"IN BLACKHAWK TIMES"
EARLY SETTLERS GIRD FOR BATTLE ERECT FORT WITHIN STOCKADE
EARLY SETTLERS GIRD FOR BATTLE
ERECT FORT WITHIN STOCKADE
April 27, 1938 Freeport Journal Standard
It's more than a hundred years ago this spring since the battle of Apple River fort at Elizabeth, and there isn't much left to tell the tale. But if you are really interested in locating the old landmarks, and recreating the past in your mind's eye, you can find them. As you drive down from Terrapin ridge into Elizabeth from the east, you'll see an old field road coming through an otch to meet the highway. This is the old Dixon stage coach road, and right where you are driving, there were 200 Indians lying in ambush that day for the dispatch bearers from the fort. If you drive around to the cemetery, and look back toward the ridge, you can see the knoll where the fort stood. And near where you are standing was the rabbitt warren of old lead mining diggings where Uncle Benny Tart hid from the Indians. Thats all that is left now, except the old stories, and your imagination.
It was May 1832, that a rider galloped down that old Dixon stage coach road, bringing news of Indian warfare. A company of whites under Major Isaiah Stillman had been decisively defeated at Still man's Run on May 12. Only a few days later, he said Black Hawk's band had swooped down upon a tiny settlement at Indian Creek and had massacred most of the families of Davis, Pettigrew and Hall, carrying Rachel and Sylvia Hall, two young girls, into captivity. There were rumors of other murders, he said, and the local tribes were rising with Black Hawk in a war that threatened every lonely soul on the frontier.
War had been threatening ever since Black Hawk had crossed the Mississippi on April 6. Frightening rumors had crept north. Now the fighting had begun in earnest. Riders set out through the countryside from the LeBeaume and St. Vrain store, spreading the alarm. From all sides the settlers poured in.
Tall Kentuckians with their long rifles and muskets in hand, men with a long heritage of Indian fighting behind them, and women whose lean fingers could pull a trigger as well as any. They'd listened to their grandfathers back in Kentucky and Tennessee tell of Indian outrages. They'd seen newly taken scalps, lost brothers and uncles in the fighting. This was no new story to them. There was Mrs. James Craig, daughter of Nathan Boone, and the granddaughter of Daniel Boone, Mrs. Becky Hitt, whose grandfather had been wounded at the battle of Tippecanoe, and whose husband, Thaddeus was a veteran of the war of 1812. And Mrs. Elizabeth Winter, who had kept the stage tavern at Apple River ever since there had been a road through that place. She was the wife of John D. Winter, mail contractor, Indian scout and stage line driver, who was the mother of the first white children born at Elizabeth.
In from the hills came the Armstrongs, the Jamiesons, the Flacks from their stage coach tavern on the Mount Carroll road, the Johnsons, the Lawhorns, the Morrises, the Van Voltingburgs. 22 men, 23 women and their children gathered at the store before nightfall. Before the sun had set they built a rude fort on the top of a knoll between the present day cementer and Terrapin ridge. The stockade, of 12 foot posts driven into the ground close together enclosed about 100 square feet. A settlers cabin formed one corner. In the opposite corner a block house was built with its second story projecting about 12 feet so that the settlers could fire down upon attackers. Portholes conveniently arranged, commanded the immediate vicinity. Only Terrapoin ridge in the background, offered protection to the Indians, and it was so far distant from the fort that no surprise attack could reach the fort. Inside the yard of the stockade were two long cabins to house the besieged. A spring at the foot of the knoll provided a supply of fresh water.
With Clack Stone, the surveyor, as captain, a company of 45 men was organized and mustered into U.S. service as a company of the 27th regiment, IL Militia. From the LeBeaume and st. vrain smelter nearby, they brought in a supply of lead for bullets and with the help of Charles Tracy, manager of the smelter they cast a lead cannon. The cannon it may be said was more for appearances than anything else. Though the soldiers loaded it carefully, they could not fire it. Finally, months later, to celebrate the capture of Black Hawk at Bad Axe, they loaded it with an extra heavy charge and the machine exploded, killing a soldier. But these woodsmen were not relying on any such armaments, their rifles were their safeguard.
Within a few days all preparations were complete for an attack. The settlers, waiting impatiently for hostilities to begin, occupied their time in games, wrestling and athletic contests. The children and women wandered through the woods, picking wild flowers, enjoying their release from farm labors. The country side was quiet and peaceful.
