Rachel (Hall) Munson's Account of the Indian Creek Massacre

SOURCE: The Ottawa Free Trader; Ottawa, Illinois Friday June 5, 1846 Vol VI-No. 50.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.
Transcribed by: Sharon Witt

Few of our readers, it is presumed, are aware that an Indian massacre, scarcely fourteen years ago, took place almost in our midst, (in the present county of La Salle, and about 60 miles from Chicago,) and that the whole population in the vicinity, which survived had to seek protection under the guns of Fort Dearborn. Such however is the melancholy fact. We insert, therefore, for the information of our readers, the narrative of Mrs. Rachel Munson, (Miss Rachel Hall, a young lady of 18,) who, with her sister, a young lady of 16 was taken prisoner on that occasion, in the Black Hawk war, 1832, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hall, both murdered. It is from Brown's History of Illinois, page 382, &c - Gem of the Prairie.

"On the 21st of May, 1832," says the narrator, Mrs. Munson, "at about four o'clock in the afternoon, as Mr. Pettigrew's, and our (Mr. Hall's) family were assembled at the house of Mr. William Davis, in Indian Creek settlement, in La Salle county, Illinois, a large party of Indians, about 70 in number, were seen crossing Mr. Davis' fence, about eight or ten paces from the house. As they approached Mr. Pettigrew attempted to shut the door, but was shut down in doing so. The savages then rushed in and massacred every one present, except my sister and myself. The persons massacred were, Mr. Pettigrew, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Pettigrew, Mrs. Hall, (my mother,) and Miss Davis, a young lady of about fifteen and six children, four of them boys and two of them girls. These were in the house: Mr. Davis, Mr. Hall, (my father,) William Norris, and Henry George, were massacred without - fifteen in all. The time occupied in the massacre was less, probably, than ten minutes. When the Indians entered, my sister and myself were sitting near the door sewing. I got immediately upon the bed, and stood there during the massacre. The confusion was such - the terror inspired by the firing of guns in the house, and the shrieks of the wounded and dying so great that I have no recollection in what manner they were killed. As soon as the massacre was over, three Indians seized and dragged me from the bed without much violence, and led me into the yard. I was then take by two of them half way across the creek - fifty paces or more, perhaps, distant. From thence, I was led back into the yard, in front of the house, where I saw my sister for the first time since our separation.

"We were then taken by four Indians - two having hold of each - and hurried off on foot in a northern direction as fast as we could run, for about two miles, through timber bordering upon the creek, when we came to a place where the Indians had left their horses, previous to the attack. We were then placed, without constraint, upon two of their poorest horses, each of which was lead by an Indian, and proceeded as fast as our horses could travel, in a direction, as I supposed towards the camp, accompanied by about thirty warriors. We continued traveling in this manner until about midnight, when we halted to rest our horses - the Indians exhibiting all the while, symptoms of great uneasiness, arising, apparently, from their apprehensions of being pursued. After resting for about two hours, we started on the same horses as before, and traveled at a brisk gait, the residue of the night, and all the next day till about noon, when we halted, and the Indians having scalded some beans, and roasted some acorns, desired us to eat. We eat some of the beans and tasted of the acorns, not from any disposition we had to eat, but to avoid giving any offence to our captors. We remained in this place for one or two hours. The Indians, after having finished their scanty meal, busied themselves in dressing the scalps they had taken, streaching them on small hoops. Among them I recognized, by the color of the hair, my own mother's. It produced a kind of faintness, or blindness, and I fell into a swoon; from which I was awakened shortly thereafter, by a summons to set out on our journey. We traveled on in the same way, but more leisurely than before, until almost night, when - the horse I rode gave out, and I was seated behind an Indian who rode a fine horse, belonging to Mr. Henderson, taken from the settlement in which we were captured. In this manner we continued on until about 9 o'clock at night, when we reached the camp, having traveled, as I supposed; about ninety miles in twenty- eight hours.

