Remeninceses of Bureau County,Bureau County,Illinois,1872
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Remeninceses of Bureau Co > Chapter IX - Dad Joe

Source: Reminiscences of Bureau County, IL; By N. Matson; Originally published 1872; Republican Book & Job Office; Princeton, IL
Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin, Tampico Area Historical Society;


Dad Joe

At Dad Joe Grove lived Joseph SMITH, who was generally known by the name of DAD JOE. For many years he had been a pioneer, living at different places among the Indians, and was well acquainted with their customs and habits. In advance of the settement, DAD JOE had lived at Peoria, Rock Island, and at the lead mines, near Galena; and two years before the time of which we write, had settled at the grove for the purpose of entertaining travelers.

DAD JOE was a thick, heavy-set man, of great physical power, and was always clothed in loose garments, with a rope or leather girdle about his loins. He had a heavy bass voice, and in common conversation spoke so loud as to cause strangers to look at him with astonishment. His remarkable personal appearance, peculiar manners, and his lion-like voice, gave him great notoriety and there was but few people in those days, living in Illinois, who had not heard of DAD JOE.


He was kind and benevolent, almost to a fault; and he is probably the only man who lived and died in Bureau county without ever having an enemy.

About two miles west of DAD JOE'S residence, and at the east end of Red Oak Grove, lived a man by the name of James MAGBY, who had a wife and a large family of children. Besides these two families, there was no one living within twelve miles. One day while Mr. MAGBY's two daughters were on the prairie engaged in gathering flowers, they saw a large body of Indians approaching them, and believing that they were about to be murdered, fled with all haste to the residence of DAD JOE. On arriving at the house, they stated that the Indians had killed their mother, brothers and sisters. (Mr. MAGBY being absent at the time). This announcement created a great panic in DAD JOE'S family, as they too expected to be attacked within a few minutes. DAD JOE, whose courage never forsook him, made a hasty preparation to protect himself and family from the tomaawks and scalping knives of teh savages. Although at the time DAD JOE was laid up with a lame back, through the excitement of the moment, he sprang from his couch, caught his rifle, which hung on pegs above the door and prepared himself to give the Indians a warm reception.

Young Joe, a lad of fifteen years of age, mounted his horse and started for Bureau, to notify the settlers of their danger. In his haste to be off, he forgot to let down the barn yard bars, and urging his horse forward to make him jump them, he fell, throwing the rider over his head. Joe again mounted his horse, and put him at the top of his speed for Bureau settlement.

This affair turned out to be a false alarm. The Indians, (about three hundred in number), were Pottawatamies, from Bureau, and were on their way to a a country west of the Mississippi. When the Indians saw the frightened condition of MAGBY's family, they did not stop at the grove, but continued on their way westward.

A few days after this Indian fright, DAD JOE sent his family off to a place of safety, while himself and son, (Young Joe), remained on the farm in order to put in a crop. Each day they carried their guns with them while at work in the field, and they also kept their saddles close at hand, so they could mount their horses at a moment's notice. For many days they saw no one, as traveling through the country was now at an end. The grat Galena road, that passed by the house, over which formerly had ran a daily mail coach, as well as crowds of people passing to and from the lead mines, was now deserted; no traveler would risk his life in passing through a country then thought to be full of hostile savages.


One day while DAD JOE and son were at work in the field, they saw on the prairie, in the direction of East Grove, about sixty Indians approaching them. These Indians were armed with guns, were mounted on ponies, and their faces painted red - a sign of war. On seeing the Indians, DAD JOE and son gathered up their rifles, mounted their horses, and fled southward. But as the Indians did not discover them, they returned to a high piece of ground, where they could watch their movements, and also be ready to flee if pursued. The Indians went to the house, but finding one one there, they helped themselves to what they wished to eat, and carried away with them such articles as they could use. They also took with them four young pups, which they no doubt intended to roast for their supper. After leaving the house, the Indians discovered DAD JOE and his son on the priarie, and started towards them; but prudence required that the enemy should be kept at a proper distance, and they retired as the Indians approached. At last one of the Indians dismounted from his pony, and laying down his gun and tomahawk, approached them for the purpose of holding conversation. But as he came right to where they were standing, seeing the determined appearance of DAD JOE, who stood with rifle in his hand, the Indian's courage failed him, and he turned pale and stopped; but on being addressed by DAD JOE in a friendly manner, he took courage, and came forward to offer his hand.

