Sketches of Bureau County by N. Matson

Taken From the Marshall County Republican Newspaper, Henry, IL

Central Illinois Before Its Settlement

Taken From the Marshall County Republican (reprinted from the Princeton Republican)
March 26, 1867

N. Matson contributes to the Princeton Republican a sketch of this section before its settlement by the whites commenced. He says:

I have given this subject some attention by comparing the different accounts relating thereto, and also by giving proper credence to statements made to me 32 years ago by all Indians who spent their boyhood days within the present limits of Bureau County, and also from statements made by Gurdon S. Hubbard, who hunted on Bureau creek 50 years ago.

Mr. Hubbard is now living in Chicago and is a large real estate dealer. He was one of the state commissioners to locate the Illinois and Michigan canal, and is undoubtedly better posted on the point than any man now living, forming the connecting link between past and the present.

In 1818 Mr. Hubbard, then a lad of 16 years, was employed as a clerk by the American fur company, and for some time resided on the Illinois river, opposite the mouth of Bureau.  Two years before this the fur company was established along the river, having 12 stations between Chicago and St. Louis. This section of the company was under the control of Antoine Deschamps, acting as general agent until 1826, when he was succeeded by Mr. Hubbard, who retained this agent for many years. Mr. Hubbard says, in 1819, while going down the river to St. Louis in a bateau, not a white person was to be seen until they came without 18 miles of St. Louis, except those engages in the fur trade.

In 1816 a cabin was built opposite the mouth of Bureau, called Bureau station. In 1821, Mix Robinson, a Connecticut Yankee, having a squaw for a wife, and half breed children, came to this point. His cabin was one half mile below. The next year Bulbona, who also had a squaw for a wife, located close by. Seven years afterwards he moved in Bullbons grove, and became a settler. Both of these men belonged to the fur company. In 1829, Thomas Hartzell, another fur trader, built a cabin a half a mile above Hennepin, and about this time the settlement commenced on both sides of the river. Antoine Deschamps, who spent his whole life where Peoria now stands, and was an old man in 1826, resigned the agency of the fur company on account of age. In his youth, while passing up and down the river, Deschamps said he would frequently have to stop his canoe to prevent being run over by buffalo swimming the stream.

Waha, an Indian chief of some note, spent much of his time hunting on Bureau, and when a boy he had seen large herds of buffalo feeding on the prairies. His father said they perished in the big snow of 1790. The next spring a few could be seen very poor and haggard in appearance, making their way westward from the east part of the state. As they would approach the carcasses of dead buffalo, which were scattered all over the country, they would stop and commence pawing and lowing for awhile, then start off on a lope for the west. From that time no buffalo was seen east of the Mississippi river. Old settlers will recollect that many years ago the bones and horns could be seen in many places and their deep cut trails were at this time visible on the prairie.

Indians who hunted on Bureau 50 years ago sold to their traders many elk and panther skins. Between West Bureau and Green river is said to have been a great range for elk.  Mr. Hubbard says after 1822 they got out four elk skins. But few then were killed on Bureau, while east of the river and toward the Wabash they were plenty.

The origin of the name Bureau, according to Indian tradition, is from a French trader, by the name of Bauro, who built a large trading post on Hickory Ridge below the mouth of the creek, though at what time is not known, except that it was some time previous to 1790. Deschamps says, when a boy he would every spring see canoes laded with buffalo skins and furs pass down the river. In 1812, Gov. Edwards burnt the village of the celebrated chief, Black Partridge, at the head of Peoria lake. His band being dispossessed of a horse, took refuge on Hickory Ridge, pulled down the old building erected by Bauro, and with the logs built a fortification fronting the river, so as to attack the troops if they should come up in their canoes. Mr. Hubbard says this fortification was still standing when he came to this country in 1818.

It is stated that a government surveying party, while encamped near the mouth of Bureau, during the summer of 1820, came very near loosing their lives by the hands of enraged Indians, which was causes at attempting to take liberties with some of their squaws. At midnight a large armed party left their village at Indiantown for the purpose of killing the whites. A peace party followed and overtook them one half mile from camp, and persuaded the avengers to abandon their purpose.

