Native American History in Madison County, Illinois
THE MOUND BUILDERS OF
One of the most sophisticated prehistoric Native American civilization north of Mexico is located at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois. In its heyday, Cahokia was larger than London, England – covering about six square miles, with one hundred twenty manmade earthen mounds in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and functions. The Mississippians who lived there were accomplished builders who erected a wide variety of structures from practical homes to monumental public buildings. Cahokia as it is now defined was settled around 600AD. The inhabitants left no written records beyond symbols on pottery, shell, copper, wood, and stone. The city’s original name is unknown.
The mounds were named after the Cahokia tribe, a historic Illiniwek people living in the area when the first French explorers arrived in the 17th century. As this was centuries after Cahokia was abandoned by its original inhabitants, the Cahokia tribe was not necessarily descended from the original founders.
At the high point of its development, Cahokia was the largest urban center north of Mexico. Between 1050 and 1100AD, Cahokia’s population increased from between 1400 and 2800 people to between 10,200 and 15,300 people. Archaeologists estimate the city’s population at its peak was between 6,000 and 40,000, with more people living in outlying farming villages that supplied the main urban center.
One of the major problems Cahokia faced was keeping a steady supply of food. A related problem was waste disposal for the dense population. The population of Cahokia began to decline during the 13th century, and the site was eventually abandoned around 1300. Scholars suggest overhunting, deforestation, and flooding as explanation for abandonment. Another possibility is invasion by outside peoples. Analysis of sediment from beneath nearby Horseshoe Lake revealed that two major floods occurred during the Cahokia period – roughly 1100-1260 and 1340-1460.
Monks Mound is the largest structure in Cahokia. It is a massive platform mound with four terraces, ten stories tall. Facing south, it is 100ft high, 951ft long, and 836ft wide. It covers 13.8 acres. It was built over the course of several centuries. Excavation on the top of Monks Mound has revealed evidence of a large building, likely a temple or residence of the Chief. The mound was named after the La Trappe monks who resided there for a short time around 1809. The monks came from the Province of Perche in France. Numbering about 80 in all, they lived upon the mound, which was the gift of Colonel Nicholas Jarrot of Cahokia. The monks farmed, repaired watches, and traded with local inhabitants. In 1811, the monks used the lower terrace for a kitchen garden, and had the summit of the structure sown in wheat. The monks were not allowed to speak to another, except in cases of absolute necessity. They ate two meals a day, which excluded all meat. They slept in their clothing upon boards, with blocks of wood for pillows. When a stranger visited, he was welcomed with the utmost kindness. The monks did not do well in the climate in the area. Malarial fevers prevailed among them to an alarming rate. Those who died were buried without a coffin in the field adjoining their residence. Between 1813 - 1816, they sold off their personal property, returned the land to Mr. Jarrot, and left the country for France. In 1907, John Sutter, an archaeologist, found glass beads which had been made in Italy 250 years before the birth of Christ.
Later, a man by the name of Hill owned the mound and a large portion of land adjoining it. He was an enterprising settler, and added to the structure the La Trappe monks had lived in, and made it a comfortable residence. Beneath his home was a deep, unwalled cellar. On the second terrace, Hill dug a well 80 or 90 feet deep. Old settlers living when the well was dug stated that at the depth of about sixty feet, pieces of pottery and two sea shells were found. Those who partook of the well water stated it had a peculiar taste.
In 1864, Thomas T. Ramey, a member of the Illinois General Assembly, purchased the Cahokia Mound site from Mr. Page, who lived in St. Louis. Ramey employed coal miners from Collinsville and ran a short tunnel into Monks Mound. He permitted one or two excavations in the mounds south of the Monks Mound, but as a whole, he was against excavations. Trees were allowed to grow on Monks Mound until they were cut down in the 1970s by archaeologists. For a time, Monks Mound was called the Ramey Mound. During the 1890s, Ramey lobbied the state for Cahokia’s preservation. His efforts were thwarted by a Chicago legislator, who remarked in 1913 that his “district needs parks for live people, and the guys in that mound are all dead ones.” Finally, in 1925, the State purchased from the Ramey family 144.4 acres, including Monks Mound, for $52,110. Cahokia Mounds State Park (part of which is in St. Clair County and part in Madison County) was then created.
Some of the excavations throughout the years at the base of the Monks Mound yielded a tomb or burial place, with the dust of nearly twenty human skeletons and about a hundred vessels of pottery in almost perfect condition. The pottery, some resembling vases and long-necked water bottles, resembled the ancient vessels of the Nile, painted in a bright red pigment with some of the same symbols as used by the sun-worshipers in Egypt, and very similar to symbols on vessels taken by Schliemann from buried Mycenae and Troy. Other Cahokia relics include stone implements of agriculture such as hoes, spades, and shovels.
OTHER MOUNDS AND INDIAN RELICS IN MADISON COUNTY
The Bluffs Near Alton
According to Professor William McAdams, a noted archeologist, the bluffs of Madison County are an immense cemetery. They were the common burial place of the tribes who inhabited the land. Caves were discovered with accumulations of ashes showing that for long periods they were inhabited by men who lived on animals and shell fish found along the shore of the Mississippi. In several caves along the Piasa Creek and the vicinity of the mouth of the Illinois River further north, human bones, broken lengthwise to extract the marrow, were found, giving suggestion to cannibalism.
Along Piasa Creek and other streams nearby are many mounds that seem to be the remains of dwelling places. In these mounds kitchen refuse was found. McAdams stated that a great variety of mounds can still be seen in 1882 in the vicinity of the Piasa Creek a few miles above Alton, some of earth covered with stone, others of stone and earth together, while others were wholly of earth. On the face of the bluffs were numerous figures of animals and other objects painted with a red pigment.
