Chicago Tribune, April 29, 1900
OW many of the present residents of the Second Ward ever heard of “Carville?” How many of them could identify the historic “Road to Widow Brown’s,” which still exists under another name and has recently been made known to fame as the “Archey road” of Mr. Dooley? Many of them, perhaps, could point out the southern boundary of the original city limits, and the Indian monument has made them reasonably familiar with the site of the massacre of 1812. But do they know as they ride down Cottage Grove avenue in the cable that they are following the ancient Indian “trail to the east,” and could they point the location of the first regular city cemetery, the site of the first legal execution in Chicago? Do they know where the Indians camped before the awful massacre of 1812 and the place where the luckless garrison surrendered?
No other part of the city shows more clearly than the Second Ward the results of the great and rapid growth of Chicago. When the city was incorporated in 1837 Twenty-second street was its southern boundary. The total population at that time was 4,170, and much of the territory within the city limits was unoccupied. Even as late as 1854 a corporation known as the American Car company started a manufacturing suburb on the lake shore at the foot of Rio Grande, now Twenty-sixth street, most of which lay within the present boundaries of the Second Ward. Here, about the works of the company, which was engaged in building railroad cars, grew up in a thriving settlement, which in the ’50s was known as “Carville.”
Later, many of the rich men of the booming city built fine houses on Michigan and the lake. At the time of their erection they were looked upon as almost suburban residences, lying out far enough to be removed from the noise and bustle of the city. But the pressure from the business district southward has driven out many of the old residents, and boarding-houses, dressmakers’ establishments, and other business places are fast occupying many of the fine houses of other days. On Prairie avenue, however, there still exists the so-called “Millionaires’ Row,” and elsewhere in the ward prominent and wealthy citizens have so far been able to withstand the demand for more space from the congested business district.
Each year, however, the pressure grows stronger, and one may mark the annual growth of the city by watching the gradual encroachment of business on the residence district.
But to the Chicagoan as well as to the visitor to the city, the place where the garrison of old Fort Dearborn was massacred by the Indians in 1812 must always remain the most interesting spot in the Second Ward. At the foot of Eighteenth street, close to the tracks of the Illinois Central, now stands a handsome monument, and in this way the exact location of the attack. For years a great cotton wood tree stood on the site of the present monument, and in this way the exact location was preserved through the nearly ninety years which have passed since the date of the massacre.
Few stories in history have more of tragic interest than that of the massacre of the little garrison of Fort Dearborn, while the adventures through which its survivors passed before reaching places of safety would furnish material for a whole school of historical novelists.
Until the fire of Oct. 9, 1871, the massacre stood alone as the great tragedy in the history of Chicago as white men know it. Before the coming of white men Chicago was a battleground. It was a place of advantage recognized by the Indians, and they battled for it in many bloody wars. These, however, are known as only as scraps of Indian tradition have been preserved. The massacre was a battle for the coveted spot on which the city rests. It was prompted, however, not alone of the desire of the Indians to recover their ancient heritage, but by the plans of war made by the British against the Americans. War was declared against Great Britain on June 12, 1812, but long before that the English had been courting alliance with the Indians. The earliest indications of it seen in Chicago was the murder of two white men at Hardscrabble, a settlement at what is now Center avenue and the river on the West Side. This murder took place in April, 1812, and was the first unmistakable sign of danger to the white people gathered about the little fort at the mouth of the Chicago River.
CAUSE OF THE MASSACRE.
The immediate cause of the massacre was the surrender of General Hull to the British. When this timid commander surrendered he yielded all of the military posts in his jurisdiction to the enemy. Fort Dearborn was one. The garrison was ordered to abandon the post and go to Detroit to be made prisoners of war, if such a movement were practicable. The property in the fort and ay the agency was ordered distributed among the Indians. An Indian runner from Detroit reached the fort with the order on Aug. 7. The garrison consisted of one company of the First Infantry, U.S.A., Captain Nathan Heald commanding; Lieutenant Linan T. Helm, Ensign George Ronan, fifty-four men, and the post surgeon, Dr. Isaac van Voorhis. Captain Heald set about to obey the order of General Hull without consulting with his brother officers, who wished to remain, but Captain Heald had his way. On Aug. 13 Captain William Wells, who had lived nearly his entire life with the Indians, arrived from Fort Wayne with thirty Miami Indians to form an escort for the garrison. He was an uncle of Mrs. Heald and a famous frontiersman.