With all in readiness, and no danger yet in sight, the pioneer's at the fort made a community outing, a long picnic, of their days. Romance flourished. There occurred the first marriage in Elizabeth, that of Jane Murdock, daughter of John Murdock to Jefferson Clark in a ceremony performed by John Mac Donald. Slowly reports drifted in from the outside of fighting throughout the district. William Durley, member of a party carrying dispatches to Galena from Dixon was killed near Buffalo Grove on May 19. On May 26, Felix St. Vrain, agent for the Sacs and Foxes, and the brother of Charles St. Vrain, who operated the Apple River store, Aaron Hawley, William Hale and John Fowler were killed nor far from the same place.
There were some scares in the neighborhood too. Benny Tart, one of the young boys of the settlement, was wandering along the river bank, not far from the fort when a band of Indians pursued him. The land between him and the fort was cut up like a prairie dog village with old lead diggings, so that Benny had little hope of reaching the fort in time. He skipped in and out between the mine dump heaps, and finally ducked into one of the diggings where he hid at the end of the drift while the Indians ran on down the river bank. When they had gone, long after dark, Benny crawled out of his hole and returned to the fort, white and trembling, but unharmed.
The night of June 8 Indians stole 14 horses from the very gate of the stockade. But these events did not disturb the settlers. They remained near the fort, knowing that to scatter to their home as long as the Indians remained, was suicidal; but there was no panic among them. After the loneliness of the long winter in their log homes, far from friends, it was pleasant to have this time together. The arrival of each messenger was a new cause for celebration.
On June 17, George Eames, who had fled to Galena from his farm on Apple River near Hanover at the first warning returned to look at his crop, bringing with him a small squad from the Galena forces; Capt. J.W. Stephenson, Alexander Hood, Thomas Sublette and Michael Lovell, all members of the mounted riflemen. The pioneers greeted them with a celebration that lasted until the sky was grey. But in the morning their feeling of security vanished when the visitors discovered that some of their horses and some of those belonging to the settlers had been stolen by Indians during the night, while they reveled inside the fort.
Hot for vengeance, Stephenson and his men started on the trail of the Indians with a party of 21 men and overtook the raiders about 12 miles east of Kellogg's Grove, a little northeast of Waddams Grove in Stephenson County. The Indians took refuge in a dense thicket and awaited the attack. Dismounting, Stephenson's men first swept the thicket with rifle fire, attempting to draw a response from the Indians which would reveal their position. Then Stephenson ordered his men to charge the thicket. As they returned to the prairie to reload their guns, Eames was shot and killed by the Indians. Twice more they charged the thicket. The first time Stephen P. Howard was killed and the second time, Michael Lovell. The Indians had lost only one, a brave stabbed by Thomas Sublette and Alexander Hood who stealthily entered the thicket, slew the brave and returned with his scalp.
After the third charge Stephenson and his men withdrew to consult. Three now were dead, Stephenson himself was so badly wounded that he could no longer continue to command. Realizing that further attempts to storm the Indians in their stronghold would be useless, they returned to Galena. A few days later Col. James Strode brought Stephenson's and Capt. James Craig's companies to bury the dead, who had been left on the field.
Even this battle in which three of their neighbors were killed, did not frighten the settlers. They continued their games and their berry picking at the fort, awaiting an attack which they believed might never come.
INDIAN BAND IN APPEARANCE NEAR TERRAPIN RIDGE
Preceding installments have told the story of the building of Apple River fort at Elizabeth and of Stephenson's battle near Waddams Grove.
The Sunday following Stephenson' skirmish June 24, Fred Dixon, George W. her rode, Edmund Welsh and J. Kirkpatrick started from Galena for Dixon with despatches for Glen Atkinson. They stopped for noon dinner at Apple River fort, where they found Capt. Clack Stone to command and 15 or 20 of his company, all the others being absent on duty.
After spending a little while in convivial pleasures with their friends, the messengers rode out of the fort on their way to Dixon. Welsh, somewhat emboldened by liquor, galloped on ahead, shouting that he could lick all the Indians in America "Bring on your band Black Hawk" he yelled "And Meet some real, red blooded Americans!"
