Juliette Augusta Magill Kinzie
Part 3 out of 7
After having travelled, as we judged, fully that distance, we came upon
a trail bearing northeast, and a consultation was held as to the
probability of its being the one we were in search of.
Mr. Kinzie was of opinion that it tended too much to the north, and was,
moreover, too faint and obscure for a trail so much used, and by so
large a body of Indians in their annual journeys.
Plante was positive as to its being the very spot where he and "Piche"
in their journey to Port Winnebago, the year before, struck into the
great road. "On that very rising-ground at the point of woods, he
remembered perfectly well stopping to shoot ducks, which they ate for
Mr. Kellogg was non-committal, but sided alternately with each speaker.
As Plante was "the guide," and withal so confident of being right, it
was decided to follow him, not without some demurring, however, on the
part of the bourgeois, who every now and then called to halt, to
discuss the state of affairs.
"Now, Plante," he would say, "I am sure you are leading us too far
north. Why, man, if we keep on in this direction, following the course
of the river, we shall bring up at Kosh-ko-nong, instead of Chicago."
"Ah! mon bourgeois," would the light-hearted Canadian reply, "would I
tell you this is the road if I were not quite certain? Only one year ago
I travelled it, and can I forget so soon? Oh, no--I remember every foot
But Monsieur Plante was convinced of his mistake when the trail brought
us to the great bend of the river with its bold rocky bluffs.
"Are you satisfied now, Plante?" asked Mr. Kinzie. "By your leave, I
will now play pilot myself." And he struck off from the trail, in a
direction as nearly east as possible.
The weather had changed and become intensely cold, and we felt that the
detention we had met with, even should we now be in the right road, was
no trifling matter. We had not added to our stock of provisions at
Dixon's, wishing to carry as much forage as we were able for our horses,
for whom the scanty picking around our encamping-grounds afforded an
insufficient meal. But we were buoyed up by the hope that we were in the
right path at last, and we journeyed on until night, when we reached a
comfortable "encampment," in the edge of a grove near a small stream.
Oh, how bitterly cold that night was! The salted provisions, to which I
was accustomed, occasioned me an intolerable thirst, and my husband was
in the habit of placing the little tin coffee-pot filled with water at
my bed's head when we went to rest, but this night it was frozen solid
long before midnight. We were so well wrapped up in blankets that we
did not suffer from cold while within the tent, but the open air was
severe in the extreme.
March 15th.--We were roused by the bourgeois at peep of day to make
preparations for starting. We must find the Sauk trail this day at all
hazards. What would become of us should we fail to do so? It was a
question no one liked to ask, and certainly one that none could have
On leaving our encampment, we found ourselves entering a marshy tract of
country. Myriads of wild geese, brant, and ducks rose up screaming at
our approach. The more distant lakes and ponds were black with them, but
the shallow water through which we attempted to make our way was frozen,
by the severity of the night, to a thickness not quite sufficient to
bear the horses, but just such as to cut their feet and ankles at every
step as they broke through it. Sometimes the difficulty of going forward
was so great that we were obliged to retrace our steps and make our way
round the head of the marsh, thus adding to the discomforts of our
situation by the conviction that, while journeying diligently, we were,
in fact, making very little progress.
This swampy region at length passed, we came upon more solid ground,
chiefly the open prairie. But now a new trouble assailed us. The weather
had moderated, and a blinding snow-storm came on. Without a trail that
we could rely upon, and destitute of a compass, our only dependence had
been the sun to point out our direction; but the atmosphere was now so
obscure that it was impossible to tell in what quarter of the heavens he
We pursued our way, however, and a devious one it must have been. After
travelling in this way many miles, we came upon an Indian trail, deeply
indented, running at right angles with the course we were pursuing. The
snow had ceased, and, the clouds becoming thinner, we were able to
observe the direction of the sun, and to perceive that the trail ran
north and south. What should we do? Was it safest to pursue our easterly
course, or was it probable that by following this new path we should
fall into the direct one we had been so long seeking? If we decided to
take the trail, should we go north or south? Mr. Kinzie was for the
latter. He was of opinion we were still too far north--somewhere about
the Grand Marais, or Kish-wau-kee. Mr. Kellogg and Plante were for
taking the northerly direction. The latter was positive his bourgeois
had already gone too far south--in fact, that we must now be in the
neighborhood of the Illinois River. Finding himself in the minority, my
husband yielded, and we turned our horses' heads north, much against his
will. After proceeding a few miles, however, he took a sudden
determination. "You may go north, if you please," said he, "but I am
convinced that the other course is right, and I shall face about--follow
So we wheeled round and rode south again, and many a long and weary mile
did we travel, the monotony of our ride broken only by the querulous
remarks of poor Mr. Kellogg. "I am really afraid we are wrong, Mr.
Kinzie. I feel pretty sure that the young man is right. It looks most
natural to me that we should take a northerly course, and not be
stretching away so far to the south."
To all this, Mr. Kinzie turned a deaf ear. The Frenchmen rode in
silence. They would as soon have thought of cutting off their right hand
as showing opposition to the bourgeois when he had once expressed his
decision. They would never have dreamed of offering an opinion or remark
unless called upon to do so.
The road, which had continued many miles through the prairie, at
length, in winding round a point of woods, brought us suddenly upon an
Indian village. A shout of joy broke from the whole party, but no
answering shout was returned--not even a bark of friendly welcome--as we
galloped up to the wigwams. All was silent as the grave. We rode round
and round, then dismounted and looked into several of the spacious huts.
They had evidently been long deserted. Nothing remained but the bare
walls of bark, from which everything in the shape of furniture had been
stripped by the owners and carried with them to their wintering-grounds,
to be brought back in the spring, when they returned to make their
corn-fields and occupy their summer cabins.
Our disappointment may be better imagined than described. With heavy
hearts, we mounted and once more pursued our way, the snow again falling
and adding to the discomforts of our position. At length we halted for
the night. We had long been aware that our stock of provisions was
insufficient for another day, and here we were--nobody knew where--in
the midst of woods and prairies--certainly far from any human
habitation, with barely enough food for a slender evening's meal.
The poor dogs came whining round us to beg their usual portion, but they
were obliged to content themselves with a bare bone, and we retired to
rest with the feeling that if not actually hungry then, we should
certainly be so to-morrow.
The morrow came. Plante and Roy had a bright fire and a nice pot of
coffee for us. It was our only breakfast, for, on shaking the bag and
turning it inside out, we could make no more of our stock of bread than
three crackers, which the rest of the party insisted I should put in my
pocket for my dinner. I was much touched by the kindness of Mr. Kellogg,
who drew from his wallet a piece of tongue and a slice of fruit-cake,
which he said "he had been saving for _the lady_ since the day before,
for he saw how matters were a going."
Poor man! it would have been well if he had listened to Mr. Kinzie and
provided himself at the outset with a larger store of provisions. As it
was, those he brought with him were exhausted early in the second day,
and he had been _boarding_ with us for the last two meals.
We still had the trail to guide us, and we continued to follow it until
about nine o'clock, when, in emerging from a wood, we came upon a broad
and rapid river. A collection of Indian wigwams stood upon the opposite
bank, and, as the trail led directly to the water, it was fair to infer
that the stream was fordable. We had no opportunity of testing it,
however, for the banks were so lined with ice, which was piled up tier
upon tier by the breaking-up of the previous week, that we tried in vain
to find a path by which we could descend the bank to the water.
The men shouted again and again, in hopes some straggling inhabitant of
the village might be at hand with his canoe. No answer was returned,
save by the echoes. What was to be done? I looked at my husband and saw
that care was on his brow, although he still continued to speak
cheerfully. "We will follow this cross-trail down the bank of the
river," said he. "There must be Indians wintering near, in some of these
points of wood."
I must confess that I felt somewhat dismayed at our prospects, but I
kept up a show of courage, and did not allow my despondency to be seen.
All the party were dull and gloomy enough.
We kept along the bank, which was considerably elevated above the water,
and bordered at a little distance with a thick wood. All at once my
horse, who was mortally afraid of Indians, began to jump and prance,
snorting and pricking up his ears as if an enemy were at hand. I
screamed with delight to my husband, who was at the head of the file,
"Oh, John! John! there are Indians near--look at Jerry!"
At this instant a little Indian dog ran out from under the bushes by the
roadside, and began barking at us. Never were sounds more welcome. We
rode directly into the thicket, and, descending into a little hollow,
found two squaws crouching behind the bushes, trying to conceal
themselves from our sight.
They appeared greatly relieved when Mr. Kinzie addressed them in the
"What are you doing here?"
"Digging Indian potatoes"--(a species of artichoke.)
"Where is your lodge?"
"On the other side of the river."
"Good--then you have a canoe here. Can you take us across?"
"Yes--the canoe is very small."
They conducted us down the bank to the water's edge where the canoe was.
It was indeed _very small_. My husband explained to them that they must
take me across first, and then return for the others of the party.
"Will you trust yourself alone over the river?" inquired he. "You see
that but one can cross at a time."
"Oh, yes"--and I was soon placed in the bottom of the canoe, lying flat
and looking up at the sky, while the older squaw took the paddle in her
hand, and placed herself on her knees at my head, and the younger, a
girl of fourteen or fifteen, stationed herself at my feet. There was
just room enough for me to lie in this position, each of the others
kneeling in the opposite ends of the canoe.
While these preparations were making, Mr. Kinzie questioned the women as
to our whereabout. They knew no name for the river but "Saumanong."
This was not definite, it being the generic term for any large stream.
But he gathered that the village we had passed higher up, on the
opposite side of the stream, was Wau-ban-see's, and then he knew that we
were on the Fox River, and probably about fifty miles from Chicago.
The squaw, in answer to his inquiries, assured him that Chicago was
"That means," said he, "that it is not so far off as Canada. We must not
be too sanguine."
The men set about unpacking the horses, and I in the mean time was
paddled across the river. The old woman immediately returned, leaving
the younger one with me for company. I seated myself on the fallen trunk
of a tree, in the midst of the snow, and looked across the dark waters.
I am not ashamed to confess my weakness--for the first time on my
journey I shed tears. It was neither hunger, nor fear, nor cold, which
extorted them from me. It was the utter desolation of spirit, the
sickness of heart which "hope deferred" ever occasions, and which of all
evils is the hardest to bear.
