The Roaring ’20s in Tazewell County

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in November 2013 before the launch of this weblog.

The Roaring ’20s in Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In March 2013, this column concluded a 25-part series that had begun in Sept. 2012 on a pair of sensational murders that occurred in East Peoria and Pekin in the early 1930s. The series put a magnifying glass on different aspects of life, law and crime in Tazewell County toward the end of the Prohibition Era.

The era of Prohibition, of course, is commonly known as the Roaring ’20s, a colorful description of a generally high-spirited time of material prosperity and swift social change. It’s now been a century since the start of that decade. A book about that time is included in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection: “Roaring in the ’20’s in Tazewell County,” produced in 2002 by the Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society and compiled by Vivian Higdon.

The book is only 46 pages, yet “Roaring in the ’20’s” has individual chapters on all of the things for which that era is known: not only gangsters and organized crime, or Prohibition and speakeasies, but also the Woman’s Suffrage Movement, fashions, automobiles and roads, new inventions, sport and entertainment, and heroes and daredevils.

The Roaring Twenties weren’t all gangsters, speakeasies, and flappers. Sometimes it was a group of neighborhood boys in Pekin shooting a game of marbles, as in this undated 1920s photo from the Peoria Journal-Transcript. Shown left to right are Urban Albertsen (1917-1999), Edwin Hamilton, Dan Reardon, Howard Riopel (on bicycle), Chester Marshall, Harvey Bennett, Paul Herren (1917-1986), Joe McNaughton (1919-2002), Murray Revoid, and Robert Hamilton. The photographer was Brooks Watson.

Among the social changes of that decade were changes in the language, so it makes sense that “Roaring in the ‘20’s” also has a handy one-page glossary of 1920s-era slang, from “applesauce” to “whoopee.”

Here are some selections from the glossary:

Applesauce: Horsefeathers!
Bee’s knees: An excellent idea, person, thing
Berries: Similar to bee’s knees
Big cheese: Big shot
Bluenose: Prude
Bump off: Murder or kill
Bunk: Nonsense
Cake-eater: A ladies’ man
Cat’s meow: See “Bee’s knees”
Cat’s pajamas: See “Cat’s meow”
Cheaters: Eyeglasses
Crush: Infatuation
Darb: Reliable to pay a check
Drugstore cowboy: A man who tries to pick up girls on the corner
Dumb Dora: A stupid woman
Flapper: A stylish, brash young woman wearing short skirts and shorter hair
Giggle water: Alcoholic beverage
Heebie-jeebies: The jitters
Hoofer: Dancer
Hotsy-totsy: Pleasing
Jake: It’s OK
Joint: A club, usually serving alcohols
Keen: Attractive, appealing
Nerts: To show disgust (“Nuts!”)
Scram: Leaving quickly after being told to
Sheba: Woman with sex appeal
Sheik: Man with sex appeal
Spifflicated: Drunk
Struggle buggy: Backseat of a car (a parent’s worst nightmare)
Swell: Wonderful; or a rich man
Take for a ride: Drive off with someone to bump him off
Torpedo: A hired gun
Upchuck: To vomit as a result of drinking too much
Whoopee: To have a good time

#brooks-watson, #chester-marshall, #dan-reardon, #edwin-hamilton, #harvey-bennett, #howard-riopel, #joe-mcnaughton, #murray-revoid, #paul-herren, #preblog-columns, #roaring-20s, #roaring-in-the-20s-in-tazewell-county, #robert-hamilton, #the-third-degree, #urban-albertsen, #vivian-higdon

Kiwanis trip to D.C.: ‘On Our Way’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Pekin Daily Times owner and publisher F. F. McNaughton used his daily “Editor’s Letter” newspaper column to chronicle the weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., that the Pekin Kiwanis Club and a party of Peoria teachers took in June 1932. Here is the first “log entry,” headlined “ON OUR WAY” and published on the front page of the June 13, 1932 Pekin Daily Times.

*****

Pekin Daily Times owner and publisher F. F. McNaughton in 1979. PHOTO FROM LOCAL HISTORY ROOM COLLECTION

Pekin Daily Times owner and publisher F. F. McNaughton in 1979. PHOTO FROM LOCAL HISTORY ROOM COLLECTION

As this is being read by those of you who get your papers in the evening, I am trying to write you another letter on my knees.

I don’t mean that I am on my knees.

But the letter I am writing is on my knees.