All of the surplus guns and ammunition in the fort were thrown into the well on Aug. 14. Since the river course was changed at Wells street at the time its new mouth was made it flows over the location of the well. The whisky in the fort was spilled in the river. The other surplus stores were distributed among the Indians.
The next morning, Aug. 15, the garrison marched out of the fort. It was reinforced by twelve militiamen. These were mostly discharged soldiers, who, with their families, settled in Chicago when their terms of enlistment expired. Captain Wells, who had painted his face black as a sign of war, rode at the head of the procession as it left the fort. He was accompanied by half a dozen of his Miamis mounted. Next came the militia, then the regulars with the wagons containing the women and children and the food supplies. The remainder of the Miamis formed the rear guard. Mrs. John Kinzie and her children went in a boat, following the lake shore and keeping abreast of the procession that wound its way along the beach. John Kinzie, mounted, rode with the procession.
WELLS SCENTS DANGER.
When the procession reached a point on the lake shore, about one mile and a half from the fort, at what is now the foot of Eighteenth street, Captain Wells discovered signs of danger. He rode back, waving his hand in a circle above his head and indication that they were surrounded. Then the heads of Indians were seen bobbing up over the ridge of sand hills which were parallel with the lake shore, about 100 yards away. The Indians had followed the garrison from the fort, keeping step with them, with the sand dunes screening them.
“They are about to attack us,” cried Captain Wells; “form and charge them.”
Instantly the rifle fire of the Indians began to rattle among the tops of the sand dunes. The regulars and militiamen formed quickly and charged up the hills. As they ascended one of the militiamen, an old man with white hair and beard, fell. The charge was made at the Indian center and it broke. The Indians turned and fell upon the flanks, right and left. The Miami escort fled. The soldiers captured the sand dunes, but the Indians were by that time murdering the women and children. Captain Wells saw the slaughter of the helpless children.
“Is that your game, butchering women and children?” he cried. “Then I will kill, too.”
He galloped toward the camp of the Indians, where their squaws and pappooses were. He had not gone far when he was wounded. He laid on his horse’s neck and turned and fired as fast as he could load his pistols. His horse was killed and he was seized by the Indians. Two Indian chiefs, Winnemeg and WauWaubansee, went to his rescue. They were supporting him to a place of safety when an Indian, Peesotum, gave him the coup de grace.
Some of the Indians were concealed in a ravine, near where Eighteenth street and Prairie avenue intersect. Another desperate charge was made and the Indians were driven from the ravine. The Indians still surrounded them, and in the hopelessness of the struggle Captain Heald, who was wounded in the hip, offered to surrender when the Indians called on him to do so. Peresh Leclerc, a half-breed boy, who acted as interpreter, was sent to propose the terms of capitulation. The Indians agreed to spare the lives of all the prisoners.
THE COWARDLY DOCTOR.
The fighting occupied only a short space of time. The account of Mrs. Helm is that it continued only a few minutes, but it was marked with many acts of heroism. She remained near the wagons ofnthe beach. In her graphic account as recorded in “Wau-bun,” a historical novel by Mrs. John H. Kinzie published in 1844, she says:
When I felt that my hour had come, and preparing myself for my fate, Dr. Van
Voorhees, came up. He was badly wounded. His horse had been shot under him, and he had received a ball in his leg. Every muscle of his face was quivering with the agony of terror. He said to me:
‘Do you think they will take our lives? I am badly wounded, but I think not mortally. Perhaps we might purchase our lives by promising them a large reward. Do you think there is any chance?’