Two large figures were painted on the side of the bluffs west of Alton. They were discovered by Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary, and Louis Joliet, a fur trader, during their expedition on the Mississippi River in 1673. According to the journals of Marquette, he wrote:
“As we were descending
the river, we saw high rocks with hideous monsters painted on
them, and upon which the bravest Indian dare not look. They are
as large as a calf, with head and horns like a goat, their eyes
are red, beard like a tiger’s and a face like a man’s. Their
tails are so long that they pass over their bodies and between
their legs under their bodies, ending like a fish’s tail. They
are painted red, green and black, and so well drawn that I could
not believe they were drawn by the Indians, and for what purpose
they were drawn seems to me a mystery.”
This original description of the “hideous monsters” painted on the bluffs did not include wings, which were added later in a fictional story written by Mr. John Russell, a Baptist minister and professor at Shurtleff College in Upper Alton. The story of the Piasa Bird, although fiction, had an extensive circulation, and is now widely known.
To read the full story on the Legend of the Piasa Bird, please click here.
SETTLERS AND THE INDIANS
According to the History of Madison County, Illinois, published by W. R. Brink in 1882, there were no Indians living in Madison County within the timeframe of its settlement by the whites. In the early days, however, the Indians frequently visited this part of Illinois – mostly with the object of having conferences with Governor Ninian Edwards at Edwardsville. Large bands of Indians, sometimes numbering 150 canoes, with each canoe containing three or four men, women, and children, frequently passed down the Mississippi River. They sometimes traveled to St. Louis to meet with William Clark, Governor of the territory of Missouri. They sometimes stopped at Gillham’s landing on the Mississippi, just below the mouth of the Missouri, and proceeded on foot to Edwardsville. An old settler of the county states that he had seen the men marching along the road to Edwardsville in a single file, a mile in length. The squaws and children were generally left at the river to guard the canoes and belongings. These Indians were the Sacs, Foxes, Pottawatomies, and Winnebagoes, who lived along the upper Mississippi near the present towns of Rock Island, Davenport, and Galena. The squaws usually wanted to barter strings of beads for green corn, while the braves showed a fondness for whisky. Another pioneer stated that he saw Indians traveling and camping near Edwardsville. When the Cahokia was full of water, they would wallow in the mud in the road, then jump into the creek. He also saw them playing cards.
Jean Baptiste Cardinal Taken Captive
A Frenchman by the name of Jean Baptiste Cardinal settled in Piasa (supposed to be the present site of Alton) in 1785. There he built a house and resided with his family. Cardinal was taken captive by the Indians, and his family fled for refuge to the village of Cahokia.
James Gillham Searches for Family Who Were Taken Captive
In June 1790, James Gillham was plowing his farm in Kentucky, while his young son, Isaac, was clearing clods away with a hoe. A party of Kickapoo Indians stole up to his home and captured Gillham’s wife and three other children, ranging in age from four to twelve. The field where he worked was some distance from the house, and it was not for some time that he discovered his family had been taken. In the meantime, the Indians hurried away with their prisoners. Mrs. Gillham was so shocked at the sudden appearance of the Indians, that she lost her senses. The first that she could recollect afterward was the voice of her oldest, son, Samuel, saying, “Mother, we are all prisoners.” The group traveled in the direction of the Kickapoo village, near the head waters of the Sangamon River in Illinois. The children’s feet became so sore and bruised, that the mother tore her clothing to get rags in which to wrap them. The children were given deer jerky, but the mother was given no food until they had traveled some distance from the white settlements. Finally, one night two Indians returned with one poor raccoon, which they Gillhams and the Indians shared. One in Ohio, their pace slowed and the Indians secured more food. They crossed the Wabash River below Terre Haute, and walked through the present counties of Clark, Coles and Macon, reaching their Indian village on Salt Creek, about twenty miles northeast of the present city of Springfield, Illinois.
Mr. Gillham, upon returning home, found his house in disarray, with his wife and children gone. Gillham and his friends lost no time in starting in pursuit, following their trail. In time the trail was lost, and Mr. Gillham abandoned the pursuit. He sold his farm in Kentucky and visited Vincennes and Kaskaskia, with the hope of enlisting the aid of French traders, who had knowledge of all the Indian tribes in the Northwest. After five years of disappointment, he learned from French traders that his family were among the Kickapoos. With two Frenchmen as interpreters and guides, he visited the Indian village on Salt Creek, and found his wife and children alive and well. A ransom was paid through an Irish trader at Cahokia, by the name of Atchinson. The youngest son, Clemons, could not speak a word of English, and it was some time before he could be persuaded to leave the Indian country.
During his visit through Illinois, Gillham was impressed with the advantages of the country. In 1797, two years after the recovering of his family, he became a resident of Illinois. He first settled in the American Bottom below St. Louis, then moved to Madison County. In 1815, Congress gave to Mrs. Gillham one hundred and sixty acres of land at the head of Long Lake in Chouteau Township, in testimony of the hardship and sufferings she endured during her captivity among the Indians. The children of James Gillham were Samuel, Isaac, Jacob Clemons, James, Harvey, David M., Polly, Sally, and Nancy. James wrote to his brothers in South Carolina of the advantages of Illinois country, and his brother, Thomas, left South Carolina in the Fall of 1799, and reached Madison County at the end of the year. Two other brothers, John and William, came to Illinois in 1802, both settling in Madison County. Another brother, Isaac, followed a couple of years later. Gillham’s oldest son, Isham, was Sheriff of Madison County from 1812 to 1818. Another son, William, settled on a farm in the Ridge Prairie, five miles east of Edwardsville.
Robert McMahan's Wife and Children Killed by Indians
Robert McMahan settled on Ridge Prairie, two miles and a half southwest from Troy. He was born in Virginia, immigrated to Kentucky, and in that state married Margaret Clark. He moved to Illinois in 1793, settling near New Design. His wife and four children were killed by Indians, and he and his eldest daughter were taken prisoner. He married a second wife, and raised a large family. McMahan died in 1822 at the age of 63.