The poor little squaw looked into my face with a wondering and
sympathizing expression. Probably she was speculating in her own mind
what a person who rode so fine a horse, and wore so comfortable a
broadcloth dress, could have to cry about. I pointed to a seat beside me
on the log, but she preferred standing and gazing at me, with the same
pitying expression. Presently she was joined by a young companion, and,
after a short chattering, of which I was evidently the subject, they
both trotted off into the woods, and left me to my own solitary
"What would my friends at the East think," said I to myself, "if they
could see me now? What would poor old Mrs. Welsh say? She who warned me
that _if I came away so far to the West, I should break my heart?_
Would she not rejoice to find how likely her prediction was to be
These thoughts roused me. I dried up my tears, and by the time my
husband with his party and all his horses and luggage were across, I had
recovered my cheerfulness, and was ready for fresh adventures.
We followed the old squaw to her lodge, which was at no great distance
in the woods. I had never before been in an Indian lodge, although I had
occasionally peeped into one of the many always clustered round the
house of the Interpreter at the Portage.
This one was very nicely arranged. Four sticks of wood placed to form a
square in the centre, answered the purpose of a hearth, within which the
fire was built, the smoke escaping through an opening in the top. The
mats of which the lodge was constructed were very neat and new, and
against the sides, depending from the poles or frame-work, hung various
bags of Indian manufacture, containing their dried food and other
household treasures. Sundry ladles, small kettles, and wooden bowls also
hung from the cross-poles; and dangling from the centre, by an iron
chain, was a large kettle in which some dark, suspicious-looking
substance was seething over the scanty fire. On the floor of the lodge,
between the fire and the outer wall, were spread mats, upon which my
husband invited me to be seated and make myself comfortable.
The first demand of an Indian on meeting a white man is for _bread_, of
which they are exceedingly fond, and I knew enough of the Pottowattamie
language to comprehend the timid "_pe-qua-zhe-gun choh-kay-go_" (I have
no bread) with which the squaw commenced our conversation after my
husband had left the lodge.
I shook my head, and endeavored to convey to her that, so far from being
able to give, I had had no breakfast myself. She understood me, and
instantly produced a bowl, into which she ladled a quantity of Indian
potatoes from the kettle over the fire, and set them before me. I was
too hungry to be fastidious, and, owing partly, no doubt, to the
sharpness of my appetite, I really found them delicious.
Two little girls, inmates of the lodge, sat gazing at me with evident
admiration and astonishment, which were increased when I took my little
Prayer book from my pocket and began to read. They had, undoubtedly,
never seen a book before, and I was amused at the care with which they
looked _away_ from me, while they questioned their mother about my
strange employment and listened to her replies.
While thus occupied, I was startled by a sudden sound of "hogh!" and the
mat which hung over the entrance of the lodge was raised, and an Indian
entered with that graceful bound which is peculiar to themselves. It was
the master of the lodge, who had been out to shoot ducks, and was just
returned. He was a tall, finely-formed man, with a cheerful, open
countenance, and he listened to what his wife in a quiet tone related to
him, while he divested himself of his accoutrements, in the most
unembarrassed, well-bred manner imaginable.
Soon my husband joined us. He had been engaged in attending to the
comfort of his horses, and assisting his men in making their fire, and
pitching their tent, which the rising storm made a matter of some
From the Indian he learned that we were in what was called the Big
Woods, or "Piche's Grove," from a Frenchman of that name living not
far from the spot--that the river we had crossed was the Fox River--that
he could guide us to _Piche's_, from which the road was perfectly plain,
or even into Chicago if we preferred--but that we had better remain
encamped for that day, as there was a storm coming on, and in the mean
time he would go and shoot some ducks for our dinner and supper. He was
accordingly furnished with powder and shot, and set off again for game
I had put into my pocket, on leaving home, a roll of scarlet ribbon, in
case a stout string should be wanted, and I now drew it forth, and with
the knife which hung around my neck I cut off a couple of yards for each
of the little girls. They received it with great delight, and their
mother, dividing each portion into two, tied a piece to each of the
little clubs into which their hair was knotted on the temples. They
laughed, and exclaimed "Saum!" as they gazed at each other, and their
mother joined in their mirth, although, as I thought, a little unwilling
to display her maternal exultation before a stranger.
The tent being all in order, my husband came for me, and we took leave
of our friends in the wigwam, with grateful hearts.
The storm was raging without. The trees were bending and cracking around
us, and the air was completely filled with the wild-fowl screaming and
_quacking_ as they made their way southward before the blast. Our tent
was among the trees not far from the river. My husband took me to the
bank to look for a moment at what we had escaped. The wind was sweeping
down from the north in a perfect hurricane. The water was filled with
masses of snow and ice, dancing along upon the torrent, over which were
hurrying thousands of wild-fowl, making the woods resound to their
Had we been one hour later, we could not possibly have crossed the
stream, and there would have been nothing for us but to have remained
and starved in the wilderness. Could we be sufficiently grateful to that
kind Providence that had brought us safely through such dangers?
The men had cut down an immense tree, and built a fire against it, but
the wind shifted so continually that every five minutes the tent would
become completely filled with smoke, so that I was driven into the open
air for breath. Then I would seat myself on one end of the huge log, as
near the fire as possible, for it was dismally cold, but the wind seemed
actuated by a kind of caprice, for in whatever direction I took my seat,
just that way came the smoke and hot ashes, puffing in my face until I
was nearly blinded. Neither veil nor silk handkerchief afforded an
effectual protection, and I was glad when the arrival of our huntsmen,
with a quantity of ducks, gave me an opportunity of diverting my
thoughts from my own sufferings, by aiding the men to pick them and get
them ready for our meal.
We borrowed a kettle from our Indian friends. It was not remarkably
clean; but we heated a little water in it, and _prairie-hay'd_ it out,
before consigning our birds to it, and with a bowl of Indian potatoes, a
present from our kind neighbors, we soon had an excellent soup.
What with the cold, the smoke, and the driving ashes and cinders, this
was the most uncomfortable afternoon I had yet passed, and I was glad
when night came, and I could creep into the tent and cover myself up in
the blankets, out of the way of all three of these evils.
The storm raged with tenfold violence during the night. We were
continually startled by the crashing of the falling trees around us, and
who could tell but that the next would be upon us? Spite of our fatigue,
we passed an almost sleepless night. When we arose in the morning, we
were made fully alive to the perils by which we had been surrounded. At
least fifty trees, the giants of the forest, lay prostrate within view
of the tent.
When we had taken our scanty breakfast, and were mounted and ready for
departure, it was with difficulty we could thread our way, so completely
was it obstructed by the fallen trunks.
Our Indian guide had joined us at an early hour, and after conducting us
carefully out of the wood, and pointing out to us numerous
bee-trees, for which he said that grove was famous, he set off at a
long trot, and about nine o'clock brought us to _Piche's_, a log cabin
on a rising ground, looking off over the broad prairie to the east. We
had hoped to get some refreshment here, Piche being an old acquaintance
of some of the party; but, alas! the master was from home. We found his
cabin occupied by Indians and travellers--the latter few, the former
There was no temptation to a halt, except that of warming ourselves at a
bright fire that was burning in the clay chimney. A man in Quaker
costume stepped forward to answer our inquiries, and offered to become
our escort to Chicago, to which place he was bound--so we dismissed our
Indian friend, with a satisfactory remuneration for all the trouble he
had so kindly taken for us.
A long reach of prairie extended from Piche's to the Du Page, between
the two forks of which, Mr. Dogherty, our new acquaintance, told us, we
should find the dwelling of a Mr. Hawley, who would give us a
The weather was intensely cold; the wind, sweeping over the wide prairie
with nothing to break its force, chilled our very hearts. I beat my feet
against the saddle to restore the circulation, when they became benumbed
with the cold, until they were so bruised I could beat them no longer.
Not a house or wigwam, not even a clump of trees as a shelter, offered
itself for many a weary mile. At length we reached the west fork of the
Du Page. It was frozen, but not sufficiently so to bear the horses. Our
only resource was to cut a way for them through the ice. It was a work
of time, for the ice had frozen to several inches in thickness during
the last bitter night. Plante went first with an axe, and cut as far as
he could reach, then mounted one of the hardy little ponies, and With
some difficulty broke the ice before him, until he had opened a passage
to the opposite shore.
How the poor animals shivered as they were reined in among the floating
ice! And we, who sat waiting in the piercing wind, were not much better
off. Probably Brunet was of the same opinion; for, with his usual
perversity, he plunged in immediately after Plante, and stood shaking
and quaking behind him, every now and then looking around him, as much
as to say, "I've got ahead of you, this time!" We were all across at
last, and spurred on our horses, until we reached Hawley's--a
large, commodious dwelling, near the east fork of the river.
The good woman welcomed us kindly, and soon made us warm and
comfortable. We felt as if we were in a civilized land once more. She
proceeded immediately to prepare dinner for us; and we watched her with
eager eyes, as she took down a huge ham from the rafters, out of which
she cut innumerable slices, then broke a dozen or more of fine fresh
eggs into a pan, in readiness for frying--then mixed a _johnny-cake_,
and placed it against a board in front of the fire to bake. It seemed to
me that even with the aid of this fine, bright fire, the dinner took an
unconscionable time to cook; but cooked it was, at last, and truly might
the good woman stare at the travellers' appetites we had brought with
us. She did not know what short commons we had been on for the last two
We found, upon inquiry, that we could, by pushing on, reach Lawton's, on
the Aux Plaines, that night--we should then be within twelve miles of
Chicago. Of course we made no unnecessary delay, but set off as soon
after dinner as possible.
The crossing of the east fork of the Du Page was more perilous than the
former one had been. The ice had become broken, either by the force of
the current, or by some equestrians having preceded us and cut through
it, so that when we reached the bank, the ice was floating down in large
cakes. The horses had to make a rapid dart through the water, which was
so high, and rushing in such a torrent, that if I had not been mounted
on Jerry, the tallest horse in the cavalcade, I must have got a terrible
As it was, I was well frightened, and grasped both bridle and mane with
the utmost tenacity. After this we travelled on as rapidly as possible,
in order to reach our place of destination before dark.
Mr. Dogherty, a tall, bolt-upright man, half Quaker, half Methodist, did
his best to entertain me, by giving me a thorough schedule of his
religious opinions, with the reasons from Scripture upon which they were
based. He was a good deal of a perfectionist, and evidently looked upon
himself with no small satisfaction, as a living illustration of his
"St. John says," this was the style of his discourse, "St. John says,
'He that is born of God, doth not commit sin' Now, _if_ I am born of
God, I do not commit sin."
I was too cold and too weary to argue the point, so I let him have it
all his own way. I believe he must have thought me rather a dull
companion; but at least he gave me the credit of being a good listener.
It was almost dark when we reached Lawton's. The Aux Plaines was
frozen, and the house was on the other side. By loud shouting, we
brought out a man from the building, and he succeeded in cutting the
ice, and bringing a canoe over to us; but not until it had become
difficult to distinguish objects in the darkness.
