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Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
Several tribes of Indians, some from Iowa, and other roving bands of red men, including Chippewas, Sacs, Foxes, and a few Pottawattomies, occupied camps adjacent to the water courses of the county about the time of the coming of the first pioneers and for an indefinite period prior to that time. These several tribes, as uncertain history reveals, were preceded by a tribe known as the Missouris. Their homes or camps were located along the several streams of the county where wild game was found in abundance, but their habitations were temporary, their more permanent homes being in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Many indications of their camps and homes are still to be found in some localities in the county, but these old land marks are rapidly disappearing under the advance of civilization and ambitious relic hunters. Numerous indications of their abodes may be found a short distance southeast of Chillicothe; twelve miles north of Chillicothe on Grand river; also a short distance east and south of Springhill; also near the site of Collier's old mill on Medicine creek, and again on the west side of Locust creek south of the railroad right-of -way about ten miles east of Chillicothe, a large mound containing forty to sixty acres of land has been visited by many relic hunters who have been well rewarded for their search by unearthing numerous trinkets of Indian workmanship. This particular home of the red man of the forest was finally vacated by them in the year 1836.
Another large Indian mound in which many relics have been discovered by excavations from time to time, is situated three-fourths of a mile north and west of the Utica depot of the Burlington railroad. At the present time, however, only an occasional "find" is made, although it is the opinion of pioneer residents that deeper excavations might reveal relics of much value to present and future historians.
An old Indian cemetery, believed to have been the first burial place of the "good Indian" in Livingston county is also found northwest of Springhill, some three miles distant. Of this last resting-place of the red man many weird stories have been related by James Leeper, and other early pioneers of the county.
Going back to the beginning of the eighteenth century when the early French trappers were forging their way into a country unexplored by white man, we glean from history that as early as 1724 a party of Frenchmen ascended the Missouri to the mouth of Grand river and established a fort four years later on a point of land six miles below. One of these early explorers, Dubois by name, was placed in charge of the crude garrison and while holding this position, met and wooed an Indian maiden of the tribe of the Missouris. Opposite this fort, on the bank of the stream a camp of the Missouris had previously been established. Pocahontas-like the red-skinned, dark haired bride of Sergeant Dubois, proved to be the peace mascot between the warriors of her tribe and the pale faces of the garrison and quite reigned until a northern tribe known as the Huns, attacked the village of the Missouris and the fort and almost annihilated both fort and village. The French rappers who had ascended into the forests of the Grand River valley, in all probability, suffered a similar fate to those mentioned and not again until the year 1770 did the French trappers venture into this section of the West. The country west of the Mississippi belonged to France until it was ceded to the United States in 1802. The French had only a small garrison in what is now South St. Louis and with the exception of a few Spaniards the bulk of the trading and trapping was done by these people.
Early historical sketches make the claim that a few years prior to 1800 Daniel Boone, while on a trapping and exploring expedition, reached a point on Grand river about twenty-five miles from its mouth. As related in unauthenticated history, this noted pioneer had come up from the village of St. Charles and after a brief sojourn on the Osage, he crossed over and with his "dugout" paddled up the Missouri to the mouth of Grand river and thence to the point mentioned. Here he constructed a somewhat formidable hut or cabin and began trapping for beaver and other fur-bearing animals, which he found in great numbers
Daniel Boone was a pioneer and explorer. On one of his trips up the river he discovered unmistakable signs of Indians. Snow covered the ground and realizing that the wily red man, with his natural instinct to track the paleface to his lair was as keen as the scent of the bloodhound, he cautiously retraced his steps to the little cabin where he remained in fear and seclusion for a fortnight, the snow falling meantime to a great depth. Boone feared to build a fire in the daytime, so he cooked his venison in the small hours of the morning. During his stay in the cabin the weather was very cold, but he managed to keep warm by wrapping himself in the furs which he had taken before reaching this locality. At the end of almost three weeks there came a January thaw, the ice in the river was broken up and one night he stealthily loaded his canoe with the furs he had trapped and silently made his way down the river to St. Charles.
This unauthenticated story of Daniel Boone's adventures is positively contradicted by the late Col. W. F. Switzler, a well known historian of Missouri and who was for many years editor of the "Chillicothe Daily Constitution." Colonel Switzler also states that his denial of the alleged facts about Daniel Boone's Grand river adventure, is fully supported by the late Hon. Phil. E. Chappell, once treasurer of Missouri and a gentleman well informed as to the early history of this state.