‘Dr. Van Voorhees,’ said I, ‘do not let us waste the few moments that yet remain to us in such vain hopes. Our fate is inevitable. In a few moments we must appear before the bar of God. Let us make what preparation is yet in our power.’
‘Oh! I cannot die,’ exclaimed he, ‘I am not fit to die—if I had but a short time to prepare—death is awful.’
I pointed to Ensign Ronan, who though mortally wounded and nearly down, was still fighting with desperation on one knee.
‘Look at that man,’ said I, ‘at least he dies like a soldier.’
‘Yes,’ replied the unfortunate man, with a convulsive gasp, ‘but he has no terrors of the future — he is an unbeliever.’
BLACK PARTRIDGE’S ACT.
The incident of the fight that is recorded in the figures of the bronze group of the massacre monument is thus related by Mrs. Helm, who is represented as the central figure in the group:
At this moment a young Indian raised his tomahawk at me. By springing aside I avoided the blow, which was intended for my skull, but which fell on my shoulder. I seized him around the neck, and while exerting my utmost efforts to get possession of his scalping knife, which hung in a scabbard over his breast, I was dragged from his grasp by another and an older Indian. The latter bore me struggling and resisting toward the lake. Notwithstanding the rapidity with which I hurried along, I recognized as I passed them the remains of the unfortunate surgeon, Dr. Van Voorhis. Some murderous tomahawk had stretched him upon the spot where I had last seen him.
I was immediately plunged into the water, and held with a forcible hand, notwithstanding my resistance. I soon perceived, however, that the object of my captor was not to drown me, for he held me in such a position as to place my head above the water. This reassured me, and, regarding him attentively, I soon recognized, in spite of the paint with which he was disguised, Black Partridge.
When the firing had nearly subsided my preserver bore me from the water and conducted me up the sand banks. It was a burning August morning, and walking through the sand in my drenched condition was painful and fatiguing. I stooped and took off my shoes to free them from the sand with which they were nearly filled, when a squaw seized them and bore them off, and I was forced to proceed without them.
When we had gained the prairie (at about Twelfth street) I was met by my stepfather (John Kinzie), who told me that my husband was safe, but slightly wounded. They led me gently back toward the Chicago River, along the southern bank of which (at State street) was the Pottawattomie camp. At one time I was placed on a horse without a saddle, but, finding the motion insupportable, I sprang off. Supported partly by my kind conductor, Black Partridge, and partly by another Indian, Peesotum, who held dangling in has hand a scalp, which I recognized as that of Captain Wells, I dragged my fainting steps to one of the wigwams.
The whites had surrendered after the loss of about two-thirds of their number. They had stipulated through the interpreter, Peresh Leclerc, for the preservation of their lives and of those of the remaining women and children, and for their delivery at some of the British posts, unless ransomed by traders in the Indian country. It appears that the wounded prisoners were not considered as included in the stipulation, and a horrible scene ensued on their being brought into camp. An old squaw, infuriated by the loss of friends, or excited by the sanguinary scenes around her, seemed possessed by a demoniac ferocity. She seized a stable fork, and assaulted one miserable victim, who lay groaning and writhing in the agony of his wounds, which were aggravated by the scorching beams of the sun. With a delicacy of feeling scarcely to have been executed under such circumstances,m Wabeeneemah, a chief from the Illinois River, stretched a mat across two poles between me and the dreadful scene. I was thus spared in some degree a view of its horrors, although I could not entirely close my ears to the cries of the sufferer.
Attack of Indians at Fort Dearborn
Cassell’s History of the United States Vol: 2
In his report of the fight, Capt. Heald said:
Our strength was about fifty-four regulars with twelve militia, out of which twenty-six regulars and twelve militia were killed in action, with two women and twelve children. Ensign George Ronan and Dr. Isaac Van Voorhis of my company, with Captain Wells of Fort Wayne, to my great sorrow, are numbered among the dead. Lieutenant Linai T. Helm, with twenty-five non-commissioned officers and privates, and eleven women and children, were prisoners when we separated.
