Embracing an Account of the Settlement
and Early Progress - Compiled and Published by Mr. Henry A. Ford in
Transcribed by Nancy Piper
Country Settlements In Marshall County
Round Prairie forms a part of one of the grand prairies, which here extends in towards the river, east of Lacon, until it meets the forest which crowns the bluff overlooking the valley of the Illinois. A semi-circular shape is given to this tract by the river woods on the west, the Sandy Creek timber on the north and the Crow Creek timber on the south. The prairie is about six miles between the points of the crescent.
The first settler upon it was Col. John Strawn, of Ohio, who is, with one exception, the oldest settler in Marshall county. He came to the Round Prairie in the fall of 1827, on a prospecting tour, and made an extensive claim on the western side, three or four miles from Lacon. In September of the following year, he removed thither with his family and made a settlement. Here he remained, the single white resident, until the early part of 1830, when Robert Bird, Sr., and Hoel Doddy, arrived and settled farther to the east. James Dever settled on the southern part in the autumn of the same year, where a fort stood during the Black Hawk war. Several others, with the customary dread of the open prairie manifested by early settlers, made claims along the edge of the forest, and by 1834, it had become almost completely skirted with farms, while a very few had ventured out toward the centre of the prairie.
At that date there was no legal road across it, except the old State highway on the eastern border, which ran from Springfield to Ottawa, and a wagon-track to Lacon. The settlers relied mainly upon Hennepin for mail matter and trade. Grain was generally hauled to Chicago with four-horse and ox teams, a week being consumed in the journey. The settlement of the prairie has steadily progressed, and it is entirely overspread with cultivated farms. The township to which great part of it belongs is called Richland, indicative of the character of the soil, which is very fertile. In 1852, a spacious church was built near the centre of the prairie, by the Methodist denomination which has since received the name of Phelps Chapel, in honor of an eminent Methodist Elder.
Shaws Point is one of the horns of the crescent forming the Round Prairie, nine miles east of Lacon. A considerable settlement has grown up in the vicinity, which takes its name from this point of timber. The first to settle here was George H. Shaw, who had been teaching school on the Ox Bow Prairie in 1830, and who removed to his present location the succeeding year.
During the Black Hawk war, himself and one or two of his neighbors sent their families to Tazewell county for protection, until a picket was erected near, when shelter was sought there. A brother-in-law of Mr. Shaw, Chas. S. Edwards, who came in Feb., 1832, was next in the settlement. It increased slowly for a number of years; but since the completion of the Central Railroad, many have settled in that region.
A foul murder was committed in a grog-shop near the Point, on the night of Dec. 23d, 1855, while both parties were under the influence liquor. It created a profound sensation.
Roberts Point is a spur of timber near Sandy Creek, three miles beyond Shaws. It is the oldest settlement in the county. Jesse Roberts came to the Point in the spring of 1828, and settled there in August. There was then no settlement south of him nearer than Washington, and very few north of him to the Illinois river. A small fort was built about his house during the Indian troubles. Several other settlers came in 1829-30, and the settlement is now thickly populated.
That part of the county comprising Belle Plaine Township and a large portion of Bennington was early known by the former name, which is the French term for beautiful prairie. It lies in a great part about the head of Crow Creek, south-west of the Round Prairie, and is finely interspersed with natural and cultivated groves. Settlement was attracted here but little later than to any other part of the county.
In 1831 James Martin arrived and settled near the head of the Creek, and about the same time one or two families named Bird settled in the vicinity, and Samuel Hawkins at Benningtons Grove, upon the farm now occupied by Jos. Bennington, who came in the autumn of 1832, with his brother Robert, followed by Thomas Bennington the succeeding year. A number of settlements were made during the next few years about Crow Creek, and out upon the prairie, but none were made east of Benningtons Grove until about 1850, when Solomon Williams made his home there.
Since the construction of the Central Railroad the country had settled up rapidly, and most of its covered with farms, which command high prices. Belle Plaine post-office was established here about 1835, the first in Marshall county, kept by Col. R. F. Bell. It is now kept in Pattonsburg.
