Black Hawk made his final public appearance at a Fourth of July celebration in Fort Madison, Iowa in 1837. He seems an unlikely attendee at such a patriotic function. Five years earlier, he had been at war with the United States-throwing the frontier into a panic from Michigan to St. Louis and lending his name to the last armed Algonquian resistance to American expansion east of the Mississippi. In 1833, Black Hawk was a prisoner-of-war, brought to Washington to meet with President Jackson, and sent on a tour of the Eastern cities to assure him that future conflict between his people and the Americans could result only in the annihilation of the Natives. Upon his eventual release, the war-chief became a published author and pleaded his own justification for going to war-and unrepentantly fixed blame for the conflict firmly on the conduct of American officials.1 Yet, in 1837, he stood with his former enemies and one-time captors celebrating the birth of a nation that had sought to destroy him. At the festivities, he joined in thirteen toasts-with cold water in his glass rather than the more potent potables preferred by his white associates. When it came his turn to speak, Black Hawk raised his glass and gave a short speech that concluded, "A few summers ago I was fighting against you. I did wrong perhaps, but that is past-it is buried-let it be forgotten. Rock River was a beautiful country. I liked my towns, my corn-fields, and the home of my people. I fought for it-it is now yours-keep it as we did."2
Black Hawk's advice went unheeded. Thousands upon thousands of American settlers flooded into northern Illinois in a remarkably short time and irrevocably altered the landscape to suit their own needs. In less than two generations, the newcomers cleared the woodlands, drained the marshes, and broke the prairie. They replaced the native grasses with domesticated crops and created a region of unprecedented agricultural productivity. They developed the region's industrial capacity as well-digging canals, laying railroads, and building cities of a size that dwarfed anything that had come before. Determined to coerce Nature into submission, they even reversed the flow of the Chicago River.
With each passing year, it became more difficult to remember-or even imagine-the historical past that had led to such development. In 1837, Black Hawk and other Native people-removed from Illinois but neither inaccessible nor forgotten-stood as living reminders of a time that preceded the arrival of an American population and the transformations that followed. Generations passed and the frontier shifted west. Most Indians went with it. New immigrants supplanted the pioneer families of Illinois and there arose a fundamental disconnection between the present and the past. By 1900, fearing the loss of the region's "ancient" history and the social cohesion it provided, various individuals and groups worked to preserve its memory...even if that meant re-inscribing it on a landscape that would have appeared wholly alien to the people whose lives were being commemorated.
Paul Angle, one of the most respected historians of Illinois, pointed out that, although his state possessed a captivating history, its own citizens were generally unfamiliar with more than small segments of it. "And travelers from outside the state,"he added,"of whom there are many thousands annually, may cross from boundary to boundary without becoming acquainted with any part of fllinois's heritage except, perhaps, that it was the home of Abraham Lincoln, and that his body is buried in our soil."3
George Palmer, another member of the Illinois State Historical Society (ISHS), echoed these sentiments. He pointed out that Illinois offers "a story as rich in history and romance of any of her sister States; but... that it would be difficult to induce then citizens of Massachusetts or Virginia to accept this assertion."4 He and Angle agreed also that Illinois residents were too often ignorant of the history even of their own localities. Palmer cited his own travels throughout Illinois as evidence:
I frequently found it impossible to locate spots of real historic significance. Inquiry of local citizens usually disclosed complete ignorance of historic landmarks or brought forth statements of stories astounding in their inaccuracy. I came frequently upon the footprints of Ferdinand De Soto, who I am satisfied was never in Illinois, and I was offered the opportunity to inspect three rooms in which General LaFayette had slept, when he was here in 1825, although I am sure that LaFayette never spent a night on Illinois soil.5
For travelers interested in history, state historical societies in both Massachusetts and Virginia had made learning easy by placarding and labeling sites of historical interests within their states' borders. "While in Illinois," contrasted Palmer, "the man who goes out to find historic scenes must know exactly what he seeks; must travel an uncharted sea and must expect little help from the communities he visits."6
In a way, though, the states cited by Palmer had an easier task than did Illinois. The abundance of Civil War battle sites in Virginia readily lent themselves to commemoration-as did Revolutionary-era buildings and monuments in Massachusetts. It was already a commonplace that the histories of both states were instrumental to the creation of an American nation. Western states like Illinois lacked both this founding role and ready evidence of military activity. Angle, Palmer, and other leading figures of the ISHS were determined to change this.
Among their tactics during the 1920s was to lobby the state's General Assembly to finance a highway-marking project. Their sporadic efforts finally succeeded in 1933. The Advisory Committee on Historical Markers-which included amateur and professional historians from throughout the state-moved quickly to select the sites to be commemorated, to propose a uniform design for the markers, and to prepare for each an appropriate inscription.7
They decided on a simple design, roughly 3½ feet square capped with the state seal and stamped with the date of the marker's installation. A heading 2½ inches high and regular text made up of 1½ inch letters allowed space for approximately fifty words-enough to provide only the most basic descriptions of the event being commemorated. Despite the brevity of their commentary, the committee members clearly considered the Black Hawk War among the most important events in the history of their state. Of the twenty-two markers initially erected by the ISHS during 1934, four were devoted to the conflict-perhaps unsurprising since at least two of the Advisory Committee's eight members, Frank Stevens and John Hauberg had researched the subject extensively8
Oddly, none of the markers dealt with Black Hawk himself. The one at Prophetstown, for instance, said only, "Prophetstown occupies the site of the village of the Winnebago Prophet, which the Illinois volunteers destroyed on May 10, 1832 in the first act of hostility in the Black Hawk War."9 The more verbose marker commemorating the Indian Creek Massacre read: "On May 20, 1832, hostile Indians, mainly Potawatomi, massacred fifteen men, women and children of the Indian Creek settlement two miles to the west. Two girls were carried into captivity and later ransomed. All had disregarded the warning of Shabbona, the white man's friend."10 Not even the marker designating the Apple River Fort, the only large-scale skirmish in Illinois that Black Hawk directed personally foregrounded the Sauk war-leader. It reads, in its entirety:
Here, during the Black Hawk War was located the Apple River Fort. On June 24, 1832, it was attacked by 200 warriors. Within were many women and children but few men. Mrs. Elizabeth Armstrong rallied the women and inspired the defenders until relief arrived. Elizabeth is named in her honor.11
Here, the text of the marker singles out the white heroine, but her Native adversary does not appear-or, rather, he appears only conflated with the conflict named for him. On the other markers described above, Shabbona is designated "the white man's friend." Even the Winnebago prophet, Wabokieshiek, although referred to only by title, is at least recognized as a one-time resident. "Black Hawk," in the text of these markers, is only the name of a war. In "Black Hawk's country" where the "Black Hawk War" began, Black Hawk became less a man than a regional label.
