Our Sac War, Will County, Illinois
From: History of Will County, Illinois
By: August Maue
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1928

Our Sac War. - As this is one of the early settled portions of Will County, its history could hardly be considered complete without some special reference to the Indians and the Sac war of 1832, so often mentioned in these pages. Although nearly a half century has passed since those rather "ticklish" times, and most of the participants are gone where "wars and rumors of wars" come not to disturb their peace and tranquillity, there are a few left who remember well the great excitement of that period. And the very Indians themselves are almost forgotten by the masses, or only remembered through the reports from the distant West of their robbing, plundering and murdering. But on the 18th day of May, 1832, Hickory Creek Settlement, for the small number of inhabitants it contained, perhaps was about as excited a community as one will generally meet with in half a life time. On that day news was brought to the settlement of the death and destruction being dealt out by Black Hawk and his dusky warriors. A committee of a dozen men who had the best horses were appointed to go to Plainfield and reconnoiter, and bring back news as to the truth of the reports. Thomas and Abraham Francis were on the committee, and the news brought back was not calculated to allay the existing excitement in the least. On approaching Plainfield, they discovered Indians firing on the fort or blockhouse, and the committee stood not on their retirement, but fell back precipitately, to put it into the mildest form possible. On their return, they reported to the settlers that the Indians were coming and killing everything before them. A council of war was called at "Uncle Billy" Gougar's, and it was determined to seek safety in flight, and on the 18th of May they commenced the line of march. The majority retreated toward the Wabash settlements, while some few went to Chicago. The bustle and excitement of getting ready to start, and the momentary expectation of hearing the terrific yells of the savages, gave rise to some ludicrous scenes, as serious as was the cause of alarm. Mr. Pence's girls came to Mr. Gougar and asked him to yoke up their oxen for them. "Yes, in a minute," said he; but before he could get ready to do so, the brave girls had yoked the cattle themselves, hitched them to the wagon, and were gone on the way toward safety. (Young ladies of Will County, how many of you could perform such a feat today, if an emergency should arise to demand it?) The first day the cavalcade arrived within four miles of the Kankakee River, where they encamped for the night, intending to start at daylight and drive to the river before breakfast. But just after starting the next morning, a man named Lionbarger came up hatless, riding bare back, and did "a tale unfold" of Indians in pursuit and of murder and carnage, that completely dispelled the appetites of the already frightened fugitives, and they did not stop for breakfast until 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and "thirty miles away" from their encampment of the previous night. As the women and children would see the trees along the way that had been burned and blackened, they would shriek, Indians! and thus the march or retreat was continued through to a place of safety. It was discovered afterward that Lionbarger had mistaken fence stakes for Indians, and hence his story of the pursuit and of his own extreme fright. He rode, it is said, eighty miles without stopping, bare headed and without a saddle, a feat that has never been excelled, as we are aware of, even by Jim Robinson the great bare back circus rider. But the storm of war soon passed; the dark and lurid clouds rolled away toward the west, and the sun came forth in all his glory - the olive branch of peace waved over the land, and the fugitive settlers returned to their claims in July of the same year which witnessed their precipitate retreat, never more to be disturbed in their peaceful pursuits by the red men of the forest, who, like Dickens' little Jo before the "peeler," have moved on before the "superior race," the white men, and are still moving on toward the "golden sunset," where erelong they will hear the roar of the last wave that will settle over them forever.

His first Winter in the settlement was that of the "deep snow," the epoch from which the few survivors who remember it, date all important events. During the time this great fall of snow remained on the ground, and which was four feet deep on a level, he used to cut down trees, that his horses and cows might "brouse" upon the tender twigs. With little else to feed his stock, from sleek, fat animals in the Fall of the year, they came forth in the Spring - those that survived the Winter - nothing but "skin and bones." He would sit down and weep at the sufferings of the poor dumb beasts, and his inability to render them material aid in the way of nourishing food. But it used to exhaust his wits to provide food for his family at all times during that first Winter. Once they run out of meal, and though he had sent to Chicago for a barrel of flour (the mode of communication with Chicago not then being equal to what it is at the present day), it was long in coming; and before its arrival the larder had got down to a few biscuits, laid aside for the smallest children. Mrs. Stevens says her father declared if the flour did not come he would take as many of his children as he could carry on his back, and attempt to make the settlements, but good luck or providence was on his side, and the barrel of flour came before they were reduced to this extremity.

A sad story was told us by Mrs. Stevens, who, though but a little girl of fifteen or sixteen years of age at the time, remembers the occurrence distinctly. It was of a family who had settled near the present village of Blue Island, and during this deep snow their store of provisions became exhausted, and the husband and father started for the settlements to procure fresh supplies. Being unavoidably detained by the snow, the last crumb disappeared, and the mother, in the very face of starvation, started for Chicago, as is supposed, to get food for her children, and got lost on the prairie and was either frozen to death or killed by wolves. The former supposition is probably the correct one, and after freezing was devoured by the wolves, as nothing was ever found but her bones, which were recognized by her shoes. Her children were discovered by some chance passer by when almost starved to death, and were taken and cared for by the few kind hearted people in the country at the time. The husband's return was a sad one. His wife dead and eaten by wolves, and his children cared for by strangers, it would almost seem that he had little left to live or care for.


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