There were several tribes of Indians occupying the Illinois country when the French first came into the territory. It is stated that there were few Indians west of the Mississippi river when the continent was discovered. Of course such statements must be taken with limitations. The Indians of Mexico and territory to the north numbered many thousands. Evidently there were few in the region afterwards made into the states of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and what we call our northwestern states. The Indians whose homes were east of the Mississippi, began in a very early day to move into the west, and in this way we of the later years are accustomed to think of these western Indians as having long occupied the land. The number estimated as living east of the Mississippi at the coming of the whites is stated at 250,000; and they were scattered rather uniformly over the country from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  

      They maintained the tribal form of government—that is, they had a chief, and prominent warriors, who, upon certain occasions, met in council and decided upon war, or peace, or upon other general questions. The Indian race was an indolent, thriftless people. They had an indefinite notion of a future life. In their natures “they were ruthless and revengeful, narrow minded and brutal, dissolute, selfish, gluttonous, polygamous and lustful” Surely this is a pretty strong indictment against them. They lived in temporary shelters called wigwams, and provided their sustenance by hunting and fishing chiefly. Among some tribes there was carried on an indifferent cultivation of the soil. The work in tilling the soil was done by the squaws and the old men, the young braves’ considering it beneath their dignity to work.


      Those who have given considerable study to the Indians have grouped them first into great “families,” the grouping being based upon their language. Then these families are subdivided into “confederacies” and these into “tribes.” The Algonquin family occupied the territory north of the St. Lawrence river and the lower lakes, around the upper lakes and along the Mississippi, eastward along the Ohio river into the Chesapeake bay. The Iroquois family occupied what is now the state of New York and parts of adjacent states. They were completely P. 24 surrounded by the Algonquins. The DaKota (or Sioux) family, was located in the territory north of the Wisconsin river and west of the Mississippi river. These are the chief families with which Illinois history is concerned. 


The Indians found in Illinois by  Marquette and Joliet, belonged to the Algonquin family. There was undying hatred between the Iroquois and the Algonquins. The Illinois Indians were therefore in constant dread of the attacks of the Iroquois.

       The Illinois Indians formed a sort of loose confederacy of six or more tribes, known as the “Illinois” confederacy. The following tribes constituted the “Illinois” confederacy: The Metchigamis; the Kaskaskias; the Peorias; the Cahokias; the Tammarois. In addition, there were the Piankashaws, the Weas, the Kickapoos, and Shawnees and probably other tribes or remnants, who sojourned on Illinois soil for longer or shorter periods. The first five of the above named tribes were probably all who ought to be counted in the “Illinois confederacy.”

        The Metchigamis were found along the Mississippi river, having originally come from west of the Father of Waters. They sojourned in the vicinity of Fort Chartres and were the objects of earnest missionary effort on the part of the Jesuits. They also lived in the vicinity of Lake Michigan, to which they gave their name. They were allies of Pontiac in his war of 1764, and perished with other members of the Illinois confederacy, on Starved Rock in 1769.  

The Kaskaskias originally were found along the upper courses of the Illinois river, and it was among the members of this tribe that Marquette planted the first mission in Illinois. They moved from the upper Illinois to the mouth of the Kaskaskia river in the year 1700, and founded there the ancient city of Kaskaskia, which eventually became the center of French life in the interior of the continent. From the year 1700, when the tribe numbered about six or eight thousand souls, to 1800, the Kaskaskias occupied the territory around the village of Kaskaskia. It is said the Tamaroas and the Kaskaskias were united into one tribe in the first part of the nineteenth century under Chief John Baptiste DuQuoin, who was a personal friend of General Washington. Their numbers were greatly reduced, and there was constant friction between these two remnant tribes and a branch of the Shawnees who lived east of the Big Muddy in Saline and Gallatin counties. A final bloody battle was fought by a pre-arrangement on the land now owned by L. D. Throop, three miles southwest of Frankfort, in Franklin county, in 1802. The battlefield was well marked for many years and white men have lived continuously in the immediate vicinity since 1802, and the account of the battle needed only to pass from the pioneers of 1800 to the present living generation. The Kaskaskias were forced westward to the Big Muddy when the slaughter continued until the Kaskaskias were all killed or captured. This is sometimes called the battle of Battle Creek, The spot is at the crossing of the Big Muddy river by the road from the town of Frankfort, in Franklin county, to DuQuoin, in Perry county. In after years the Kaskaskias remained on a reservation on the lower Big Muddy, whence they removed to the Indian Territory. P. 25
      The Cahokia and the Tamaroa tribes remained in the region of what is now St. Clair, Clinton, and Fayette counties, up to the close of the eighteenth century, when they were merged with the Kaskaskias under Chief John DuQuoin.  