This Indian wished to know if any army had gone north, and if it was the intention of the whites to fight them. DAD JOE, in reply, said no army had passed that way, and he had not seen a person for twelve days. The Indian said they did not wish to fight, but if attacked by the whites, they would carry the war into the settlement, and tomahawk every woman and child they coul find. By the Indian's dress and language, DAD JOE recognized him as one of Black Hawk's band, having lived at Rock Island among them a few years before. While living there, one of these Indians (being exasperated on account of the whites sesttling on their land, and also being under the influence of liquor), tomahawked DAD JOE'S wife, and she was only saved from instant death by Young Joe, then a lad of twelve years of age, riding his horse on the Indian. These things, coming fresh to DAD JOE'S mind, he felt like taking revenge on this Indian. He said afterwards to the writer, that he was tempted to shoot him on the spot, and trust to the fleetness of their horses to make their escape.


The night after their adventure with the Indians, DAD JOE and son, as usual, had barricaded the door of their house with puncheons, and with loaded guns by their side, they retired to the attic to sleep. They had been asleep but a short time, when they were awakened by a person lolloing and rapping at the door, asking admittance. DAD JOE suspected that is was an Indian in disguise, and had taken this plan to gain admittance to the house, so that he and his comrades could murder the inmates. The man at the door said he was a traveler, and wished entertainment only. After a long parley, DAD JOE said he would open the door but if betrayed, his life should pay the forfeit, as he would shoot him down on the spot. He removed the barricades, and opened the door with one hand, while in the other he held his trusty rifle ready for use if betrayed. The man at the door proved to be a lone traveler from the lead mines, and on his way home at the south. Being mounted on a fleet horse, and armed with a large holster pistol, he had undertaken the hazardous task of passing through a country which was thought to be full of hostile savages.


On the 12th of May, STILLMAN'S army, consisting of about seven hundred mounted rangers, mostly from the southern part of the State, arrived at Dad Joe Grove. The troops made no halt here, but continued on their way to Dixon's ferry. The baggage train, consisting of six wagons drawn by oxen, remained at the grove over night. This train was guarded by fifty mounted rangers, under the command of Captain HACKLETON. In this company of rangers, was a young man from Sangamon county, that every one called Abe. He was tall and slim, with long black hair, heavy eyelashes, and whose general appearance was awkward and unprepossessing, but his witticism, as well as his peculiar gift in telling stories, kept his comraes all the while in a state of merriment. This young man was a private in HACKLETON'S company, but before the close of the war he rose to be a captian, and thirty years afterwards he became President of the United States. His name was ABRAHAM LINCOLN. The wagons, belonging to the baggage train, were left in the edge of the grove, and the oxen, with bells on them, turned out on the prairie to feed. About midnight the bells were heard to ring, and a party of rangers went in pursuit of the oxen. Between Dad Joe and East Grove, they overtook a party of of Indians driving off the oxen; and on coming up with them, they fled in great haste, by putting their ponies at full speed. The night being dark and rainy, the rangers did not pursue them, but returned to camp with the stolen cattle. Means were used to guard against a surprise, as they were now in an enemy's country, and liable to be attacked at any moment. Rumors were afloat that a large body of Indian were seen that afternoon in the direction of the Winnebago swamps. Picket guards were established around the encampment, and the men ordered to sleep on their arms. The horses were tied to trees by the camp, so they could be mounted at a moment's notice.


Captain HACKLETON was a man fond of fun, always enjoying a good joke, and he now fell upon a plan of having some sport at other's expense. He also wished to test the courage of his men, and thereby ascertain whether or not they were reliable in case of emergency. He made his plans known to the guards, and a few friends, and immediately went to work to execute them. About an hour before day, the plans being all matured, a number of men went back in the grove, and raised the Indian war whoop, and at the same time the picket guards fired off their guns. Captain HACKLETON, and others who were in the plot, called on the men as they were sleeping in their blankets, to flee for their lives, as they were attacked by over one thousand Indians. Nothing could exceed the panic among the troops. Some prayed, others swore, but all sprang for their horses,with the intention of fleeing for their lives.

The surgeon of the company, who for many years after the war was well known in this community as a skillful physician, mounted his horse, but in his haste forgot to untie him from the tree; under the spur the horse sprang forward the length of the rope, then back again, bringing the doctor's head against the limb of a tree. The doctor, believing himself struck by an Indian war club or tomahawk, abandoned all hopes of escape, and at the top of his voice he sang out: "Mr. Injun, I surrender, spare my life."

Next morning DAD JOE and son left with the troops for Dixon's ferry, and retuned to the grove no more until the war was over.

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