Excursion to Starved Rock

Taken From the Henry Republican
August 12, 1875

Last week an opportunity was offered the people of Lacon and Henry to see that traditional and historic landmark - Starved Rock. An excursion was planned for Friday, and the Grey Eagle was chartered for the trip. The Grey Eagle was in charge of the clerk Ed. Heath, Esq., and the pilot Thomas O’Hara, assisted by Hard Cutler, (who for sickness, etc., was off duty from the Mary Boyd.) Capt. Morris was called home on account of sickness of his child, whom we learn has since died. Some 130 of the members of the first families of Lacon, and about 160 from Henry took advantage of the excursion, and the steamboat left our levee about seven o’clock, passed over the dam without trouble, and with high water, caused by the late rains, sped on her way swiftly, making no stoppages either way between Henry and the rock.

The company was a very pleasant one, and the time was spent in jovial intercourse, making of acquaintances and reviving old ones, viewing the scenery along the route, dancing, etc., taking advantage of every appliance for pleasure and enjoyment. Five bridges were passed through, at Henry, at Peru, the wagon bridge at Shippingsport opposite LaSalle, the Illinois Central railroad bridge also at this point, the draw of which we learn was opened for the first time for a steamboat, and a pontoon bridge between that point and the rock. As each of the party carried dinner, many spread the cloth and partook of a repast on board the boat on the way up, while the more zealous for the honor bore their baskets to the summit and partook of their dinners from the rock.

The boat landed about noon but a short distance, and a couple of hours were permitted in about this romantic spot. The ascent to the summit of Starved Rock is very difficult, and with a small outlay could be made very passable, which LaSalle county, with its usual public spirit, ought to provide. On the rock the company enjoyed themselves by reading the names carved on the various rocks by visitors, hunting relics, gathering flowers and plants that grow about the rocks, one of them being so fortunate as to find an Indian arrow head, while a cotillion party was another feature.

After dinner several impromptu speeches were made, the speakers being Hon. P. S. Perley of Henry, Rev. Tracy a Congregational preacher of Lacon, and Allen N. Ford, the veteran ex-editor of the Lacon Gazette, who remarks referred to the rock, its historic importance, and the pleasure they had of standing upon one of the most renowned, valued and important spots in the state of Illinois.


The Illinois river was first discovered by white men in September 1673. Where Utica now stands they discovered the great Indian town of the Illinois tribe. The tribe was very powerful, and it is said owned and occupied all the land between Lake Michigan to the Mississippi, and from Rock river to the mouth of the Ohio, including the state of Illinois. This territory was called by the Indians the buffalo country, and here roamed the deer, buffalo, elk and other wild game, and was the best hunting grounds on the continent, and other powerful tribes trespassing, caused many feuds and wars between them and the Illinois tribe.

Finally a council of war was held by the several chiefs, which was harmonious until the allies set up a claim for a part of the Illinois territory, when ill feeling was engendered. Kineboo, the chief of the Illinois, was very much enraged, and in his speech declared “Rather than submit to these terms, his tribe would sacrifice the last drop of blood in their veins, and would let their squaws and papooses be scalped by a barbarous enemy.”

Pontiac, the chief of the Ottawas, and one of great influence with the other tribes, demanded their claim, and exhorted all the other tribes to stand by him, “and never lay down the tomahawk until their terms were acceded to.” Greatly excited and enraged by Pontiac’s thrilling speech, the chief Kineboo drew his scalping knife, and stabbed Pontiac to the heart, causing instant death.

This treachery of Kineboo united the other tribes, to avenge Pontiac’s death, who was greatly beloved and mourned. The army was the most formidable ever collected in the west, and their motto was “victory or death, no quarter to the enemy, and never lay down the tomahawk until the Illinoians were annihilated.” For a time the defenders were victorious, but they were overpowered by numbers, and warrior, squaw and papoose were alike victims of the merciless tomahawk.

The few survivors of the great Illinois tribe, during a very dark, rainy night, some 300 of both sexes and all ages, sped to Starved Rock, where they hoped to be safe from their enemies. For a time their prospects were hopeful, but being besieged, their provisions finally gave out, and starvation stared them in the face, and all save one perished, that one, in dead of night, let himself down into the river by a buckskin string, and got away. The besieged becoming weakened by want of food, and death, were unable to resist longer, the victorious allies ascended the rock, tomahawking all that were found alive. Thus ended one of the most tragic scenes recorded in history.

This rocky cliff from the three sides, looks like some huge tower, and rises up some 136 feet perpendicularly. One the other side it receded inward, and here the ascent is made. The French explorers gave this rock the name of Le Rocher. Almost 200 years ago LaSalle built a fort on it, and manned it with 200 soldiers, and about it clustered the first colony of the Mississippi valley. From its summit is seen a beautiful panorama of prairie, river, towns, and bottom land, and from an early date to this day, picnic parties are captivated by its wild romantic scenery. It was an old landmark for the early adventurer.

About its base was the great Indian village of La Vantum, containing thousands of wigwams of the Illinois tribe; it was a great point for trading with the Indians; it was the head of river navigation, goods and passengers from St. Louis being transferred here to wagons for Chicago. With these important associations it has the honor of having the first colony in the Mississippi valley, also one of the first forts, of the early day, called St. Louis at one time, and historic especially for the tragic war and end of the once powerful Illinois tribe, from whom the name of our beautiful state is derived. In the 200 years past there has been no change in the outward appearance of the rock, and as a place of resort will ever be inviting for the romantic scenery about it, and its historic significance.

The excursion was richly valued by those who participated, and enjoyed by one and all.  Next time we propose a visit to Deer Park, another romantic natural curiosity of this region.

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