(EDITOR’S NOTE: Edgar County and Paris are celebrating a bicentennial this year and contributor Roger Stanley is planning a series of Early Happenings in Edgar County to mark the …
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Edgar County and Paris are celebrating a bicentennial this year and contributor Roger Stanley is planning a series of Early Happenings in Edgar County to mark the occasion.)
Starting about 1750 several significant events had to happen before westward expansion moved into Illinois.
Native Americans had to give up their land, and the French had to surrender their forts to the British. Later, the British authority needed removed so the newly formed American citizens could acquire the ground.
The Easton Treaty of 1758 between the British and the Native Americans stipulated the Indian lands were protected from Anglo-Americans settling in what was called the Ohio Valley. That treaty was signed between British Colonial officers and more than 500 chiefs representing Woodland Indigenous peoples in October 1758. That was a part of the lead up to the treaty that ended the French and Indian War. France and the British signed a peace treaty in Paris on Feb. 10, 1763, in which France gave up all its territories in mainland America. As a result of the treaty, Illinois citizens speak English instead of French.
Just after the French and Indian War that lasted from 1756 until 1763 another war started in what later became the Northwest Territory and the Ohio Valley. Pontiac’s Rebellion was a consequence of the Native American dissatisfaction with the results of the French and Indian
The French, who basically got along with the Indians, were now in retreat although in many cases the forts that were released into British hands were not manned to withstand an Indian attack. Chief Pontiac saw an opening to restore the lands to the Native Americans. An Ottawa leader, Pontiac united the Huron, Delaware, Miami and Shawnee tribes to fight against the British.
Pontiac had two blunt messages to give to his supposedly new masters.
“They came with the Bible and their religion, stole our land, crushed our spirit and now they tell us to be thankful to the lord for being saved,” said Pontiac.
He also pointed out the French surrendering to the British had nothing to do with the native Indians. The French had not conquered the Indians so the British should not assume the Indians should be submissive to them. Pontiac was not enamored by the rule of the British, especially under the leadership of Field Marshall Jeffrey Amherst.
After parleying and uniting many of the Indian tribes of the Ohio Valley and along the Great Lakes, Pontiac laid out a plan to capture or destroy the old French forts the British were supposed to control along with the better manned forts like Detroit, Niagara and Pitt.
Coordinated attacks that took place simultaneously captured most of the forts except for the larger and well-defended bastions of Detroit, Niagara and Pitt.
Those battles took place in early August 1763 after the Treaty of Paris had been signed in February. In his effort to take Fort Detroit, Pontiac’s attackers laid siege to that fort — an unusual tactic for Native Americans. By the time the fort was under siege, most of the illegal settlers were killed or driven out of the Ohio Valley.
The Indians and British Army met at The Battle of Bushy Run in Western Pennsylvania Aug. 5-6, 1763, and the British prevailed. It represented a reversal with the victorious troops relieving Fort Pitt. As a result, settlers began moving back across the mountains or coming out of the forts that were left in British hands.
Pontiac’s warriors dispersed to their homes, and that winter he gave up the siege of Fort Detroit. Only a few skirmishes were undertaken. British General Bouquet started preparing his troops to meet the Indians in battle near Coshocton, Ohio, but the Indians reconsidered and asked for peace in October 1764.
The loss of his primary alliance forced Pontiac further west looking for aid from the remaining French and the Illinois Indians. He found little support his efforts.
In 1765, Sir William Johnson, the British Indian Commissioner, tried his hand at forging a real treaty with the Indians. He sent an Irish fur trapper George Croghan as his agent down the Ohio to meet with Pontiac to bring about a treaty. Croghan was wounded and captured in a Kickapoo attack when he neared the Wabash. He was subsequently transported to Ft. Quiatenon on the Wabash River.
Croghan was a skilled diplomat, knowing two Indian languages, and soon the Wea Indians, who had control of the fort, let him travel freely through Indian Territory. Croghan negotiated with the Indians at that fort and brought the Ottawa, the Piankashaw, the Miami, the Quiatenon, the Mascouten and Kickapoo Indians to accept British rule.
Using a small contingent of men and Indian scouts, Croghan met with Pontiac at Hickory Grove July 18, 1765. That location was well known as the intersection of the Detroit and St. Louis Trail with the Vincennes and Peoria Trail. Long since plowed away the spot is located in what is now the northwest corner of Edgar County.
The area is identified by a marker on state Route 1, north of Chrisman, and another sign on state Route 49, about 14 miles west of the meeting spot. Just north of Hume is an older monument that designates the meeting place and the location of Hickory Grove or Palermo. Palermo, the town is now gone, but the location holds a place in history for Edgar County.
What actually transpired between Croghan and Pontiac is not known, but there was a need for a conclusion to the hostility and there was an agreement for a more formal meeting at a British fort.
The saga continues as Pontiac and his party made their way east for a meeting with the British. Croghan and his party of scouts and Indians accompanied Pontiac and his people. They passed through Fort Quiatenon on the way to Fort Detroit for the parley with the British, and Pontiac was pardoned by the British authorities Aug. 17, 1765.
Croghan and Pontiac spoke to an even bigger conference and convinced the Potawatomi, Wea, Ojibwa and Wyandot tribes to embrace the British economic orbit. People of the time considered Croghan a national hero because of his negotiating skills with Indian matters.