Half Moon Prairie
This is located on the southern border of the county, extending some distance into Woodford, and take the name Half Moon, as will readily be conjectured, from its shape. Robert Barnes, from Ohio, was the first settler her, arriving in 1830, and locating upon the upper edge of the prairie. A few years after, one Phillips began improvement two miles below him; in 1835 Rev. H. D. Palmer, an eminent minister of the Christian denomination, and Wm. Maxwell, came and settled, followed by James Ledgerwood and others soon after. The village of Washburn stands upon this prairie.
Crow Creek Settlement
This is situated for the most part upon the fertile bottom along the lower part of the Creek, for four or five miles, though a number of farmers on the high grounds near the bluffs on either side are usually included within the settlement. The pioneer settler was Solomon Sowards, in 1830, of whose numerous descendants many are residing there. All the land easily accessible to cultivation is now taken up and occupied.
Tontis Stop By The Mouth Of Crow Creek And Father Gabriels Death in 1681
The region about the mouth of Crow Creek, on one or the other side of the river, is identified with incidents relating to several periods of Illinois history. In September, 1681, the year of La Salles illustarred expedition and the building of Fort Creve Coeur near Peoris, the Chevalier Tonti was recalled from Buffalo Rock, a few miles below Ottawa, where he was building a fortified post, by the news of mutiny in the fort, La Salle being absent. Some of the men deserted to the Indians; and Tonti concluded to abandon the fort with the rest.
Accordingly he embarked on the 11th of September, in a canoe, with five Frenchmen and two Jesuit missionaries, Fathers Gabriel and Zenoble. They proceeded to the head of Peoria lake, where they stopped to repair their canoe and dry their furs. While thus engaged, one of the missionaries, Father Gabriel, wandered into the woods, and was missing when the time for departure arrived. He was searched for in vain, guns were fired and fires lighted along the banks; but all without effect.
It was afterwards ascertained that he was murdered by a band of savages called Quicapous (Kickapoos). He was an old man of seventy years, devoted to the work of the church; and his loss was much regretted.* (*History of Illinois, chap. V., in the Western Pioneer for 1837. It cannot be definitely stated on which side of the river this occurred; but we have given the incident upon the possibility of its occurrence on the Marshall county side, and near Crow Creek.)
Gen. Cass council with the Pottawatamie Indians in 1827
It was in this vicinity, also, that Gen. Cass held a council with a great number of Pottawatamie Indians in June, 1827. A war had broken out between the Winnebagoes and whites, in south-western Wisconsin; and it was feared that other Indians of the West would join the hostile tribe, and a general war be the consequence. Gen. Cass went down the Mississippi and up the Illinois river, pacifying the tribes, and holding councils with them. One of these talks is said to have been held near the head of Peoria lake, and probably at the mouth of Crow Creek. At this council the Pottawatamies promised not to assist the hostile Indians.
Edwards campaign War of 1812
The chief incident of the expedition against the Indians of the Illinois river, known as Edwards campaign, in the war of 1812, occurred a little below the mouth of the Creek, on the same side of the river perhaps outside the limits of Marshall county. The expedition was organized in September, to make reprisals for the savage massacre at Chicago during the preceding month. It was under the command of Gov. Edwards, and numbered about three hundred and fifty strong. An account of the affair has been preserved by Gov. Reynolds, the Old Ranger, who was then a young man, member of a spy company under Cap. Samuel Judy. The account following is extracted from Reynolds My Own Times, p. 137-141. He communicated another statement to the editor of the Westen Anuals, which may be found in that work, p. 618-9. A detailed account of the transaction will also appear in the forthcoming Memoir of Gov. Edwards, by his son, Hon. Ninian W. Edwards. The army was mustered at Camp. Russell, in the southern part of the State, and marched northward past the site of Springfield, and by Elkheart Grove, all then a perfect wilderness.
We next reached an old Indian village on Sugar Creek, where we saw on the bark of the wigwams much painting, generally the Indians scalping the whites. We set it in flames, and traveling in the night towards Peoria. We were afraid that the Indians would know of our approach and leave the villages. We traveled on towards midnight, and camped. We had guides along who conducted the army to the village of Pottawatamies Indians, known as the Black Partridge village, situated at the Illinois river bluff, nearly opposite the upper end of Peoria Lake.
