Saukees and Musquakees - Black Hawk - Character, &c. - Treaties of 1804 - Successive Treaties - Spirit Cave on Rock Island

It would, perhaps, be well to devote a short space to the earlier history of this section, and collateral occurrences, before prosecuting the more direct objects of the present work.  The relations of the Aborigines are so intimately interwoven with the pioneer history of every place in the West, and the character, doings and reverses of those remarkable men who once held an undisputed right to this vast continent, that a short digression, having bearing upon them, is pardonable, if not strongly desirable.

The "trail" of the Indian bearing Westward - to Poverty, Starvation - to Death - to Annihilation, runs broad and hard-beaten direct through the scenes which adjoin our homes.  The funeral march of once powerful tribes has but just passed the grounds covered with the monumental masonry of the Pale Faces - and their mournful tramp is scarcely stilled yet in our ears, although filled by the shouts of a new and strange multitude.

The recent occurance of such events, and their close alliance with this and adjacent portions of our country, give them a claim to our attention - although it must be necessarily but brief.

In 1804, the Sauks, Saukees, or Sacs,* and Musquakees or Foxes, ceded to the United States, through General Harrison, all their lands lying on Rock River, and much elsewhere.  The principle Sac village ws at the point of land between the junction of the Mississippi and Rock River - a point just below the present site of Davenport, on the Illinois side.  There according to tradition, had been a village for one hundred and fifty years.  The entire country belonging to the tribes, bordered on the Mississippi, and extended about seven hundred miles down the river from the mouth of the Wisconsin, reaching very nearly to the Missouri river.  In 1820, they numbered about three thousand persons in all, of whom, perhaps, six hundred were warriors.

The Sac village alluded to was commanded by the celebrated Black Hawk, alias the pleasant verbal agglomeration- Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak - who, as a warrior, is as well or better known than Tecumsah, or Phillip of New England.  The Musquakees, or Foxes, lived further north, and had, near the lead mines, their principal village.  Still, notwithstanding the separation of the Sacs and Foxes, they were, in reality, but one tribe, as they hunted together, had similar customs, and so far as unity of purpose was concerned in their enmity to the Sioux, and other nations, they were indissoluble.

Black Hawk was the most celebrated "brave" of his nation.  He had been in the service of England in 1812; had been an intamate friend of Tecumseh; was ranked among the braves at the early age of sixteen, and at the age of twenty, or thereabouts, succeeded his father as chief, the latter having been killed in a bloody battle with the Cherokees.  With such a life - scarcely if ever defeated in battle - proud, imperious, and with a deep tinge of melancholy in his later years - venerated by his braves, and feared by his enemies, he was no common man, nor would his nature admit of such treatment as might be endured patiently by ordinary or less strongly marked men.

Of his personal appearance, the editor of the United States Literary Gazette thus speaks, as he saw him in Philadelphia in 1833:

"He is about sixty-five, of middling size, with a head that would excite the envy of a phrenologist - one of the finest that Heaven ever let fall of the head of an Indian.

* See A, end of Chapter III.           

 *                *                  *                   *                    *                       *

"The son of Black Hawk is a noble specimen of physical beauty - a model for those who would embody the ideal of strength.  He was painted, and had his hair cut in a strange fantasy."  It was remarked by many in the same city at that time, that Black Hawk's "pyramidal forehead" strongly resembled Sir Walter Scott's, while others found in its peculiar outlines a very striking similarity to those of the well-known Stephen Girard.  Washington Irving, writing concerning him from Jefferson Barracks in December, 1832, says:  "He has a fine head, a Roman style of face, and a prepossessing countenance."  Many of our older citizens, who knew him personally, describe him as embodying in his countenance an expression of deep cunning, and as rather lacking in intellectuality.  He was however, extremely superstitious, and it is more than probable that the war in which he engaged in '31 and '2 was owing largely to the influence of a half breed Winnebago and Sac prophet, named Wabo-kieshiek, (White Cloud,) although his constitutional hatred of the Americans, and the unwarranted aggressions of the latter in many cases, undoubtedly materially assisted precipitating the matter.  In all, however, he was, with many failings, a great man - possessing a depth of character, a reach of means, energy, and patriotic feeling which, developed under the promotive and powerful influences of civilization, would have elevated him to the proud rank of those whom the world recognizes as "Great."

