pages 40 - 44
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED. ERECTION AND DESTRUCTION OF
September, 1813, Gen. Howard marched with about 1400 men from Portage des Sioux
for Peoria,"—Beck's Gazetteer, 144. It required but little fighting to take
possession of and hold the place, and they built a work which became of some
notoriety in the vicinity, called Fort Clark, in honor of Gen. George Rogers
Clark, the celebrated hero of Vincennes and Kaskaskia. This fort was a simple
stockade, constructed by planting two rows of logs firmly in the ground, near
each other, and filling the space between with earth. This, of course, was not
intended as a defense against artillery, of which the Indians had none. This
fort was about a hundred feet square, with a ditch along each side. It did not
stand with a side to the lake, but with a corner toward it The corner farthest
from the lake was on the upper side of Water street, near the intersection of
the upper line of Water and Liberty streets. From there the west line ran
diagonally across the intersection of Water and Liberty streets, nearly to the
corner of the transportation warehouse, at the lower corner of Liberty and Water
streets. At this corner was what I suppose military men would call a bastion;
that is, there was a projecting corner made in the same manner as the side
walls, and so constructed, as I imagine, as to accommodate a small cannon to
command the ditches. And the same had no doubt been at the opposite corner; but
when I came to the country, in November, 1831, there was no vestige of it
remaining. In fact, at that time there was but little to show that there had
ever been a fortification there, except some burnt posts along the west side,
and a square of some ten or twelve feet at the south corner, and a ditch nearly
filled up, on two sides of this square and on the west side of the fort. The
fort had been burnt down to the embankment of this square and of the west side.
After which the embankments had been mostly worn away by the rains and other
means, until that part of the logs that was under ground had become charred
posts. Some of them, however, had become entirely decayed and were gone. On the
other sides there was but little to be seen of logs or embankment. I lived where
the transportation warehouse is for more than ten years, and when I leveled down
the southerly angle, for my own convenience, one of those posts became high
enough and was strong enough for a hitching-post, and I employed a blacksmith
(Isaac Evans) to put hooks in it for that purpose. That post was used for that
purpose until I removed from there in May, 1844. It was then taken up by Mr.
Drown, and sawed up into walking-canes, and sold on speculation at fifty cents
Here is a subject worthy of the philosopher. This log remained in the ground, and in the weather, about thirty-one years, and was then mostly sound. Why did it so greatly outlast the others ? This, it is true, was white or burr oak—I believe the latter,— and they are both generally durable wood, but not to this extent. Farmers are well satisfied to have either white or burr oak to last half of this time.
I have heard that this old fort was burnt in 1819; but the following letter from Col. Hubbard, in answer to one I had written to him, for information, seems to fix it in 1818.
Chicago Dec. 30th, 1867.
C. Ballance, esq.
Dear Sir : In reply to yours
of the 26th, I have to say that I was in Peoria the last days of 1818, for the
first time, on my way to St. Louis passing there, returning about the 20th
November, and wintering about one mile above Hennepin. It was my first year as
an Indian trader.
As we rounded the point of the lake, above Peoria, on our down trip, we noticed that old Fort Clark was on fire, just blazing up. Reaching it, we found about 200 Indians congregated, enjoying a war-dance, painted hideously, with scalps on their spears and in their sashes, which they had taken from the heads of Americans, in the war with Great Britain, from 1812 to 1815. They were dancing, rehearsing their deeds of bravery, etc. These were the only people then there, or in that vicinity. I never knew of a place called Creve-Coeur. . . .
I have a vivid recollection of my first arrival there. A warrior, noticing me (then a boy of 16), asked Mr. Des Champs, the chief of our expedition, who I was. He replied that I was his adopted son, just from Montreal; but this was not credited. The Indian said I was a young American, and seemed disposed to quarrel with me. Des Champs, wishing to mix with the Indians, left a man on the boat with me, telling him not to leave, but take care of me, not to go out. Through this man, I learned what the purport of the conversation was. The Indian remained at the bow of the boat talking to me through this man, who interpreted, saying, among other things, that I was a young American, and taking from his sash scalp after scalp, saying they were my nations, he saw I was frightened. I was never more so in my life, fairly trembling with fear. His last effort to insult me was taking a long-haired scalp, . . . [Here the Colonel describes the particular way in which the Indian made it very wet, and then proceeds] and then shaking it so that it sprinkled me in the face. In a moment all fear left me, and I seized Mr. Des Champs's double-barreled gun, took good aim, and fired. The man guarding me was standing about halfway between us, and, just as I pulled trigger, he struck up the gun, and thereby saved the life of the Indian, and perhaps mine also. It produced great confusion, Des Champs and all our men running to their boats. After a short consultation among the old traders, Des Champs ordered the boats to push out, and we descended the stream and went down three or four miles, and camped on the opposite side of the river. That was my first experience of hostile array with my red brethren.
G. S. HUBBARD.
Since writing the above, I
have talked with Josiah Fulton and William Blanchard, who first came here in
1819, and they are positive that they then found it on fire, and put it out.
Perhaps they are both right. Perhaps when it was first set on fire it was only
partly consumed. Earth having been filled in between the pickets, they would not
burn fast, and the fire would be easily extinguished.
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