FATE OF PRISONERS.
The survivors, who were scattered during the fighting, were brought together again at the Pottawatomie camp. Mrs. Heald had been wounded six times and thought her husband had been killed when she was brought into camp a prisoner. Mrs. Heald also was reunited with her husband at the Indian camp. These two officers, with their wives, escaped from captivity by purchasing their freedom. The other prisoners were taken to the Fox River by the Indians and distributed among the Indians as servants. About nine months later those who still survived were ransomed by a French trader from the Indians. They were taken by General Proctor, the English commandant, to whom General Hull surrendered, and sent to Québéc as prisoners.
From the meager details relating to these prisoners the following is gathered from the Niles Weekly Register, June 4, 1914:
John Neads, who was one of the prisoners, formerly of Virginia, died among the Indians between the 15th and 20th of January, 1813.
Hugh Logan, an Irishman, was tomahawked and put to death, he not being able to walk, from excessive fatigue.
August Mott, a German, was killed in the same manner for the like reason.
A man by the name of Nelson was frozen to death while a captive with the Indians. He was formerly from Maryland.
Mrs. Corbin, wife of Phelim Corbin, in an advanted stage of pregnancy, was tomahawked, scalped, cut open, and had the child taken out and its head cut off.
Of the militia men there is little information. There were only twelve and every one of them died a soldier’s death. John Burns, who lived on the north side of the river, and Lee of Hardscrabble were among them. The other are nameless heroes.
One of the episodes of the fight was the duel between Naunongee, a chief of the Calumet village, and Sergeant Hays. This Indian had received many favors from Hays, but during the fight he singled out this soldier for his victim. Hays was a man of great strength and daring, and his scalp was a desirable trophy. Naunongee shot Hays through the body and rushed to scalp him. Hays had fallen, but when he saw the ungrateful Naunongee coming at him with scalping knife he raised himself and pierced the chief with his bayonet. The two warriors fell and clutching each otehr as they expired.
The greater part of the romantic incident attaching to the terrible affair clings to the memory of Ensign George Ronan, He was attached to the First Regiment, U.S.A., and shortly after graduation from West Point was sent to Fort Dearborn. He was tall, athletic, and handsome. He was a skillful horseman, a crack shot, and somewhat particular about his personal appearance, and he had the disposition of a light-hearted boy. When the order came to evacuate the fort he boldly opposed the decision of his superior officer. When the garrison was marching out on the fateful morning, the Indians, to whom the beef cattle of the post had been given, were killing them as if they were a herd of deer in a corral.
“That will be our fate,” he said prophetically.
“Are you afraid to go,” said Captain Heald.
“I would go where you would not dare to show your face,” he said to his Captain with fine disrespect to superior authority.
He was as fearful in action as he was in speech, as the story of his death attests. When mortally wounded and brought to his knees, he kept on fighting.
Black Partridge, who saved the life of Mrs. Helm, was before that time friendly to the whites. He aided in bringing about the treaty of Grenville in 1809 and was given a silver medal by President Madison. The day before the evacuation of the fort he gave the medal to Captain Heald, saying he would not keep it any longer, because it was a token of peace and his warriors had decided in council that they would dip their hands in the blood of the whites.
