McLean County, Illinois
When this section of the State began to be settled by the white people, the Kickapoo and the Pottawatomie Indians were in possession of the country between the Wabash and the Illinois Rivers. The two tribes seemed to be so promiscuously intermixed with each other, and with the fragments of some other tribes, as scarcely to be distinguishable, on the part of the early settlers.
Although they had confessedly disposed of their title to the country to the United States Government, they manifested some hostility of feeling when the pioneers came to take actual possession of their former hunting-grounds, and of the homes of themselves and of their fathers. They seemed to feel that their leaving the country was yielding to an inevitable necessity, brought upon them by the unwelcome encroachments of the white man, rather than complying with the terms of a voluntary cession of the territory.
The old Kickapoo chief, Machina, even threatened unpleasant consequences to the first installment of settlers in this county if they did not leave. But there were no evil results. In fact, the intercourse between these Indians and the early settlers, was, in this section of the country, of the most friendly character, as a general thing. They would sometimes steal necessaries from those whom they hated ; but the lives and the property of those who treated them kindly, and with whom they were on friendly terms, were as safe as among any other people. If they wanted a pig, or something of the kind, from a white neighbor, they were told to help themselves, and, on the other hand, if a friendly housewife wanted some game for food, it would soon be forthcoming from the red man. There is no record, nor yet tradition, that any white person was ever killed by the Indians within the limits of this county, unless, perchance during the war of 1812.
These Indians had their headquarters near Old Town Timber, near the center of the county, their fort covering several acres, surrounded by a palisade and an embankment on each side of it. Pleasant Hill, another of their stations, a few miles north, was with them a favorite place for the cultivation of the few vegetables which they raised. In the summer, many of them liked to stay about the southeast end of Blooming Grove, the scene of the earliest settlements in this county.
This section. of the country was evidently a great favorite with the Indians. Here game of all kinds was abundant, wild fruits were plenty and excellent, the climate was genial, the range for their ponies was inexhaustible, the groves and the streams were conveniently frequent, and the scenery was unsurpassable in its quiet beauty.
Here were the graves of their fathers, and here were the scenes of their own exploits and their homes. But they seemed to feel that they were a doomed people, and to anticipate their fate. Some of them were very intelligent people ; and in their intimate intercourse with friendly whites, they would sometimes indulge in sad rehearsals of the many wrongs which their tribes had suffered from the hands of the white man, as they had been successively crowded from one portion of the country to another, westward, ever westward!
The Indians remained in this section of the country until the Black Hawk war ; and during that conflict, they seemed to flit about, equally desirous of avoiding contact with the whites and the Indians engaged therein. These Indians afterward emigrated to Northwestern Iowa, to fade from the memory of the early settlers in this State, and, eventually, from the face of the earth.
In reference to them, we may adapt the lines of the poet, and say :
" Full many a one was born to die unseen,
And waste his fierceness on the desert air."
[The History of McLean County, Illinois, Chicago: W. LeBaron Jr. & Co., 1879 - (Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier)]
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