Alexander Dennis and John Van Meter Murdered by Indians
On July 24, 1802, two men by the name of Alexander Dennis and John Van Meter were murdered by Indians in the Goshen settlement, southwest of Edwardsville, not far from where the Cahokia Creek emerged from the bluff, at a place later known as Nix’s Ford. This was in Collinsville Township. The murder was committed by a band of Pottawatamies, led by Chief Turkey Foot. Turkey Foot and his band were returning from Cahokia to their village in the northern part of Illinois. They met Dennis and Van Meter, and killed them without provocation. In the book, “The History of Madison County” 1882, it was stated the Indians were probably intoxicated. This occurrence only slightly affected the progress of the Goshen country. The Indians were usually friendly with the whites, and this act was looked upon as a solitary incident.
Mr. Price Murdered by Indians at Hunter's Spring
June 20, 1811
Settlers lived mostly in peace with Native Americans in Madison County until 1811, when hostile feelings grew as the white man advanced more and more into the West. A man by the name of Mr. Price, and a companion by the name of Colter, built a log cabin on the hill above a spring, east of what would become Alton, and cleared a small tract of land in the bottom. The spring was located on the northeast corner of Broadway and Spring Street in Alton, and was discovered in 1804 by James Preuitt and James Stockden, who at that time were living on the bluff below what would become East Alton. The spring was later named Hunter’s Spring, after Charles Hunter, who owned quite a bit of property east of Henry Street in Alton, which was then named Hunterstown.
Price and Colter were busy hoeing corn in their field on June 20, 1811. A small party of Native Americans approached, seemingly friendly. Price asked if they came in peace, and one of them laid down his gun and extended his hand to Price, who took it without suspecting treachery. The Native held fast to Price, while another shot Price in the back. The shot was so close, that the powder burned a hole in his shirt as large as a person’s hand. Colter mounted his horse and fled, but was shot in the leg. He raised the alarm, and Solomon Preuitt and two of his brothers, with others, gave pursuit until coming into the heavy timber in the Wood River Bottoms. Night was approaching, and they gave up their pursuit. The next day they found that the Indians had taken refuge under a large tree, and then escaped.
This event raised the alarm among the settlers, and from that time until the declaration of peace at the close of the War of 1812, the settlers lived in constant fear.
Fear of Indians Resulted in a Man Shooting His Son
In 1814, a man by the name of Jesse Starkey and his son had gone out to look for their horses, which had wandered off from the cabin. Each carried their own rifle. It was a foggy morning, and they separated to make a more thorough search. The father and son, each wearing buckskin, tramped through the timber in the fog. Unknowingly, they had walked close to each other. Catching a glimpse of something in the fog, they both raised their weapons and fired. The father shot first and found that he had shot his own son. Fortunately, the wound was not fatal, and the son recovered.
Mrs. Jesse Bailes Killed by Indian
Mrs. Jesse Bailes, daughter of Mr. Bradshy, then living on Silver Creek in Madison County, was shot in 1814 by an Indian near Sugar Creek. She fled across the prairie to her father’s house, where she died of her wounds.
THE WAR OF 1812-14
In July 1811, a Company of mounted Rangers was organized in Madison County, and blockhouses were built at different points in the county for protection. A stockade fort was constructed in Chouteau Township, and around this were gathered a number of families. Among them was John Gillham and his five sons; three brothers by the name of Brown; three by the name of Kirkpatrick; and families by the name of Dunnagan, Sanders, Ferguson, Dodd, Revis, Beeman, Winsor, Celver, Green, and Smith. Thomas Kirkpatrick’s fort at Edwardsville sheltered the inhabitants who had settled in that vicinity; and Chilton’s fort, east of Silver Creek, about two miles west of the present town of St. Jacobs, gave protection to the Howards, Gigers, Chiltons, and others who had settled in that party of the county. Chilton’s fort was commanded by Major Isaac Ferguson and Captain Abraham Howard. There were other blockhouses at various points, including one in Fort Russell Township, known as Jones blockhouse. James Kirkpatrick’s fort was a couple of miles southwest of Edwardsville; and southeast was Frank Kirkpatrick’s fort. Beck’s blockhouse stood in Pin Oak Township. Lofton’s and Hayes’ blockhouses were in Nameoki Township. The Wood River fort was in Wood River Township; and there was another for about one mile south of the old town of Milton in Wood River Township.
In 1812, active preparations were made under Ninian Edwards, the Territorial Governor, for the protection of the frontier. Companies of mounted Rangers were organized who scoured the Indian country. Fort Russell was built in the beginning of 1812, a couple of miles north of the present town of Edwardsville. This fort was made the headquarters of the Governor and the base of his military operations. The Governor also held court at Fort Russell. The cannons of Louis XIV of France were taken from old Fort Chartres, four miles west of Prairie du Rocher, in Randolph County, Illinois, and with them and other military decorations, Fort Russell blazed with considerable pioneer splendor. The fort was named in honor of Colonel William Russell of Kentucky, who had command of the ten Companies of Rangers, organized by act of Congress, to defend the western frontier. Four of these Companies were allotted to the defense of Illinois, and were commanded by William B. Whiteside, James B. Moore, Jacob Short, and Samuel Whiteside. The Whitesides were residents of Madison County. A small company of Regulars, under command of Captain Ramsey, were stationed at Fort Russell for a few months in 1812 – the only regular troops at the fort during the war.
