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Black Hawk War
Submitted by Bob Johnson. Source: Map & Sketches of Bureau County, ILL., By N. Matson, published by the author, Chicago: George H. Fergus and Job Printer, 1867

As early as the Spring of 1830, an effort was made by Black Hawk to unite with him all the tribes, east of the Mississippi River, in a war of extermination against the frontier settlers of all the North-west. To accomplish this, he and the celebrated Prophet, a Winnebago chief, with many of their warriors, held councils and war dances at different places. One of these was held at Indiantown, when Black Hawk explained to the Pottawatomies, that unless they could prevent the whites from settling here they would soon loose their homes and hunting-grounds. Many of the warriors favored this union, but the principal chiefs opposed it. Again in the spring of 1831, Black Hawk made the same proposition to the Pottawatomies, and received great encoiuragement from them. He crossed the Mississippi River and took possession of his old village, at Rock Island; but the prompt action of the United States troops, and the Governor calling out the militia, defeated his plans; but it created a panic among the pioneer settlers. Some left the country for good; others went as far South as Peoria or Springfield, until the fright was over; not a few sent their families off and remained themselves to raise a crop. Many rumors were afloat of Indian hostilities, which were greatly exaggerated of course, but it kept the settlers on the alert, frequently having their guns with them while working in the field; sometimes leaving their cabins at night and sleeping in the grove, to prevent being surprised by the Indians. Although this passed off without bloodshed, it prevented the settlers from raising much of a crop or making improvements. But active hostility was only deferred one year. In April, 1832, Black Hawk again crossed the Mississippi River, with about 500 warriors, and commenced his march up Rock River, expecting all the Winnebagoes and part of the Pottawatomies to join his standard (which expectation was never realized). Some time previous to this, probably in February or March, a council was held, in the council-house, at Indiantwon. The prophet and some of the leading chiefs of the Sacs and Foxes were present, a proposition was made to the Indians of this County, if they would join the hostile band, and assist to murder all the settlers, west of the Illinois River, they would be entitled to all the spoils, and could appropriate all the horses, cattle, clothing, etc., belonging to the settlers to their use. But little did the settlers think, while sitting by their cabin fires, that these savages were debating among themselves the propriety of cutting their throats and those of their little ones. By the influence of Shaubena the peace party prevailed, but many of the young warriors pledged themselves to the support of Black Hawk's cause.

About the last of April, Shaubana and his band were encamped on the little branch South of the residence of C. Corss, near where the road now crosses said branch. It was noticed that strange Indians came to his camp, wearing idfferent kinds of dress from that worn by Shaubena's band, and there appeared to be great excitement. Indians could be seen riding back and forth across the prairie, at full speed, and within three days from that time not an Indian could be seen within the limits of this County. The news of Black Hawk's crossing the River had not reached the settlers, but those noticing the movement of the Indians prophesied evil ahead.

About four years after this occurrence, in conversation with Shaubena, he said, while encamped on Bureau, (supposed to be the time and place referred to) the son of Black Hawk and two other petty war chiefs came to him and said, "Black Hawk, with 1000 warriors, was at Prophetstown; and the whole Winnebago Nation had joined his standard;" (here they exhibited a diagram, drawn by the Prophet, on buckskin, showing in what way they could hold all of this country, and set the United States troops at defiance,) " and if he would join them they would, before three days, have 200 warriors here; kill all the settlers at one stroke; and take all the cattle and horses to Rock River, to supply Black Hawk's army."

On the 14th of May, Stillman was defeated at Old Man's Creek; the next day, runners came to Shaubena, then at Shaubena Grove, and renewed their proposition of joining them, stating that Atkinson's whole army had been annihilated, and they were masters of the whole of the Rock River country. Many of the young braves were detrmined to joing them, he could control them no longer; he knew within a few days many families would be murdered; his heart sickened at the thought of it; not knowing who to trust, even among his own friends, he determined to notify them of their danger himself. The first one he came to was Squire Dimmick at Dimmick's Grove; told him of the danger. Dimmick said he had left the year before, and it was nothing but a scare, and thought it would be so this time, at any rate, said he, "I will plant my corn first." Shaubena said to him, if he would stay, "Send off the squaws and pappooses, or they will all be killed before three days." Shaubena felt hurt that his story should not be creditied, left the house. Dimmick followed him out, to make further inquiries; he had already mounted his pony; raising his hand high above his head, said, "You must puckegee," meaning be off; and in a moment his pony wasin a gallop, to notify others. Before sundown, Dimmick was on the road to the fort at Hennepin.

Shaubena gave notice to Mr. Epperson, Mr. Musgrove, and Dr. Chamberlain, and left for Holderman's Grove and Indian Creek. The families of Hall, Davies, and Pennigrew were killed two days after receiving the warning, and four after Stillman's defeat.

