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Putnam County, Illinois History and Genealogy
The Grave of the Indian Chief “Snachwine”

 

 From the Princeton Republican - Printed in the Henry News Republcian, Thursday, May 21, 1874

On Friday morning last we accepted an invitation for N. Matson to join him in a visit to the grave of Snachwine, situated in Putnam County, about half a mile northeast of the village by the name of the Bureau Valley railroad. Snachwine, it will be remembered by those of our readers who have read Mr. Matson’s “Reminiscences of Bureau county”,  was the principal chief of the Pottawatamie tribe of Indians. His chief characteristic was opposition to war and bloodshed and it was the rule of his later years, at least, to avoid all “entangling alliances” that led in that direction. He repeatedly warned his followers against fighting, and on every suitable occasion be endeavored to impress upon their minds the important fact that certain extermination would follow such a course.

The death of Snachwine occurred very suddenly, a short time previous to the Black Hawk war; and before he died, he had spoken so eloquently and forcibly on Black hawk’s projects that his braves declined to have anything to do with that impulsive and quarrelsome leader.  Mr. Matson, in his book, describes a visit made to Snachwine’s camp by Black Hawk, with a view to forming an aggressive alliance against the white settlers. We don’t know what authority there is for the patriotic speech Snachwine is there credited with making; but it is evident that he was endowed with superior powers of oratory, as well as correct ideas of the natural tendencies of the times and the inevitable decrees of the future.

Snachwine’s grave is located in a mound on the bow of the southeastern bluff, and commands a fine view of the surrounding country, especially of the valley in which the wigwams of his tribe were situated. The historic ground is now owned by James R. Taliferro, who settled upon the premises in 1835, and is now the oldest settler in that section. Mr. Taliferro received us very courteously, and cheerfully volunteered to act as our guide. On going up the bluff he pointed out many places where important events had transpired; but the Indians had taken their departure further west a few months previous to the time of his settlement there.

The old chieftain was placed in his grave with his head to the north - his followers having an idea that his spirit would be more likely to keep a watchful eye over them. The fame of  Snachwine was wide spread, and for several years after the departure of the Indians, many people from the east visited the grave to get some relic and view the ground of the once noted tribe.

When Mr. Taliferro settled there in 1835, the grave was covered with blocks of timber, about two by twelve inches. Forked stakes were driven in the ground at the head and foot of the grave - a pole laid across on the “forks”, and against this pole the rough blocks were poised, roof fashion, to turn the rain from the grave. A flagstaff was erected some 10 feet from the head of the grave, at the top of which was fastened a piece of white sheeting - as a token of honor to the dead, and also to make the sacred place respected by the whites.

All along the brow of the bluff where Snachwine is buried, there are numerous mounds, and Mr. Taliferro says it was always a mystery to him where they obtained the earth to make them. South and east, after passing over the mounds, the country was level; and an the valley below there were no excavations indicating the removal of any large quantity of earth, hence he naturally concludes the earth was carried from a distance. If this theory be correct, the labor was no child’s play, for the mounds were not less than 20 feet in diameter at the top, and from 10 to 15 feet in height.

These mounds have now come to be almost one continuous embankment, and long since were stripped of everything in the shape of relics. The valley below, once covered by Indian wigwams, now presents quite a different appearance - being occupied by thrifty farmers, and divided by the Bureau Valley railroad. We returned home in the afternoon much pleased with our visit, and much edified on Indian matters by the interview with Mr. Taliferro.

 

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