Bill Rogers Defies The Civil Authorities

Taken From the Marshall County Republican (reprinted from the Princeton Republican)
November 28, 1867

The Princeton Republican is furnished by N. Matson, with a few sketches of Bureau county in the early days, which have never before been published. As identified somewhat with this section, we copy them:

Most of the early settlers of this and other adjoining counties, were acquainted with Bill Rogers, who acquired great notoriety throughout the west, as a cunning(?) character.  And at a later day was equally noted in California, and was for some years sheriff at Sacramento. In the fall of 1837, the government removed the Indians from Michigan to lands assigned them on the west side of the Mississippi river. Rogers was employed to conduct a party of them to their new homes, and while passing through La Salle county, parties greedy of gain brought whiskey into camp to sell to the Indians. Rogers knocked in the heads of the barrels, spilt the liquor and chastised one of the dealers.

For this offense a warrant was issued for his arrest, and put into the hands of sheriff Langworthy of this county, who proceeded immediately to execute it; and, on coming up with Rogers in the valley of Bureau, a short distance above Tiskilwa, notified him that he was a prisoner, and would be taken forthwith to Ottawa. Rogers stretched his tall form up to its full height, while a self-possessing and yet determined smile lightened his dark visage, as he informed the sheriff that he could not be taken. Surrounded as he was with numerous friends, he was prepared to set at defiance the state, or even the United States authorities. He gave orders to the Indians, who formed around him in battle array. The sheriff not liking the looks of the tomahawks and riffles in the hands of 700 Indians, beat a hasty retreat, and Bill Rogers went on his way rejoicing.

Princeton Sent A Delegate to Spoon River

Taken From the Marshall County Republican (reprinted from the Princeton Republican)
November 28, 1867

The Princeton Republican is furnished by N. Matson, with a few sketches of Bureau county in the early days, which have never before been published. As identified somewhat with this section, we copy them:

In the spring of 1837, while the people of Bureau were agitating the subject of county division, a public meeting was held at Princeton, funds raised, and delegates appointed to visit all parts of Putnam and persuade the people to vote for the division. A. Sherwin was selected for Spoon river settlement, (now Stark county); he proceeded on his mission, and did his work well. As the sequel shows the people all voted for the division. But the strangest part is yet to be told. Thirty years have past and gone since his departure, and Mr. Sherwin has not yet returned to make his report. Some of his constituents begin to entertain fears that he has met with some accident.

Religion At The Time Of Early Settlement

Taken From the Marshall County Republican (reprinted from the Princeton Republican)
November 28, 1867

The Princeton Republican is furnished by N. Matson, with a few sketches of Bureau county in the early days, which have never before been published. As identified somewhat with this section, we copy them:

The Congregational and Methodist were the only organized churches for some years after the settlement of this county had commenced. In the spring of 1831, before leaving Massachusetts, a colony was formed called the Hampshire Colony Congregational Church. The society consisted of six members, who settled in the vicinity of Princeton.

Meetings were held at private houses, mostly at the residence of Dr. Chamberlin. In the fall of 1835 they built a church on the public square in Princeton. This was the first one built in the county. Their first pastor was the Rev. Lucien Farnham who came here in 1834 and remained until 1839, when he was succeeded by Owen Lovejoy. For the first two years Mr. Farnham obtained his support from the home missionary society of New England. In those days, many missionaries were sent to the west by this society, to preach to the heathens in the valley of the Mississippi, as it was then termed. Mr. Farnham no doubt thought Princeton needed the work of christianization.

It has often been said with regard to the settlement of the great west, as soon as an emigrant built a cabin in any of their groves, the next day he was certain to be called on by a Methodist preacher, looking for some place to hold meetings; and it was not uncommon in those days for them to have appointments 40 or 50 miles apart, traveling back and forth on horseback, with their saddle bags, containing a hymn book, pocket bible, and a change of linen. For the first seven years, meetings were held at private homes quarterly for the Bureau settlement, and frequently held at the residence of Abram Jones, west of Princeton, and were attended by people from all the settled parts of the county, and it was expected that a large share of the audience would stay for dinner. Mr. Jones lives in a double log cabin, and the minister would stand in the doorway and address his discourse equally to the occupants of each room.