We are on our way to Washington.

Some 200 of us left Tazewell county this noon over the Alton with a nice send-off from the Broadway depot of the Alton in Pekin.

We followed the circuitous route of the Alton to Bloomington and from there we rolled over the main line of the Alton to Chicago.

We are about due in Chicago as the average reader is picking up his paper this June Monday afternoon at 5 o’clock.

We might as well set our clocks ahead right now for Chicago goes on daylight saving time which is eastern standard time.

So we’ll be on time an hour ahead of yours the rest of the week.

That means that daylight will leave pretty early in the evening.

So this means the night’s sleep will not be overly long. Daylight will come at an hour earlier than usual, and into the day coach the light will pour at this midsummer dawn, wakening all of us.

I shall try to post a short note to you from Chicago tonight, then maybe wire you a few lines from the east for tomorrow.

By the way, a couple tips.

If you haven’t filed your claims at the Farmers National bank, better do so this evening, and be sure to do so by tomorrow.

Another tip. There is to be a tax on motor oil go on a week from today – 4c a gallon. But it is not on yet this week.

Well, we’ll be wiring you.

#alton-depot, #f-f-mcnaughton, #kiwanis-trip-to-washington, #pekin-kiwanis-club

Pekin wasn’t always a welcoming place

Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in June 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

Pekin wasn’t always a welcoming place

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Included in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is an extensive file on a dark period in Pekin’s history: the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The KKK attained prominence and prestige throughout the Midwest in the early 1920s, and was established in Pekin by a vaudevillian and respected community leader named Oscar Walter Friederich, owner of the Capitol Theater. Friederich was a Grand Titan in the Klan, supervising more than 40 Illinois counties, and Pekin was his regional headquarters.

In September 1923, Friederich and two other Klansmen, Silas Strickfaden and E. A. Messmer, partnered to buy the Pekin Daily Times, which thus became an organ of the KKK’s racist and nativist propaganda. Consequently, much of the Local History Room’s file on the KKK consists of copies of Pekin Daily Times articles and advertisements from the first half of the 1920s.

Almost as rapid as its rise was the Klan’s fall in the mid-1920s, due not only to organized social opposition to the KKK across the country but also to several public scandals that made national headlines. The Klan’s local fortunes in Pekin followed its national fortunes, and when the Klan fell into disrepute, the Pekin Daily Times nearly went out of business and Friederich had to sell the paper in June 1925.

An image from a darker time, this illustration appeared in a Pekin Daily Times advertisement for a major Ku Klux Klan gathering in Pekin — the “Klantauqua” — that took place in late August 1924.

A few other articles in the Local History Room’s KKK file touch on the related subject of Pekin’s reputation as a racist community unwelcoming to non-whites. Given Pekin’s past and reputation, sociologist James Loewen included Pekin in his 2005 study, “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” which explores the phenomenon of U.S. communities that made it known to blacks that they had better be out of town by nightfall.

Obviously, the history of the KKK in Pekin had a lot to do with that reputation, but a closer look at Pekin’s history reveals that the reputation predates the Klan’s arrival in Pekin. For example, on July 24, 1933, the Pekin Daily Times printed a curious story at the bottom left corner of the front page, with the headline, “Now it is Explained: Why Negroes Don’t Light in Pekin; Once Upon A Time There Were Balls and Chains.”

This story followed a news report of the preceding week, published at the bottom right corner of the Daily Times’ front page on July 21, 1933, about a black man from Chicago Heights named James Davis, one of two blacks who had been arrested in Pekin as stowaways atop a C. & I. M. box car. The news report, which utilizes the racially derogatory language common in those days (which we will not quote here), says Davis’ companion went quietly, but Davis allegedly resisted arrest and attempted to escape.

Davis was brought to court the next day, and the judge told him, “The court after carefully considering the case fixes your fine at $25 and costs, but fine and costs will be remitted if you get out of town. The court will give you one hour to get out of the best city in the state.” Davis replied that he thought he could make it out of Pekin in five minutes.

The follow-up story, which again uses racially derogatory language, shows an awareness of Pekin’s reputation, observing, “There have been other stories about Negroes getting out of town in a hurry – one about a man that left the city hall in such a rush that he even forgot to eat his dinner, other talks of Negro families moving in town one day and out the next – until it seems that there must be that indefinable something about Pekin that keeps her population almost wholly white.