A very comfortable house was Lawton's, after we did reach it--carpeted,
and with a warm stove--in fact, quite in civilized style, Mr. Weeks, the
man who brought us across, was the major-domo, during the temporary
absence of Mr. Lawton.
Mrs. Lawton was a young woman, and not ill-looking. She complained
bitterly of the loneliness of her condition, and having been "brought
out there into the woods; which was a thing she had not expected, when
she came from the East." We did not ask her with what expectations she
had come to a wild, unsettled country; but we tried to comfort her with
the assurance that things would grow better in a few years. She said,
"She did not mean to wait for that. She should go back to her family in
the East, if Mr. Lawton did not invite some of her young friends to come
and stay with her, and make it agreeable."
We could hardly realize, on rising the following morning, that only
twelve miles of prairie intervened between us and _Chicago le Desire_,
as I could not but name it.
We could look across the extended plain, and on its farthest verge were
visible two tall trees, which my husband pointed out to me as the
planting of his own hand, when a boy. Already they had become so lofty
as to serve as landmarks, and they were constantly in view as we
travelled the beaten road. I was continually repeating to myself, "There
live the friends I am so longing to see! There will terminate all our
trials and hardships!"
A Mr. Wentworth joined us on the road, and of him we inquired after the
welfare of the family, from whom we had, for a long time, received no
intelligence. When we reached Chicago, he took us to a little tavern at
the forks of the river. This portion of the place was then called _Wolf
Point_, from its having been the residence of an Indian named
"_Moaway_," or "the Wolf."
"Dear me," said the old landlady, at the little tavern, "what dreadful
cold weather you must have had to travel in! Why, two days ago the river
was all open here, and now it's frozen hard enough for folks to cross
Notwithstanding this assurance, my husband did not like to venture, so
he determined to leave his horses and proceed on foot to the residence
of his mother and sister, a distance of about half a mile.
We set out on our walk, which was first across the ice, then down the
northern bank of the river. As we approached the house we were espied by
Genevieve, a half-breed servant of the family. She did not wait to
salute us, but flew into the house, crying,--
"Oh! Madame Kinzie, who do you think has come? Monsieur John and Madame
John, all the way from Fort Winnebago on foot!"
Soon we were in the arms of our dear, kind friends. A messenger was
dispatched to "the garrison" for the remaining members of the family,
and for that day, at least, I was the wonder and admiration of the whole
circle, "for the dangers I had seen."
CHICAGO IN 1831.
Fort Dearborn at that day consisted of the same buildings as at
present. They were, of course, in a better state of preservation,
though still considerably dilapidated. They had been erected in 1816,
under the supervision of Captain Hezekiah Bradley, and there was a story
current that, such was his patriotic regard for the interests of the
Government, he obliged the soldiers to fashion wooden pins, instead of
spikes and nails, to fasten the timbers of the buildings, and that he
even called on the junior officers to aid in their construction along
with the soldiers, whose business it was. If this were true, the captain
must have labored under the delusion (excusable in one who had lived
long on the frontier) that Government would thank its servants for any
excess of economical zeal.
The fort was inclosed by high pickets, with bastions at the alternate
angles. Large gates opened to the north and south, and there were small
posterns here and there for the accommodation of the inmates. The bank
of the river which stretches to the west, now covered by the light-house
buildings, and inclosed by docks, was then occupied by the root-houses
of the garrison. Beyond the parade-ground, which extended south of the
pickets, were the company gardens, well filled with currant-bushes and
The fort stood at what might naturally be supposed to be the mouth of
the river. It was not so, however, for in those days the latter took a
turn, sweeping round the promontory on which the fort was built, towards
the south, and joining the lake about half a mile below. These buildings
stood on the right bank of the river, the left being a long spit of land
extending from the northern shore, of which it formed a part. After the
cutting through of this portion of the left bank in 1833 by the United
States Engineers employed to construct a harbor at this point, and the
throwing out of the piers, the water overflowed this long tongue of
land, and, continually encroaching on the southern bank, robbed it of
many valuable acres; while, by the same action of the vast body of the
lake, an accretion was constantly taking place on the north of the
The residence of Jean Baptiste Beaubien stood at this period between the
gardens and the river-bank, and still farther south was a rickety
tenement, built many years before by Mr. John Dean, the sutler of the
post. A short time after the commencement of the growth of Chicago, the
foundations of this building were undermined by the gradual encroachment
of the lake, and it tumbled backward down the bank, where it long lay, a
On the northern bank of the river, directly facing the fort, was the
family mansion of my husband. It was a long, low building, with a
piazza extending along its front, a range of four or five rooms. A broad
green space was inclosed between it and the river, and shaded by a row
of Lombardy poplars. Two immense cottonwood-trees stood in the rear of
the building, one of which still remains as an ancient landmark. A fine,
well-cultivated garden extended to the north of the dwelling, and
surrounding it were various buildings appertaining to the
establishment--dairy, bake-house, lodging-house for the Frenchmen, and
A vast range of sand-hills, covered with stunted cedars, pines, and
dwarf-willow-trees, intervened between the house and the lake, which
was, at this time, not more than thirty rods distant.
Proceeding from this point along the northern bank of the river, we came
first to the Agency House, "Cobweb Castle," as it had been denominated
while long the residence of a bachelor, and the _sobriquet_ adhered to
it ever after. It stood at what is now the southwest corner of
Wolcott and N. Water Streets. Many will still remember it, a
substantial, compact little building of logs hewed and squared, with a
centre, two wings, and, strictly speaking, two _tails_, since, when
there was found no more room for additions at the sides, they were
placed in the rear, whereon a vacant spot could be found.
These appendages did not mar the symmetry of the whole, as viewed from
the front, but when, in the process of the town's improvement, a street
was maliciously opened directly in the rear of the building, the whole
establishment, with its comical little adjuncts, was a constant source
of amusement to the passers-by. No matter. There were pleasant, happy
hours passed under its odd-shaped roof, as many of Chicago's early
settlers can testify.
Around the Agency House were grouped a collection of log buildings, the
residences of the different persons in the employ of Government,
appertaining to that establishment--blacksmith, striker, and laborers.
These were for the most part Canadians or half-breeds, with occasionally
a stray Yankee, to set all things going by his activity and enterprise.
There was still another house on the north side of the river, built by a
former resident by the name of Miller, but he had removed to "Riviere du
Chemin," or Trail Creek, which about this time began to be called
"Michigan City." This house, which stood near the forks of the
river, was at this time vacant.
There was no house on the southern bank of the river, between the fort
and "The Point," as the forks of the river were then called. The land
was a low wet prairie, scarcely affording good walking in the dryest
summer weather, while at other seasons it was absolutely impassable. A
muddy streamlet, or, as it is called in this country, a _slew_,
after winding around from about the present site of the Tremont House,
fell into the river at the foot of State Street.
At the Point, on the south side, stood a house just completed by Mark
Beaubien. It was a pretentious white two-story building, with
bright-blue wooden shutters, the admiration of all the little circle at
Wolf Point. Here a canoe ferry was kept to transport people across the
south branch of the river.
Facing down the river from the west was, first a small tavern kept by
Mr. Wentworth, familiarly known as "Old Geese," not from any want of
shrewdness on his part, but in compliment to one of his own cant
expressions. Near him were two or three log cabins occupied by Robinson,
the Pottowattamie chief, and some of his wife's connexions. Billy
Caldwell, the Sau-ga-nash, too, resided here occasionally, with his
wife, who was a daughter of Nee-scot-nee-meg, one of the most famous
chiefs of the nation. A little remote from these residences was a small
square log building, originally designed for a school-house, but
occasionally used as a place of worship whenever any itinerant minister
The family of Clybourn had, previous to this time, established
themselves near their present residence on the North Branch--they called
their place _New Virginia_. Four miles up the South Branch was an old
building which was at one time an object of great interest as having
been the theatre of some stirring events during the troubles of
1812. It was denominated Lee's Place, or Hardscrabble. Here lived,
at this time, a settler named Heacock.
Owing to the badness of the roads a greater part of the year, the usual
mode of communication between the fort and the Point was by a boat rowed
up the river, or by a canoe paddled by some skilful hand. By the latter
means, too, an intercourse was kept up between the residents of the fort
and the Agency House.
There were, at this time, two companies of soldiers in the garrison, but
of the officers one, Lieutenant Furman, had died the autumn previous,
and several of the others were away on furlough. In the absence of Major
Fowle and Captain Scott, the command devolved on Lieutenant Hunter.
Besides him, there were Lieutenants Engle and Foster--the latter
unmarried. Dr. Finley, the post surgeon, was also absent, and his place
was supplied by Dr. Harmon, a gentleman from Vermont.
My husband's mother, two sisters, and brother resided at the Agency
House--the family residence near the lake being occupied by J.N. Bailey,
In the Dean House lived a Mr. and Mrs. Forbes, who kept a school.
Gholson Kercheval had a small trading establishment in one of the log
buildings at Wolf Point, and John S.C. Hogan superintended the sutler's
store in the garrison.
There was also a Mr. See lately come into the country, living at the
Point, who sometimes held forth in the little school-house on a Sunday,
less to the edification of his hearers than to the unmerciful slaughter
of the "King's English."
I think this enumeration comprises all the white inhabitants of Chicago
at a period less than half a century ago. To many who may read these
pages the foregoing particulars will, doubtless, appear uninteresting.
But to those who visit Chicago, and still more to those who come to make
it their home, it may be not without interest to look back to its first
beginnings; to contemplate the almost magical change which a few years
have wrought; and from the past to augur the marvellous prosperity of
The origin of the name Chicago is a subject of discussion, some of the
Indians deriving it from the fitch or polecat, others from the wild
onion with which the woods formerly abounded; but all agree that the
place received its name from an old chief who was drowned in the stream
in former times. That this event, although so carefully preserved by
tradition, must have occurred in a very remote period, is evident from
an old French manuscript brought by General Cass from France.
In this paper, which purports to be a letter from M. de Ligney, at Green
Bay, to M. de Siette, among the Illinois, dated as early as 1726, the
place is designated as "Chica-goux." This orthography is also found in
old family letters of the beginning of the present century.
* * * * *
In giving the early history of Chicago, the Indians say, with great
simplicity, "the first white man who settled here was a negro."
This was Jean Baptiste Point-au-Sable, a native of St. Domingo, who,
about the year 1796, found his way to this remote region, and commenced
a life among the Indians. There is usually a strong affection between
these two races, and Jean Baptiste imposed upon his new friends by
making them believe that he had been a "great chief" among the whites.
Perhaps he was disgusted at not being elected to a similar dignity by
the Pottowattamies, for he quitted this vicinity, and finally terminated
his days at Peoria, under the roof of his friend Glamorgan, another St.