As he rode through the gap in Terrapin ridge, the landscape suddenly was alive with Indians. Between two and three hundred rose out of the prairie grass before his eyes. Welsh jumped from his horse and shot one Indian who was dangerously near. As he retreated, a bullet struck him in the thigh. His companions covered his retreat however, and all gained the fort except Dixon, who was so anxious to protect the others the he remained outside until after the gate had been slammed and locked. Instantly he wheeled away into the timber on his horse. The Indians, more intent upon their attack than upon the capture of a lone prisoner, did not follow him. He dodged in and out of the timber until he came to the house of John MacDonald. There plundering Indians surrounded him and Dixon was forced to abandon his horse. Creeping along the bank of the Apple River, he escaped from the battle area and made his way to Galena with news of the fight.
Meanwhile the Indians attempted to storm the fort, and the whites returned a heavy fire. Some of the braves approached within 46 years of the fort but were driven back by the sharp shooters and forced to take refuge behind trees and the corners of log cabins. Hercierode, standing on a bench, looked out above the ... to get a better aim, and was shot in the jugular vein by an Indian bullet. Mrs. Elizabeth Armstrong snatched th gun from his dying hands intending to use it herself but Sam Hughlett, standing on the same bench where Hercierode had been suggested that she load and he would shoot. Using one gun while she loaded the other, he could keep up almost steady fire.
All the women and all the girls above 8 years of age joined in the making of bullets and the loading of guns. Though the force of men was small, it was able to keep up much steady fire through the day and with encouragement of their women that the Indians had never seen, they faced a strong force. The village of Elizabeth has been named for one of the women in the fort that day. Three are most often suggested for the honor - Mrs. Elizabeth Armstrong, Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson Morris and Mrs. Elizabeth Winter. Indications point to Mrs. Winter, for it was her husband, John D. Winter with Capt. Clack Stone who first laid out the village and christened the settlement. But the town might well have been named for any of the women in the fort that day, for all were distinguished by their bravery in the fight.
Finally the Indians abandoned their attempts to take the fort and began to plunder all the houses in the settlement. As one brave rolled a barrel of flour down the hill, not far from the fort, a sharp shooter picked him off. Dead Indian and barrel rolled down the hill together to the accompaniment of shouts from the fort. Every drawer, box and trunk in the settlement was opened and rifled. The Indians smashed crockery and furniture; even today John MacDonalds wardrobe, now in the possession of his granddaughter, Mrs.. Charles Allen of Galena, bears the crashing imprint of an Indian Tomahawk. The raiders emptied the flour barrels and the feather beds, they stole the clothing and provision, and killed the cattle and hogs.
When night approached after the battle and the Indians had disappeared, Kirkpatrick, who was only a boy, insisted upon setting out for Galena to see what had become of his friend, Dixon. The lad reached Galena safely after a night of riding, and learned that Dixon had escaped without harm. Reinforcements were on their way to Apple River fort, but their arrival on the battlefield was considerably delayed. It happened that a colonel and a major were accompanying the troops. The major, in direct command of the men, thought that he should give the orders. But the colonel, jealous of his rank, insisted upon giving orders himself. The two officers were at loggerheads. When the major cried "March" the colonel shouted "Halt" And the men did not know which one to obey.
Finally the colonel took the matter of military discipline into his own hands and shot the major in the arm, proceeding with the troops to the fort, where they arrived more than 48 hours after the Indians had left. The Indians caused no little trouble in the settlement with their raiding. One of the pioneers, John Flack, wrote to an eastern creditor a letter which is still preserved in the files of his estate at the Jo Daviess county court house:
"I should have sent your money last fall but we had war here with the Sack and Fox Indians and we were obliged to fort to save our lives. The Indians attacked the fort about 150 or 200 in number, not expecting an attack at that time, we lived in a house 70 yards from the fort, all day and staid in the fort at night. The Indians got in the houses and took all they could carry with them. We lost all our clothing excepting what we had on and bed clothes. They broke open a chest and I lost a good chance of money I had saving to send to you. The Indians took all the horses was at the fort and killed a good many cattle. We expect to get paid for our loss. There was commissioners sent on to value the damage that each lost. Mine amounted to $730 past the board of commissioners and I had $123 proved against them afterwards, but there was no money appropriated for that use, we expect it to be done next spring -- as soon as I get that money which I expect some time next summer, I will delay no time till I send it to you - and I will send you a just and true account of all that was put in my hands. When I moved from Perry I moved to Jo Davies county at the lead mines commonly called Fever River Lead Mines.