There are some good reasons for the ISHS's Advisory Committee to avoid dealing directly with Black Hawk in 1934. While many of the region's Old Settlers had eventually spoken well of him, Black Hawk remained a controversial figure even a century after his death. Some saw him as a noble and heroic figure, while others viewed his actions as destructive and cruel. He possessed enviable qualities (courage, patriotism, love of family and home), but only alongside others less so (jealousy, savagery, pride). The limited textual space of these historical markers offered little opportunity for the authors to present complex characters or complicated issues. The Black Hawk War as a whole was an ambiguous affair-lacking both the obvious necessity and the moral compass of the conflicts with which a Depression-era audience would have found more appealing. One of the committee members stated that, in addition to increasing tourist traffic, the historical markers should promote civic virtue. "Knowledge of the past of his community leads frequently to pride in it," he explained, "and local pride means better citizenship."12 Honoring a man who had "invaded" the state, fought a war against its citizens, and who had been permanently banished from it seems unlikely to cultivate civic pride. Nor would the markers promote "better citizenship" if they appeared too sympathetic to Black Hawk and portrayed the Illinois settlers as the aggressors.13 The creators of these markers could not ignore Black Hawk, but they wanted to bring him into their Illinois history on their own terms, not validate a potentially troubling counter-narrative.
That the Advisory Committee engaged in some verbal gymnastics to appear objective in their presentations is obvious in the text of the last of their initial markers to the Black Hawk War. The "Battle of Stillman's Run," not only a decisive moment in the conflict with Black Hawk but one of the only battles of any sort located in Illinois since its founding clearly warranted a historical marker. The bland text provided on it, however, prevents the casual observer from placing the event into any kind of context. It reads only:
Here, on May 14, 1832, the first engagement of the Black Hawk War took place, when 275 Illinois militiamen under Maj. Isaiah Stillman were put to flight by Black Hawk and his warriors. So thoroughly demoralized were the volunteers that a new army had to be called into the field.14
Virtually all of the potentially controversial details of the event were omitted. The "first engagement of the Black Hawk War took place"-the passive tone preventing blame from failing on either the militiamen or the British Band. No explanation for Black Hawk's presence is offered, nor is there any indication that Stillman had pursued him there against orders. The author mentioned no flag of truce, no allegations of drunkenness among the soldiers, nor the unruly nature of their attack. He failed even to estimate the small number of Black Hawk's warriors involved in "put [ting] to flight" Stillman's troops.15 Finally, the marker suggested that the volunteers neither deserted nor mutinied; they were merely "demoralized," requiring that another batch of recruits be called into service. While Black Hawk appeared in the marker's text, there was little explanation as to who he was or why this event was so significant.
It is perhaps unfair to expect more from the ISHS. Its members comprised a variety of viewpoints and all of the members of the Advisory Committee had to consent to the validity and appropriateness of the markers'texts. Nor are roadside markers typically the place for complex or controversial issues to be presented or discussed. This tendency was encouraged by a design that required authors to use words sparingly. One wonders, however, how interested in the history of Illinois they were since their omissions contained such integral parts of the story. While the authors made much of the Black Hawk War, their markers seem determined to write Black Hawk out of Illinois history altogether. The man, the war, and the places became conflated and intertwined. While his name remained ubiquitous, Black Hawk the historical actor had disappeared.
Black Hawk's disappearance, however, did not mean that he was forgotten. Even before the ISHS became involved, Black Hawk's advocates were working diligently at the local level. But they also often blurred the distinction between Black Hawk and the country in which he had once lived and found it difficult to connect the Native past with the American present. John Hauberg's effort to commemorate the importance of Rock Island's early history provides a case in point.
Nowhere in Illinois offered more connections to Black Hawk than Rock Island. He was born in Saukenuk, among the largest Native communities in North America during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and lived there for over six decades. He had seen it burned by George Rogers Clark in the westernmost battle of the American Revolution and had been present when Zebulon Pike raised the first American flag over the upper Mississippi valley in 1805.16 Black Hawk had led two significant skirmishes against American forces during the War of 1812: one at Campbell's Island just upriver from Rock Island and another at Credit Island just below it. Rock Island itself, the 800 acre island near the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi rivers, was the site of Fort Armstrong-the base of military operations during the Black Hawk War, the headquarters of George Davenport and Antoine LeClaire's trading operations, and the place where Black Hawk signed a peace treaty in 1831.17
Most of these sites, however, had significant drawbacks as historic monuments. Saukenuk, built of wood and reed mats, had been burned by Illinois militiamen during their first conflict with the British Band in 1831. The Americans even dug up the village cemetery searching for relics and souvenirs. During the nineteenth century, residents had developed Saukenuk into an industrial district of Rock Island. The adjoining Mesquakie village became the city's downtown. Both Credit and Campbell's islands were privately owned by Hauberg's time: resort communities of summer homes owned by the area's wealthier inhabitants, lacking bridges to the mainland and inaccessible to the general public. Fort Armstrong had been re-commissioned as the Rock Island Arsenal and the entire islandonce a garden of fruits and berries for Saukenuk's residents-had become a military installation to which civilians had limited access.18 By the early twentieth century, the most visible signs of Native occupation of the Rock Island area were a series of mounds-usually called burial mounds regardless of their intended purpose-that predated Saukenuk by several centuries and that Black Hawk never mentioned in his autobiography.19
By the time John Hauberg and other citizens attempted to mark their community's history on the landscape, little remained of Saukenuk-or anything else present in Black Hawk's time. A few of the village's cornfields had not yet been developed and Hauberg pointed out that there were places where the small hillocks created by the hoes of Sauk women remained discernible, although not always readily apparent. He described them:
Providentially, it seems, large areas of these ancient corn fields have never been molested by the farming implements of the white men, but were fenced, and have since been used for pasture. A fine bluegrass sod has grown overall, and so they have been preserved much as the Indians left them, except for the large forest trees which have since grown up; and while the weather, cattle, and other causes have obliterated most of the hillocks, hundreds upon hundreds of those Indian cornhills ruffle the surface of pasture and woodland in the vicinity of the Watch Tower and constitute one of the most interesting and fascination remains of Indian occupation.20
Of the village itself, even less remained. Hauberg claimed that the Sauk Council Lodge-"the capitol ... of a country greater than any state in the Mississippi Valley, as well as the town hall of what is reliably measured as the largest Indian village on the continent"-was built on a mound that survived into the twentieth century. Like the corn hills, it too had not come into the century unscathed. "Part of this mound still remains,"he explained, "having outlived a span of railroad which absorbed part of it; a canal or tailrace which missed it by a few yards; and escaped being covered up with refuse rock taken from the bottom of the river when the nearby hydroelectric plant was installed."21
But weathered cornfields and a small parcel of raised earth along the river hardly inspired the reverence for local history that Hauberg hoped to promote. He wanted to commemorate something more dramatic and more scenic. The perfect site lay along the Mississippi: Black Hawk's Watch Tower.