Domingo negro, who had obtained large Spanish grants in St. Louis and
its environs, and who, at one time, was in the enjoyment of an extensive
Point-au-Sable had made some improvements at Chicago, which were taken
possession of by a Frenchman named Le Mai, who commenced trading with
the Indians. After a few years Le Mai's establishment was purchased by
John Kinzie, Esq., who at that time resided at Bertrand, or _Parc aux
Vaches_, as it was then called, near Niles, in Michigan. As this
gentleman was for nearly twenty years, with the exception of the
military, the only white inhabitant of Northern Illinois, some
particulars of his early life may not be uninteresting.
He was born in Quebec in 1163. His mother had been previously married to
a gentleman of the name of Haliburton. The only daughter of this
marriage was the mother of General Fleming, Nicholas Low, Esq., and Mrs.
Charles King, of New York. She is described as a lady of remarkable
beauty and accomplishments. Mr. Kinzie was the only child of the second
marriage. His father died in his infancy, and his mother married a third
time a Mr. Forsyth, after which they removed to the city of New York.
At the age of ten or eleven years he was placed at school with two of
his half-brothers at Williamsburg, L.I. A negro servant was sent from
the city every Saturday, to bring the children home, to remain until the
following Monday morning. Upon one occasion, when the messenger arrived
at the school he found all things in commotion. Johnny Kinzie was
missing! Search was made in all directions; every place was ransacked.
It was all in vain; no Johnny Kinzie could be found.
The heavy tidings were carried home to his mother. By some it was
supposed the lad was drowned; by others that he had strayed away, and
would return. Weeks passed by, and months, and he was at length given up
and mourned as lost. In the mean time the boy was fulfilling a
determination he had long formed, to visit his native city of Quebec,
and make his way in life for himself.
He had by some means succeeded in crossing from Williamsburg to the city
of New York, and finding at one of the docks on the North River a sloop
bound for Albany, he took passage on board of her. While on his way up
the river, he was noticed by a gentleman, who, taking an interest in the
little lonely passenger, questioned him about his business.
"He was going to Quebec, where he had some friends."
"Had he the means to carry him there?"
"Not much, but he thought he could get along."
It happened, fortunately, that the gentleman himself was going to
Quebec. He took the boy under his care, paid his expenses the whole
distance, and finally parted with him in the streets of the city, where
he was, in truth, a stranger.
He wandered about for a time, looking into various "stores" and
workshops. At length, on entering the shop of a silversmith, he was
satisfied with the expression he read in the countenance of the master,
and he inquired if he wanted an apprentice.
"What, you, my little fellow! What can you do?"
"Anything you can teach me."
"Well, we will make a trial and see."
The trial was satisfactory. He remained in the family of his kind
friend for more than three years, when his parents, who, in removing to
Detroit, had necessarily returned to Canada, discovered his place of
abode, and he was restored to them.
There were five younger half-brothers, of the name of Forsyth. In the
old family Bible, we find the following touching record of an event that
occurred after the family had removed to Detroit:--
"George Forsyth was lost in the woods 6th August, 1775, when Henry Hays
and Mark Stirling ran away and left him. The remains of George Forsyth
were found by an Indian the 2d of October, 1776, close by the Prairie
It seems a singular fatality that the unhappy mother should have been
twice called to suffer a similar affliction--the loss of a child in a
manner worse than death, inasmuch as it left room for all the horrors
that imagination can suggest. The particulars of the loss of this little
brother were these. As he came from school one evening, he met the
colored servant-boy on horseback, going to the common for the cows. The
school-house stood quite near the old fort, and all beyond that, towards
the west, was a wild, uncultivated tract called "the Common." The child
begged of the servant to take him up and give him a ride, but the other
refused, bidding him return home at once. He was accompanied by two
other boys, somewhat older, and together they followed the negro for
some distance, hoping to prevail upon him to give them a ride. As it
grew dark, the two older boys turned back, but the other kept on. When
the negro returned he had not again seen the child, nor were any tidings
ever received of him, notwithstanding the diligent search made by the
whole little community, until, as related in the record, his remains
were found the following year by an Indian. There was nothing to
identify them, except the auburn curls of his hair, and the little boots
he had worn. He must have perished very shortly after having lost his
way, for the Prairie Ronde was too near the settlement to have prevented
his bearing the calls and sounding horns of those in search of him, had
he been living.
Mr. Kinzie's enterprising and adventurous disposition led him, as he
grew older, to live much on the frontier. He early entered into the
Indian trade, and had establishments at Sandusky and Maumee. About the
year 1800 he pushed farther west, to St. Joseph's, Michigan. In this
year he married Mrs. McKillip, the widow of a British officer, and in
1804 came to make his home at Chicago. It was in this year that the
first fort was built by Major John Whistler.
By degrees more remote trading-posts were established by him, all
contributing to the parent one at Chicago; at Milwaukie with the
Menomonees; at Rock River with the Winnebagoes and the Pottowattamies;
on the Illinois River and Kankakee with the Pottowattamies of the
Prairies, and with the Kickapoos in what was called "_Le Large_," being
the widely extended district afterwards erected into Sangamon County.
Each trading-post had its superintendent, and its complement of
engages--its train of pack-horses and its equipment of boats and canoes.
From most of the stations the furs and peltries were brought to Chicago
on pack-horses, and the goods necessary for the trade were transported
in return by the same method.
The vessels which came in the spring and fall (seldom more than two or
three annually), to bring the supplies and goods for the trade, took the
furs that were already collected to Mackinac, the depot of the Southwest
and American Fur Companies. At other seasons they were sent to that
place in boats, coasting around the lake.
* * * * *
Of the Canadian voyageurs or engages, a race that has now so nearly
passed away, some notice may very properly here be given.
They were unlike any other class of men. Like the poet, they seemed born
to their vocation. Sturdy, enduring, ingenious, and light-hearted, they
possessed a spirit capable of adapting itself to any emergency. No
difficulties baffled, no hardships discouraged them; while their
affectionate nature led them to form attachments of the warmest
character to their "bourgeois," or master, as well as to the native
inhabitants, among whom their engagements carried them.
Montreal, or, according to their own pronunciation, _Marrialle_, was
their depot. It was at that place that the agents commissioned to make
up the quota for the different companies and traders found the material
for their selections.
The terms of engagement were usually from four to six hundred livres
(ancient Quebec currency) per annum as wages, with rations of one quart
of lyed corn, and two ounces of tallow per diem, or "its equivalent in
whatever sort of food is to be found in the Indian country." Instances
have been known of their submitting cheerfully to fare upon fresh fish
and maple-sugar for a whole winter, when cut off from other supplies.
It was a common saying, "Keep an engage to his corn and tallow, he will
serve you well--give him pork and bread, and he soon gets beyond your
management." They regard the terms of their engagement as binding to the
letter. An old trader, M. Berthelet, engaged a crew at Montreal. The
terms of agreement were, that they should eat when their bourgeois did,
and what he did. It was a piece of fun on the part of the old gentleman,
but the simple Canadians believed it to be a signal instance of good
luck that had provided them such luxurious prospects. The bourgeois
stuffed his pockets with crackers, and, when sure of being quite
unobserved, would slily eat one. Pipe after pipe passed--the men grew
hungry, but, observing that there were no preparations of a meal for the
bourgeois, they bore their fast without complaining.
At length the matter became too serious--they could stand it no longer.
In their distress they begged off from the bargain, and gladly
compounded to take the customary rations, instead of the dainty fare
they had been promising themselves with their master.
On arriving at Mackinac, which was the entrepot of the fur trade, a
small proportion of the voyageur's wages was advanced him, to furnish
his winter's outfit, his pipes and tobacco, his needles and thread, some
pieces of bright-colored ribbons, and red and yellow gartering (quality
binding), with which to purchase their little necessaries from the
Indians. To these, if his destination were Lake Superior, or a post far
to the north where such articles could not be readily obtained, were
added one or two smoked deer-skins for moccasins.
Thus equipped, he entered upon his three years' service, to toil by day,
and laugh, joke, sing, and tell stories when the evening hour brought
rest and liberty.
There was not wanting here and there an instance of obstinate adherence
to the exact letter of the agreement in regard to the nature of
employment, although, as a general thing, the engage held himself ready
to fulfil the behests of his bourgeois, as faithfully as ever did vassal
those of his chief.
A Story is told of M. St. Jean, a trader on the Upper Mississippi, who
upon a certain occasion ordered one of his Frenchmen to accompany a
party to the forest to chop wood. The man refused. "He was not hired,"
he said, "to chop wood."
"Ah! for what, then, were you hired?"
"To steer a boat."
"Very well; steer a boat, then, since you prefer it."
It was mid-winter. The recusant was marched to the river-side, and
placed in the stern of the boat, which lay fastened in the ice.
After serving a couple of hours at his legitimate employment, with the
thermometer below zero, he was quite content to take his place with the
chopping-party, and never again thought it good policy to choose work
There is an aristocracy in the voyageur service which is quite amusing.
The engagement is usually made for three years. The engage of the first
year, who is called a "_mangeur-de-lard_," or pork-eater, is looked down
upon with the most sovereign contempt by an "_hivernant_," or one who
has already passed a winter in the country. He will not only not
associate with him, but if invited by him to join him in a friendly
glass, he will make some excuse for declining. The most inveterate
drunkard, while tortured by a longing to partake his favorite
indulgence, will yet never suffer himself to be enticed into an
infringement of this custom.
After the first winter, the _mangeur-de-lard_ rises from his freshman
class, and takes his place where he can in turn lord it over all
Another peculiarity of the voyageurs is their fancy for transforming the
names of their bourgeois into something funny, which resembles it in
sound. Thus, Kinzie would be called by one "_Quinze nez_" (fifteen
noses), by another "_Singe_" (monkeyfied). Mr. Kercheval was denominated
_Mons. Court-cheval_ (short horse), the Judge of Probate, "_le Juge
Trop-bete"_ (too foolish), etc. The following is an instance in point.
Mr. Shaw, one of the agents of the Northwest Fur Company, had passed
many years on the frontier, and was by the voyageurs called Monsieur Le
Chat. On quitting the Indian country he married a Canadian lady and
became the father of several children. Some years after his return to
Canada, his old foreman, named Louis la Liberte, went to Montreal to
spend the winter. He had heard of his old bourgeois' marriage, and was
anxious to see him.
Mr. Shaw was walking in the Champ de Mars with a couple of officers,
when La Liberte espied him. He immediately ran up, and, seizing him by
both hands, accosted him,--
"_Ah! mon cher Monsieur le Chat: comment vous portez-vous_?" (My dear
Mr. Cat, how do you do?)
"_Et comment se porte Madame la Chatte_?" (How is the mother cat?)