“Illinois population bulletins show that there are few other cities the size of Pekin that have no Negro population.

“William Gaines, one of our two black men, who is porter at the Tazewell hotel and who has been here for 30 years, explains the non-existence here of others of his race by the fact that Peoria is so near, and that Negroes in general prefer to live in larger cities.”

The story then relates a personal recollection of Emil Schilling, “one of Pekin’s lifetime residents who remembers everything that has gone on here for the past 50 or 60 years.” Schilling attributed the absence of blacks in Pekin to an incident that older men of the town had told him when he was a boy.

“He was told that there had been a gang of levee Negroes working as the crew on a river boat back in the days before the Civil war, 30 or 40 of them, that had gotten too much whisky at 20c a gallon and had begun to carouse.” According to this tale, the blacks were arrested and clapped in iron, and were sentenced to six weeks of labor on the city streets dragging a ball and chain.

Schilling said word of that incident spread up and down the Illinois River. On a trip to St. Louis during the 1880s, Schilling encountered a group of black dockworkers, and he asked one of them if he would like to live in Pekin. According to Schilling, the man replied, “No, suh, boss, no suh, that town ain’t no place for a n—–.”

One of the most remarkable features of this 1933 Pekin Daily Times story is the complete absence of any reference to the Ku Klux Klan, even though the KKK’s popularity in Pekin during the first half of the 1920s is obviously relevant to this question. This is a glaring omission that was probably intentional on the writer’s part.

While it’s unclear how much weight should be placed on Schilling’s recollections, his tale would suggest that Pekin’s reputation as a community unwelcoming to blacks predates the Civil War. That would not be surprising, given the fact that until the Civil War Pekin was a Democratic, pro-slavery political stronghold. One of the important factors in shifting Pekin to an anti-slavery Republican stronghold was the influx of German immigrants around the mid-1800s.

However, while the German influence was crucial in the shift of Pekin’s politics, it also helped make Pekin less desirable as a place to live for non-German-speakers, both white and black. As a result, “The small black population and many of the older white families moved to Peoria,” according to an April 13, 1989 Peoria Journal Star column by retired Peoria Journal Star editor Charles Dancey of Pekin.

The practical results of these cultural and demographic trends can be tracked in the U.S. Census: in 1900, only four blacks lived in Pekin, in 1910 only eight, in 1920 (just before the KKK arrived) a total of 31, in 1930 only one – and in 1940 not a single black person was left in Pekin.

#e-a-messmer, #emil-schilling, #kkk, #oscar-walter-friederich, #pekin-daily-times, #pekin-history, #pekins-first-riot, #pekins-racist-reputation, #racism, #silas-strickfaden, #sundown-towns, #william-gaines

Joseph Irwin, founder of the Pekin Daily Times

Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in April 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .

Joseph Irwin, founder of the Pekin Daily Times

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Pekin’s hometown newspaper, the Pekin Daily Times, has a history that stretches back to Oct. 1873, when the Peorians Joseph B. Irwin and Col. W.T. Dowdall bought and renamed a failed weekly paper called the Pekin Register (1856-1873), the successor of the Pekin Weekly Plaindealer (1854-1856), which in turn was born of the merger of the Tazewell County Mirror (1836-1854) and the Pekin Weekly Reveille (1850-1854).

The Pekin Times remained a weekly until Jan. 3, 1881, when Irwin turned the paper into a five-column daily. Ever since, the Pekin Daily Times has been published Monday through Saturday. But rather than trace the newspaper’s history, let’s take a look at the life and career of the paper’s founder.

Irwin’s life story is told in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pp. 720-722, as well as the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties, Illinois,” 1894, p.254. Additional details are found in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County.”

This portrait of Pekin Daily Times founder Joseph B. Irwin (1849-1900) appeared in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County.”

Irwin was born Oct. 11, 1849, in Circleville, Ohio, the son of John E. and Catherine (Tobias) Irwin, who were natives of Pennsylvania. He passed his boyhood days in Circleville, receiving his schooling at Circleville Academy. His lifelong interest in local politics began in Ohio, where he served a term as city clerk of Portsmouth. In Jan. 1872, Irwin married Inez M. Fifer, a cousin of Illinois Gov. Joseph W. Fifer (1889-1893). They had two children, but both had died before 1879.