Mrs. John Kinzie, who, with her four small children, a nurse girl, and two half-breeds and two friendly Indians, was going by boat to keep along the shore in sight of the troops until St. Joseph, Mich., was reached, turned back when she saw the fight. was on. She, with her children, returned to their house and her husband rejoined her that evening. The next day a band of Wabash Indians arrived at the fort and were disappointed when they found they were too late to participate in the fight. They helped burn down the fort and then they went across the river and were about to fall upon and kill the Kinzies. Black Partridge, Waubansee, and Keepotah, with two other friendly Indians, were guarding the family from the hostile braves. They were not able to repress the savage designs of the Wabash warriors. These savages, with their faces painted black, forced their way into the Kinzie house, and when it seemed as if they were about to lay about them with their tomahawks Billy Caldwell, the “Sauganash,” arrived. He was a half-breed. His father was Colonel Caldwell of the British army, an Irishman. His mother was a Pottawatomie Princess. He was educated by the Jesuits and was a man of ability. He was secretary and adviser to Little Turtle, who defeated General St. Clair, and at this time he held the same confidential relations with Tecumseh. Of all men he was the one most welcome to the Kinzie household at that moment. He evidently had inherited some of the qualities of his father, for he “jollied” the Wabash warriors out of their bloodthirsty purpose and sent them away in an amiable mood. As soon as they could the Kinzies proceeded to St. Joseph, Mich., where the fell into the hands of the British as prisoners. They managed to return four years later when the war was ended and Fort Dearborn rebuilt.
It is interesting to note that none of the French residents of Chicago at that time was disturbed. Antoine Ouillemette, for whom the town of Willmette is named, and Joseph Laframboise were living here then.
One of the first two country roads laid out by the early citizens of Chicago begins within the boundaries of the Second Ward. In 1831 the Court of County Commissioners decided that a road should be built from the Town of Chicago “the nearest and best way to the house of Widow Brown on Hickory Creek.” In laying out this road the “viewers” followed the old “Hubbard trail to Danville,” which in turn was but a continuation of an even older Indian trail. In 1836, when the agitation for a canal was at its height, “the road to Widow Brown’s” was greatly improved and put into good condition from Chicago to Lockport at a cost of $40,000. One of the Canal Commissioners under whose direction the road was improved was Colonel William B. Archer, after whom the newly improved road was renamed ‘Archer road.” It was pointed out at the time that Colonel William B. Archer had much property in Lockport, which would be benefitted by the improvement of the road, and charges were made that the work was not done in good faith. However that may be, the fact remains that in the present Archer avenue the Second Ward has one of the most historic thoroughfares in the city, while the fact that Archer avenue bids defiance to all the points of the compass and wanders through the country at its own free will is explained when it is remembered that it is simply a continuation of an old Indian trail.
A similar state of affairs explains why Cottage Grove avenue runs diagonally through the city, commencing in the Second Ward. It was originally the old Indian trail to the east, over which the Indians of Michigan and Ohio passed on their way to fight with or against their brothers of the Illini. Originally this trail followed as closely as possible the shore of the lake, being separated from it only by the great dunes of hillocks of sand which in early days stood as a barrier between the lake and the prairie. Since the trail to the east was laid out, also, much land has been stolen from the lake and the western shore has moved some distance to the east, as is shown by the dotted line on the map, of the present shore line.
At the corner of Twenty-second street and Calumet avenue, in the Second Ward, stand the present buildings of the old Dearborn Seminary, the oldest private school for girls in the city. Organized in 1854, the Dearborn Seminary occupied a building on Wabash avenue until the time of the great fire of ’71, and has for many years since been located in its present quarters. As it was for years the only high-class school for girls in the city, it was natural that hundreds of women now prominent should be among its graduates. To those interested in educational matters there are few institutions of more interest in the city.
In the Second Ward are also located some of the most beautiful and most prominent churches in the city, to say nothing of the great tabernacle where “Dr.” John Dowie weekly preaches to the hosts of his new “Zion.” Down at Dearborn and Twenty-fourth streets is a large and flourishing group of medical colleges, hospitals, and dispensaries, where poor patients may have free medicine and attendance. Just north, the so-called “Bad Lands,” a quarter largely given up to disreputables driven out of the old “levee” by the pressure of business district. Still farther to the north is the East Side Italian quarter, where the sons of the land of Michael Angelo live in crowded tenements. Between Twenty-second and Twenty-fourth streets, close to the tracks of the Illinois Central, is the site of the first cemeteries ever regularly laid out in Chicago.