"_Bien, bien, Louizon; elle est tres-bien_" (She is very well.)
"_Et tous les petits Chatons_?" (And all the kittens?)
This was too much for Mr. Shaw. He answered shortly that the _kittens
were all well_, and turned away with his military friends, leaving poor
Louizon quite astonished at the abruptness of his departure.
Cut off, in the manner described, from the world at large, with no
society but the military, thus lived the family of Mr. Kinzie, in great
contentment, and in the enjoyment of all the comforts, together with
most of the luxuries, of life.
The Indians reciprocated the friendship that was shown them, and formed
for them an attachment of no ordinary strength, as was manifested during
the scenes of the year 1812, eight years after Mr. Kinzie first came to
live among them.
Some of the most prominent events of that year are recorded in the
MASSACRE AT CHICAGO.
It was the evening of the 7th of April, 1812. The children of Mr. Kinzie
were dancing before the fire to the music of their father's violin. The
tea-table was spread, and they were awaiting the return of their mother,
who had gone to visit a sick neighbor about a quarter of a mile up the
Suddenly their sports were interrupted. The door was thrown open, and
Mrs. Kinzie rushed in, pale with terror, and scarcely able to
articulate, "The Indians! the Indians!"
"The Indians? What? Where?" eagerly demanded they all.
"Up at Lee's Place, killing and scalping!"
With difficulty Mrs. Kinzie composed herself sufficiently to give the
information, "That, while she was up at Burns's, a man and a boy were
seen running down with all speed on the opposite side of the river; that
they had called across to give notice to Barns's family to save
themselves, for _the Indians_ were at Lee's Place, from which they had
just made their escape. Having given this terrifying news, they had made
all speed for the fort, which was on the same side of the river that
they then were."
All was now consternation and dismay. The family were hurried into two
old _pirogues_, that lay moored near the house, and paddled with all
possible haste across the river to take refuge in the fort.
All that the man and boy who had made their escape were able to tell,
was soon known; but, in order to render their story more intelligible,
it is necessary to describe the scene of action.
_Lee's Place_, since known by the name of Hardscrabble, was a farm
intersected by the Chicago River, about four miles from its mouth. The
farm-house stood on the western bank of the south branch of this river.
On the north side of the main stream, but quite near its junction with
Lake Michigan, stood (as has already been described) the dwelling-house
and trading-establishment of Mr. Kinzie.
The fort was situated on the southern bank, directly opposite this
mansion--the river, and a few rods of sloping green turf on either side,
being all that intervened between them.
The fort was differently constructed from the one erected on the same
site in 1816. It had two block-houses on the southern side, and on the
northern a sally-port, or subterranean passage from the parade-ground to
the river. This was designed either to facilitate escape in case of an
emergency, or as a means of supplying the garrison with water during a
The officers in the fort at this period were Captain Heald, the
commanding officer, Lieutenant Helm, the son-in-law of Mr. Kinzie, and
Ensign Ronan--the two last were very young men--and the surgeon, Dr. Van
The command numbered about seventy-five men; very few of whom were
A constant and friendly intercourse had been maintained between these
troops and the Indians. It is true that the principal men of the
Pottowattamie nation, like those of most other tribes, went yearly to
Fort Malden, in Canada, to receive a large amount of presents, with
which the British Government had, for many years, been in the habit of
purchasing their alliance; and it was well known that many of the
Pottowattamies, as well as Winnebagoes, had been engaged with the
Ottawas and Shawnees at the battle of Tippecanoe, the preceding autumn;
yet, as the principal chiefs of all the bands in the neighborhood
appeared to be on the most amicable terms with the Americans, no
interruption of their harmony was at any time anticipated.
After the 15th of August, however, many circumstances were recollected
that might have opened the eyes of the whites, had they not been lulled
in a fatal security. One instance in particular may be mentioned.
In the spring preceding the destruction of the fort, two Indians of the
Calumet band came to the fort on a visit to the commanding officer. As
they passed through the quarters, they saw Mrs. Heald and Mrs. Helm
playing at battledoor.
Turning to the interpreter, one of them, Nau-non-gee, remarked, "The
white chiefs' wives are amusing themselves very much; it will not be
long before they are hoeing in our corn-fields!"
This was considered at the time an idle threat, or, at most, an
ebullition of jealous feeling at the contrast between the situation of
their own women and that of the "white chiefs' wives." Some months
after, how bitterly was it remembered!
* * * * *
The farm at Lee's Place was occupied by a Mr. White and three persons
employed by him in the care of the farm.
In the afternoon of the day on which our narrative commences, a party of
ten or twelve Indians, dressed and painted, arrived at the house, and,
according to the custom among savages, entered and seated themselves
Something in their appearance and manner excited the suspicions of one
of the family, a Frenchman, who remarked, "I do not like the appearance
of these Indians--they are none of our folks. I know by their dress and
paint that they are not Pottowattamies."
Another of the family, a discharged soldier, then said to the boy who
was present, "If that is the case, we had better get away from them if
we can. Say nothing; but do as you see me do."
As the afternoon was far advanced, the soldier walked leisurely towards
the canoes, of which there were two tied near the bank. Some of the
Indians inquired where he was going. He pointed to the cattle which were
standing among the haystacks on the opposite bank, and made signs that
they must go and fodder them, and then they should return and get their
He got into one canoe, and the boy into the other. The stream was
narrow, and they were soon across. When they had gained the opposite
side, they pulled some hay for the cattle--made a show of collecting
them--and when they had gradually made a circuit, so that their
movements were concealed by the haystacks, they took to the woods, which
were close at hand, and made for the fort.
They had run about a quarter of a mile, when they heard the discharge of
two guns successively, which they supposed to have been levelled at the
companions they had left behind.
They stopped not nor stayed until they arrived opposite Burns's,
where, as before related, they called across to advertise the family of
their danger, and then hastened on to the fort.
It now occurred to those who had secured their own safety, that the
family of Burns was at this moment exposed to the most imminent peril.
The question was, who would hazard his own life to bring them to a place
of safety? A gallant young officer, Ensign Ronan, volunteered, with a
party of five or six soldiers, to go to their rescue.
They ascended the river in a scow, and took the mother, with her infant
of scarcely a day old, upon her bed to the boat, in which they carefully
conveyed her and the other members of the family to the fort.
A party of soldiers, consisting of a corporal and six men, had that
afternoon obtained leave to go up the river to fish.
They had not returned when the fugitives from Lee's Place arrived at
the fort, and, fearing that they might encounter the Indians, the
commanding officer ordered a cannon to be fired, to warn them of danger.
They were at the time about two miles above Lee's Place. Hearing the
signal, they took the hint, put out their torches (for it was now
night), and dropped down the river towards the garrison, as silently as
possible. It will be remembered that the unsettled state of the country
since the battle of Tippecanoe, the preceding November, had rendered
every man vigilant, and the slightest alarm was an admonition to "beware
of the Indians."
When the fishing-party reached Lee's Place, it was proposed to stop and
warn the inmates to be upon their guard, as the signal from the fort
indicated danger of some kind. All was still as death around the house.
They groped their way along, and as the corporal jumped over the small
enclosure he placed his hand upon the dead body of a man. By the sense
of touch he soon ascertained that the head was without a scalp, and
otherwise mutilated. The faithful dog of the murdered man stood guarding
the lifeless remains of his master.
The tale was now told. The men retreated to their canoes, and reached
the fort unmolested about eleven o'clock at night. The next morning a
party of the citizens and soldiers volunteered to go to Lee's Place, to
learn further the fate of its occupants. The body of Mr. White was found
pierced by two balls, and with eleven stabs in the breast. The
Frenchman, as already described, lay dead, with his dog still beside
him. Their bodies were brought to the fort and buried in its immediate
It was subsequently ascertained, from traders out in the Indian country,
that the perpetrators of this bloody deed were a party of Winnebagoes,
who had come into this neighborhood to "take some white scalps." Their
plan had been, to proceed down the river from Lee's Place, and kill
every white man without the walls of the fort. Hearing, however, the
report of the cannon, and not knowing what it portended, they thought it
best to remain satisfied with this one exploit, and forthwith retreated
to their homes on Rock River.
The inhabitants outside the fort, consisting of a few discharged
soldiers and some families of half-breeds, now intrenched themselves in
the Agency House. This stood west of the fort, between the pickets and
the river, and distant about twenty rods from the former.
It was an old-fashioned log building, with a hall running through the
centre, and one large room on each side. Piazzas extended the whole
length of the building in front and rear. These were planked up, for
greater security, port-holes were cut, and sentinels posted at night.
As the enemy were believed to be lurking still in the neighborhood, or,
emboldened by former success, likely to return at any moment, an order
was issued prohibiting any soldier or citizen from leaving the vicinity
of the garrison without a guard.
One night a sergeant and private, who were out on a patrol, came
suddenly upon a party of Indians in the pasture adjoining the esplanade.
The sergeant fired his piece, and both retreated towards the fort.
Before they could reach it, an Indian threw his tomahawk, which missed
the sergeant and struck a wagon standing near. The sentinel from the
block-house immediately fired, and with effect, while the men got safely
in. The next morning it was ascertained, from traces of blood to a
considerable distance into the prairie, and from the appearance of a
body having been laid among the long grass, that some execution had been
On another occasion the enemy entered the esplanade to steal horses.
Not finding them in the stable, as they had expected, they made
themselves amends for their disappointment by stabbing all the sheep in
the stable and then letting them loose. The poor animals flocked towards
the fort. This gave the alarm--the garrison was aroused--parties were
sent out, but the marauders escaped unmolested.
* * * * *
The inmates of the fort experienced no farther alarm for many weeks.
On the afternoon of the 7th of August, Winnemeg, or _Catfish_, a
Pottowattamie chief, arrived at the post, bringing despatches from
General Hull. These announced the declaration of war between the United
States and Great Britain, and that General Hull, at the head of the
Northwestern army, had arrived at Detroit; also, that the island of
Mackinac had fallen into the hands of the British.
The orders to Captain Heald were, "to evacuate the fort, if practicable,
and, in that event, to distribute all the United States' property
contained in the fort, and in the United States' factory or agency,
among the Indians in the neighborhood."
After having delivered his despatches, Winnemeg requested a private
interview with Mr. Kinzie, who had taken up his residence in the fort.