We camped within four or five miles of the village, and all was silent as a grave-yard as we expected a night attack, as was the case with Harrison at Tippecanoe. Our horses were tied near the camp, saddled and prepared for action if needed. We lay with our clothes on, and guns in our arms.
A soldier by the name of Bradshaw fixing his gun, it fired. Every man in the army was sure of a battle; but in a few minutes Gov. Edwards cried out, It was an accident!
Four men, Carlin, Roberts, Davis and Stephen Whiteside, volunteered to reconnoiter the Indian town, and did so; but were in great danger doing it. They reported to Governor Edwards the position of the enemy. The next morning, in a fog, our company, the spied, met two Indians, as we supposed, and our captian fired on them. Many of us before he shot begged for mercy for the Indians, as they wanted to surrender. But Judy said anybody will surrender when they cannot help it, and that he did not leave home to take prisoners. I saw the dust rise off the Indians leather shirt when Judys bullet entered his body. Both Indians were mounted on good horses. The wounded Indian commenced singing his death-song, and the blood streaming out of his mouth and nose. He was reeling, and a man from the main army, Mr. Wright, came up within a few years of the wounded Indian.
The Indian just previously had presented his gun at some of us near him, but we darted off our horses as quick as thought, and presented the horses between him and us, so he could not shoot us; but Wright was either surprised or something else, and remained on his horse. The Indian, as quick as a steel trap, shot Wright, and in a few minutes after the Indian expired. As soon as we heard the report of the Indians gun, Wright cried out with the pain of his wound, which was in his groin. The other Indian, supposed to be a warrior, was a squaw. But before the fact was known many guns were fired at her. It is singular that so many guns fired at the squaw and missed her; but when the whites surrounded her, and knew her sex, all was over. She cried terribly, and was taken prisoner, and at last delivered over to her nation. Many of the French in the army understood her language, and made her as happy as possible.
The army moved to the bluff near the village of the Black Partridge, and near it was a muddy creek, beyond which we saw some Indians jumping from tree to tree, which rendered it almost certain that we would be attacked crossing this creek. Our captain looked back, and I saw he had bullets in his mouth ready to put in his gun to load it. We sat light on our horses when we expected to receive the Indian fire every minutes; but it all passed off, much to our satisfaction, without our being fired on.
When the troops came near the village, no order or restraint could be observed. All pounced on the town pell-mell, with shouts loud and long but just when we came in sight the Indians, me, women, and children, retreated from the village in the greatest hurry and speed. Near the town were swamps, almost impassable, and a great portion of the horsemen were mired before they knew it.
My horse fell down in the mud, and I went rolling over his head into the swamp. Near me I saw Governor Edwards and horse flounder in a deep mud-hole, both down and covered with black mud. The village was built here on account of the mud and impassable morasses for defence. The Indians saved themselves by the swamps. Horsemen could not act, and the cat-tail and brush were so thick in these morasses that the Indians hid in them, and it was dangerous to approach them. Several parties on foot trailed after the body of the Indians two or three miles across this swampy bottom to the river, and killed some of the enemy on the route and at the river. A few of the army were wounded, but none killed. Three men, Howard, St. Jean and Kitchen, in the fury of the chase, crossed the Illinois river in the Indian canoes, in the face of many Indians, but were not killed.
The Indians had left their horses, camp kettles, corn, and everything on which to support themselves, in the village, which were all taken away or destroyed. The horses were all captured; and among them were some American horses that the Indians had stolen. What corn and other articles that could not be removed were burnt. A complete destruction of the village was effected. Some Indian children were found in the ashes, and saved. A large Indian was wounded, and thereby was unable to run off with the rest. He was starving, and ate bread varciously when it was given him. He was protected whilst the army remained in the village, but it wa said that some straggler behind killed him after the army left.
During our stay at the village, an Indian warrior deliberately walked down the bluff some couple of hundred yards from our troops, and fired his gun at us. He laughed loud, and slowly walked off. Some men were sent in pursuit, but could not find him. This was an Indian bravado. The army started back the same day.