Not a man-made structure but a steep bluff along the river, the Watch Tower stands nearly 200 feet above the water at its highest point. Three-fourths of a mile in length, it affords visitors with a tremendous view of the Rock and Mississippi rivers and the woods and prairie uplands around them. More importantly, the scenic view from the Watch Tower had been sanctified by Black Hawk's gaze. "Those who give the Indians credit for being savages but little above the beasts of prey, say that from this lofty eminence that overlooked the village, Blackhawk used to sit and watch for his foes," described one local historian, "but those who know him best, say that he was a lover of natural scenery, and that it is more probable that he came here for peaceful purposes."22 Black Hawk confirmed her opinion in his autobiography, saying of the promontory, "The tower was a favorite resort, and I often went there alone, where I could sit and smoke my pipe and look with wonder and pleasure at the grand scenes before me."23 Black Hawk had even spent two years living near the top of the Tower, isolating himself from his village while he fasted and mourned the deaths of a son and a daughter.24
Although it seemed an excellent site for development, the Watch Tower remained relatively pristine. From 1882 until 1927, Bailey Davenport, grandson of Fort Armstrong's infamous trader and president of the Tri-City Railway, had operated it as an amusement park and day resort-mainly as a destination for his rail line. Daily attendance at its peak reached 15,000 visitors-attracted not only by the magnificent view and the opportunity to walk in the woods and enjoy nature without leaving the city, but also by the events staged in the Tower's inn and pavilion: concerts, operas, vaudeville performances, an open-air movie theater, fireworks over the river, bowling target shooting balloon ascensions, and amusement rides. Davenport even offered visitors a small roller coaster (the first west of Chicago) and a toboggan slide, a local invention consisting of a small flatboat with greased side runners that plunged on tracks down the side of the bluff at speeds up to 80 miles per hour before bouncing across the waters of the Rock River. At the ride's conclusion, the "conductor" poled the boat back to its tracks and an electric motor pulled it back to the top for another ride.
But not even dangerous rides could keep Davenporfs park profitable indefinitely. As the automobile gradually drove the Tri-City Railroad toward insolvency, its stockholders decided to sell Black Hawk's Watch Tower and its adjoining acreage. Hauberg seized the opportunity to claim this spot as a fit memorial to Black Hawk and his people. He presented speeches throughout the state, including one in Springfield for members of the legislature, at which he extolled the importance of Black Hawk and emphasized the warrior's connections to the Watch Tower. At many of these, he displayed a table laden with over 200 books containing stories of Black Hawk, which he asserted were"but a fraction"of those bearing on this historic subject. "No other Indian," he claimed, "has had so much written about him than has Black Hawk."25
Hauberg's efforts convinced the Illinois legislature to purchase the Watch Tower in 1927 and, on 29 June 1927, Governor Len Small signed the bill-passed unanimously by the Senate and with only one dissenting voice in the House-designating the property as "Black Hawk State Park."26 When Hauberg praised the new park's virtues, though, it is often unclear whether he was more pleased that it commemorated Black Hawk's memory or that it preserved the beauty of the Rock River valley Even in Hauberg's article about the park's creation, for example, Black Hawk seems important only for two reasons: because he had enjoyed visiting the Watch Tower just as today's visitors could now enjoy it and because he had loved the country visible from its heights so much that he had fought to avoid losing it. "This spot had for him a'fatal attraction,'" Hauberg began, "He could not give it up without a contest with the white intruder."27 He continued:
[O]ur country, somewhere, should hand down to posterity a bit of virgin soil which in its day was the home of a great tribe of aborigines, where generation after generation was born; where they lived and loved; and achieved for themselves a great name both among the whites and those of their own race. It would be difficult to find another place where the requirements for such a memorial park are so well blended. First of all this site is of rare beauty. ... Rock River is a stream of unusual attractiveness and here perhaps is its most striking bit of scenery. ... Coupled with scenic charm is a wealth of history and tradition perhaps not approached by any other spot in the nation. The east side of the Mississippi Valley saw many a bloody struggle to push the Indian further west. The Black Hawk war was the last of these.28
So the park commemorated Black Hawk's love for the land and the war he fought to keep it. Conflating Black Hawk, the Black Hawk War, and his country in such a way required a process more complicated than a mere remembrance of a historical figure of local origin. In effect, to memorialize Black Hawk was to acknowledge also the virtues of the land in which he lived. Current residents could then, in learning about Black Hawk and sympathizing with his motivations, be reminded of the value, fertility, history, and beauty of the land that was now theirs-and the sacrifices that had been made to obtain it.
John Henry Hauberg was an aberration in many ways. He had married into money and thus had more time and resources to devote to his historical avocation than most of his peers. Moreover, he knew far more about Black Hawk than most people ever will, and he often reached out to Black Hawk's living descendents to include them in his research on Rock Island's past.29 He was, however, like his fellow Illinoisans in that he used geographical ties to Black Hawk to valorize his own community-albeit it in a more grandiose manner than most.
Most monuments and memorials that mention Black Hawk arose in communities only loosely connected to him or to the Black Hawk War. In emulation of the Civil War memorials cropping up elsewhere throughout the nation, most merely mentioned the names of the local veterans of the campaign and provided no other information. Local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected such plaques in cemeteries and parks all over Illinois-extending the memory of that conflict far beyond the areas in which it actually occurred while commemorating it in ways that made it their own and emphasized local connections at the expense of all else.
Communities with clear ties to the conflict commemorated it on their own terms as well. When citizens of LaSalle County erected a monument to the Indian Creek Massacre, for example, they did so not by erecting a memorial to the war or to Black Hawk. Instead, their monument-a sixteen-foot granite spire placed in 1906 at the center of a park outside of Earlsville (considerably more substantial than the ISHS marker later placed two miles away)-commemorated the settlers who "fell victims to the wrath of Black Hawk's band" and their local Native hero, Shabbona, the "white man's friend" who attempted to warn them of danger.30 Its dedication featured speeches by a prominent citizen who had known Shabbona personally and by an 87-year old survivor of the "murderous raid perpetrated by the treacherous red man" who provided precise locations of the homes, mill, and other structures that had once stood there.31
An immense crowd attended the ceremony and visited the new park surrounding the monument. A local newspaper reported that most businesses in Earlsville shut down for the day and estimated that 600 carriages and sixty-five automobiles brought people to the ceremony32 Those in attendance apparently found the event inspirational. At the urging of a representative of the ISHS, the same committee that installed the monument reorganized itself as the LaSalle County Historical Society. They agreed to hold meetings in Ottawa, at Starved Rock, and at the newly opened Shabbona Park and have enjoyed solid community support for nearly a century. Today they operate a historical museum in nearby Utica.33
The citizens of LaSalle County thus tied themselves to the land through their connections to the murdered settlers and to a Native American hero of local origin. Their monument presents a story complete with martyrs to American progress, a "good Indian" who did everything possible to assist them, and-in Black Hawk-a villain. The residents of nearby Stillman-named for one of the most infamous white figures in the campaign against Black Hawk-had a considerably more ambiguous story to tell.