"The sack camp was on the bank of a small creek, surrounded by low marshy ground, scattered over with small burr-oak trees. On our arrival, several squaws came to our assistance, took us from our horses, and conducted us into the camp; prepared a place for us to sit down, and presented us some parched corn, some meal and maple sugar mixed, and desired us to eat. We did so, more through fear than hunger; and at their request threw a small parcel (about a table-spoonful) into the fire, as did also the squaws and the Indians that accompanied us. There was much apparent rejoicing on our arrival. About 10 o'clock we were invited by the squaws to lie down, which we did, and enjoyed a kind of confused, or disordered slumber, which lasted until after sunrise. The next morning, soon after we rose, our fears of massacre and torture began to abate. We were presented with some boiled beans and sugar for breakfast, and ate a little, having, though almost exhausted, as yet no appetite for food. About ten o'clock the camp broke up, and we all moved about five miles across the creek and encamped again on an elevated spot covered with timber near a small creek. We traveled each up on a separate horse, heavily laden with provisions, blankets, kettles, and other furniture required in an Indian camp. We arrived at our encampment a little before sundown. Here a white pole was stuck in the ground, and the scalps taken, when we were captured, hung up as trophies. About fifty warriors assembled in the centre and commenced a dance, in which a few of the squaws participated. They danced around this pole to the music of a drum, and gourds so prepared as to make a rattling noise. I was invited frequently by the squaws to join in the dance, but refused. The first dance was had in the morning, after our arrival in camp; the same was repeated daily while we continued among them. Soon after we arose, on the first morning after our arrival, some warriors came to our lodge and took us out, and gave me a red flag, and placed something in the hands of my sister which I do not recollect, and made us march round through the encampment, passing each wigwam. They then led us to the centre of the spot they had cleared off, to prepare for the dance, near where the white pole was stuck up; then placing a blanket upon the earth, and after painting our faces red and black, ordered us to lie down with our faces towards the ground. They then danced around us with war-clubs, tomahawks and spears. Before its conclusion we were taken away by two squaws, who, we understood, were the wives of Black Hawk. In the evening as soon as the dance was over, we were presented with a supper, consisting of coffee, fried cakes, boiled corn, and fried venison, with fried leaks, of which we ate more freely than before. We continued with them for four days longer, during which we fared in a similar manner, until the two last days, when we got out of flour. When our flour was exhausted, we had coffee, meat, and pounded corn made into soup. On being delivered over to the squaws, above mentioned, we were separated from each other, but permitted to visit every day, and remain for about two hours without interruption. The squaws encamped near each other, and we were considered as their children, and treated as such. Our encampments were removed five or six miles each day, and my sister and myself were always permitted to ride at such removals. Our fare was usually better than that of others in our wigwam. Our fears of massacre had now subsided - being received and adopted into the family of a chief. We were not required to perform any labor, but were closely watched to prevent our escape.

"On the fifth day after our arrival at the Sac camp, we were told that we must go with some Winnebago Chiefs, who had come for us. At this time the Sac encampment was on a considerable stream, the outlet as I supposed of some lake. There was a number of large lakes in its vicinity. The squaws with whom we lived, were, apparently, distressed at the idea of our leaving them. The Winnebagos endeavored to make us understand that they were about to take us to the white people. This, however, we did not believe; but on the contrary, supposed they intended to take us entirely away from our country, friends and home.

"We left the Sac encampment with four Winnebagos the same evening, and traveled about fifteen miles; each of us riding on horseback behind a Winnebago chief - the latter expressing frequently their fears of pursuit by the Sacs, who exhibited great uneasiness at our departure; the prophet having cut two locks of hair from my head, and one from my sister's, just before we left them.*