The Peorias made their home in the region of Lake Peoria and were a quiet and peaceable people. They never in any way affected the life of the people in the south end of the state.  

The Piankeshaws were a small tribe of the Miami confederacy. They first resided in southeastern Wisconsin. When La Salle and Tonti founded their empire at Starved Rock, the Piankeshaws were a part of the Indian population. When this enterprise failed the Piankeshaws moved to the region of the Wabash river. They were in the region of Vincennes when Gen. Clark captured that post from the British in 1779. It is said that the Piankeshaws were among the best friends the early settlers had among the red men. They were eventually moved to a Kaiisas reservation and thence to the Indian Territory. Mr. Walter Colyer, of Albion, has gathered up a large amount of material concerning this tribe which sojourned for a few decades in Southern Illinois.  

The Kickapoos came into Southern Illinois in the early part of the nineteenth century. It is said the first time they ever acknowledged the authority of the United States was in a treaty made at Edwardsville, Illinois, in 1819. The Kickapoos seemed to scatter in their settlements, some residing in the Sangamon country, some on the Embarras, and some on the Kaskaskia. They eventually moved to Kansas and from there they drifted to the southwest.  

In this connection it is proper to say a word or two about some noted individual Indians who had to do with the early history of Southern Illinois.


When George Rogers Clark came to Kaskaskia in 1778, the Ottawa chief, Saguinn, or Blackbird, was temporarily sojourning in St. Louis. Clark desired to have a conference with him since Blackbird had a wide reputation throughout the west as one of the most powerful and sagacious Indians of the Mississippi region. Blackbird was not at St. Louis at the time Clark sent for him, but had returned to his tribe on the upper Illinois river. The chief hearing of Clark’s desire to confer with him, came voluntarily to Kaskaskia, where he held a long conference with General Clark. He obtained from General Clark the real issues in the conflict, and when ready to depart told General Clark that he sympathized with the Americans and would so tell his people. It is said of him that he remained a faithful friend of the Americans.  

a chief of the Shawnees, was the most noted Indian in all the west, unless it may be that Pontiac was more widely known. Tecumseh had in mind the forming of a confederacy of all the Indians in the west for the purpose of resisting the encroachment of the whites. He had a twin brother called the Prophet, whose home in 1811 was at a village on the Tippecanoc creek, where it empties into the Wabash. In the summer of 1811, Tecumseh left the cares of state in the hands of his brother, the Prophet, and journeyed into the south for the purpose of securing the support of the Indians in that section. On this journey Tecumseh came from the Prophet ‘s town diagonally across Southern P. 26 Illinois to the Mississippi at Fort Massac or Cairo. In passing through Williamson county he was seen by settlers among whom was John Phelps. The chief had with him twelve warriors, and passed along the Shawnectown-Kaskaskia trail to a point about where the city of Marion now is, and then he turned south along the trail which passed over the Ozarks through Buffalo Gap and thence south to Fort Massac or Cairo. Mr. Phelps talked with Tecumseh and while he was badly scared, he reported the great Indian as a very approachable and well disposed person.  

A third Indian of prominence was the Tamaroa chief, Jean Baptiste DuQuoin, formerly alluded to. He was a very old and respected Indian at the time of the bloody engagement of his tribes with the Shawnees in 1802. He had during the lifetime of Washington, visited the president, who had


presented him with a medal for some service the chief had rendered, and this the chief wore with great pride. He was a halfbreed and Reynolds says had two sons, Louis and Jefferson, both of whom were drunken, worthless fellows. Chief DuQuoin had been converted to the Catholic faith and at his death was buried at Kaskaskia by the church at that place.  