He stated to Mr. K. that he was acquainted with the purport of the
communications he had brought, and begged him to ascertain if it were
the intention of Captain Heald to evacuate the post. He advised strongly
against such a step, inasmuch as the garrison was well supplied with
ammunition, and with provisions for six months. It would, therefore, be
far better, he thought, to remain until a reinforcement could be sent to
their assistance. If, however, Captain Heald should decide upon leaving
the post, it should by all means be done immediately. The
Pottowattamies, through whose country they must pass, being ignorant of
the object of Winnemeg's mission, a forced march might be made, before
those who were hostile in their feelings were prepared to interrupt
Of this advice, so earnestly given, Captain Heald was immediately
informed. He replied that it was his intention to evacuate the post, but
that, inasmuch as he had received orders to distribute the United
States' property, he should not feel justified in leaving it until he
had collected the Indians of the neighborhood and made an equitable
division among them.
Winnemeg then suggested the expediency of marching out, and leaving all
things standing--possibly while the Indians were engaged in the
partition of the spoils, the troops might effect their retreat
unmolested. This advice was strongly seconded by Mr. Kinzie, but did not
meet the approbation of the commanding officer.
The order for evacuating the post was read next morning upon parade. It
is difficult to understand why Captain Heald, in such an emergency,
omitted the usual form of calling a council of war with his officers. It
can only be accounted for by the fact of a want of harmonious feeling
between himself and one of his junior officers--Ensign Ronan, a
high-spirited and somewhat overbearing, but brave and generous young
In the course of the day, finding that no council was called, the
officers waited on Captain Heald to be informed what course he intended
to pursue. When they learned his intentions, they remonstrated with him,
on the following grounds:
First--It was highly improbable that the command would be permitted to
pass through the country in safety to Fort Wayne. For although it had
been said that some of the chiefs had opposed an attack upon the fort,
planned the preceding autumn, yet it was well known that they had been
actuated in that matter by motives of private regard to one family, that
of Mr. Kinzie, and not to any general friendly feeling towards the
Americans; and that, at any rate, it was hardly to be expected that
these few individuals would be able to control the whole tribe, who were
thirsting for blood.
In the next place--Their march must necessarily be slow, as their
movements must be accommodated to the helplessness of the women and
children, of whom there were a number with the detachment. That of their
small force, some of the soldiers were superannuated, others invalid;
therefore, since the course to be pursued was left discretional, their
unanimous advice was, to remain where they were, and fortify themselves
as strongly as possible. Succors from the other side of the peninsula
might arrive before they could be attacked by the British from Mackinac;
and even should they not, it were far better to fall into the hands of
the latter than to become the victims of the savages.
Captain Heald argued in reply, that a special order had been issued by
the War Department, that no post should be surrendered without battle
having been given, and his force was totally inadequate to an engagement
with the Indians; that he should unquestionably be censured for
remaining, when there appeared a prospect of a safe march through; and
that, upon the whole, he deemed it expedient to assemble the Indians,
distribute the property among them, and then ask of them an escort to
Fort Wayne, with the promise of a considerable reward upon their safe
arrival--adding, that he had full confidence in the friendly professions
of the Indians, from whom, as well as from the soldiers, the capture of
Mackinac had been kept a profound secret.
From this time the officers held themselves aloof, and spoke but little
upon the subject, though they considered the project of Captain Heald
little short of madness. The dissatisfaction among the soldiers hourly
increased, until it reached a high pitch of insubordination.
Upon one occasion, as Captain Heald was conversing with Mr. Kinzie upon
the parade, he remarked, "I could not remain, even if I thought it best,
for I have but a small store of provisions."
"Why, captain," said a soldier who stood near, forgetting all etiquette
in the excitement of the moment, "you have cattle enough to last the
troops six months."
"But," replied Captain Heald, "I have no salt to preserve it with."
"Then jerk it," said the man, "as the Indians do their venison."
The Indians now became daily more unruly. Entering the fort in defiance
of the sentinels, they made their way without ceremony into the
officers' quarters. On one occasion an Indian took up a rifle and fired
it in the parlor of the commanding officer, as an expression of
defiance. Some were of opinion that this was intended among the young
men as a signal for an attack. The old chiefs passed backwards and
forwards among the assembled groups, with the appearance of the most
lively agitation, while the squaws rushed to and fro, in great
excitement, and evidently prepared for some fearful scene.
Any further manifestation of ill feeling was, however, suppressed for
the present, and Captain Heald, strange as it may seem, continued to
entertain a conviction of having created so amicable a disposition among
the Indians as would insure the safety of the command on their march to
Thus passed the time until the 12th of August. The feelings of the
inmates of the fort during this time may be better imagined than
described. Each morning that dawned seemed to bring them nearer to that
most appalling fate--butchery by a savage foe--and at night they
scarcely dared yield to slumber, lest they should be aroused by the
war-whoop and tomahawk. Gloom and mistrust prevailed, and the want of
unanimity among the officers debarred them the consolation they might
have found in mutual sympathy and encouragement.
The Indians being assembled from the neighboring villages, a council was
held with them on the afternoon of the 12th. Captain Heald alone
attended on the part of the military. He requested his officers to
accompany him, but they declined. They had been secretly informed that
it was the intention of the young chiefs to fall upon the officers and
massacre them while in council, but they could not persuade Captain
Heald of the truth of their information. They waited therefore only
until he had left the garrison, accompanied by Mr. Kinzie, when they
took command of the block-houses which overlooked the esplanade on which
the council was held, opened the port-holes, and pointed the cannon so
as to command the whole assembly. By this means, probably, the lives of
the whites who were present in council were preserved.
In council, the commanding officer informed the Indians that it was his
intention to distribute among them, the next day, not only the goods
lodged in the United States' factory, but also the ammunition and
provisions, with Which the garrison was well supplied. He then
requested of the Pottowattamies an escort to Fort Wayne, promising them
a liberal reward on arriving there, in addition to the presents they
were now about to receive. With many professions of friendship and good
will, the savages assented to all be proposed, and promised all he
After the council, Mr. Kinzie, who understood well, not only the Indian
character, but the present tone of feeling among them, had a long
interview with Captain Heald, in hopes of opening his eyes to the
present posture of affairs.
He reminded him that since the troubles with the Indians upon the Wabash
and its vicinity, there had appeared a settled plan of hostilities
towards the whites, in consequence of which it had been the policy of
the Americans to withhold from them whatever would enable them to carry
on their warfare upon the defenceless inhabitants of the frontier.
Mr. Kinzie also recalled to Captain Heald how that, having left home for
Detroit, the preceding autumn, on receiving, when he had proceeded as
far as De Charme's, the intelligence of the battle of Tippecanoe, he
had immediately returned to Chicago, that he might dispatch orders to
his traders to furnish no ammunition to the Indians; in consequence of
which all they had on hand was secreted, and such of the traders as had
not already started for their wintering-grounds, took neither powder nor
shot with them.
Captain Heald was struck with the impolicy of furnishing the enemy (for
such they must now consider their old neighbors) with arms against
himself, and determined to destroy all the ammunition except what should
be necessary for the use of his own troops.
On the 13th, the goods, consisting of blankets, broadcloths, calicoes,
paints, etc., were distributed, as stipulated. The same evening the
ammunition and liquor were carried, part into the sally-port, and thrown
into a well which had been dug there to supply the garrison with water
in case of emergency; the remainder was transported as secretly as
possible through the northern gate, the heads of the barrels knocked in,
and the contents poured into the river.
The same fate was shared by a large quantity of alcohol belonging to Mr.
Kinzie, which had been deposited in a warehouse near his residence
opposite the fort.
The Indians suspected what was going on, and crept, serpent-like, as
near the scene of action as possible, but a vigilant watch was kept up,
and no one was suffered to approach but those engaged in the affair. All
the muskets not necessary for the command on the march were broken up
and thrown into the well, together with the bags of shot, flints,
gunscrews, and, in short, everything relating to weapons of offence.
Some relief to the general feeling of despondency was afforded, by the
arrival, on the 14th of August, of Captain Wells with fifteen
Of this brave man, who forms so conspicuous a figure in our frontier
annals, it is unnecessary here to say more than that he had been
residing from his boyhood among the Indians, and consequently possessed
a perfect knowledge of their character and habits.
He had heard, at Fort Wayne, of the order for evacuating the fort at
Chicago, and, knowing the hostile determination of the Pottowattamies,
he had made a rapid march across the country, to prevent the exposure
of his relative, Captain Heald, and his troops, to certain destruction.
But he came "all too late." When he reached the post he found that the
ammunition had been destroyed, and the provisions given to the Indians.
There was, therefore, now no alternative, and every preparation was made
for the march of the troops on the following morning.
On the afternoon of the same day, a second council was held with the
Indians. They expressed great indignation at the destruction of the
ammunition and liquor.
Notwithstanding the precautions that had been taken to preserve secrecy,
the noise of knocking in the heads of the barrels had betrayed the
operations of the preceding night; indeed, so great was the quantity of
liquor thrown into the river, that the taste of the water the next
morning was, as one expressed it, "strong grog."
Murmurs and threats were everywhere heard among the savages. It was
evident that the first moment of exposure would subject the troops to
some manifestation of their disappointment and resentment.
Among the chiefs were several who, although they shared the general
hostile feeling of their tribe towards the Americans, yet retained a
personal regard for the troops at this post, and for the few white
citizens of the place. These chiefs exerted their utmost influence to
allay the revengeful feelings of the young men, and to avert their
sanguinary designs, but without effect.
On the evening succeeding the council, _Black Partridge_, a conspicuous
chief, entered the quarters of the commanding officer.
"Father," said he, "I come to deliver up to you the medal I wear. It was
given me by the Americans, and I have long worn it in token of our
mutual friendship. But our young men are resolved to imbrue their hands
in the blood of the whites. I cannot restrain them, and I will not wear
a token of peace while I am compelled to act as an enemy."
Had further evidence been wanting, this circumstance would have
sufficiently proved to the devoted band the justice of their melancholy
anticipations. Nevertheless, they went steadily on with the necessary
preparations; and, amid the horrors of their situation, there were not
wanting gallant hearts, who strove to encourage, in their desponding
companions, the hopes of escape they were far from indulging themselves.
Of the ammunition there had been reserved but twenty-five rounds,
besides one box of cartridges, contained in the baggage-wagons. This
must, under any circumstances of danger, have proved an inadequate
supply; but the prospect of a fatiguing march, in their present
ineffective state, forbade the troops embarrassing themselves with a
NARRATIVE OF THE MASSACRE, CONTINUED.
The morning of the 15th arrived. All things were in readiness, and nine
o'clock was the hour named for starting.
Mr. Kinzie, having volunteered to accompany the troops in their march,
had intrusted his family to the care of some friendly Indians, who
promised to convey them in a boat around the head of Lake Michigan to a
point on the St. Joseph's River, there to be joined by the troops,
should the prosecution of their march be permitted them.
