled them in their kettles, with entrails, claws and feathers; then, tearing them in pieces, devoured them like beasts. The sight of Sibiqua, Shabbona's pretty daughter, and the belle of the settlement, engaged in this kind of a repast, destroyed all the charms of her personal beauty, and it is not strange that the current report, that Shabbona would give a bushel of dollars to any good white man who would marry her, should not overcome their repugnance to a bride with such personal habits; but Jieaubien, a Frenchman near Chicago, married one of the daughters, and to her home Shabbona made annual journeys.
In 1847, Shabbona returned from a journey to Washington, elegantly dressed, but sad and discouraged. He had sold and lost his home, and the soil in which the bones of his fathers were interred had become the property of strangers. Their burial place may yet be seen where they hollowed out shallow graves, covering the bodies with earth and poles, bound down to prevent the ravages of the wolves. Shabbona Grove is the natural center for the trade of a large extent of fertile country, and would, undoubtedly, have been a prominent village but that the railroads were built some fifteen miles north and south of it, and drew population in that direction. But, the railroads, built in 1851 and 1853, gave value to the lands, and raised the people from the poverty which had hitherto repressed their energies. The prairie lands were all entered and enclosed as farms ; and there is now no section of the County more handsomely improved, or betokening a more substantial and comfortable condition of its farming population than the township of Shabbona. There is a small village at the south end of the grove with two churches, three stores, two tavern, the usual shops, and a handsome Masonic hall, which was built in 1862. The Lodge of Masons was organized in 1862 with M. V. Allen as W. M. ; G. M. Alexander, S. W.; L. Marks, J. W.: T. S. Terry, Secretary; W. Marks, Jr., S. D. ; A. S. Jackson, J. D. ; Isaac Morse, Tyler. It has now fifty-four members.
Shabbona furnished one hundred and thirty-seven men for the great war, and raised $12,291 for war expenses. A large number of the fee went under the gallant Captain G. W. Killett in the Fifty-eighth, and Captain Thomas S. Terry of the One Hundred and Fifth. Captain Terry was for many years a prominent citizen of the town. He was its Supervisor for three years, and represented the County in the Legislature in 1860. He died in the service at Northville, February 15th, 1863. Captain Marvin V. Allen, who succeeded him, lost an arm in the service. Upon his return he was elected to the responsible office of County Superintendent of schools. Sergeant Thomas E. Taylor, of the same company, a native of Scotland, lost his life in the service at the age of forty-one.
D. W. Jackson, of the same company, a native of Schenectady, New York, gave his life to his country at Bowling Green, Kentucky, at the age of twenty.
Sergeant J. M. Dobbin, of Company E, Thirteenth Infantry, a native of Washington County, New York, died of wounds received at the assault on Vicksburg, December 28th, 1862, aged thirty-eight.
Sergeant George C. Harper served most honorably for three years in the One Hundred and Fifth, and subsequently lost his life at Fort Harper while in the Seventh Regulars ; aged twenty-three.
John McFarland, of Company E, One Hundred and Fifth Infantry, a native of Cayuga County, New York, died at Frankfort, Kentucky, October 26th, 1862, aged forty-three. Henry Davis, of the Tenth Infantry, a native of Chataqua County, New York, died at St. Louis, May 5th, 1862, at twenty-one years of age. Oliver Pattee, of Company H, Fifty-second Infantry, a native of Grafton, New Hampshire, died at St. Joseph, December 20th 1861. Lyman Kilbourn, of Company E, One Hundred and Fifth, a native of Kane County, Illinois, died at Resaca, Georgia, April 16th, 1862, aged twenty-four.
Corporal Philip Howe, of Company E, One Hundred and Fifth, died of wounds received at Resaca, Georgia, May 9th, 1864, aged twenty-seven.
Sergeant W. E. Grover, of Company E, One Hundred and Fifth, a native of New Gloucester, Maine, was killed at Dallas, Georgia, while bearing off a wounded comrade from the skirmish line. His age was forty years.
In 1855 the population of Shabbona was 966 ; in 1860, 963; in 1865, 1165.
Her Supervisors have been,
for 1850, William Marks ;
1851 and '52, Isaac T. Comstock ;
1853, '54, '55 and '56, Thomas S. Terry ;
1857, Harvey E. Allen ;
1858, '59 and 60, D. D. Stevens ;
1861, David Norton ;
1862 and '63, P. V. Quilhot;
1864, '65, '66, '67 and '68, Frederick Ball.
Source: History of DeKalb County, Illinois by Boies, Henry L. (Henry Lamson), 1830-1887
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