Probably the most noted Indian who ever came into the territory of Southern Illinois was Pontiac, the famous chief of the Ottawas, and the moving spirit in the great “Confederacy of Pontiac.” After many months of fruitless effort in trying to prevent the British from taking P. 27

possession of the territory ceded by the French to the English at the close of the French and Indian war, a final treaty was agreed to at Oswego, New York, and Pontiac, broken in spirit and fortune, repaired to St. Louis, where he may have thought he could head another rebellion against British occupation of the territory west of the Alleghanies. In this conspiracy he hoped to have the support of St. Ange de Belle Rive, late commander of the French post at Kaskaskia. After lingering several days in St. Louis he crossed over the river, against the advice of friends to the old French village of Cahokia. Here a drunken revel was in progress and here the noted chief was murdered. Reynolds says he was stabbed to death by a Peoria Indian in the pay of the British. Moses says he was tomahawked



by a Kaskaskia Indian hired by one Williamson, an English trader. His body lay in the streets of Cahokia until the arrival of St. Ange de Belle Rive, who took the body to St. Louis, where it was given decent interment.


There are so many evidences of a prehistoric life in the Mississippi region that it is now agreed by all archeologists that there was a life of considerable advancement in civilization in the Mississippi valley, and adjacent territory, long before the coming of the Indians, who were here at the coming of the Europeans. It is the purpose here to call attention briefly to some of the existing evidences of that P. 28  prehistone life, and thus awaken if possible an interest in this most charming subject. Southern Illinois is rich in prehistoric materials. Many of these materials have been collected and are in the keeping of individuals or of institutions, or perchance of the state or national government.  

One of the most obvious of the evidences of an early people is the great mounds, usually called “Indian mounds” by the general public. They are found in nearly all, if not all, of the counties of Illinois bordering the Mississippi, the Wabash, and the Ohio. The most noted perhaps of all these mounds are the Cahokia mounds situated some five miles northeast of the city of East St. Louis. One of these, the largest, is known as Monk’s Mound, and in the vicinity are scores of others of lesser size, but thought to have belonged to a great system of such structures in the ages past.


The great mound referred to above, is called Monk’s Mound from the fact that in an early day in the nineteenth century, a colony of Trappist monks founded a settlement on this mound which




flourished for some time but later went to decay and the project was abandoned. This mound covers some sixteen acres of ground and is situated in Sec. 34, T. 3, N. R. 9, west of the 3d P. M. It is 102 feet high and is somewhat triangular in general form. It has at intervals been visited by scientific men since the year 1800. No very thorough examination has really ever been made of this mound. Some years ago the owner of the land tunneled in some fifty feet but found nothing but some bits of lead. But in digging a well on one edge of the mound many bones and other evidences of a departed people were found. The mound is now owned by a Mrs. Ramey, who places a very high estimate upon the ground occupied by this mound. A Mr. D. I. Bushnell of St. Louis is said to have offered $10,000 for eighteen acres including the mound, but Mrs. Ramey’s estimate of its worth was $100,000—quite a valuable  piece of ground.  

      In 1907 Mr. Clark McAdams,
son of the Hon. William McAdams, P. 29 archeologist of


Alton, Illinois, read a paper before the State historical Society in which he gave an extract from a letter from the Rev. Fr. Obrecht, abbot of the Trappist Monastery at Gethsemane, Kentucky, which throws much light upon the story of the Trappist monks who occupied the Monk’s Mound in the early years of the last century. The story as given by Rev. Obrecht, briefly told, is as follows: Two Trappist Fathers, Urbain and Joseph seeking a favorable place for a settlement were offered 400 acres of ground by M. Jarrott on the Cahokia river. At first the offer was rejected, but after a time the offer was renewed and accepted. There were about thirty-five people in the colony. They built twenty or more small buildings on one of the smaller mounds. One of these buildings was


the church, the whole having an attractive appearance from a distance. Father Urbain doubted the title to the 400 acres of land given them by M. Jarrott, so he went to Washington and secured from Congress a confirmation of the grant. In digging for the foundations to their buildings, they found many evidences of a former people. It does not appear that any buildings of importance were erected on the largest mound, but evidently some structures were erected there and its sides and top were cultivated. In 1811 to 1813 a pernicious fever lingered in the colony, carrying off more than half of the Trappist colony as well as many members of the settlements in the upper end of the “American Bottom.” In the early spring of 1813 the colony fled from the plagued spot. P. 30

A traveler who visited the Monk’s Mound colonists in 1811 or 12 says the bluffs to the east of the mounds appear to be one vast cemetery. Professor William McAdams in 1882 made an excavation at the foot of Monk’s Mound at the northeast corner and unearthed a hundred pieces of pottery. A student of archeology has estimated that the community that built these mounds was not less than 150,000 or 200,000 strong.  