Regardless of one's perspective on the incident, it is not easy to write favorably about the"battle"that came to be known as Stillman's Run.34 Praising the abilities of Black Hawk's disciplined warriors at the expense of the militiamen seems unfair since Stillman's troops clearly were unprepared for the battle to which they rushed. But defending the actions of the militia clouds the fact that they ignored a universally-recognized flag of truce and were thoroughly routed despite outnumbering their adversaries six to one. While one might look upon the incident as a victory for Black Hawk, it gained him nothing and inflicted no severe blow against the Americans. Of 275 soldiers, only 11 were killed; the rest simply returned home with bruised egos and exaggerated accounts of the affair. Moreover, the panic it inspired led directly to drastic increases in the number of troops sent against the British Band and it is safe to assume that the war's tragic conclusion was at least partially motivated by vengeful militiamen. Since Illinois has but few battlefields, it was only natural for residents to cherish those few within its borders. But the field on Old Man's Creek remained controversial and problematic. Some argued that it was best forgotten.35
Others disagreed. When Robert Newlands, a Congregationalist minister from Rock Island, began preaching at a church at Stillman Valley in 1899, he was captivated by the vivid (and often contradictory) accounts his parishioners told him about Stillman's defeat. They numbered the dead soldiers at every figure between five and eleven and identified various-but very specific-locations as their gravesite. Already knowledgeable about the Black Hawk War, Newlands set about to get to the facts of the matter. He explained his motivations:
My interest naturally centered around the hill on which the fight took place, and where it was generally believed the dead were buried. But opinions varied as to the real place of burial. ... It was generally believed, however, that the spot has been regarded as the place of sepulture by Joshua White, who received the land from the government, and had on that account refused to have the virgin soil broken by the plow. ... A few years ago the ground was plattedJoshua White having died-and the property four years ago was bought by Dr. E.R Allen, who, fifteen months ago offered it for sale at public auction. Feeling that it might be bought by some one for building purposes, the sacred spot desecrated, and perhaps finally forgotten, I determined, if possible, to locate beyond a peradventure, the exact spot where the volunteers were laid.36
After unsuccessfully checking a number of supposed gravesites, Newlands became more methodical in his search. On 15 November 1900, he and an associate took spades in hand and began probing the hill on which the main thrust of the battle occurred. They found loamy topsoil about ten inches thick, then beneath it a sandy subsoil of about the same depth, followed by layers of gravel. With this information, Newlands began a systematic survey of the unbroken soil, believing that the grave would be identifiable at the surface by the mixed earth and gravel. "I presume we tried forty to fifty different spots without a clue," Newlands remembered, "Then I went over to the western slope of the hill and tried in several places there, although noone supposed the graves to be on that side."37 Near the end of the day, he found a likely site, with disturbed earth and gravel on the surface and running consistently throughout his exploratory hole of 18-inch depth.
The next day, Newlands returned to the site-along with a party of onlookers. Their interest was soon rewarded. Newlands identified the boundaries of the trench-like grave and marked its limits with posts. Then, along its southern edge, he enlarged the hole made on the previous day and began removing the soil in thin layers to avoid disturbing the bones he expected to find. At a depth of about three feet, he unearthed a small bone. Soon others emerged, along with other remains. Newlands recalled:
Every bone was carefully removed one by one without breaking. The suggestion that it might be the skeleton of an Indian was quickly set aside when several buttons and a vest buckle were discovered, and a minute later the skull was taken out, showing every tooth present, and without a sign of decay. The skull had not the prominent cheekbones, nor the retreating forehead of the Indian. But the lower limbs and feet, which were removed last, dispelled any doubt that might have remained in the minds of the crowds of spectators who had by this time assembled; for it was found that the cavalry boots which the soldiers wore when killed, were still intact, and the blanket in which he had been wrapped for burial was plainly seen, although it had rotted to much to permit of its being removed from the grave, even in very small pieces.38
Newlands and his associates placed the bones into a wooden box and re-interred them exactly where they had been found, now positively identified for the first time in sixty-seven years. On the following Memorial Day, the town decorated the still unmarked grave. The re-discovered "sacred spot"would not remain uncommemorated for long.
The following year, the Illinois General Assembly appropriated five-thousand dollars to erect a monument to the slain soldiers of Stillman's command. A few months later, nine gravestones were planted on the site and an imposing monument-a classical column nearly twenty feet tall supporting a life-size statue of an 1830s militia soldier-was placed at the crest of the hill. Its main panel made clear that this monument stood neither to Black Hawk nor the war; it stood to honor those volunteers who lay beneath it. It read: "In memory of the Illinois Volunteers who fell at Stillman's Run, May 14,1832, in an engagement with Black Hawk and his warriors."39
Frank Stevens gave the keynote address at the monument's dedication. Reading excerpts from his then-unpublished book, Stevens praised the militiamen and several of their officers, but he had little good to say about Black Hawk and the British Band.40 Early in his remarks, Stevens pointed out that, "[t] he enemy undertook, by every act known to savage tactics, to lure the men into an ambush" and that Stillman's carelessly falling victim to Black Hawk's stratagem was tragic but not dishonorable. He also reminded his listeners that Black Hawk had 800 warriors with him when he crossed the Mississippi, as well as any others he may have recruited among the Winnebagoes and Potawatomies. When the battle commenced, Stillman's troops had no reason to think they faced anything less than Black Hawk's entire army.41
Stevens praised such men as Samuel Whiteside and Henry Dodge for advising Stillman against moving forward and pointed out that only the bellicose Governor Reynolds, a lifelong politician who had taken the field as commander-in-chief of the Illinois militia to solidify his tenuous military credentials, offered reluctant permission for the expedition. He blamed political aspirations and the vocal support of the men under his command for deafening Stillman to all warnings. "They had enlisted to kill 'Injuns,'" he explained, "and nothing but a valorous conquest would satisfy their ambition."42
Stevens, however, did not go so far as to blame the volunteers for their own defeat. As he described them, they may have radically underestimated Black Hawk's martial prowess (and radically overestimated their own), but the militiamen remained brave and honorable men who had left their homes and families to protect their state from invasion by a savage and cunning foe. Lured into an ambush by treachery, he claimed that the zealous first arrivals were greatly outnumbered by Black Hawk's warriors lying in wait for them. Stevens described the scene to his audience in evocative terms:
Dashing headway into the advance column, or rather squad, of the whites with the spirit and suddenness of an electric shock, the reckless volunteers then realized their awful temerity, and the futility of fighting what might be 800 warriors.... Stunned by the sudden and ferocious onslaught of Black Hawk, the troops wheeled to retreat, yelling as they fled,"Injuns! Injuns!" like the mad men they truly became, that their approaching comrades might retreat to safety. In no time at all the cry had reached the camp, which became as panic stricken as the returning soldiers.43
According to Stevens, the chaos that ensued was a clear case of panic. "Men were crazed," he added. "They who in a sober moment would have walked straight to death without a protest; they who would bend to no command of a superior officer; they who would not obey or follow, were driven as easily as a pack of panic-stricken sheep."44 Mass hysteria and temporary insanity fueled their flight.45 In his speech, Stevens vociferously proposed that, while the battle might be generally dismissed as an utter rout, there were heroic actions to be found in it nonetheless. As he saw it, those Americans who fell during the fray ought to be acknowledged for their bravery and honor and their enemies recognized as the savages they were.
Even the troops who fled the scene, Stevens continued, exhibited bravery after the fact by agreeing to remain in the field-despite their harrowing experience-until a new levy of volunteers could be raised. He further reminded his audience that panics were common among settlers throughout the entire region, usually without cause or warrant. Grumbling mutinies, he added, occasionally erupted among the volunteers at Galena and even among Dodge's much-esteemed Rangers-none of whom elicited scorn, condemnation or accusations of cowardice.46 Through firsthand experience, Stillman's men at least had good reason to fear Black Hawk's warriors.