Colonel Nicholas Jarrot (previously mentioned as having made a gift to the French Monks the mound at Cahokia) was a French patriot, who was wedded to the American cause. He had made an oath that the British agent and traders at Prairie du Chien were instigating Indians to violence, furnishing them with arms and ammunition, and otherwise preparing them for war along the borders of Western civilization. In April 1812, Gomo, an Indian Chief, met Governor Edwards at Cahokia to negotiate a treaty. The Governor addressed them in a forcible speech, laying the blame for their hostilities with the traders at British outposts. Governor Edwards told them they could reach a treaty if they would deliver from their ranks the murderers who had participated in the Chicago massacre. The Indians then expressed desire for peace, but declared they could not deliver up the murderers, who supposedly came from the Winnebago tribe. Unfortunately, hostilities continued between the whites and Indians. The Rangers gathered their families in blockhouses, while attempting to raise corn and other food, with their guns hanging at their sides while plowing.
THE WOOD RIVER MASSACRE
The most startling and cruel atrocity committed by the Indians within the bounds of Madison County was the Wood River massacre, on July 10, 1814, that resulted in the death of one woman and six children. This tragedy took place in the forks of the Wood River, east of Upper Alton. The victims were the wife and two children of Reason Reagan, two children of Abel Moore, and two children of William Moore.
Mrs. Rachel Reagan and her two children were spending the day with her sister, Mrs. William Moore. The men were away from home at the time. As preparation began for the evening meal, Rachel decided to go home and pick some beans to add to the evening meal. Accompanying Rachel were her two children, two sons of William Moore, and two sons of Abel Moore. Hannah Bates also went along, but for some reason decided to turn back. When nightfall came, and the group had not returned, William Moore (who had returned home) and his wife went searching for them, taking separate trails. They both found their loved ones in the dark, with one child barely alive. They had been stripped naked, bludgeoned with an axe, and scalped.
The next morning the bodies were retrieved and buried in the Vaughn Hill Cemetery. Alarmed had been raised, and Rangers from a nearby fort went in pursuit of the Indians. They chased them into Morgan County, finding one in a lone cottonwood tree. He was shot and killed. In his pouch was the scalp of Mrs. Reagan. The remaining Indians hid in the woods, near where Virden now stands. It was learned later that only one Indian escaped, and that was the Chief who led the party.
Today, a monument stands in the memory of those killed in the massacre. It is located on Fosterburg Road, east of Upper Alton, in front of the Hilltop Auction. The massacre took place 300 yards behind the monument.
To read the entire story of the Wood River Massacre, please click here.
THE TREATY OF 1819
On August 6, 1819, at Edwardsville, a treaty was negotiated between Auguste Chouteau and Benjamin Stephenson, commissioners of the United States, and the chiefs of the Kickapoo tribe. The Kickapoos ceded all their land on the northwest side of the Wabash River, including their principal village and tract of land covering the central part of the state of Illinois, estimated to contain upward of ten million acres. The United States agreed, in return, to pay the Kickapoos two thousand dollars in silver, annually, for fifteen successive years, and to guarantee them peaceable possession of their country on the Osage, and to restrain all whites from hunting or settling therein. The United States also promised to furnish two boats in which to transport the property of the Indians from some point on the Illinois River to their new place of residence, and to select a white citizen to accompany them in their journey through the white settlements. Proclamation was made of this treaty on January 13, 1821.
On February 12, 1824, a group of Indians gathered on the Springfield Road near Edwardsville, to witness the hanging of Eliphalet Green, who was tried and convicted for murder. The Indians wanted to see how civilized man killed their fellow man.
Indians still continued to visit Edwardsville until 1827 or 1828. Traces of their camps and the peculiar marks made in their stripping the bark from trees were visible ten years later. The Kickapoos at one time had a temporary encampment near the mouth of Indian Creek, and buried many of their dead there. In about the year 1824, some Delaware Indians who came from Indiana camped in the timber bordering the Cahokia. In a year or so they moved westward. After 1835, a large body of Pottawatomies passed through the county on their way to their reservation.
MISCELLANEOUS NEWSPAPER ARTICLES REGARDING INDIANS OR RELICS IN OR NEAR MADISON COUNTY
HOW IT FEELS TO BE SCALPED
Source: Jersey County Democrat, November 8, 1867
(As printed in the Springfield Republican)
William Thompson, a telegraph repairer along the line of the Pacific Railroad, has had a novel experience. He has been scalped by the Indians, and yet lives to tell the tale. He lost his hair just before the capture of the train at Plum Creek Station, recently reported, and this is the story he tells to the wondering citizens of Omaha, where he now is:
“About nine o'clock Tuesday night, myself and five others left Plum Creek Station, and started up the track on a handcar to hunt up where the break in the telegraph was. When we came to where the break proved to be, we saw a lot of the ties piled upon the track, but at the same moment Indians jumped up from the grass all around and fired upon us. We fired two or three shots in return, and then, as the Indians pressed on us, we ran away. An Indian on a pony singled me out and galloped up to me. After coming to within ten feet of me, he fired, the bullet entering my right arm. Seeing me still run, he ‘clubbed his rifle,’ and knocked me down. He then took out his knife, stabbed me in the neck, and then making a twirl around his fingers with my hair, he commenced sawing and hacking away at my scalp. Though the pain was awful, and I felt dizzy and sick, I knew enough to keep quiet. After what seemed to be half an hour, he gave me the last finishing cut to the scalp on my temple, and as it still hung a little, he gave it a jerk. I just thought then that I could have screamed my life out. I can't describe it to you. I just felt as if the whole head was taken right off. The Indian then mounted and galloped away, but as he went, he dropped my scalp within a few feet of me, which I managed to get and hide. The Indians were thick in the vicinity, or I might then have made my escape. While lying down, I could hear the Indians moving around whispering to each other, and shortly after placing obstructions on the track. After lying down about an hour and a half, I heard the low rumbling of the train as it come tearing along, and I might have been able to flag it off, had I dared.”