      Other mounds are found in the vicinity of Monk’s Mound. A very beautiful mound called Emerald mound is found two and a half miles northeast of Lebanon in Madison county. It covers about two acres of ground and is some forty or fifty feet high. Mounds are found in Alexander county along the Ohio river. A few are to be seen in the eastern part of the state along the Wabash.


A second evidence of a prehistoric race is to be found in a large class of stone tools or implements. These are in the forms of axes, hammers, and edged tools. Then there are those implements that were evidently for warfare. This class of articles are made from the flints and the hardest stones. Ceremonial stones of various forms have been found plentifully in Southern Illinois. Mortars and pestles are numerous. Pipes of all designs exhibiting great ingenuity in construction have been dug from mounds and burial places.  

A third evidence of a prehistoric people is to be found in quite a variety of copper objects found in mounds, and buried here and there where excavations have been made. The objects have been found in the form of axes, knives, spears, arrow points, and objects used for personal adornment—beads, earrings, and bracelets. Copper kettles, needles and trays have been found.  

The fourth argument in favor of the idea that there was a race here prior to the coming of the Indians may be stated, based upon the amount and character of the objects wrought in clay. It is known that potter’s clay of a very high grade is found in many localities in Southern Illinois. It is a theory that the region known as the American Bottoms was the center of all this prehistoric life, and that people from the copper region around Lake Superior, and those from the localities on the Delaware, where great clay deposits are found, and those from the barren, rocky region of Labrador and from the home of the cliff dwellers in the southwest all congregated, as some think, about the great Monk’s Mound for a sort of national feast or other form of gathering, political, social, commercial or religious. In this way the various articles which are found about these great mounds may have been brought into this territory. In England and in parts of Germany and Denmark, there are known to exist the original sites upon which were held trading fairs to which people from all over the civilized world came with their wares and their coins.  

Nothing reveals the fact that these prehistoric peoples had attained a high stage of civilized life more certainly than does the character of the pottery which has been found in many localities. Near the old salines in Gallatin county there can yet be picked up broken pieces of pottery which are fragments of very large clay vessels. These large clay vessels were evidently used in the manufacture of salt—the theory being that these large clay vessels were filled with the briny water which, under the P. 31 influence of the sun and the wind, evaporated leaving the incrustations of salt behind. These fragments are from vessels which were from two and a half to three feet in diameter. This would give us vessels that would hold from twenty to forty gallons.  

       These specimens of pottery all show peculiar systems of marking on the convex side while the inner surface is always smooth. The simplest form of marking is the simple checks making meshes    


from half inch to one inch square. These peculiar markings are accounted for by the theory that the vessel was made inside of a wicker frame work and when the vessel was burned the markings of the wicker work were left. Gallatin county seems to be rich in this class of prehistoric material.  


       A. M. Richardson
of Shawneetown has a very fine collection of pottery, most of which is in a good state of preservation. Mr. McAdams speaks of seeing two whole pans of pottery used in salt making in the salines near St. Genevive, Missouri, that were serving the purpose, when dug up, of a coffin for a child. These pans were of the form of an ordinary bread pan, P. 32 some three feet


across and six or eight inches deep. The dead child had been placed in one pan and the other pan inverted above it and the two thus arranged, buried.  

A fifth evidence of a prehistoric race is found in what archeologists call pictographs. These were found in various places in this state. The buffalo shown in the accompanying cut, the writer had the pleasure of examining on a bluff in the Ozarks at the crossing of the Paducah branch of the Illinois Central railroad. The Piasa bird from its perch upon the rocks near Piasa creek looked out upon the Father of Waters for ages unnumbered before the first white man made its discovery. The tradition of the painting has faded from the memory of the oldest inhabitant. Other carvings upon rocks in various sections of the state can be accounted for only by the supposition that an older race than the Indian once occupied this territory.

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