In praising the soldiers, the residents of Stillman Valley emphasized the role of their own community in the Black Hawk War and in Illinois History. The volunteers who died on that hill may have come from Pekin, Bloomington, Decatur, and elsewhere but they gave their lives in Stillman Valley. The monument testifies that they did so honorably. Their bodies remain buried there, connecting the community to a distant past and making the land itself-now clearly marked and well-tended-a sacred site. A side panel at the base of the column underscores that point. It reads, "The presence of the soldier, statesman, martyr Abraham Lincoln assisting in the burial of these honored dead made this spot more sacred."47
When it comes to commemorations of Black Hawk on the Illinois landscape, however, all of the memorials and markers discussed thus far pale in comparison to one that literally looms over the Rock River Valley: sculptor Lorado Taft's monumental attempt to "capture the spirit of the Indian" near Oregon, Illinois. Taft was a native Illinoisan-born in Elmwood, educated in Champaign, and a longtime resident of Chicago. His works are shown the world over, but they have always been concentrated in his own state. Over twenty are currently displayed within Illinois's borders. In terms of magnitude and sheer visibility, though, none compare to his "Black Hawk."48
Since the mid-1880s, it had been Lorado Taft's custom to take leave of his studio and, along with his family and a collection of artistic colleagues, escape from the heat and noise of the Chicago summer by spending several weeks camping in the woods.49 Their favored location was Bass Lake, Indiana, but the prevalence of malaria in the vicinity in the mid1890s convinced them to relocate.
Wallace Heckman, a law professor at the University of Chicago, offered Taft's circle of friends the use of part of his Rock River estate to create a summer artist colony. They accepted and, in 1898, camped out in tents on the bluff above the river. They took to the place, arranged a long-term lease of a few of Heckman's acres, and built a kitchen and several cabins. With his own hands, Lorado Taft built a cabin and an open-air studio that he used extensively-transferring several works-in-progress to Oregon each spring.50
Taft found the Eagle's Nest Artist Colony-named for a Margaret Fuller poem composed on the site-an inspirational place to work as well as relax with his colleagues. For several years he pondered how he might channel his creative energies into a work that adequately captured the essence of the place. Taft eventually decided that something more exotic than his usual fare was appropriate. He envisioned a massive statue: an immense Indian overlooking the Rock River that would serve both to honor Illinois history and stand as a tribute to the "savage yet noble" qualities of the Native American race.
His subject now determined-perhaps more by the romantic notions of his colleagues at Eagle's Nest than as by any firsthand research into the region's history or the actual cultures of the area's earlier inhabitants-Taft had to devise a way to bring his idea to fruition. Erecting the colossal statue he had in mind would have been difficult under the best of conditions. Erecting it at a remote location such as Eagle's Nest seemed almost impossible. The artist considered the logistics of the task for a number of years before finally arriving at a plan.
Taft's solution came while he casually observed work men installing chimneys atop Chicago's Art Institute in 1907. Watching them work, Taft decided that his "Indian"-like the chimneys-could be made of concrete, poured into a plaster mold created on site and reinforced by steel bars. No other sculptor had attempted such a project but, after consulting with individuals with more experience working with concrete than he, Taft thought it might work. In short order, he assembled a maquette and working plan that met his expectations.
So, in the summer of 1910, the entire camp pitched in to help turn Taft's six-foot scale model into a full-sized statue. They cut a plywood silhouette of the appropriate dimensions, mounted it on a wagon, andguided by observers on the opposite shore-searched for the most striking and effective location on the bluff. The Portland Cement Company furnished materials in exchange for the right to use the finished product in its advertising and John Prashum, an assistant in Taft's Midway Studios, took charge of creating the huge mold for the concrete.
Prashum created a framework of lath, chicken wire, and burlap seven times the size of Taft's working model. Hollow cast plaster sections were then hoisted and fastened into place on a wooden frame reinforced to withstand the pressure of the concrete. The gigantic head (modeled after Lorado Taft's brother-in-law) was cast full size on the ground near Taft's cabin where it could be more carefully crafted. His daughter described the head as"an astonishing thing reaching to the eaves of the house. Many of the young people and children at Eagles nest helped 'butter' it, that is, spread the clay over the framework of wood and wire."51 When completed, the concrete head was lifted into position and placed above a three-foot wide hollow shaft that would run through the center of the statue to allow the concrete to expand and contract without cracking.
Before cold weather set in, Taft and Prashun cast an eighteen-foot square concrete base upon which they erected scaffolding and prepared the mold. By November, all was finally ready. Prashum sprayed the cavernous interior of the mold with paraffin and clay water to prevent it from sticking to the concrete. Over two tons of steel rods were built into the interior to support the statue's head and reinforce the structure. Things were well underway and Taft's "Indian" looked to be completed on schedule-so long as the weather cooperated.
It did not. A storm blew down the scaffolding and delayed the project into the winter. Water for casting had to be pumped up from the river below and Prashun had to improvise a heating system to prevent it from freezing. The entire scaffold was rebuilt and wrapped in a huge canvas to protect it and the workers from cold and wind.
Once the casting began, it had to continue without interruption until complete or the entire effort would fail. On 20 December, the heated water was ready, the concrete and sand waiting and the crew finally began. The temperature, high on the exposed bluff, often dropped to well below zero. The wind, although blocked by canvas, made it seem even colder but the workers persisted. Two teams of fourteen men each worked around the clock for ten days and nights. At 2:45 p.m. on 30 December, the mold's cavernous hollow was filled to the top. There was nothing left to do but wait.
It was not until spring that Taft, Prashun and their associates were certain that the concrete had set properly. Over 6,500 gallons of water, 412 barrels of Portland Cement, two tons of steel rods, 200 yards of burlap, and ten tons of plaster went into Taft's "Indian." Completed, it stood nearly 43 feet above its base and weighed over 268 tons. It was visible from a railroad bridge nearly two miles upriver. A feat of engineering as well as art, the details of the statue's construction were outlined in a 1911 article in Popular Mechanics.
Although Taft paid for much of the cost of producing this massive work himself, local businesses and several of the area's most prominent citizen's contributed as well. These patrons, as well as the townsfolk of Oregon and wealthy Rock River landowners like Governor Frank Lowden (whose 5,000 acre estate-now a state park-lay immediately adjacent to Heckman's property and the Eagle's Nest colony) would see the statue virtually every day and were not universally pleased with Taft's original vision.52 Many wanted Taft's monumental"Indian,"a tribute to the noble and virtuous qualities of romanticized Native Americans in general, to have a more explicit local connection. Black Hawk provided the obvious solution.
During the eighty or so years between his expulsion from Illinois (which served also as the catalyst for the expulsion of all organized Native communities from the state) and the construction of Taft's "Indian," the old Sauk warrior-safely absent and now long dead-had become something of a regional hero. Unofficially re-naming the statue for Black Hawk was an obvious way to satisfy everyone. In his resistance to American expansion, he embodied the "noble and unconquered" spirit of the Indian that Taft sought to represent. In being defeated, Black Hawk fit nicely into the mold of the "Vanishing Native" that predominated in the popular conception of American history at the time. Perhaps most importantly, his ties to Illinois in general and to the Rock River in particular were well-established.53
In (unofficially) re-naming the statue for Black Hawk, however, the central meaning of the work shifted. In an obvious way, Taft's romantic portrayal of a generalized "Indian" became a tribute to Black Hawk alonea single individual rather than an idealized representative of a race. More significantly, in acquiring a localized identity, the statue ceased to be connected to a people or a person at all and came instead to be seen as an embodiment of place-a celebration of the Rock River country.