Many of the early settlers will no doubt recollect an itinerant Methodist minister by the name of Wright, who preached in private houses in different parts of the county. Mr. Wright would always take his stand by a door or window, and commence his sermon on a low key, but as he advanced would become enthusiastic, raising his voice to its highest note, while clapping his hands and stamping his feet in a furious manner. In the excitement he would retreat backwards, always in bad order until he would find himself in one corner of the room among the pots and kettles, sometimes upsetting the dinner pot to the great annoyance of the lady of the house.

Princeton and the Underground Railroad

Taken From the Marshall County Republican (reprinted from the Princeton Republican)
January 9, 1868

About 20 years ago a young man with broad shoulders, black hair, and a peculiarly expressive eye, overshadowed with heavy eyebrow, was seen coming into Princeton on horseback. He was alone and a stranger without incans(?), and had come here by mere chance, being in search of a place to make his future home. This man was Owen Lovejoy, subsequently of political celebrity. Mr. Lovejoy was installed pastor of the Congregational church, which position he occupied for 16 years. From that time forward, Princeton became a place of note, although containing but a few hundred inhabitants and holding but limited commercial relations with the rest of the world, it was nevertheless made the head center of abolitionism throughout the state. Newspapers reporting proceedings of state conventions held here, and of great speeches made in favor of emancipation, made Princeton known to abolition circle throughout the United states. Even slaves in the south had heard of Princeton, and many of them came here to find what kind of place it was. This caused Col. Berksdale in a speech in congress, to say it was the greatest Negro stealing place in the west.

Mr. Lovejoy with that energy and firmness which distinguished him in after years, advocated the doctrine of the abolition of slavery, both in the pulpit and on the stump. And with his peculiar shake of the head and twinkle of the eye, he would make many strong assertions that were not believed by the masses, but has since turned out to be true. Being supported by such men as John Walkers and Deacon Caleb Cook, who were never known to make any concession to the slave power, he was always ready and willing to entertain and assist persons, regardless of color, while on their way from Missouri to Canada. According to the abolition papers of that day an underground railroad was established, extending from Missouri to Canada, passing through Princeton and making it a place of changing (..?..).

John Cross, a Wesleyan Methodist minister was announced the first general superintendent, and was afterwards succeeded by Owen Lovejoy. It was almost an every day occurrence for slaves to pass through out this line, while their master would follow after by the ordinary mode of conveyance, and he would be much surprised to find how fast his chattels had traveled. Many incidents occurred in this county, in connection with this road, that caused great excitement at the time, one or two, of which it may not be out of place to give here:

A young Negro by the name of John ran off from his master in Missouri, had located in Princeton, and was a general favorite with the people. His master finding out his whereabouts came after him, bringing a friend along to prove property. The slave was mowing in an empty lot in the north part of the village and did not see the slave-catchers until they were right on him, and as each one presented a pistol, he made no resistance. His hands were tied behind him, and the master holding the other end of the rope led him like a dog along the street. The news flew like lightning; people could be seen running hither and thither, very much excited. A warrant was issued, and the parties arrested for kidnapping, and taken to the court house for trial, the Negro also being taken with them. A large crowd had collected there, some for the master, others for the slave.

As the trial was progressing some one cut the rope that bound the Negro, and during the confusion that followed he escaped from the court house followed by the crowd, some calling out to stop him, other saying run John run. At the corner of Peru street, he was mounted on a horse and ordered to ride with all speed to the residence of Mr. Lovejoy and was followed by the people, the court and all, some of foot, others on horseback and in carriages. Mr. Lovejoy’s house was surrounded by a mass of excited people. Behind the barn was seen a person mounting a horse and the cry being raised "there goes the Negro", the slaveholding party put their horses at full speed after him while he took across the prairie in the direction of Dover. The chase continued for some distance, but on coming up with the fugitive they were very much surprised to find they were chasing Mr. Waldo with a black veil over his face.