Source: Alton Telegraph, February 14, 1868
It is well known that in various parts of this county, many curious elevations exist, varying in height from ten to sixty feet, and generally spoken of as “Indian mounds,” from the supposition that they were raised by the aborigines as burial places for their dead. We notice that the author of the geological survey of Illinois, in commenting upon these elevations, calls in question the commonly accepted belief of their artificial formation. He states that these mounds, when carefully examined, are found to consist of drift clay and loess, remaining in situ, just as they appear along the river bluffs, where similar mounds have been formed in the same way, by the removal of the surrounding strata by currents of water. Hence, the author infers that these mounds are not artificial elevations, but are simply outliers of loess and drift, that have remained as originally deposited, while the surrounding cotemporaneous strata were swept away by denuding forces. The simple fact that they were used as burial places by the aborigines, which seems to be the main argument relied upon in proof of their artificial origin, is entirely inadequate to sustain such a conclusion, and they were, perhaps, only selected for this purpose on account of their elevated position.
Thus, is the ruthless hand of science sweeping away the pleasant traditions of the red man, which are common in almost every community. It has always been a gratification for us to look upon these mounds in the light of monuments of the rude handiwork of a past age, and as furnishing a dim insight into the customs of the races which trod our hills and dales a thousand years ago. But if the theory of the author quoted from is current, we must award to Dame Nature the credit of rearing these elevations which antiquarians have heretofore united in considering to be the work of Indians.
We have, however, one delightful Indian legend of this vicinity remaining yet intact, viz: that of the Piasa Bird, and we hope long to entertain the belief of its truth(?), and to this end, therefore, we suggest that whenever a geologist, armed with textbook and hammer, commences an inspection of our bluffs, with a view of overturning this tradition also, that his hammer be taken from him, his textbook committed to the flames, and the man of science given twenty-four hours in which to leave the town.
INDIANS MOVING FROM SMALLPOX ISLAND
(Island Across from Alton)
Source: Alton Telegraph, May 29, 1868
On Saturday morning about eleven o'clock, the branch of the Winnebago tribe of Indians, which has been for some time encamped on the island opposite the city, passed this place, bound up the river. They were stored away in ten large canoes, and numbered some sixty individuals. The canoes were heavily laden, and the progress of the expedition was necessarily slow, as it had to contend with the strong current of the river.
EDWARD RODGERS FARM
HAS LARGE NUMBER OF INDIAN RELICS
Source: Alton Telegraph, July 30, 1874
Mr. Ed Rodgers (whose extensive farm and fine residence, east of Upper Alton, attracts the attention of passersby) often finds large numbers of Indian relics, especially arrowheads, upon his premises. A portion of the farm lying in the Wood River Bottom is very fruitful of antiquities, and Mr. Rodgers there raises quite a crop of relics whenever he plows. The neighborhood of a large spring on the place seems to have been a favorite camping ground of the Indians. Mr. Rodgers' farm was also an early pioneer battleground, and the ruins of an old fort can still be seen on the brow of the hill, nearly opposite his residence.
[This farm was located on the current property of the Alton Mental Health Center on Rt. 140.]
INDIAN RELICS EXHUMED ON SPRING STREET IN ALTON
Source: Alton Telegraph, October 21, 1875
A few days since, as Street Commissioner, Benjamin Allen was making some improvements on Spring Street, an Indian burial ground was opened by the excavation, from which were taken the skeletons of an Indian warrior and his squaw, lying side by side. According to the custom of the aborigines, food had been placed at the head of each to enable them to make the journey to the “happy hunting grounds,” and the calabashes or dishes in which the food was placed were found in the position where they had originally been placed. The skulls and pottery were in a good state of preservation, and are now in the care of one of our citizens who is interested in obtaining a collection of this character.
LEG AND FOOT FOUND IN QUARRY NEAR HOP HOLLOW - ENCASED IN
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 27, 1901
Mr. D. Lu Roe, foreman of Golike quarries, brought a curious formation which he found in the quarries at Hop Hollow the other day. It is a perfectly formed, and part of a human leg. The heel and ankle show very distinctly, as does the calf of the leg, which appears to have been pulled away from the rest of the leg. There are no toes visible on the foot, which appears to be encased in a moccasin. Mr. Roe says the place where the foot was blasted out is at least 80 feet from the top of the quarry, and 22 feet from the bottom. It must have gotten there ages ago, and goes to show that the science of "pulling a man's leg" is no new one. The foot and leg found are on exhibition at Stiritz's.
INDIAN PAINTINGS CARVED OUT OF BLUFFS
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 23, 1902
The discovery was made Tuesday night by an Alton man who is much interested in the Indian pictures. The find was on the bluff at Hull's Hollow, above Hop Hollow, that two of the most distinct antique Indian paintings on the face of the bluff there have been chiseled and carved out of the bluffs, and have been carried away by an Alton collector or curios who has added them to his own private collection, it is supposed. The pictures quarried and carved out of the bluffs represent an owl and an animal which is supposed to be either a dog or a wolf, the meaning of the savage artist being not very plain. The owl was on the face of the cliff, and to get it out the vandals chiseled behind the picture and after making a deep cut, split the piece of stone bearing the painting out of the bluff. The picture of the dog or wolf has been quarried from a stone which had been lying on the ground for ages, where it fell long after the painting was put upon it by the Indian artist. Both stones were carried away. The pictures were taken out of the stone sometime within a few days, as the scraps of luncheon eaten by the workmen were still lying around and were fresh. Fresh tracks led up to the ledge high on the bluffs where the paintings were made, and every indication was that the act of vandalism had been perpetrated within a few days before its discovery. The perpetrator of this act may claim that it was done to preserve the paintings, but whether it was done with permission or not the taking of the two best examples of Indian art is certainly inexcusable. Many people have traveled to see these paintings, and all have agreed that the two which were carved from the bluffs were the best and most distinct of all of the Red Man's paintings. Others remaining are indistinct from weathering and fading processes, and could not have been removed, which probably accounts for the fact that only two paintings were taken.