That Taffs statue was not really intended as a tribute for Native Americans was apparent to some observers, almost immediately upon its completion. At its official dedication on 1 July 1911-an event later described as "an exclusive assembly of 500 sculptors, painters, authors, poets, and millionaires,"54-two of the invited Native speakers even called out those present on that particular point.
The ceremony opened with a fairly long oration by Edgar A. Bancroft, a local lawyer and politician who eventually became the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. A few quotations can provide an idea of its general tone. Bancroft opened by stating that'All primitive peoples are of absorbing interest, because of the light they shed on the origin of the human species. ..."55 Later: "They [the Europeans] found the American Indian, a true child of nature ... a simple race that roamed the woods and the prairies, camping where the night found them, living freely.... Like the wild fowl or the bison, they journeyed and lodged in ever-changing groups, supplying their daily needs wherever they were and always at home, no mater how widely they fared.... Though he sometimes had so-called villages, and even federations, these were uncertain, often remote and transitory."56 Of Black Hawk's defeat by the United States, Bancroft said: "We can read a tragedy there, but it is a tragedy that does not depress, that does not appeal to gain sympathies; it is a hopeless fight, but not a surrender; it is a lost cause but not a lost leader."57 He concluded by saying of Taft's statue:"It stands there, not merely a monument to a simple, kindly, faithful, virile race, but, also, I hope, as a reminder to those of a different blood of the perfidy which marked our contact with them throughout their history. I trust it stands there, not merely to rebuke our sins of the past, but to point the way to a different and far more humane and intelligent treatment of this noble race."58
Dr. Charles Eastman, noted Dakota physician and author, delivered the next oration.59 Speaking extemporaneously in response to Bancroft, Eastman proceeded to undermine many of the assumptions about Native cultures that his predecessor offered. He pointed out that, though people like Black Hawk lacked books, they were far from "untutored savages." Nor were Indians the "heathens" that Bancroft described, since they "never knew a hell or had a devil in them until the missionaries came here."60 Far from standing before his audience as a representative of a"vanishing race,"Eastman emphasized the fact that he bridged the past and the present-perhaps even more comfortably than they did. "I have appreciated all that is worthy of knowing in the wonderful and brilliant progress of modern civilization," he explained. "While I have seen all that you have acquired in your enlightenment... I have not once lost my head and forgotten that which was put into my very soul by an untutored woman, with the help of nature."61 "The Indian is on the same trail as you are,"he added. "We are becoming Americanized, but we pray we may ... show you the politics of an honest people."62
Eastman critiqued also the "civilization" that settlers brought to the frontier: "We loved our homes, our villages and our prairies," he explained, "but we had no business here. We had no civilization. You had plenty of it my brothers, and the more you have, the more you're afraid of your brother, and the more strong doors you have, the more policemen to protect you."63 Of their treatment of Black Hawk's country, he said: "And here was Black Hawk, in the bosom of this most fertile valley. He imbibed this very pure air, not quite so pure now; this pure water, then not quite so contaminated as it is now. Here he was nurtured by untutored parents and by Nature. She took him in his lap and showed him the wilderness with all its rough virtues. He took them into his soul and needed no more wonderful civilization."64
Like Eastman, Laura Cornelius, the daughter of an Oneida chief and an activist intellectual in her own right, was both appreciated by the audience and somewhat critical of the day's proceedings.65 She pointed out that, although Taft's statue was ostensibly intended as a tribute to Native Americans, none besides Dr. Eastman and herself were present. "No eagle plumes are before my eyes as I look among you."she began. "The race is not here to-day." She continued by saying that while she felt privileged to represent the American Indian on this occasion, she felt "profound regret" thaf'a Red Jacket, a Dehoadilum, or an Oshkanundutah [was] not on hand to immortalize the occasion with a more fitting speech."66
Ms. Cornelius made a good point. While Lorado Taft and his Eagle's Nest circle had invited no shortage of "sculptors, painters, authors, poets, and millionaires," no Native people had been invited except for Charles Eastman and Laura Cornelius-both well-regarded intellectuals utterly unlike the "Indian" depicted by Lorado Taft. Black Hawk's living relatives (by then removed to Oklahoma and Kansas) had not been invited. Nor had members of the affiliated Mesquakie community living less than 200 miles away in Iowa or members of any other Native group that had been associated with the area. Although offered as a tribute, Taft's "Indian" was a well-kept secret from most of its honorees.
Taft's statue not only failed to honor Native Americans in general to quite the degree to which the artist intended, it failed also to truly honor Black Hawk as an individual. While the statue bears the Sauk war-leader's famous name, it does so only colloquially. Its actual title remained simply "The Indian." It does not look like any of the several portraits of Black Hawk painted during his lifetime, was modeled after a white man, and does not even portray an individual in typical Sauk dress. Further, the statue sits nearly sixty miles up the Rock River from Saukenuk, the village at which Black Hawk lived for most of his life. During Black Hawk's era, the area around Oregon was more closely associated with the Winnebagoes and Potowatomies than with the Sauks. Black Hawk may have known ithunted there, visited kin in the area, or passed through it on his way to visit British friends in Canada-but the country captured by the statue's admiring gaze never really belonged to him in any meaningful way.
What Taft's "Indian" does most effectively is serve the symbolic function of honoring the place in which it was constructed. While evidence to support such an argument is not always explicit, it is by no means difficult to find. For example, even though Black Hawk left a substantial autobiography that had much to say about a wide range of topics-from land dispossession, to cultural differences, to slavery, only one quotation from the Sauk warrior was cited at the statue's dedication (and that not from his book but from his Fourth of July toast at Fort Madison) the same quotation that begins this article and appears so often in the historical literature.67
These remarks-an admission of defeat by a seventy-year-old man followed by an admonition to those who defeated him to look after his former homeland-are the closest thing to a direct connection to Black Hawk presented at the base of Taft's "Indian." They remain so even today. On my last visit to the site last summer, these remained the only words spoken by Black Hawk available to visitors at the site's welcome center or in its informational literature. Other than this toast and a biographical paragraph or two, the historical Black Hawk is simply not present. As of this writing the above quote was the only one posted on Northern Illinois University's webpage referring to the statue.68
Tellingly, though, the constructed Black Hawk so magnificently represented by Taft's "Indian" is ubiquitous not only at the site but throughout the area. His name is everywhere: credit unions, schools and colleges, boats, Boy Scout troops, local clubs and organizations, and restaurants have adopted Black Hawk's name and likeness as their own. But many institutions, including the state highway signs that mark the Black Hawk Trail in Illinois, use the face of Taft's "Indian" rather than a more accurate portrayal of Black Hawk as their insignia. Even the local Boy Scout camp-whose campers actually do learn something about the Native groups who had lived in the region-awards medals bearing the statue's likeness rather than that of the historical Black Hawk. Whether he actually lived there or not, and whether or not the imagery looks as he did, one hundred and seventyodd years after his removal from the state, there can be no doubt that the Rock River Valley today is"Black Hawk's country"-but its connection to the actual historical figure has been stretched nearly to its limit.