In regard to the treaty of 1804, there are two accounts.  One regards it as a bona fide transaction, whereby the lands of the Sacs and Foxes were sold by responsible men of the tribes; and that it was further ratified by a part of the tribe in a treaty with Gov. Edwards and Auguste Choteau in September 1815, and by another with the same commissioners in May 1816.  These further allege, that the United States allowed the Indians to remain upon any portion of this land so long as it remained the property of the Government, and that the lands occupied by the Sac village at Rock River, had been surveyed and sold, and hence could no longer be justly occupied by the Indians.*  

The other account, which is that of Black Hawk himself, states quite a different story.  It is, that an Amerian having been killed by one of Black Hawk's men, the murderer was arrested and imprisoned at St. Louis.  Four Indians were dispatched by the tribe to St. Louis to release the incarcerated Indian. "by paying for the person killed" - according to their custom.  The return of the four is thus described by Black Hawk:

"Quash-qua-me and party remained a long time absent.  They at length returned, and encamped a short distance below the village - but did not come up that day - not did any person approach their camp!  They appeared to be dressed in fine coats, and had medals.  From these circumstances, we were in hopes that they had brought good news.  Early the next morning the Council Lodge was crowded - Quash-qua-me and party came up, and gave the following account of their mission:

'On their arrival at St. Louis they met their American father, and explained to him their business, and urged the release of their friend.  The American Chief told then he wanted land - and they had agreed to give him some on the west side of the Mississippi, and some on the Illinois side, opposite the Jeffreon.  When the business was all arranged, they expected to have their friend released to come home with them.  But about the time they were ready to start, their friend was let out of prison, who ran a short distance, and was shot dead!  This is all they could recollect of what was said or done.  They had been drunk the greater part of the time they were in St. Louis!'

"This is all myself of nation knew of the treaty of 1804.  It has been explained to me since.  I find, by that treaty, that all our country east of the Mississippi, and south of Jeffreon, was ceded to the United States for one thousand dollars a year!"

It may be questioned whether the treaty at St. Louis was one concluded by authority of the tribes - although it is not in the least doubtful that, on the part of the Commissioners, the proceeding was concluded in all fairness, and with the belief that the Indians who signed the treaty were instructed to do so by the Sac and Foxes.  Black Hawk is mistaken in some points of his statement.  The treaty was signed by five Chiefs instead of four, one of whom, Pah-she-pa-ho, was a head chief among the Sacs.  It was also made before Lieut. Pike ascended the Mississippi, instead of after, as stated by Black Hawk, as Pike did not leave St. Louis till August, 1805, on his expedition.

In September 1815, both Sacs and Foxes concluded a new treaty, wherein the treaty of St. Louis was ratified, among other matters.  This treaty was held at Portage des Sioux, and was a finale to the war with England of 1812, in which a part of the tribes, headed by Black Hawk, had fought against the Americans.  This treaty was not signed by Black Hawk or his band, although signed largely by Chiefs of both tribes, who were fully empowered so to do.  In May, 1816, another treaty was held at St. Louis, in which that of 1804 was recognized, and was signed by Black Hawk.


One cannot doubt that these successive treaties were binding upon the Sacs and Foxes, although the renumeration was contemptibly small.  All this rich extent of land was made over for the pittance of some two thousand dollars (in goods,) down, and an annuity of one thousand, also in goods. That such treaties should also be held among the tribes, and not a distance, is obviously no more than fair. All complaint would thereafter be prevented.

In 1816, Fort Armstrong was erected upon Rock Island.  It was a measure distasteful to the Indians, for reasons which we give in Black Hawk's own words:

"We did not, however, object to their building the fort on the Island, but we were very sorry, as this was the best Island on the Mississippi, and had long been the resort of our young people during the summer.  It was our garden, (like the white people have near their big villages,) which supplied us with strawberries, blackberries, plums, apples, and nuts of various kinds; and its waters supplied us with pure fish, being situated in the rapids of the river.  In my early life, I spent many happy days on this Island. A good spirit had care of it, who lived in a cave in the rocks immediately under the place where the Fort now stands, and has often been seen by our people.  He was white, with large wings like a swan's, but ten times larger.  We were particular not to make much noise in that part of the island which he inhabited, for fear of disturbing him.  But the noise of the Fort has since driven him away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken his place!"

Not a few Davenport readers will recognize in this the base of the legend of Black Hawk's Cave, and his going thither to consult with the good Genius of the place.  A fit place, truly, was it, for the dwelling of the Red man's tutelar spirit!  Facing the glorious river, which, fair as the Eridanus of Elysium, rolled before it, - with the music of its flow softly filling the recesses of his retreat - with the poetry of moving waters ever dramatized before his eyes - on either side the prarie rolling back like an ocean of green, frozen to rigidity in some long, gentle swell - the shady island, with its lucious fruits, and a domain as fair of the Garden of Hesperides - with the long, winding bluffs on either side, rolling away in the distance till, uniting above and below, they walled in as glorious a landscape of plain and hill, curve, rounding outlines of surface, water, foliage and sky, as ever artist-hand sketched, or artist brain imagined - with all these circumstances, we do not wonder that the imaginative Indian located in this particular spot his Guardian Genius!

*Gov. Ford's history of Illinois.