COPPER AXES AND WEDGES, PAINT
ROCK AND OTHER INDIAN HANDIWORK
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 13, 1903
Henry Hendricks, the well-known East Alton farmer, was in the city today with a small box filled with curious specimens of the handiwork of Indians, or more intelligent race preceding even the Indians in the occupancy of this country. Mr. Hendricks made the find, which is one of the most interesting made in years in this locality, while grading on his farm - the old Dan Gillham farm - below East Alton, and they were about six feet below the surface of the earth. There are two copper axes and a copper wedge, all showing skill in manufacture and all showing evidences also of having been used a great deal. There was a large piece of red paint rock, and it is wonderfully full of vitality yet, although it must have lain where found ages upon ages. With its power to color, the piece found is large enough to paint a fairly large town pretty red. Among the articles is a curiously shaped and wonderfully fashioned something, its surface being smooth as glass. A hole is bored clear through it at the thickest part, but what its uses were could not be imagined by those who saw the curios. Mr. Hendricks will have the find investigated further by experts and it is possible that many other articles may be found in the same locality - articles that may serve to throw some light on the problem of nationality or race of the peoples who once populated these valleys and disappeared in some mysterious manner, leaving neither history nor tradition behind them.
ALTON MAN SHOT BY INDIAN
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 20, 1903
The first definite confirmation of the newspaper reports received concerning the shooting of Felix I. Crowe, near Lawton, Oklahoma Territory, was received today by Mr. Albert Howard of Union Street [in Alton]. His wife gave particulars of the shooting, corroborating the newspaper reports. The report that Mr. Crowe had refused to permit the Indian who shot him to ride is an error. While on the way to Fort Sill with hay, the Indian, who was intoxicated, asked for a ride, which Mr. Crowe granted. When darkness overtook them, Mr. Crowe unhitched his team for the night. This enraged the Indian, as he wanted to go on to Mt. Scott that evening. However, he said nothing. Later, when Mr. Crowe had mounted his wagon to get feed for his horses, the Indian fired two shots at him. One, the first shot, entered the head above the right eye, and ranging down, passed through the jaw at the articulation, to lodge in the neck. The other bullet entered behind the ear and passed out through the skull. The first bullet was taken out of the neck. The wounded man returned to consciousness the next afternoon. The Indian escaped and had not been captured up to the last news from there. A letter received this morning by Mrs. G. F. Crowe in this city [Alton] from the daughter of the injured man, states that he is in a very serious condition, that, if he should get well, he will be blind in one eye.
Felix I. Crowe formerly lived at Summerfield (Godfrey) in 1893, and was a former Alton store owner on Belle Street. He did not die from this shooting, but died in 1934 in Oklahoma, and is buried in the Alton Oakwood Cemetery. His daughter, Julia Faye Crowe Malcom, died in 1971 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is buried there.
INDIAN TOMAHAWK FOUND
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 20, 1904
John Shaw of this city [Alton], recently found an Indian tomahawk while walking along the bluffs between Lockhaven and Elsah. The tomahawk is made of iron, with a hole neatly driven through the head for a handle. The edge of the tomahawk on one side is corroded with a smooth black rust, and is supposed to have been lost by its owner while the blood of the victim was still upon it. The tomahawk was made in France and sold to the Indians by French traders. Tomahawks usually were made of flint, to which handles were attached by binding with some tough, strong skin. This old tomahawk, if it could talk, might unfold many tales of horror, and when one handles it, it is with a shudder of horror as he contemplates the use it was put to.
MOON'S WAR BONNET AND OTHER ARTIFACTS IN ALTON –
BROUGHT FROM WYOMING BY W. A. HOPPE
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 17, 1911
Joe E. Noll's cigar store in east Second Street [Broadway] has been converted into a sort of Indian reservation and exhibition emporium, and many people are calling to look at and admire and wonder about the collection of Indian articles displayed there. The exhibit belongs to W. A. Hoppe, formerly of this city, who is back from Wyoming on a visit, and is valued at $75 actual cash paid therefore. It is not for sale, however, at any price, but anyone who cares to do so is welcome to call and examine.
That there are dudes among the 'Noble Red Men' is attested by the belt and vest of one on exhibition. The vest is of heavy black broadcloth, and is embellished with elaborately worked beaded flowers on the front, as well as the back. Two stars made of varied-colored beads adorn the back of the vest also. Beads of many colors have been stitched into the belt, and make it very attractive looking. The vest cost $25.
The war bonnet of Crazy Moon, a noted Arapahoe Indian chief, was purchased by Mr. Hoppe last Labor Day celebration at Lander's, Wyoming, and cost him $35. The feathers in the bonnet, and the long piece of cloth hanging from the headpiece, were taken from wild turkeys and make the bonnet look rather fierce.
There are famous Indian Medicine Stones and Medicine bags among the exhibits, and many strings of beads, moccasins, pipes and other articles, each of which has an interest of its own. Mr. Hoppe also has placed nuggets of silver and gold in the exhibit, and samples of wheat and oats grown in Wyoming indicate that agriculture there must be a paying calling. Many thousands of little beads were used in adorning the various articles exhibited, and the wonder is where do the Indians get all their beads?
ROXANA - SKELETONS OF
INTELLIGENT RACE FOUND
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 11, 1918
A burial place of the original old settlers, antedating the American Indians in Madison County, was today affording interesting study to students of ethnology and archeology. Workmen excavating on a small hill just inside of the Roxana Oil Refinery at Roxana yesterday unearthed the bones of fifteen skeletons. On previous occasions other skeletons were uncovered in that vicinity and the discovery of the additional skeletons yesterday helps to demonstrate that at some time there must have been many people buried in that neighborhood. Many of the skeletons were found almost whole, in an upright posture in the soil. The skeletons appeared to be both male and female, and of old and young persons. The skulls were well preserved, and the teeth were in good condition. On each of the skulls on the right side there appeared to be a small dent, which might have been made by a savage's war club. The skeletons are not of Indians, for the large jaw bone of the Indian and the large joint bones, which characterize the Indian skeleton are lacking. Ethnologists have frequently declared that at one time a highly developed race lived in America before the Indians, and that they were slain by the Indians.