What comes across in all of these monuments is the idea that Americans in the Midwest, whose history is rich but comparatively recent, feel compelled-even driven-to appropriate Native American historical figures and imagery to tie themselves more directly to their own past and deepen their connection to the land they now occupy. They go to great lengths to present a narrative of continuity between themselves and their predecessors-justifying explaining or ignoring the traumatic events that made their region possible. Few examples illustrate this process more clearly than does Black Hawk's ongoing removal from the Illinois landscape. His vague persistence-despite (or perhaps because of) ethnic cleansing cultural redefinition, and physical transformation-demonstrates that we cultivate our environment as a garden of memory.
At its dedication, Lorado Taft said only of his statue, "It grew out of the ground."69 That may be true ... but if it did, it was only because a nostalgic people who craved a richer history and a deeper connection to their region's past needed it and planted it there.
1 For a more detailed account see Sherry, Michael J. Narrating Black Hawk: Indian Wars, Memory, and Midwestern Identity. Ph.D. diss., University, University of Illinois, 2005.
2 Jessie M. Parker, ed. Lee County History (Compiled and written by the Iowa Writers' Program of the Works Progress Administration of the State of Iowa: Works Progress Administration, 1942), 75.
3 Paul M. Angle, "Historical Markers for Illinois Highways," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 27 (1934): 109-17, 109.
4 George Thomas Palmer, "Historic Landmarks Along the Highways of Illinois," Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 39 (1932): 41-62, 41.
5 Ibid., 45.
6 Ibid., 41.
7 Besides Angle and Palmer, the Advisory Committee consisted of John Hauberg (Rock Island), James A. James (Evanston), Theodore Calvin Pease (Urbana), George W Smith (Carbondale), Frank E. Stevens (Sycamore), and Clint ClayTilton (Danville).
8 Both have been discussed in some detail earlier in my dissertation. For more on Frank Stevens, see Chapter 7 of Sherfy, 197-40. For more on John Henry Hauberg, see Chapter 9, Sherfy, 275-8.
9 Historical Marker located in a small landscaped triangle on Illinois Route 78-82, near the north end of Prophetstown, Illinois.
10 Historical Marker located on the west side of Illinois Route 23, at junction with road leading to another, more substantial memorial to Shabbona and the murdered settlers (described below), near Earlville, Illinois.
11 Historical Marker located on Illinois Route 5, just outside Elizabeth, Illinois.
12 Angle, 117.
13 In their haste to begin erecting the historical markers, the Advisory Committee postponed making other difficult decisions, as well. They enacted a policy that avoided placing markers in cities, for example, and prevented a single county from being awarded more than one marker per year.
14 Historical Marker, Stillman Valley, Illinois.
15 While contemporary accounts varied considerably, Black Hawk claimed in his autobiography that only 40 of his warriors confronted the 260 soldiers under Major Stillman's command. For a more detailed discussion of the eyewitness reports of this incident and its aftermath, see Sherfy, 50-9.
16 Pike's visit does not usually receive a great deal of attention, perhaps because his travels up the Mississippi were not so dramatic as were his westward explorations. Nevertheless, it was at the time a bold extension of American authority over a territory only nominally under U.S. control. Pike even named a "peak" after himself in Iowa-although it hardly measures up to the one he later claimed in Colorado.
17 Fort Armstrong was decommissioned in 1836 and swiftly fell into disrepair-sped along by settlers who scavenged it for building supplies. Two decades later, it was reopened as the Rock Island Arsenal and remains in operation today. During the Civil War, the Arsenal housed 12,000 Confederate prisoners. Over 2,000 of them died of disease, earning it the title of the "Andersonville of the North."
18 A small museum eventually opened on Rock Island Arsenal, along with a reconstruction of Fort Armstrong's blockhouse and George Davenport's restored home. Visitors are now allowed access to these facilities-but only on certain days and during certain times.
19 John Hauberg believed that the Sauks held these mounds in no greater esteem than did the whites who used many of them as landfill. "Considering the fact that the Indians held the burial places of their dead in the highest reverence," he explained, "and that among the mounds one finds numerous corn hills not only between the mounds but extending up their sides, we are led to believe that these mounds were built by a people of such remote antiquity that even the traditions regarding them had failed or lost their force upon the Sauk who turned their cemetery into a cornfield." see John Henry Hauberg, "Black Hawk's Home Country," Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 20 (20(1914): 113-121, 117.
20 Hauberg, 114.
22 Julia Mills Dunn, "Saukenuk," Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 7 (1902): 132-137, 133.
23 Jackson, 95, fn. 72.
24 The Watch Tower was rich in other lore as well, usually involving people falling from its heights. In one account, a Sioux warrior and a beautiful Sauk maiden, joined in forbidden love, are said to have leaped hand-in-hand over its edge rather than be kept apart by their families. In another, a visiting Frenchman brought the first violin to Saukenuk. In performing for his Native audience, he became so entranced by his own fiddling that he forgot the precariousness of his performance space and fell over the edge. It is said that on certain nights one can still hear him playing.
25 John H. Hauberg, "The New Black Hawk State Park," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 20 (1927-28): 265-281, 266.
26 Ibid., 265. The State Park hosted a Civilian Conservation Corps work camp during the 1930s that rebuilt the inn and other facilities and restored much of the site to its original state. The site was re-christened "Black Hawk State Historic Site" in 1987.
28 Hauberg, "The New Black Hawk State Park," 266.
29 Hauberg even saw Black Hawk State Park as a bridge to Native people. He said: "Doubtless the grounds will again resound with the laughter and chatter of the Sauk and Fox tongue as descendants of those fierce warriors of old come to see the lands held by them during the period of their natural Golden Age. ... A throng of descendants of those brave men who responded to the call of Governor Reynolds...with likewise be attracted to this spot.... Here is a place suited for the joining of hands of the White man and the Red as each recounts the treasure which was thrown into the conflict between them; the suffering endured, and the loss of these brave souls who gave the last full measure of devotion. See Ibid., 280.
30 Anonymous, "Monument Unveiled: Dedication of Shabbona Park, La Salle County," Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 11 (11(1906): 15.
31 Full accounts of each speaker's comments can be found in the Ottawa Journal, 30 August 1906 and the Bureau County Republic, 6 September, 1906.
32 Ottawa Journal, 30 August 1906.
33 The main floor of their museum is today dominated by the carriage in which Abraham Lincoln rode to the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debate in Ottawa and a life-size paper-mache statue of the sixteenth President. The remainder of the main floor is dedicated to more recent history of the area-emphasizing the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the role played by local World War n veterans and workers in a nearby armaments factory. Artifacts of the Indian Creek Massacre, including a child's bloodstained dress, a bonnet said to have been pierced by a bullet, and several items once owned by Shabbona, are displayed in its basement, near the restrooms.