Additional reference to the Indians of Livingston and adjoining counties is found in "Boyd's Atlas," a sketch of which says: In 1828 a French trading post was established at the mouth of Locust creek, a tributary of Grand river, emptying into the latter in the extreme southeast part of the county, but that the occupants were so annoyed by roving bands of the Iowa, Sac, Fox, and Kickapoo Indians, that the post was abandoned. This state of affairs has also been denied on the theory that the Indians and French traders got along amicably. As early as 1809 Joseph Robidoux had charge of trading posts at Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Blacksnake Hills for many years and all of his dealings with the Indians were satisfactory and peaceable.
In the isolated sections of the country and especially at the headwaters of the streams that flow through Livingston county, which include southern Iowa and northern Missouri, the white settlers were more or less annoyed by roving bands of Indians and many pioneers along the border of the two states were driven from their homes, their cabins burned and stock driven off.
The upper Chariton river country including Kirksville in Adair county, at which point some half dozen white families had established a settlement in 1829 was attacked by a band of some half hundred or more Indians of the Iowa tribe, whose chief was known as "Big Neck." The women were grossly insulted, abused and threatened, while sundry depredations were committed, the men cruelly beaten and their lives for a time placed in jeopardy. The chief was willing that the white settlers should remain but they must first purchase the land from him. "Big Neck" claimed the treaty ceding the lands to white settlers was a fraud and that he would enforce his claim by bloodshed unless his demands were complied with.
By shrewd strategy the settlers succeeded in keeping the Indians from committing further depredations while a messenger sent to the counties of Howard, Chariton, and Randolph for assistance brought three companies of pioneers. The first arrivals who were from the latter county and commanded by Captain Trammel, reached the scene of the beleaguered settlers on the second day's march and thus released them from their perilous and dangerous position. This settlement was known as "The Cabins."
This hardy pioneer company to whom we owe much for their bravery and for the hardships they endured in blazing a path to civilization and prosperity, were not content to leave the little band subject to the future attacks by "Big Neck" and his warriors. Accordingly they concluded to have a fight with the Indians before returning home. Fitting themselves for the fray they marched out to a spot ten miles distant, where the Indians were camped and attacked them. Being greatly outnumbered by the red skins the frontiersmen were defeated, after a hard fought battle. They sustained a loss of their captain and three men after which they retreated to "The Cabins" where they secured the women and children and escorted them to the Howard county settlement. Sometime later, however, a force of militia under Gen. John B. Clark, was sent against "Big Neck" and his band of warriors and drove them from the state.
A further reconnaissance by the militia of Chariton county was subsequently made for the purpose of ridding this territory of these depredating bands of Indians. The company, which was composed of seventy-five or eighty hardy pioneers was under the command of Capt. Daniel Ashby with Lieut. James Herriford and Ensign Abner Finnell, marched to the lower Iowa village on Grand river and thence to the Chariton where it was joined to Colonel Owens' command, to which it belonged. During this march many Indians were found on the lower Grand river, but these were peaceable. In fact no hostiles were encountered. It will be noticed here that some of the members of Captain Ashby's company were subsequently residents of Livingston county and to-day the name of Ashby, Herriford, and Finnell are well known to the present generation.
This move on the part of the pioneers and militia had the effect of driving the more adventurous settlers on the frontier back to the older settlements along the Missouri river. During this "Big Neck" trouble there was general alarm and the abandonment of many homes and much property. In most instances the danger was imaginary but there was a sense of peril which could not be overcome and a large majority of the settlers sought places of refuge and safety from "Big Neck" and his braves. History records the fact that while the white people were hurrying away to the more thickly settled part of the country for protection, the Indians' fear and dread that they would be annihilated by the militia drove them deeper and deeper into the forest and beyond the reach of the pale faces.
The settlements along the Missouri and Grand rivers had another bad scare in 1832, at the breaking out of the Black Hawk war. Like the "Big Neck" trouble, advance settlers deserted their cabin homes and as fast as the alarm was sounded from one family to another that the Indians were coming, homes and often property of value was left behind and all went hurrying and scurrying to the nearest general settlements. Not until the news had reached the villages and towns in which the settlers had taken refuge that Black Hawk himself was a prisoner and his band of tribesmen helpless, did the frightened whites return to the homes from which they had so suddenly taken their departure. The red men, most to be feared in this section of Missouri were first the Iowas, then the Pottawattomies and the little bands of Kickapoos and Shawnees in the order named.