Indian kettles and other articles have been found frequently near the site of this ancient village, and in the adjoining marshes.
This is an elevated river bottom west of the Illinois, not subject to inundation, extending about nine miles in length to the Snachwine settlement in Putnam county on the north, and being three to four miles in width from the river to the bluffs. It would seem that once there had been an expansion of the stream here, forming a lake. It the early day it was known as Crow Prairie, from the vast number of crows frequenting that region. It has taken its more recent name from the city located upon it. The alluvium of the prairie is very rich and deep, yielding abundant crops.
This part of Marshall county was among the earliest settled. Lat in the season of 1832, or early in the following year, Maj. Elias Thompson put up a house near the river above Henry, and Charles Nock took a claim on the prairie some distance below. Soon after them came the Hart and Reeves families, each quite numerous. Among other early settlers, were Ezekial and Marcus D. Stacy, Methem B. and Wm. H. Hunt, Reuben Converse, David Thompson, and Elijah Stacy. In 1835, Warford Bonham settled near the lower end of the prairie, with a number sons and sons-in-law. Since that time the increase of the settlement has kept pace with the growth of the country, and very few uncultivated spots are not left within its limits.
The Reeves Family Thieves of 1843
In 1843, and for some years previous, this region was harassed, by the frequent visits of horse-thieves and more petty depredators. Suspicion had long rested upon members of the Reeves family, who occupied a secluded residence in the bluffs west of the prairie. Some of them had fled the country, to escape the clutches of the law; and others were known to be pursuing a career of crime. The head of the family was charged with keeping a rendezvous for thieves of every grade, and a depot for their stolen property. His cabins were unusually well supplied with lodging accommodations, from cellar to garret; and suspicious-looking strangers were frequently seen for short periods about his premises.
These, with many other circumstances, added to the frequent loss of property in the neighborhood, at length settled beyond a doubt the fact that the Reeves family were leagued with the infamous banditti of the prairie, who for several years carried terror to all parts of Northern Illinois. Intense indignation was excited against them throughout a wide section of country, which only awaited some immediate exciting cause to culminate in violence.
This was found in June, 1843, in the occurrence of an unusual number of robberies about Lacon and Henry, and the subsequent escape of two of the thieves, named Cameron Reeves and John Allison by the connivance, as was alleged, of certain Peoria lawyers. Intelligence of an intended movement, and a request for co-operation, were sent in various directions; the necessary councils were held, and preliminary measures determined; and, when all things were in train, a summons was sent to the elder Reeves and wife, to attend a meeting of citizens at Robinsons Grove*, (*Since called Council Grove, in memory of this occasion. It stands on Henry Prairie, three miles south-west of the city, and half a mile west of the railroad track), about a mile from Reeves dwelling, on Saturday, the 17th of June, called to deliberate upon their fate. At the appointed hour on a brilliant forenoon of early summer, a long cavalcade of determined men, in wagons and on horseback, fully armed, wound its way from the north toward the place of council; while a similar procession slowly approached from the south.
At the same moment the aged couple summoned to meet the excited populace were observed making their way across the prairie to the grove, leading a little boy, the youngest of the family all clothed in dress of black. As they reached the designated place, the two processions came up and surrounded the grove, enclosing the doomed family within the circle. The assembly numbered about three hundred men, from the counties of Peoria, Stark, Bureau, Putnam, and Marshall. It was organized in an informal way, Hall S. Gregory being recognized as Chairman.
The meeting having informally organized, Dr. Swanzey, of Bureau was called. He responded with much warmth, depicted the fears and injuries to which the country had been subjected on account of Reeves, and ended by recommending a resort to violence. Dr. Boal, of Lacon, was then called up. He also spoke under excitement; but his sympathies and views were not in unison with those of Dr. Swanzey. While he expressed his belief, in common with others, that Reeves had rendered himself obnoxious to criminal allegations, he nevertheless contended for the claims of order, law and humanity. He said that if it were true that Reeves was guilty of horse-steeling and harboring thieve, the greatest punishment that the law could inflict would be imprisonment in the penitentiary; and that to derive him of life would be greater than the crime.