The finding of the skeletons gives rise to the belief that there must have been a massacre of an entire tribe of highly civilized prehistoric men at that place by the Indians, and that they were all buried together in a heap, which is now the site of the Roxana Oil Refinery [former Shell Oil, now Phillips 66, at Hwy. 111 and Madison Street]. This supposition is strengthened by the fact that in the memory of the old settlers at Roxana, no cemetery was ever located in that vicinity. Frank Smith, whose grandfather secured the Smith land, which was sold to the Roxana Oil Refinery, says that his grandfather secured the land from the government on a homestead claim, and that in his remembrance there was no cemetery there at that time. The fact that the bones are not those of Indians would prove apparently that the skeletons belonged to some prehistoric race, which evidently were later killed off by the Indians.
On numerous occasions specimens of the finest pottery made of pulverized mussel shell, and cemented with a substance, the nature of which chemists of today cannot duplicate, have been found in that neighborhood, and this lost art of mussel shell pottery is believed to belong to that prehistoric race. H. H. Clark, cashier of the First State and Savings Bank at Wood River, who is interested in ethnology and archeology, went to Roxana this morning and secured a number of the skull and thigh bones found at the refinery. He also took along several well-preserved specimens of teeth found in the jaw bones, beside several specimens of the mussel shell pottery, which was found nearby. The find was made just inside of the Roxana gate, where six of the fifty houses to be erected for workmen at Roxana are being put for the foremen of the plant. At that place there is a small hill which rises up inside of the gate, and it was in the side of the hill that the skeletons were found. The discovery has attracted a great deal of interest, and many from Alton and Wood River went down to Roxana today in automobiles on learning of the finding of the skeletons. Many of the bones were taken away as relics and will be carefully preserved.
I have no further information on this archeological find, or what happened to the remains of these people. Although the newspaper had the opinion that these weren’t the remains of Native Americans, they probably were, as records show that the area was dotted with small mounds which held Native American remains. Too bad this discovery was thoroughly examined by archeologists and the remains preserved in a local museum. In early days, the remains of Native people ended up in a St. Louis or Springfield, Illinois museum.
NATURAL FOUNTAIN AT ROCK SPRING NO LONGER RUNS
Carved in Solid Rock by Indians
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 3, 1912
One of the prettiest features of Rock Spring park, the little spring that gave the park its name, has been done away with. The natural fountain which bubbled forth from a cleft in the rock no longer pours water into the two little basins that are said to have been carved in the solid rock by the Indians. There were two little bowls into which the water ran, and it was possible to scoop up a cup full of water at a time. A few years ago the stream of water broke through in another place and poured forth in two channels thereafter. The park commissioners have had a hole cut in the rock farther up stream, about six feet, and in this have inserted a sewer pipe, well cemented in. The sewer tile drains all the water that formerly bubbled out of the old time spring, the work being completed last night. Now, while the beautiful little spring has been wiped out of existence, the water that once came forth into the two little stone basins pours out of the mouth of the tile pipe, and anyone wanted a bucket of water can get it by holding a bucket under the end of the pipe. There will be many who will regret that the old time spring has been changed, wiped out of existence. It was a pretty feature of the park, and one that was very attractive.
STONE BASINS AT ROCK SPRING PARK
CARVED BY INDIANS
Water No Longer Fit to Drink
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 5, 1917
That people don't believe in signs is evident, since they paid no heed to the sign placed over rock spring - the spring from whence Rock Spring Park gets its name. It has been about two years since the park commissioners first placed the sign over the spring, announcing the water unfit for drinking. People who had been drinking water from the spring for many years gave no attention to the verdict from the Illinois State University, pronouncing the water unfit for drinking, and they kept on drinking it. Boys defaced the sign many times. They erased the "un" from the word "unfit," so that the sign read: "this water is fit for drinking." Numerous new signs were put up by the park superintendent, but each time it was changed to read differently from the original lettering. The park superintendent took away all the cups many times, but others would carry cups there and leave them. Empty soda bottles were used for drinking out of, and old tin cans were gathered up left at the spring where the water continued to flow in its usual quantity from the tile that had been placed in the hillside some years ago by the park workmen to carry the water out to the public instead of allowing it to run out through the little stone basins that were supposed to have been cut out by the Indians many years ago. The park commissioners have at last given up trying to stop the public from drinking the water by persuading, and they have blocked the water from the tile by completely closing it up with concrete. The tile itself is covered up with a mound of concrete, and the flow of water has ceased. The water again runs out by way of the little stone basins in the creek. If the public insists on using the water, they will find it a little more inconvenient now to get at, but they can still get it by dripping it out of the basins.
WANDA - 100 INDIAN SKELETONS FOUND
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 18, 1916
One hundred Indian skeletons have been unearthed and there may be as many more in an Indian mound that was dug into on the Hugh Poag farm near Wanda yesterday. Hugh Poag, the owner of the land, was digging away some of the dirt of the mound to do some grading, when he came on to the skull of a human being. He dug further and found the entire remains of this and many other skeletons. Today Mr. Poag gave the alarm and there are over fifty persons who have been digging in the mound all day and up to noon today. They have taken out over a hundred Indian skulls and a great pile of bones that are the remainder of the remains of the Indians buried in the mound. John R. Sutter of Edwardsville, a local Edwardsville archeologist, visited the mound this morning and stated that the bones were the bones of Indians without a doubt. He believes that this is a burial ground of a large number of Indians, killed in battle or by some disease, and he states that the way the bodies seem to have been thrown into the mound in any form and just covered over indicates the burials were very hurried. The scene where the Indian remains were found is on the old Charles Sebastian farm, and Mr. Sebastian now residing in Edwardsville, has many Indian specimens that he found in the mounds of the land when he owned the land. St. Louis archeologists visited the scene today and the find all in all has caused much ado in the ranks of the archeologists of the district.