Early in the morning Mr. Kinzie received a message from To-pee-nee-bee,
a chief of the St. Joseph's band, informing him that mischief was
intended by the Pottowattamies who had engaged to escort the detachment,
and urging him to relinquish his design of accompanying the troops by
land, promising him that the boat containing himself and family should
be permitted to pass in safety to St. Joseph's.
Mr. Kinzie declined acceding to this proposal, as he believed that his
presence might operate as a restraint upon the fury of the savages, so
warmly were the greater part of them attached to himself and his family.
The party in the boat consisted of Mrs. Kinzie and her four younger
children, their nurse Josette, a clerk of Mr. Kinzie's, two servants and
the boatmen, besides the two Indians who acted as their protectors. The
boat started, but had scarcely reached the mouth of the river, which, it
will be recollected, was here half a mile below the fort, when another
messenger from To-pee-nee-bee arrived to detain them where they were.
There was no mistaking the reason of this detention.
In breathless anxiety sat the wife and mother. She was a woman of
uncommon energy and strength of character, yet her heart died within her
as she folded her arms around her helpless infants, and gazed upon the
march of her husband and eldest child to certain destruction.
As the troops left the fort, the band struck up the Dead March. On they
came, in military array, but with solemn mien. Captain Wells took the
lead at the head of his little band of Miamis. He had blackened his face
before leaving the garrison, in token of his impending fate. They took
their route along the lake shore. When they reached the point where
commenced a range of sand-hills intervening between the prairie and the
beach, the escort of Pottowattamies, in number about five hundred, kept
the level of the prairie, instead of continuing along the beach with the
Americans and Miamis.
They had marched perhaps a mile and a half, when Captain Wells, who had
kept somewhat in advance with his Miamis, came riding furiously back.
"They are about to attack us," shouted he; "form instantly, and charge
Scarcely were the words uttered, when a volley was showered from among
the sand-hills. The troops were hastily brought into line, and charged
up the bank. One man, a veteran of seventy winters, fell as they
ascended. The remainder of the scene is best described in the words of
an eye-witness and participator in the tragedy, Mrs. Helm, the wife of
Captain (then Lieutenant) Helm, and step-daughter of Mr. Kinzie.
* * * * *
"After we had left the bank the firing became general. The Miamis fled
at the outset. Their chief rode up to the Pottowattamies, and said:
"'You have deceived the Americans and us. You have done a bad action,
and (brandishing his tomahawk) I will be the first to head a party of
Americans to return and punish your treachery.' So saying, he galloped
after his companions, who were now scouring across the prairies.
"The troops behaved most gallantly. They were but a handful, but they
seemed resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Our horses
pranced and bounded, and could hardly be restrained as the balls
whistled among them. I drew off a little, and gazed upon my husband and
father, who were yet unharmed. I felt that my hour was come, and
endeavored to forget those I loved, and prepare myself for my
"While I was thus engaged, the surgeon, Dr. Van Voorhees, came up. He
was badly wounded. His horse had been shot under him, and he had
received a ball in his leg. Every muscle of his face was quivering with
the agony of terror. He said to me, 'Do you think they will take our
lives? I am badly wounded, but I think not mortally. Perhaps we might
purchase our lives by promising them a large reward. Do you think there
is any chance?'
"'Dr. Van Voorhees,' said I, 'do not let us waste the few moments that
yet remain to us in such vain hopes. Our fate is inevitable. In a few
moments we must appear before the bar of God. Let us make what
preparation is yet in our power.'
"'Oh, I cannot die!' exclaimed he, 'I am not fit to die--if I had but a
short time to prepare--death is awful!'
"I pointed to Ensign Ronan, who, though mortally wounded and nearly
down, was still fighting with desperation on one knee.
"'Look at that man!' said I. 'At least he dies like a soldier.'
"'Yes,' replied the unfortunate man, with a convulsive gasp, 'but he has
no terrors of the future--he is an unbeliever!'
"At this moment a young Indian raised his tomahawk at me. By springing
aside, I partially avoided the blow, which was intended for my skull,
but which alighted on my shoulder. I seized him around the neck, and
while exerting my utmost efforts to get possession of his
scalping-knife, which hung in a scabbard over his breast, I was dragged
from his grasp by another and older Indian.
"The latter bore me struggling and resisting towards the lake.
Notwithstanding the rapidity with which I was harried along, I
recognized, as I passed them, the lifeless remains of the unfortunate
surgeon. Some murderous tomahawk had stretched him upon the very spot
where I had last seen him.
"I was immediately plunged into the water and held there with a forcible
hand, notwithstanding my resistance. I soon perceived, however, that the
object of my captor was not to drown me, for he held me firmly in such a
position as to place my head above water. This reassured me, and,
regarding him attentively, I soon recognized, in spite of the paint with
which he was disguised, _The Black Partridge_.
"When the firing had nearly subsided, my preserver bore me from the
water and conducted me up the sand-banks. It was a burning August
morning, and walking through the sand in my drenched condition was
inexpressibly painful and fatiguing. I stooped and took off my shoes to
free them from the sand with which they were nearly filled, when a squaw
seized and carried them off, and I was obliged to proceed without them.
"When we had gained the prairie, I was met by my father, who told me
that my husband was safe and but slightly wounded. They led me gently
back towards the Chicago River, along the southern bank of which was the
Pottowattamie encampment. At one time I was placed upon a horse without
a saddle, but, finding the motion insupportable, I sprang off. Supported
partly by my kind conductor, _Black Partridge_, and partly by another
Indian, Pee-so-tum, who held dangling in his hand a scalp, which by the
black ribbon around the queue I recognized as that of Captain Wells, I
dragged my fainting steps to one of the wigwams.
"The wife of Wau-bee-nee-mah, a chief from the Illinois River, was
standing near, and, seeing my exhausted condition, she seized a kettle,
dipped up some water from a stream that flowed near, threw into it
some maple-sugar, and, stirring it up with her hand, gave it me to
drink. This act of kindness, in the midst of so many horrors, touched me
most sensibly; but my attention was soon diverted to other objects.
"The fort had become a scene of plunder to such as remained after the
troops marched out. The cattle had been shot down as they ran at large,
and lay dead or dying around. This work of butchery had commenced just
as we were leaving the fort. I well remembered a remark of Ensign Ronan,
as the firing went on. 'Such,' turning to me, 'is to be our fate--to be
shot down like brutes!'
"'Well, sir,' said the commanding officer, who overheard him, 'are you
"'No,' replied the high-spirited young man, 'I can march up to the enemy
where you dare not show your face.' And his subsequent gallant behavior
showed this to be no idle boast.
"As the noise of the firing grew gradually less and the stragglers from
the victorious party came dropping in, I received confirmation of what
my father had hurriedly communicated in our _rencontre_ on the lake
shore; namely, that the whites had surrendered, after the loss of about
two-thirds of their number. They had stipulated, through the
interpreter, Peresh Leclerc, for the preservation of their lives, and
those of the remaining women and children, and for their delivery at
some of the British posts, unless ransomed by traders in the Indian
country. It appears that the wounded prisoners were not considered as
included in the stipulation, and a horrid scene ensued upon their being
brought into camp.
"An old squaw, infuriated by the loss of friends, or excited by the
sanguinary scenes around her, seemed possessed by a demoniac ferocity.
She seized a stable-fork and assaulted one miserable victim, who lay
groaning and writhing in the agony of his wounds, aggravated by the
scorching beams of the sun. With a delicacy of feeling scarcely to have
been expected under such circumstances, Wau-bee-nee-mah stretched a mat
across two poles, between me and this dreadful scene. I was thus spared
in some degree a view of its horrors, although I could not entirely
close my ears to the cries of the sufferer The following night five more
of the wounded prisoners were tomahawked."
* * * * *
The Americans, it appears, after their first attack by the Indians,
charged upon those who had concealed themselves in a sort of ravine,
intervening between the sand-banks and the prairie. The latter gathered
themselves into a body, and after some hard fighting, in which the
number of whites had become reduced to twenty-eight, this little band
succeeded in breaking through the enemy, and gaining a rising ground,
not far from the Oak Woods. Further contest now seeming hopeless,
Lieutenant Helm sent Peresh Leclerc, a half-breed boy in the service of
Mr. Kinzie, who had accompanied the detachment and fought manfully on
their side, to propose terms of capitulation. It was stipulated that the
lives of all the survivors should be spared, and a ransom permitted as
soon as practicable.
But in the mean time a horrible scene had been enacted. One young
savage, climbing into the baggage-wagon containing the children of the
white families, twelve in number, tomahawked the entire group. This was
during the engagement near the sand-hills. When Captain Wells, who was
fighting near, beheld it, he exclaimed,--
"Is that their game, butchering the women and children? Then I will
So saying, he turned his horse's head, and started for the Indian camp,
near the fort, where had been left their squaws and children.
Several Indians pursued him as he galloped along. He laid himself flat
on the neck of his horse, loading and firing in that position, as he
would occasionally turn on his pursuers. At length their balls took
effect, killing his horse, and severely wounding himself. At this moment
he was met by _Winnemeg_ and _Wau-ban-see_, who endeavored to save him
from the savages who had now overtaken him. As they supported him along,
after having disengaged him from his horse, he received his death-blow
from another Indian, _Pee-so-tum_, who stabbed him in the back.
The heroic resolution of one of the soldiers' wives deserves to be
recorded. She was a Mrs. Corbin, and had, from the first, expressed the
determination never to fall into the hands of the savages, believing
that their prisoners were always subjected to tortures worse than death.
When, therefore, a party came upon her, to make her a prisoner, she
fought with desperation, refusing to surrender, although assured, by
signs, of safety and kind treatment, and literally suffered herself to
be cut to pieces, rather than become their captive.
There was a Sergeant Holt, who, early in the engagement, received a ball
in the neck. Finding himself badly wounded, he gave his sword to his
wife, who was on horseback near him, telling her to defend herself; he
then made for the lake, to keep out of the way of the balls. Mrs. Holt
rode a very fine horse, which the Indians were desirous of possessing,
and they therefore attacked her, in hopes of dismounting her.
They fought only with the butt-ends of their guns, for their object was
not to kill her. She hacked and hewed at their pieces as they were
thrust against her, now on this side, now that. Finally, she broke loose
from them, and dashed out into the prairie. The Indians pursued her,
shouting and laughing, and now and then calling out,--
"The brave woman! do not hurt her!"
At length they overtook her again, and, while she was engaged with two
or three in front, one succeeded in seizing her by the neck behind, and
dragging her, although a large and powerful woman, from her horse.
Notwithstanding that their guns had been so hacked and injured, and even
themselves cut severely, they seemed to regard her only with admiration.