Irwin moved to Peoria, where he worked for the Peoria Democrat until 1873. After moving to Pekin and founding the Pekin Times in partnership with Dowdall, Irwin also served as school inspector for three years, and was elected Pekin’s city supervisor in the spring of 1894. In his day, the founder of the Pekin Daily Times was one of Tazewell County’s prominent newspapermen and politicians. Back then, usually journalists were openly partisan – politically independent newspapers were rare.

“When the first issue of the Times appeared [in 1873] there was no subscription list, as the paper had changed hands so often that its reputation was well nigh gone and the outlook was extremely discouraging. But by much hard work, natural ability and perseverance, our subject soon placed the paper on a solid basis, and as a newsy and literary production it ranked among the leading weeklies of the northwest,” says the Portrait and Biographical Record.

According to Chapman, “Irwin soon bought Dowdall out, and by untiring energy and rare business tact, built up a larger circulation than it ever enjoyed before. In July, 1877, Geo. E. Schaumleffle purchased a third interest of the paper.” Schaumleffle, born in Pekin in 1854, often wrote the paper’s editorials.

B.C. Allensworth’s Tazewell County history supplies these additional details: ““Irwin soon bought Dowdall out, and the county having passed into the control of the Democratic party, the paper was recognized as the organ of that party and prospered from that time on, when in May, 1886, it was purchased from Irwin by A.W. Rodecker, F. Shurtleff, Thomas Cooper, and B.C. Allensworth.”

After leaving the Pekin Daily Times, Irwin joined the Post Publishing Company and was made editor and manager of the weekly Republican Post, formerly called the Tazewell County Republican. Irwin’s time at the Republican Post was financially successful, but politically it was controversial. Allensworth mentions that Irwin “antagonized republican interest to such an extent that Colonel Bates” – Pekin historian W.H. Bates, who had retired from the Tazewell County Republican – “came back into the paper business with the Tazewell County Tribune.” Also in 1886, says Allensworth, Irwin founded the Pekin Daily Post, and he continued the publication of the Republican Post and the Daily Post until his death in Pekin on Jan. 13, 1900.

“There is perhaps no better campaigner among the politicians of the county than Mr. Irwin,” says the Portrait and Biographical Record, “who is well known to every prominent citizen in both parties, and being acquainted with all the main roads and byways in this vicinity, can get over and around Tazewell County and in every township and political center quicker than any other man. He has met with several business reverses, but his fine financial standing, business ability and honesty have never been questioned. Among politicians and newspaper readers generally he is conceded to be one of the best editors in the county.”

#col-w-t-dowdall, #george-e-schaumleffle, #illinois-governor-joseph-w-fifer, #j-b-irwin, #joseph-b-irwin, #pekin-daily-times, #pekin-history, #pekin-newspaper-history, #w-h-bates

‘Leader of the Band’ Lawrence Fogelberg

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in October 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

‘Leader of the Band’ Lawrence Fogelberg

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection naturally focuses on Pekin’s history, but the collection also encompasses a wider geographical circle of subjects having a direct or indirect connection to Pekin.

That’s why the Local History Room has a file on the late popular musician Dan Fogelberg (1951-2007). Although Dan Fogelberg and his family were from Peoria, his father Lawrence P. Fogelberg had a connection to Pekin for more than 20 years, as many a current or former resident of Pekin will recall.

Dan Fogelberg’s song “Leader of the Band” is a touching tribute to his father Lawrence, who was a band leader and composer. His career as a band leader included conducting the bands and teaching music at Woodruff High School in Peoria (1945-1955) and at Pekin Community High School (1955-1976). He also directed the Bradley University band at football and basketball games (1951-1959).

For the first few years after Lawrence Fogelberg started as Pekin Community High School’s band director in the 1950s, he would only appear in formal group photos of the band. The 1960 Pekinian was the first time a “stand-alone” photo of the Leader of the Band appeared in the Pekin yearbook.

As band director at PCHS, Fogelberg founded the Stage Band as well as the Marching 100 football bands. Besides his work with the Pekin high school bands, Fogelberg also was the director of the Pekin Municipal Band (predecessor of the Pekin Park Concert Band), which played “Sunday in the Park” concerts every summer near the Mineral Springs Park Pavilion. He also would play the piano for song leader Logan Unland at weekly Rotary meetings in Pekin.

Unsurprisingly, then, his obituary was the top story on the front page of the Aug. 6, 1982 Pekin Daily Times. The obituary mentions that, besides his musicial talent, Lawrence Fogelberg also excelled at swimming when he was young.

