By Jared Olar
The Black Hawk War of 1832 is a significant moment in Illinois history, for it was the last time white settlers faced any kind of sustained, violent resistance from Native American tribes in Illinois.
The surrender of Black Hawk at Prairie du Chien on Aug. 27, 1832, not only brought an end to hostilities in the brief war – it marked the end of all Native American habitation in the state. Over the next few years, the Illinois government systematically cleared the state of American Indians, deporting them to reservations far to the west of the Mississippi. With the removal of the native tribes, Illinois saw a new influx of white settlers to the northern and western parts of the state.
As we’ve noted several times in this column space, both native inhabitants and white settlers in Tazewell County – such as Pekin co-founder Isaac Perkins, as we recalled last week – were among those caught up in the events of the Black Hawk War.
Two brigades of the Illinois Militia were organized in Tazewell County. One of them, under the command of Capt. John Giles Adams and Gen. Samuel Whiteside, commander of the Illinois Militia, was organized at Pekin. Shabbona, leader of the Pottawatomi who dwelt along Gravel Ridge at Pekin, is also remembered for the aid he gave to white settlers in central Illinois during the war. Believing violent resistance to be futile, Shabbona and his people refused to join Black Hawk’s uprising, and Shabbona earned the enmity of Black Hawk’s Sac and Fox Indians by riding across the countryside to warn white settlers of their danger.
As this column has previously noted, there are a number of publications and resources in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection that provide information about the Black Hawk War and how it affected the early history of Tazewell County and Pekin. A recent addition to the Local History Room collection conveniently presents various historical materials on that subject. Entitled, “Tazewell County in the Black Hawk War 1832,” this publication is a 155-page comb-bound book that collects together essays, maps, and illustrations from older books now in the public domain and previously published on the Internet.
The first 21 pages provide muster rolls of the Tazewell County brigades, biographies of Adams and Whiteside, and information about the debacle at Stillman’s Run. Then follow 33 pages of historical essays on the Black Hawk War by Dr. James Lewis, Ph.D., and two pages of information about the Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island. The final section of the book, covering 99 pages, is a reprint of the 1833 “Autobiography of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, or Black Hawk” along with J. B. Patterson’s 1882 “Life, Death and Burial of the Old Chief, Together With A History of the Black Hawk War.”