They took her to a trader on the Illinois River, by whom she was
restored to her friends, after having received every kindness during her
Those of the family of Mr. Kinzie who had remained in the boat, near the
mouth of the river, were carefully guarded by Kee-po-tah and another
Indian. They had seen the smoke--then the blaze--and immediately after,
the report of the first tremendous discharge sounded in their ears. Then
all was confusion They realized nothing until they saw an Indian come
towards them from the battle-ground, leading a horse on which sat a
lady, apparently wounded.
"That is Mrs. Heald," cried Mrs. Kinzie. "That Indian will kill her.
Run, Chandonnai," to one of Mr. Kinzie's clerks, "take the mule that is
tied there, and offer it to him to release her."
Her captor, by this time, was in the act of disengaging her bonnet from
her head, in order to scalp her. Chandonnai ran up, and offered the mule
as a ransom, with the promise of ten bottles of whiskey as soon as they
should reach his village. The latter was a strong temptation.
"But," said the Indian, "she is badly wounded--she will die. Will you
give me the whiskey at all events?"
Chandonnai promised that he would, and the bargain was concluded. The
savage placed the lady's bonnet on his own head, and, after an
ineffectual effort on the part of some squaws to rob her of her shoes
and stockings, she was brought on board the boat, where she lay moaning
with pain from the many bullet-wounds she had received in both arms.
The horse Mrs. Heald had ridden was a fine, spirited animal, and, being
desirous of possessing themselves of it uninjured, the Indians had aimed
their shots so as to disable the rider, without injuring her steed.
She had not lain long in the boat, when a young Indian of savage aspect
was seen appapproaching buffalo robe was hastily drawn over her, and she
was admonished to suppress all sound of complaint, as she valued her
The heroic woman remained perfectly silent, while the savage drew near.
He had a pistol in his hand, which he rested on the side of the boat,
while, with a fearful scowl, he looked pryingly around. Black Jim, one
of the servants, who stood in the bow of the boat, seized an axe that
lay near, and signed to him that if he shot, he would cleave his skull;
telling him that the boat contained only the family of Shaw-nee-aw-kee.
Upon this, the Indian retired. It afterwards appeared that the object of
his search was Mr. Burnett, a trader from St. Joseph's, with whom he
had some account to settle.
When the boat was at length permitted to return to the mansion of Mr.
Kinzie, and Mrs. Heald was removed to the house, it became necessary to
dress her wounds.
Mr. K. applied to an old chief who stood by, and who, like most of his
tribe, possessed some skill in surgery, to extract a ball from the arm
of the sufferer.
"No, father," replied he. "I cannot do it--it makes me sick
here"--(placing his hand on his heart.)
Mr. Kinzie then performed the operation himself, with his penknife.
At their own mansion the family of Mr. Kinzie were closely guarded by
their Indian friends, whose intention it was to carry them to Detroit
for security. The rest of the prisoners remained at the wigwams of their
The following morning, the work of plunder being completed, the Indians
set fire to the fort. A very equitable distribution of the finery
appeared to have been made, and shawls, ribbons, and feathers fluttered
about in all directions. The ludicrous appearance of one young fellow,
who had arrayed himself in a muslin gown and the bonnet of one of the
ladies, would, under other circumstances, have afforded matter of
Black Partridge, Wau-ban-see, and Kee-po-tah, with two other Indians,
having established themselves in the porch of the building as sentinels,
to protect the family from any evil that the young men might be excited
to commit, all remained tranquil for a short space after the
Very soon, however, a party of Indians from the Wabash made their
appearance. These were, decidedly, the most hostile and implacable of
all the tribes of the Pottowattamies.
Being more remote, they had shared less than some of their brethren in
the kindness of Mr. Kinzie and his family, and consequently their
sentiments of regard for them were less powerful.
Runners had been sent to the villages to apprise them of the intended
evacuation of the post, as well as of the plan of the Indians assembled
to attack the troops.
Thirsting to participate in such a scene, they hurried on; and great was
their mortification, on arriving at the river Aux Plaines, to meet with
a party of their friends having with them their chief Nee-scot-nee-meg,
badly wounded, and to learn that the battle was over, the spoils
divided, and the scalps all taken.
On arriving at Chicago they blackened their faces, and proceeded towards
the dwelling of Mr. Kinzie.
From his station on the piazza Black Partridge had watched their
approach, and his fears were particularly awakened for the safety of
Mrs. Helm (Mr. Kinzie's step-daughter), who had recently come to the
post, and was personally unknown to the more remote Indians. By his
advice she was made to assume the ordinary dress of a Frenchwoman of the
country; namely, a short gown and petticoat, with a blue cotton
handkerchief wrapped around her head. In this disguise she was conducted
by Black Partridge himself to the house of Ouilmette, a Frenchman with a
half-breed wife, who formed a part of the establishment of Mr. Kinzie
and whose dwelling was close at hand.
It so happened that the Indians came first to this house, in their
search for prisoners. As they approached, the inmates, fearful that the
fair complexion and general appearance of Mrs. Helm might betray her for
an American, raised a large feather bed and placed her under the edge of
it, upon the bedstead, with her face to the wall. Mrs. Bisson, a
half-breed, the sister of Ouilmette's wife, then seated herself with
her sewing upon the front of the bed.
It was a hot day in August, and the feverish excitement of fear and
agitation, together with her position, which was nearly suffocating,
became so intolerable, that Mrs. Helm at length entreated to be released
and given up to the Indians.
"I can but die," said she; "let them put an end to my misery at once."
Mrs. Bisson replied, "Your death would be the destruction of us all, for
Black Partridge has resolved that if one drop of the blood of your
family is spilled, he will take the lives of all concerned in it, even
his nearest friends; and if once the work of murder commences, there
will be no end of it, so long as there remains one white person or
half-breed in the country."
This expostulation nerved Mrs. Helm with fresh resolution.
The Indians entered, and she could occasionally see them from her
hiding-place, gliding about, and stealthily inspecting every part of the
room, though without making any ostensible search, until, apparently
satisfied that there was no one concealed, they left the house.
All this time Mrs. Bisson had kept her seat upon the side of the bed,
calmly sorting and arranging the patch-work of the quilt on which she
was engaged, and preserving an appearance of the utmost tranquillity,
although she knew not but that the next moment she might receive a
tomahawk in her brain. Her self-command unquestionably saved the lives
of all present.
From Ouilmette's house the party of Indians proceeded to the dwelling of
Mr. Kinzie. They entered the parlor in which the family were assembled
with their faithful protectors, and seated themselves upon the floor in
silence. Black Partridge perceived from their moody and revengeful
looks what was passing in their minds, but he dared not remonstrate with
them. He only observed in a low tone to Wau-ban-see,--
"We have endeavored to save our friends, but it is in vain--nothing will
save them now."
At this moment a friendly whoop was heard from a party of new-comers on
the opposite bank of the river. Black Partridge sprang to meet their
leader, as the canoes in which they had hastily embarked touched the
bank near the house.
"Who are you?" demanded he.
"A man. Who are _you_?"
"A man like yourself. But tell me _who_ you are,"--meaning, Tell me your
disposition, and which side you are for.
"I am a _Sau-ga-nash_!"
"Then make all speed to the house--your friend is in danger, and you
alone can save him."
_Billy Caldwell_ for it was he, entered the parlor with a calm step,
and without a trace of agitation in his manner. He deliberately took off
his accoutrements and placed them with his rifle behind the door, then
saluted the hostile savages.
"How now, my friends! A good-day to you. I was told there were enemies
here, but I am glad to find only friends. Why have you blackened your
faces? Is it that you are mourning for the friends you have lost in
battle?" (purposely misunderstanding this token of evil designs.)
"Or is it that you are fasting? If so, ask our friend, here, and he
will give you to eat. He is the Indian's friend, and never yet refused
them what they had need of."
Thus taken by surprise, the savages were ashamed to acknowledge their
bloody purpose. They, therefore, said modestly that they came to beg of
their friends some white cotton in which to wrap their dead before
interring them. This was given to them, with some other presents, and
they took their departure peaceably from the premises.
Along with Mr. Kinzie's party was a non-commissioned officer who had
made his escape in a singular manner. As the troops were about leaving
the fort, it was found that the baggage-horses of the surgeon had
strayed off. The quartermaster-sergeant, Griffith, was sent to collect
them and bring them on, it being absolutely necessary to recover them,
since their packs contained part of the surgeon's apparatus, and the
medicines for the march.
This man had been for a long time on the sick report and for this reason
was given the charge of the baggage, instead of being placed with the
troops. His efforts to recover the horses being unsuccessful, he was
hastening to rejoin his party, alarmed at some appearances of disorder
and hostile indications among the Indians, when he was met and made
prisoner by To-pee-nee-bee.
Having taken from him his arms and accoutrements, the chief put him into
a canoe and paddled him across the river, bidding him make for the woods
and secrete himself. This he did; and the following day, in the
afternoon, seeing from his lurking-place that all appeared quiet, he
ventured to steal cautiously into the garden of Ouilmette, where he
concealed himself for a time behind some currant-bushes.
At length he determined to enter the house, and accordingly climbed up
through a small back window into the room where the family were. This
was just as the Wabash Indians had left the house of Ouilmette for that
of Mr. Kinzie. The danger of the sergeant was now imminent. The family
stripped him of his uniform and arrayed him in a suit of deer-skin, with
belt, moccasins, and pipe, like a French engage. His dark complexion and
large black whiskers favored the disguise. The family were all ordered
to address him in French, and, although utterly ignorant of the
language, he continued to pass for a _Weem-tee-gosh_, and as such to
accompany Mr. Kinzie and his family, undetected by his enemies, until
they reached a place of safety.
On the third day after the battle, the family of Mr. Kinzie, with the
clerks of the establishment, were put into a boat, under the care of
Francois, a half-breed interpreter, and conveyed to St. Joseph's, where
they remained until the following November, under the protection of
To-pee-nee-bee's band. They were then conducted to Detroit, under the
escort of Chandonnai and their trusty Indian friend, Kee-po-tah, and
delivered up, as prisoners of war, to Colonel McKee, the British Indian
Mr. Kinzie was not allowed to leave St. Joseph's with his family, his
Indian friends insisting on his remaining and endeavoring to secure some
remnant of his scattered property. During his excursions with them for
that purpose, he wore the costume and paint of the tribe, in order to
escape capture and perhaps death at the hands of those who were still
thirsting for blood. In time, however, his anxiety for his family
induced him to follow them to Detroit, where, in the month of January,
he was received and paroled by General Proctor.
Captain and Mrs. Heald were sent across the lake to St. Joseph the day
after the battle. The former had received two wounds, the latter seven,
in the engagement.
Lieutenant Helm, who was likewise wounded, was carried by some friendly
Indians to their village on the Au Sable, and thence to Peoria, where he
was liberated by the intervention of Mr. Thomas Forsyth, the
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