“A world-class swimmer in his youth, Fogelberg swam second to Johnny Weissmuller’s first in the 1928 Olympics. He joked to his friends that ‘If Johnny Weismuller hadn’t beat me out, I might have been Tarzan.’”

Lawrence P. Fogelberg’s career as a band leader included 21 years as band director at Pekin Community High School (1955-1976). At PCHS, Fogelberg founded the Stage Band as well as the Marching 100 football bands. Besides his work with the Pekin high school bands, Fogelberg also was the director of the Pekin Municipal Band (predecessor of the Pekin Park Concert Band).

Born in Chicago on March 11, 1911, Fogelberg graduated from DeKalb High School and Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, earning his master’s degree at Northwestern University in Evanston. During the World War II era, he played in a military orchestra while serving in the U.S. Army.

One of the articles in the Local History Room “Dan Fogelberg” file is a March 1982 interview of Lawrence Fogelberg with Peoria Journal Star writer Michael Miller. The article tells how Fogelberg came to Peoria from Detroit.

“While stationed at an Army base in Detroit, Mich.,” the article says, “he’d got a call telling him there was an opening in the music department at Woodruff High.

″‘Listen, I’m in the Army,’ he said. ‘I don’t just change jobs.’

“Eventually, though, he made it to Peoria to interview for the job, after being director of a military battalion band in Detroit (‘. . . his music wouldn’t wait’). ‘Back then, I was still the leader of the band, I guess.’”

It was while interviewing for the job at Woodruff that he first met his wife, Margaret Irvine, who was a music instructor for Peoria’s public schools. They were married April 20, 1946, in Peoria, and had three sons, Marc, Peter and Daniel.

Larry Vogelberg’s last appearance in the Pekinian before his retirement was in the 1976 high school yearbook,

The interview also says that Fogelberg first heard his son’s tribute song at home in 1981. “Dan was home and played a tape of it,” he said. “I wasn’t supposed to hear it. I’ve been breaking up ever since.”

“The most gratifying thing for Larry about the success of ‘Leader of the Band,’” the interview article says, “are the letters he had received from former students. Another pleasing thing for the Fogelbergs is how the song has touched so many people.

″‘Dan says it’s amazing how many people say they wish they had the foresight’ to tell their fathers of their love for them while they still could, his mother, Margaret, said.”

Lawrence Fogelberg died Thursday, Aug. 5, 1982. He was to have been honored that month at the Aug. 15 Sunday concert of the Pekin Municipal Band. Instead, that concert was a tribute to him and his widow.

More recently, the Sunday performance of the Pekin Park Concert Band on July 22, 2012, was a tribute to Fogelberg’s memory. At that concert, a bench near the Mineral Springs Park Pavilion with a memorial plaque to ”‘Leader of the Band’ Lawrence P. Fogelberg, Pekin Municipal Band” was dedicated.

#dan-fogelberg, #larry-fogelberg, #lawrence-fogelberg, #lawrence-p-fogelberg, #leader-of-the-band, #margaret-irvine, #margaret-irvine-fogelberg, #pekin-high-school-band, #pekin-municipal-band, #pekin-park-concert-band, #preblog-columns

Tribal customs of the Central Illinois Pottawatomi

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in November 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

Tribal customs of the Central Illinois Pottawatomi

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

A few weeks ago, we glimpsed the life of the Pottawatomi War Chief Senachwine, who lived with his tribe in Washington Township during the 1820s when settlers began to pour into the future Tazewell County. This week we will take a look at the customs of the Pottawatomi of central Illinois, as they were remembered by pioneer settler Lawson Holland, who knew Senachwine for about 10 years before the chief’s death in the summer of 1831.

Holland’s memories of the Pottawatomi were collected by Charles C. Chapman, who included them in his “History of Tazewell County” (1879), on pages 675-676.

The peculiar habits of these time-honored natives were naturally a deep curiosity to the whites,” Chapman writes, “and from the well-stored memory of Lawson Holland we were enabled to gather some facts and incidents which we place upon the records of this work, knowing that only a few years could pass ere they would have been lost in the debris of time.