34 Even the most popular name given to this incident betrays a value judgment. Isaiah Stillman would undoubtedly have preferred one of its earlier monikers: The Battle of Old Man's Creek. Regardless of what one calls it, the incident was of great significance during the Black Hawk War since it marked both the first bloodshed and the last possible moment at which the conflict might have been concluded amicably. Almost from the moment it occurred, the incident was controversial. Was it a well-laid ambush by Black Hawk? An attempt to surrender or parley that met with disaster when anxious Illinois militiamen fired on a Sauk delegation bearing a white flag? Was it better viewed as an example of typical Westerners' attitudes toward Native people or as evidence of the martial prowess of the Indian savage? For a more complete discussion of the several interpretations of Stillman's Run, see Sherfy, 50-9, 206-9, 216.
35 In researching this article, I visited local historical societies and libraries throughout the region. While none were able to provide documents concerning the controversy over how to best commemorate Stillman's defeat (or whether it was appropriate to do so at all), several mentioned specifically that such discussions occurred-and left rifts among the community members that were slow to heal. One elderly woman, a volunteer at the Polo Historical Society, even went so far as to say to me, "You don't want to visit that place. Go take pictures of our Durley monument instead." The monument she recommended is briefly discussed in Sherfy, 352-80.
36 Rev. Robert W. Newlands, "The Black Hawk War: An Account of the Discovery of the Graves of the Men Who Fell in the 'Battle of Stillman's Run,'" Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 6 (1901): 117-20,117.
37 Ibid., 118.
38 Ibid. Newlands found that the body, reasonably well-preserved due to the grave's sandy soil and dry location, had been buried on its back, but the face was turned downward showing that it had been decapitated-which identified the remains as those of either Captain John G. Adams or Major James Perkins.
39 Text on historical marker. Two other stones were added later to commemorate individuals believed to have been buried elsewhere.
40 For more on Stevens, see Chapter 7 of Sherfy, 197-240.
41 Frank E. Stevens/'Stillman's Defeat," Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 7(1902): 170-9, 172.
43 Ibid., 174.
44 Ibid., 175.
45 But alcohol, according to Stevens, played no role in the panic. He cited his own research and eyewitness testimony that only two casks were taken with the baggage train-and referred to Black Hawk's autobiographical testimony that one of those was emptied by the Indians after the battle. Reports of the soldiers' drunkenness offered after the defeat-when one small cask was divided among 275 men accustomed to hard drinking-were, in Stevens's estimation, entirely baseless, if not ridiculous. This point remains a contentious one even today. While some find Stevens's argument convincing, many historians have blamed the consumption of alcohol for contributing to Stillman's defeat-casting a shadow over the battlefield memorial. In a 2001 documentary made for the History Channel, part of its "Frontiers: The Decisive Battles" series, Professor R. David Edmunds said of it: "There is a great monument at Stillman's Run to the nine or ten men who died there." In the next breath, he said'Tt's a...a farce." Edmunds's remark has since elicited a good deal of excitement and discussion among certain communities. For details, see Sherfy, 371-6.
46 Stevens, 179.
47 Text on Monument, Stillman Valley, IL.
48 For a more complete biography of Lorado Taft, see Ada Bartlett Taft, Lorado Taft: Sculptor and Citizen (Greensboro, NC: E.L. Hildreth & Company, 1946).
49 Taft's fellow campers included such notables as the writer, Hamlin Garland; the painters, Ralph Clarkson and Charles Frances Browne; and the architects, Samuel Pond and Irving Fond),
50 For more on the Eagle's Nest Artist Colony, see James E. Pearson, "Eagle's Nest Colony," Outdoor Illinois (1970): 8-16.
51 Taft, 53-6.
52 At least a few of them never fully reconciled themselves to the presence of a statue even indirectly honoring the former enemy of their nation. One descendent of an Old Settler explained her position with a family story: "Blackhawk and his men came one day [to her Grandfather's cabin] arrayed in new blankets. They paraded around, and Blackhawk ordered Grandfather to give them some melons. Grandfather told him the melons were not ripe. Blackhawk said they would come at night and get them. Grandfather said the dogs would bark and they had good guns and would shoot. Blackhawk pulled some lint from off his blanket, blew it up in the air and said: 'Indian drive you away easy as that.' So I fear I have not much use for the Monument of Blackhawk by Lorado Taft, near Oregon, Illinois." See Catherine Coulter, "Reminiscences of Dad Joe," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 18.3 (1925): 992-1003, 996.
53 If local tradition and place names are any indication, Black Hawk spent the bulk of his time sitting on large rocks and gazing out over the Rock River. From Black Hawk's Watch Tower at Rock Island to Indian Rock and Indian Head Rock thirty or forty miles upriver, to the bluff at Eagle's Nest and Squaw Rock still further up the river, if there is a place to stand along the Rock River and is a scenic view to admire, some guidebook, website, or area resident will assure you that Black Hawk is said to have enjoyed it.
54 J. C. Burton, "The Rock River Valley and Its Cities, 1913," in Paul Angle, ed., Prairie State: Impressions of Illinois, 1673-1967, by Travelers and Other Observers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), 457.
55 Frank O. Lowden, ed., Lorado Taft's Indian Statue "Black Hawk": An Account of the Unveiling Ceremonies at Eagle's Nest Bluff, Oregon, Illinois, July the First, Nineteen Hundred and Eleven (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1912), 33.
56 Ibid., 39.
57 Ibid., 50.
58 Ibid., 50-1.
59 Charles Eastman (1858-1939), a member of the Mdewakanton Dakota nation, an author, a physician, an orator, and an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was one of the most prominent Native intellectuals of his day. Eastman was the first doctor to reach the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre. He is best remembered for several of his autobiographical works that document a period of great transition for the Santee Dakotas.
60 Ibid., 57-8.
61 Ibid., 55.
62 Ibid., 65.
63 Ibid., 59.
64 Ibid., 67-8.
65 Laura Cornelius-Kellogg (known also as Minnie Kellogg) (1880-1947), a member of the Oneida nation (a Native group relocated to Wisconsin from New York), was one of the principle founders of the Society of American Indians and one of the leading Native intellectuals of the Progressive Era. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she had not been forced into Indian boarding schools but, instead, found her education at a private finishing school for girls in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She later attended Stanford, Barnard College, Columbia University, Cornell, and the University of Wisconsin. She became especially well-known for her work on Iroquois land claims.
66 Ibid., 74. Cornelius offered no speculations as to what the aforementioned orators might have said, but concluded her own brief speech: "Perhaps it is worth a national tragedy to go down to posterity an inspiration for all men. As I look upon him for the last, my heart within me says: Amen; there let him stand, defying the very elements, defying injustice, defying defeat." Ibid., 74, 82.
67 Ibid., 99.
68 http://www3.niu.edu/historicalbuildings/leaders hawk.html (Website viewed on 10/6/2005). For several years, Northern Illinois University supported a field campus on the site of the former artist colony. Today, it continues to offer various agricultural and ecological programs there and their library offers a series on webpagesweb pages, including one dedicated to Taft's statue, as a guide to the Black Hawk War. See also NIU's Black Hawk website at http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/blackhawk (Website viewed on 11/18/2005).
69 Lowden, 95.
Michael Sherfy is a visiting assistant professor of history at Western Illinois University where he teaches courses on early America and Native American History. He received his undergraduate degree from Illinois State University and he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, writing his dissertation on the mythology of Black Hawk. He also holds a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois.…