It was manifestly a task of no small magnitude to stem the current of indignation that was rolling in against Reeves. Demonstrations which made him tremble like an aspen leaf were seen on every band. Guns were cocked and drawn; and their owners were clamorous to have the cold lead leap from them to its intended victim.
After Dr. Boal had concluded, Dr. Temple, of Chillicothe, responded to a call. He took a middle course, avoiding the extremes of the first speakers. With Dr. Boal he deprecated anything like a resort to violence, and recommended the observance of order, and concluded by suggesting that a committee of twenty men be appointed to pack their household furniture, conduct them to Henry, and cause their departure on the first boat on its downward passage.
This suggestion proved acceptable to all except a few violent spirits who thirsted for the blood of Reeves. The meeting now scattered, and a committee, in conformity with their instructions, with many others, repaired to the dwelling of Reeves. The goods packed, and the family and all in readiness. Mrs. Reeves by her own request was permitted to return to the house, whre, after throwing from the fireplace a quantity of burning coals into some straw on the floor, she passed around the building, and taking a stone from the chimney, drew out and put in her bosom a small bag.* The main dwelling and out-houses were soon a smouldering ruin.
At evening on Saturday Reeves and family were put on board the steamer Dover, at Henry, where, with emotions of grief and humiliation, they gladly took leave of those from whom they apprehended a more dreadful fate, to try their fortunes among strangers. Reeves was as humble as a whipped dog his wife a perfect hurricane of passion. All were stricken with the deepest sorrow sorrow that their real or suspected crimes had involved them in ruin and indelible disgrace.
The family never attempted to return, and the gang of thieves on Henry Prairie was effectually broken up. The community has since enjoyed comparative exemption from their visitations.
*It should be remarked that the house had already been set on fire in several places by the citizens, and that the incendiary act of Mrs. Reeves was committed, in all probability, in a spirit of mere bravado.
A murder was committed on the farm of George Bonham, at the lower end of the prairie, during a sale held March 18th, 1854, Wm. Organ meeting his death at the hands of James Shinn, being stabbed to the heart while quieting a drunken quarrel. Upon trial and conviction, Shinn was sent to the State Prison for four and a half years. This verdict created much indignation throughout the county.
This name is given to the broad savanna upon the bluffs west of Henry Prairie, which extends to the great western prairie of the State, constituting large part of the Military Bounty Land Tract. Whitefield and Saratoga Townships are comprised by it. A few settlers located upon it in the early day, before the formation of the county; but it has filled up mostly since 1846.
Camping Grove is situated twelve miles due west of Lacon, on the line of the American Central Railway, and also on the Peoria and Galena road, the first State highway in Northern Illinois. In early times, when there was no settler within many miles, emigrants were much accustomed to stop at the Grove for the purpose of camping, whence it took the name. In 1840, Francis Grady, a hospitable Irishman, built a residence near, which has long furnished accommodation for man and beast. The country around is still somewhat sparsely settled, but must eventually become the home of a busy population. The high land in the vicinity is celebrated as among the loftiest eminences in the State, from which views may be obtained into seven counties.
Lawn Ridge is a continuation of the Blue Ridge of prairie land, which begins in Peoria county and stretches up for several miles into Marshall, where it becomes broader, more level and lawn-like. It is in the south-western corner of the county, and most of the settlement in included in La Prairie Township.
One of the first settlers, if not the first, was an Englishman named Wm. Coulson, who located on farm now occupied by A. Riddle, on the Peoria and Galena road, about 1837. In 1840, Mr. Richard Scholes settled three miles farther north. Since then the township has increased in population with varying rapidity, and is now covered with an almost continuous network of fences and hedges.
Yankee Street is the title of a lane four miles west of Lacon, and about a mile and a half long. There are a number of dwellings on either side of it, inhabited by the people of New England or New York descent, who have given the name Yankee Street to the settlement. The first here was Joel Atwood, who, with his sons and sons-in-law, Samuel Haynes and Allen Hunter, settled in 1835. Aaron and Levi Fosdick came soon after, and the settlement is now numerously populated.
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