The first of Holland’s recollections had to do with how the Pottawatomi hunted turtles to eat. Chapman writes, “The preparations incident to this journey are somewhat extended. Two horses are placed side by side, and a blanket stretched between them, and the party start for the streams. The turtles are thrown in this blanket, and when a full load is secured they are carried to the camp, and a large kettle filled with water is placed over the fire, and in the boiling chauldron (sic) the living turtles are thrown, until the kettle is filled. When thoroughly boiled, the meat is plucked from the shell and eaten.

Holland also recalled a sacrificial tradition, “which has existed among the Pottawatomies for ages, . . . that at a certain time of the year, a deer must be killed and eaten without breaking a single bone. This performance is entered into largely, and the greatest caution taken to secure the animal without a bone being broken. It is then roasted, and the meat eaten with the greatest possible care. The remains are then gathered up, placed in the skin of the animal and buried.

Holland also observed that the higher status members of the tribe would display their wealth and status with ornamental jewelry and “piercing the nose and ears, from which hang large rings and bells; also bells attached to a strap bound around the leg or ankle.

Pottawatomi marriage customs, according to Holland, included a clearly delineated division of labor between the two sexes. Chapman writes, “In marriage the women promise to do all the work, such as skinning animals, dressing hides, building tents, and performing all the manual labor, the males only furnishing the necessities of life. The marriage covenant is made by the exchange of corn for a deer’s foot by the parties to be united, and is a time of great solemnity.

Polygamy was practiced among the Pottawatomi – the online essay “Potawatomi War Chief (1744-1831) Chief Senachwine” says Senachwine reportedly had three wives and could not be persuaded to give up polygamy even after he was baptized as a Christian. The Pottawatomi also punished adultery severely. Chapman writes, “The punishment for adultery is cutting off the nose; the first offense being punishable by a small piece, the second a larger one, and the third cuts it to the bone. These are rare cases, however, both sexes having a high regard for purity and virtue.

The last Pottawatomi custom that Holland remembered had to do with their burial customs. “In the winter the dead are entombed by standing the body upright, around which is placed poles run in the earth,” Chapman writes.

Besides his memories of Pottawatomi custom, Holland also shared some anecdotes of his family’s interaction with the native inhabitants of the county. One of his recollections was of an occasion when Holland’s wife had boiled water to use for washing. A Pottawatomi woman came into her cabin and either fell or sat in the tub. “Her cries called the braves, who lifted her out and carried her to the wigwam,” Chapman writes.

Another of Holland’s anecdotes was of an occasion of violence between the Pottawatomi and the early settlers. This is how Chapman relates Holland’s recollection:

“One day, when Lawson was a boy, and while the family were at dinner, and a Frenchman, named Louey, who was stopping with them, had finished his meal, lighted his pipe, and was leisurely smoking outside the cabin, a stalwart Indian came down the trail and demanded his pipe, which was refused. The Indian then drew his tomahawk and drove it into his skull. Holland and old man Avery, who was there at the time, rushed from the cabin, and Avery grappled with the redskin. He sounded the war-whoop, and in a twinkling the little band of whites were surrounded by hundreds of the swarthy tribe. The Chief [Senachwine], taking in the situation, drew his war-club and struck at Avery with this deadly weapon, but Avery’s quick eye dodged the blow, and the instrument was buried in a large tree behind him. It was a perilous moment and there seemed to be no earthly escape for this little band of pioneers, but [Lawson’s father] was regarded as a friend, and his counsel was at all times sought. The Indians then had a war-dance, and returned to their camps, and peace and quietness was again restored. This occurred in 1822.”

Shown is the war club of Pottawatomi War Chief Senachwine. A story from early Tazewell County settler Lawson Holland tells of an altercation between pioneer settlers and the Pottawatomi in 1822 in which Senachwine wielded his war club.

#lawson-holland, #pottawatomi, #preblog-columns, #senachwine, #washington

Senachwine, war chief of the Pottawatomi

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in November 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

Senachwine, war chief of the Pottawatomi

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

When settlers of European descent first began to make permanent dwellings during the 1820s in what would soon become Tazewell County, they found the area inhabited by Native American tribes. The most numerous of the tribes was the Pottawatomi, who had villages in the county’s northern townships, as well as a large village at the future site of Pekin, where they were led by a chief named Shabbona.

