HISTORY
OF
MENARD & MASON COUNTIES, ILLINOIS
1879

Chicago: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street
Chicago

ABORIGINAL INHABITANTS

Of the history of Menard County, as associated with that of the Indian tribes, but little can be said.

On the highest bluff along the Sangmon River, there are to be seen, to the present time, remains of the works of that strange people called the "Mound Builders." Many of these mounds have been opened, but no relics of any value have been found. Stone axes, arrow-heads and spear-points of flint have been picked up on the surface, and exhumed from below the surface of the ground, some having been found as deep as twelve feet below the top of the ground. The present writer opened a number of mounds along the crest of the bluffs of the Sangamon. In one of these was found, at a depth of thirty inches below the surface, a full set of human teeth embedded in the clay. Nothing of them remained save the portion above the gums, covered with enamel. The entire thirty-two were present, with no mark of decay in any of them. They were as white as those in any living subject, and the upper and lower sets were closed together as in the closed mouth of a living being. These were setting in the pure unmixed clay, and in all the surrounding earth not a sign was visible of the remains of decayed bones or anything save pure clay. The teeth slacked like lime, turning to a fine white powder in a few minutes after being brought to the air. The mound in which these were found, was nearly exactly round, about twelve feet in diameter, and about three and a half feet above the natural level. Some three hundred feet from t his, another of almost exactly the same size and form of this was opened. This contained two human skeletons, lying about three feet below the surface. The heads were very near the center of the mound, lying within about ten inches of each other, the body of one lying nearly east and west, the other extending from northeast to southwest. These were thought to be the bones of a male and a female. Some three hundred yards from these, was another mound, somewhat smaller in diameter than the others, but a foot or more higher. Carefully removing the top of the mound, it was found that about two and a half feet below the top of an ordinary brick. It appeared that a small mound, perhaps two feet high, and six inches across the top, had first been raised, and a basin, six feet across and a fire built in this till the clay was burned hard to the depth of two inches. In this basin, mingled with charcoal and ashes, were the bones of a man. The smaller bones were all burned to a snowy whiteness, while the larger ones were charred on top and the under surface was entirely unaffected by the fire, indicating that the fire had been built on top of the body, thus leaving the under surface of the bones unmarked by fire.

Further down the river a great number of Indian graves are found, in almost all of which specimens of pottery are found in connection with the bones.

When the first settlements were made in the limits of the county, the Indians had nearly all been removed; a few were still in the timber on Indian Creek, in the neighborhood of Indian Point; and two old men, with ten or a dozen of their relatives, remained for some time. These were Shick-shack and Shambolee. They lived a year or two on the hill just south of the late residence of Judy Robert Clary; they then removed to a high hill within a mile of the present town of Chandlersville. Here Shick-shack died and was buried and the hill is still called Shick-shack's Hill. After his death, the rest of the little band left the haunts of the pale-face and were heard of no more.

There being no trouble with the Indians at the time of the settlements there, and there being various forts near the frontiers, as Fort Clark, at Peoria, and others, there was never any need of forts or block houses in this section of the State. At one time, while the Indian town was in Elkhart Grove, a band of warrior made an incursion on the settlements farther south, and carried off a young lady prisoner. The first day, she was tied fast on the pony that carried her, but she had presence of mind enough to tear off bits of her clothing which she dropped at intervals when not watched by her captors, as marks by which her friends might know she was still alive, and also to serve as guides for her pursuers. The band, with their captive, crossed the Sangamon River almost east of where Springfield now stands. The father of the captive, with a few friends, was in rapid pursuit, and came up with them somewhere near where Williamsville is located. At the first fire, the girl having clandestinely loosed the thongs that bound her to the pony, leaped off and ran toward her rescuers. An Indian gave chase, and, seeing his prisoner about to escape, hurled his tomahawk at her, striking her in the small of the back, and fastening the blade firmly in the spinal column. She fell helpless in the prairie, but, after a brief skirmish, the Indians fled, and the young lady was restored to her friends; but it was long before she recovered from the wound of the Indian's missile. Some aver that this took place after the first settlements had been made in this county; but others, equally entitled to credit, with equal confidence affirm that it was not. The reader interested in the Indian history of Illinois is referred, for further information to the "History of the Northwest" in the former part of this volume.


1879 Index

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