The slave party attempted to force an entrance into the house, but Mr. Lovejoy forbid them doing so, without a due process of law. They applied for a search warrant, but the justice could see no property in man, and refused to issue one. There was at the house a black girl, whose clothes were put on the negro, and, with a basket on his arm, he started for the barn. Behind the barn a wagon was hitched, into this he went lying down and covering himself up with empty bags. The wagon was driven off and thus made his escape, while his master and friends stood guard around the horse, waiting for a search warrant.

About 24 years ago, the Rev. John Cross, for assisting a Negro in Knox county to make his escape, was subjected to the penalty of the law; a warrant was issued for his arrest and he was put into the hands of the sheriff of Bureau county, he being a resident of this county at that time. The deputy sheriff made the arrest, and proceeded with the prisoner on his way to Knoxville. At Oceola in Stark county, they stopped for the night; and it so happened that Mr. Cross had an appointment to preach there the next day, and asked the sheriff for permission to fill his appointment. The sheriff thinking it a scheme to make his escape, refused his (..?..). Some of Mr. Cross’ friends offered to guarantee his safe delivery after the service, but the sheriff was inexorable, saying the law made the no provision for "a criminal to stop between the place of arrest and the jail to deliver abolition lectures, that was in offense of the law", and should carry out its provisions to the letter, and that no abolition mob could intimidate him. To this they replied, Mr. Cross should stay, and intimated that he might get himself into trouble if he undertook forcible (...unreadable ....) Finding he had fallen into (...unreadable....) so he could not (...unreadable...) escape.

After the service was over, the sheriff set about summoning a posse to assist him to take the prisoner to Knoxville, but finding them all friends of the prisoner, he dismissed them, as he thought they would do him more harm than good. He then inquired of Cross, how much money he would ask to deliver himself up peaceably at Knoxville, to which Mr. Cross replied he would do it for $10. He thought that very exorbitant and offered $5; they finally agreed to $7. Everything being arranged they proceeded on their journey, but the sheriff was very uneasy thinking a trap had been lain, and that the prisoner’s friends would rescue him on the road, and he frequently inquired of Mr. Cross, if he thought they would commit any violence on him, to which Mr. Cross replied: he could not tell, his friends were very much exasperated at his arrest, and he did not know what they would do. Fear and forebodings of evil had taken possession of the sheriff’s mind, and he became excited and nervous. Mr. Cross assured him that he had nothing to do with the rescue, and, in fact did not wish it, for in that event he would lose the $7, which he stood very much in need of at that time.

While crossing Spoon river in the timber two men were seen in the road some distance off, while two others could be seen going in the same direction. Mr. Cross appeared surprised that his friends were appearing, and said he could defeat their plans. He told the sheriff to lie down in the bottom of the buggy, and he would cover him over with buffalo robes, so his friends seeing him alone and not under arrest would make no attempt to stop him, that he would just speak to the mob and pass right on. This arrangement being made the sheriff was nicely wrapped up in robes so that no part of him was visible.

On coming up with the men who were there by mere chance, Mr. Cross spoke to them and at the same time, putting whip to his horses, started off at full speed. A little further on where the road was very rough, he again spoke to some imaginary persons and again whipping his horses as before. The old buggy would rattle and creak as it passed through deep ruts, and over the stu...ibe. The sheriff’s head would first bound against the seat, then against the side of the box, while a suppressed groan would occasionally he heard from the "official victim."

Again and again Mr. Cross would speak as if meeting some one and whipping his horses again and again. This sport continued for a mile or two. Finally Mr. Cross made a halt and uncovered the sheriff, telling him to get up as they had now passed all danger. As he arose looking around him to assure himself that no enemy was near, and taking out his pistols to examine them saying at the same time if they had attacked him he would have made a powerful resistance.

That same day, the prisoner was safely delivered over to the authorities at Knoxville.

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