"We reached the Winnebago encampment a little after dark, and were kindly received. It was more comfortable than any we had seen; and we slept sounder and better than before. We rose early next morning. The Indians, however, had been up some time; ate breakfast before sunrise, and started in canoes up the river. There were, I believe, eight in company. We continued on our course until nearly sundown, when we landed and encamped on the bank of the river. There were present about a hundred Winnebago warriors. During the next day, four Sac Indians arrived in camp, dressed in 'white men's clothes,' and desired to talk with us. We were told, however, by the Winnebago chiefs, that we must shut our ears and turn away from them, which we did. 'The Blind' and his son, left our encampment during the night, and returned early in the morning. Immediately afterward, they came to us, and 'the Blind' asked if we thought the whites would hang them if they took us to the fort. We gave them to understand that they would not. They next inquired, if we thought the white people would give them anything for taking us to them. We gave them to understand that they would. 'The Blind' then collected his horses, and with the Whirling Thunder, and about twenty of the Winnebagoes, we crossed the river and pursued our journey - my sister and myself, each on a separate horse. We encamped about dark; rose early next morning, and after a hasty meal of pork and potatoes, (the first we had seen since our captivity,) of which we ate heartily, we traveled on until we reached the fort, the Blue Mounds, (Wisconsin Territory.) Before our arrival thither, we had become satisfied that our protectors were taking us to our friends, and that we had formerly done them injustice. About three miles from the fort, we stopped, and the Indians cooked some venison; after which they took a white handkerchief which I had, and tying it to a long pole, three Indians proceeded with it to the fort. About a quarter of a mile from thence, we were met by a Frenchman. The Indians formed a ring, and the Frenchmen rode into it, and held a talk with our protectors. The latter expressed an unwillingness to give us up until they could see Mr. Gratiot, the agent. Being informed by the Frenchman that we should be well treated, and that they should see us daily, until Mr. Gratiot's arrival, they delivered us into the Frenchman's care; we repaired immediately to the fort, where the ladies of the garrison, (who in the mean time had assembled,) received us with the utmost tenderness. We were thereupon attired once more in the costume of our own country; and next day started for Galena. On reaching a little fort at White-Oak Springs, we were met by our eldest brother, who, together with a younger one, was at work in a field near the house, when we were captured - and when the massacre began, fled and arrived in safety at Dixon's ferry. On leaving Galena, we went on board the steamboat Winnebago, for St. Louis, which place we reached in five days; and were kindly received by its citizens, and hospitably entertained by Governor Clark. Previous to our leaving Galena, we had received an affectionate letter from the Rev. Mr. Horn, of Montgomery county, inviting us to make his house our future home. We accepted the invitation, and left St. Louis in the steamboat Caroline for Beardstown, on the Illinois river, whither we arrived on the day thereafter. On landing, we were kindly received by its citizens; and in a few hours reached the residence of Mr. Horn, five miles distant, in the latter part of July, 1832, when our troubles ended."

The Miss Halls' brother having married and settled in Putnam county, Illinois, about this time, he invited his sisters to come and reside with him; they did so in the fore part of August, 1832. The elder Miss Hall afterward, in March 1833, married Mr. William Munson, and settled in La Salle County about twelve miles north of Ottawa. The younger sister in May 1833 married Mr. William Horn, a son of the reverend clergyman, who had so kindly offered them a home in his family, and removed to Morgan County, in _____ State.

The Legislature of Illinois, in 1833, donated quarter of a section of land to the Misses Hall, lying in the village of J---iet, Will county. It was sold, we believe, several years since, by them, for a small consideration. The and thus donated was granted by the United States to the State of Illinois for the completion of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Had the Legislature given them thrice its value in money, and raised the amount by taxation, it would have done the legislature some credit, and the people would have cheerfully paid it. Congress also gave them a considerable donation in money.

*The Indians' account of this transaction varies a little from Mrs. Munson's. The Indians said that a young warrior claimed one of the Miss Halls as his prize, and was unwilling to give her up. That the Winnebagoes, who were at that time on friendly terms with the whites, after using all the arguments they were capable of, had recourse to threats, which, together with ten horses, offered for their ransom, finally succeeded. The young warrior cutting from Miss Hall's head a lock of hair, bore no affinity to a similar act among the whites. It was done in order to preserve a trophy of his warlike exploits.

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