The Indians came first to the Bureau settlement, where they intended to make the first attack,* and were surprised to find everybody gone. They next went to Indian Creek, and killed the families above referred to. The Indians intended to return to Bureau settlement and burn the houses, and kill the horses and cattle, but were afraid of the Rangers. They were very angry with Shaubena for giving warning to the settlers, called him a squaw and a traitor, and threatened his life. He and his band joined Atkinson's army, and remained with it during the war.

*Statement of Shaubena

When the settlers received the news of the  commencement of hostilities, there was a perfect panic; every one left with such means as were at hand, and it was well they did, for the sequel shows that a delay of a day or two would have proed fatal to many.

Henry Thomas was with Stillman's army when it met with a defeat, left for home immediately, to look after his family and friends; all prepared to leave forthwith. In that neighborhood there were five families, and but one wagon in running condition; but go tney must. Some took sleds and ox-teams, and by dark they were on the road to Peoria.

John L. Ament was planting corn when he got the news, left it and caught his horses. Placing his wife and little one upon one, and mounting the other himself, they started for McLean County. They had only gone a mile or two from thier cabin, when they discovered, at a distance, what they supposed to be a band of Indians. They put their horses at full speed, and Mr. Ament's hat blew off, but on they went for miles. Meeting other parties, the whole matter was explained - it was a party of rangers, who had come over from Hennepin to look after the settlers. Many mistakes of this kind occurred during the war, some of which are quite lalughable.

Most of the Bureau settlers went to Hennepin, where a fort was built to accommodate people on both sides of the River. Many of the able-bodied men volunteered as rangers, and were on duty until the war was over; some joined Atkinson's Army, as teamsters; while others left the country, never to return.

About the 20th of May, Major Baxter, with two companies of mounted rangers, mostly from St. Clair County, came to Henry Thomas's and there built a fort. The location of this fort was on the ground where Elias Carter's house now stands. It was a plain structure, consisting of a block-house, surrounded with barricades about fifteen feeet high, and was called Fort Thomas. The garrison consisted of 140 soldiers, who remained until the war was over. Had it not been for this fort, and the almost daily viits of mounted rangers from Hennepin, nothing would have been left in the Bureau settlement - houses would have been burned, and stock killed or driven off - as the settlers had gone, leaving most of their furniture in their houses, and their horses and cattle to roam at large on the prairie.

The following are the names of all the families living in this County at the time of the Black Hawk War; this does not include many single men, who had cabins and were living in them:

Town of Lamoille, Daniel Dimmick; Dover, John L. Ament; Princeton, Elijah Epperson, Dr. N. Chamberlain, Eli Smith, Elijah Smith, John Musgrave, Roland Moseley, Daniel , Robert Clark, and Joel Doolittle; Arispie, Michael Kitterman, Curtiss Williams, and Dave Jones; Selby, John Hall, William Hoskins, Amos Leonard, and John Clark; Wyanet, Abram Obrist and Bulbona; Burea, Henry Thomas, Ezekiel Thomas, Abram Stratton, and John M. Gay; Ohio, Dad Joe; Walnut, James Magby; Milo, Charles S. Boyd; Leepertown, Timothy Perkins an Leonard Roth.

There were some ten families at Holderman's Grove and Indian Creek, in LaSalle County. This constitutes all the settlers west of the Illinois River, except one family at Dixon, one a Buffalo Grove, and the miners about Galena.

Again in the spring of 1833, the settlers were alarmed by the movements of the Indians on Rock River. The Winnebagoes collected in large bodies, held councils and war dances. Many thought there was a union between them and the Pottawatomies to make one great effort to expel the whites and regain their homes and hunting-grounds. It was noticed that the Indians on Bureau were planting no corn, but collecting in bodies, and appeared shy and unfriendly. Many rumors were in circulation of their receiving a large amount of arms from the British in Canada. Every one thought thre was trouble a head, and to cap the climax one Michael Leonard came one day to the house of John Hall, very much excited, and said he had been attacked by a large body of Indians, on East Bureau, not far from where Mr. Fox now lives. He said many shots were fired at him and he barelyexcaped with his life; here he exhibited his hat with two ball holes in it. This created a great panic throughout the settlement, many left for Hennepin at a moment's notice, some took their families as far south as Peoria.

At Hennepin, a committee was appointed to examine Leonard's hat. It was found the ball holes were too low down, they could not have passed through his hat without passing through his head; many disbelieved his story, and accused him of shooting his own hat.

The settlers in the vicinity of Princeton made preparations to build a fort, the residence of Joel Doolittle was selected; here they put up barricades around his cabin, using the later for a block-house.

This affair passed off without bloodshed, but was great annoyance to the settlers, as they had to use the same precaution to guard against Indian hostility as they had done for two season before.

KILLING OF PHILLIPS  click here to continue on page 2

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