As this column has previously related, Shabbona was a member of the Ottawa tribe who had married the daughter of a Pottawatomi chief and succeeded to the headship of his wife’s group of Pottawatomi after her father’s death. Shabbona and his family are reported to have camped to the south of where Pekin’s pioneer settler Jonathan Tharp had built his log cabin in 1824. Other Pottawatomi in the area were headed by a chief named Wabaunsee. During the Black Hawk War of 1832, however, Shabbona and Wabaunsee refused to join Black Hawk’s uprising, and Shabbona even gave active help to white settlers, warning them of impending attack. Consequently, after the war, Shabbona and Wabaunsee were rejected as chiefs, and, according to the online essay “Potawatomi War Chief (1744-1831) Chief Senachwine,” the Pottawatomi instead chose as their leader Kaltoo, also called Ogh-och-pees, eldest son of the Pottawatomi War Chief Sen-noge-wone.

In central Illinois, Sen-noge-wone is more usually called “Senachwine.” In his “History of Tazewell County,” Charles C. Chapman spells the name “Snatchwine.” He and his people dwelt in and near what would become Washington Township. On pages 674-676, Chapman records some memories of Lawson Holland, an early white settler of Washington Township. Holland’s memories included recollections of Chief Senachwine and of the customs of the Pottawatomi of the area. Holland knew Senachwine for about 10 years, remembering him as often despondent.

Chapman writes that Senachwine “was honored and loved by all the braves,” and that “his word was law, and his presence and council always sought in times of disturbance or trouble. Among the whites he was generally honored and respected. To them he always extended the hand of welcome, and the fatted deer of the forest was brought to their door in token of good will.”

Chapman’s account of Chief Senachwine also includes the transcript of a lengthy speech of the chief’s. According to Chapman, Senachwine gave the speech around 1823 when he “found out the whites were becoming alarmed, and called a council with the whites, to talk. He spoke about four hours.”

“When you palefaces came to our country we took you in and treated you like brothers,” Senachwine said. “We furnished you with corn and gave you meat that we killed, but you palefaces soon became numerous and began to trample upon our rights, which we attempted to resist, but was whipped and driven off. This is returning evil for good. The graves of my forefathers are just as dear to me as yours, and had I the power I’d wipe you from the face of the earth. I have 800 good warriors, besides many old men and boys, that could be put in a fight, but this takes up a remnant of these tribes since the last war. I believe I could raise enough braves, and taking you by surprise, could clean the State. I know I could go below your capital and take everything clean. But what then? We must all die in time. You would kill us all off. You tell me that you have forbidden your men to sell whisky. You enforce these laws and I stand pledged for any depredation my people shall commit. But you allow your men to come with whisky and trinkets and get them drunk and cheat them out of all their guns and skins and all their blankets, that the Government pays me yearly for this land. This leaves us in a starving freezing condition and we are raising only a few children compared to what we raised in Old Kentuck, before we knew the palefaces. Some of my men say in our consultations, let us rise and wipe the palefaces from the face of the earth. I tell them no, the palefaces are too numerous. I can take every man, woman and child I’ve got and place them in the hollow of my hand and hold them out at arm’s length. But when I want to count you palefaces I must go out in the big prairie, where timber ain’t in sight, and count the spears of grass, and I haven’t then told your numbers.”

About eight years later, around 1831, Senachwine counseled that violent resistance to white encroachment was futile and would only lead to the annihilation of the native tribes. His counsel and the policy of Shabbona convinced the Pottawatomi not to join Black Hawk in his hostilities. The online essay “Potawatomi War Chief (1744-1831) Chief Senachwine,” quotes him as responding to Black Hawk, “Resistance to the aggression of the whites is useless; war is wicked and must result in our ruin. Therefore let us submit to our fate, return not evil for evil, as this would offend the Great Spirit and bring ruin upon us. . . . My friends, do not listen to the words of Black Hawk, for he is trying to lead you astray. Do not imbrue your hands in human blood . . . .

Senachwine died in the summer of 1831 and was buried on a bluff above his village in Putnam County. After the Black Hawk War, the Pottawatomi were deported to reservations in Kansas and Nebraska, but in subsequent years members of his band reportedly would come back from time to time to visit his grave. On June 13, 1937, the Peoria Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution placed a large stone with a bronze memorial plaque at the spot that was believed to be his grave site, about a half-mile north of the village of Putnam. Five members of the Prairie Band Potawatomi came from Kansas to attend the ceremony.

This monument was placed in 1937 at the spot that was believed to be the gravesite of Pottawatomi War Chief Senachwine, about a half-mile north of the village of Putnam.

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