INDIAN ART PAINTED ON ROCK GOES TO ST.
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 27, 1921
A business transaction was closed in Alton this week through William Waters of Godfrey, for the Missouri Historical Society, through which the 4 paintings that were carved from the rocks in the Levis Bluff, at Physical Culture farm site, by George Dickson in 1905, passed into the possession of this society. The four paintings which Mr. Dickson took from the bluff were an owl, a sun circle, a squirrel and a piece showing two birds or some kind of animals in a contest. Back in 1905 the paintings were still in a fair state of preservation, and the late Professor William McAdams got photographs of them for illustration in his book, “Records of Ancient Races.” The papers that went with the paintings were none other than proof of their authenticity, this being an affidavit signed by George Dickson and William Turk, the affidavit being attested by Edward G. Merriwether. Although there was some criticism at the time the paintings were taken from the face of the bluff, it is perhaps well that they were, for after a hundred or two years of being on the face of the bluff, and after having perhaps, been repainted by the Indians from time to time, they were fast disappearing because of erosion caused by the large amount of salt peter in the stone at that point. There are still three paintings remaining on the bluff, the largest one of all being a great animal, perhaps a lion, and another an animal about as large as a dog. The outlines of the mountain lion are still to be seen faintly. The specimens of Indian painting which pass from Illinois into Missouri, will be housed in a fire proof building, will be protected from the elements and proper drawings of what they were have been made to give one a good idea of what Indian art was in the days when the Red Man roamed the hills of Alton, with none but himself to dispute his holdings and with no tax collector or war taxes to worry him. It is believed by many students of these paintings that the Piasa Bird was painted with the same pigment paint these other paintings were made of, and whatever it was, was that much better than the paint the white man of today makes that it lasted better than perhaps two hundred years, despite the most adverse conditions.
From the Records of Ancient Races by William McAdams, 1887 [Referred to above]:
"Some three or four miles above the city [Alton], high up beneath the overhanging cliff, which forms a sort of cave shelter, on the smooth face of a thick ledge of rock, is a series of painting, twelve in number. They are painted or rather stained in the rock, with a reddish-brown pigment that seems to defy the tooth of time. These pictographs are situated on the cliff more than a hundred feet above the river. A protruding ledge, which is easily reached from a hollow in the bluff, leads to the cavernous place in the rock; and while one is safe from rain or storms, he has a splendid view, not only of the Mississippi, which flows a mile in width in majesty below, but of the cultivated bottom lands on the opposite shore and beyond, the turbid waters of the Missouri - one of the most magnificent scenes of this romantic locality.
Half the figures of the group are circles of various kinds, probably each having a different meaning. On the left are two large birds, apparently having a combat, in which the larger bird seems about to be victorious. To the right of the birds is a large circle enclosing a globe, and before which is the representation of the human form, with bowed head and inclined body, as if in the act of offering to the great circle something triangular in shape, not very unlike a basket with a handle, which is held in the hand. Among all the ancient pictographs we have seen, this is the only one where the human form is depicted as if in adoration, perhaps to the sun. Counting from the left, the eighth figure in the group seems to be intended to represent some carnivorous animal with a long tail, which is turned over its back. The next figure in the series is a large bird with extended wings, which seem to come from the base of the neck. This curious winged creature seems to be having a combat with a circle or planet with two horns. This is an interesting figure, because it is repeated in other groups, as we shall show; and is quite evidently intended to represent a contest of flying animals over the possession or destruction of a circle or planet. At some little distance then follows in the series the representation of an owl; the whole ending with a smaller red circle.
On the top of the bluff above these pictographs are a number of ancient mounds, not very large ones. Upon excavating in them we found them to contain human remains, in a tolerable state of preservation. The material, of which the mound was composed, being loess, together with the dry and elevated position, was favorable to resist decay. In burial, the bodies had been laid prone on the ground, with limbs extended. Some ornaments from sea shells, with a few rude bone and stone implements, were all of this nature to be found. Nothing was to be seen that might indicate any connection with the pictographs on the face of the rock below."
THE LITTLE RED-HAIRED
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 3, 1900
Mrs. Henry M. Needles of Granite City, President of the Women's Federated Clubs of this congressional district, made a most interesting talk of the early history of this and St. Clair county, and told of a massacre in which only a little red-haired girl was saved, because the Indians would not kill a person with red hair. The child, taken away by the Indians, lived with them for three years when French hunters took her away from the Indians to Quebec, and she was later returned to Virginia to her relatives, six years after her capture by the Indians.
INDIANS RESIDING NEAR EDWARDSVILLE
As Told by George T. Allen, M. D.
From the Alton Telegraph, December 31, 1874
I remember distinctly, that when we arrived at Edwardsville, one half of the people there then were Indians - principally Delawares, there assembled to receive their annuities. An Indian agent then resided here, and, there being an abundance of game in all the country around, these Indians, during several consecutive years, passed the winter here. Their wigwams covered much of the space from the old Court House in the middle of the town to the creek. These Indians desired to be very friendly and thought they must enter every house and shake hands with every white man, woman and child. To us, this was a dreaded ordeal; for, besides our many prejudices and their condition of the next thing to nakedness, the most cleanly of our Indian neighbors were plainly and palpably very lousy. These Indians were expert hunters and ever ready to trade a fat, full-grown turkey or a saddle of venison, for a loaf of wheat bread.