Saturday, January 13, 2018

One Man's Story of "Indian Hating" in the Illinois Country Frontier.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM introduces present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Presentism is a form of cultural bias that creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. Historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present fact-based and well-researched articles.

Facts don't require one's approval or acceptance.

I present [PG-13] articles without regard to race, color, political party, or religious beliefs, including Atheism, national origin, citizenship status, gender, LGBTQ+ status, disability, military status, or educational level. What I present are facts — NOT Alternative Facts — about the subject. You won't find articles or readers' comments that spread rumors, lies, hateful statements, and people instigating arguments or fights.

When I write about the INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, I follow this historical terminology:
  • The use of old commonly used terms, disrespectful today, i.e., REDMAN or REDMEN, SAVAGES, and HALF-BREED are explained in this article.
Writing about AFRICAN-AMERICAN history, I follow these race terms:
  • "NEGRO" was the term used until the mid-1960s.
  • "BLACK" started being used in the mid-1960s.
  • "AFRICAN-AMERICAN" [Afro-American] began usage in the late 1980s.


As more settlers filtered into the Illinois Country in the years after the Revolutionary War, the local tribes cast a suspicious eye on these newcomers. Sometimes, this tension erupted into violence that hardened and scarred many early settlers.

Here's one man's story. John Moredock (1776-1830) [alternate spellings: Murdock, Murdoch, Moredoch] was the son of a woman who was married several times and was as often widowed by the tomahawk of the savage. Her husbands had been pioneers; with them, she had wandered from one territory to another, always living on the frontier. She was, at last, left a widow at Vincennes with a large family of children and was induced to join a party about to move to Illinois, to which region a few American families had then recently moved. On the eastern side of Illinois, there were no settlements of whites; on the shore of the Mississippi, a few spots were occupied by the French, and it was now that our own backwoodsmen began to turn their eyes to this delightful country and determined to settle in the vicinity of the French villages.

Mrs. Moredock and her friends embarked at Vincennes in boats intending to descend the Wabash and Ohio rivers and ascend the Mississippi. They proceeded safely until they reached the Grand Tower on the Mississippi, where, owing to the difficulty of the navigation for ascending boats, it became necessary for the boatmen to land and drag their vessels around a rocky point, which was swept by a violent current. A party of Indians, lying in wait, rushed upon them and murdered the whole party. Mrs. Moredock and all her children were among the victims, except John, who was proceeding with another party.

John Moredock was just entering the years of manhood when he was thus left in a strange land, the sole survivor of his race. He resolved to execute vengeance and immediately took measures to discover the actual perpetrators of the massacre. It was ascertained that the outrage was committed by a party of twenty or thirty Indians from different tribes, who had formed themselves into a lawless predatory band.
Moredock watched the motions of this band for more than a year before an opportunity suitable for his purpose occurred. At length, he learned, that they were hunting on the Missouri side of the river, nearly opposite to the recent settlements of the Americans. He raised a party of young men and pursued them, but that time they escaped. Shortly after, he sought them at the head of another party and had the good fortune to discover them one evening on an island, where they had retired to encamp more securely for the night. Moredock and his friends, about equal numbers to the Indians, waited until the dead of night and then landed upon the island, turning adrift their own canoes and those of the enemy and determined to sacrifice their own lives or to exterminate the savage band. They were ultimately successful. Only three of the Indians escaped by throwing themselves into the river; the rest were slain, while the whites lost not one man.

But Moredock was not satisfied while one of the murderers of his mother remained. He had learned to recognize the names and persons of the three that had escaped, which he secretly pursued, but with untiring diligence, until they all fell by his own hand. Nor was he yet satisfied. He had now become a hunter and a warrior. He was a square-built, muscular man of remarkable strength and activity. In athletic sports, he had few equals; few men would willingly have encountered him in single combat. He was a man of determined courage and great coolness and steadiness of purpose. He was an expert in the use of the rifle and other weapons and was a complete master of those numberless expedients by which the woodsman subsists in the forest, pursues the footsteps of an enemy with unerring sagacity, or conceals himself and his design from the discovery of a watchful foe. 

He had resolved never to spare an Indian, and though he made no boast of this determination and seldom avowed it, it became the ruling passion of his life. He thought it praiseworthy to kill an Indian and would roam through the forest silently and alone, for days and weeks, with this single purpose. A solitary red man, who was so unfortunate as to meet him in the woods, was sure to become his victim; if he encountered a party of the enemy, he would either secretly pursue their footsteps until an opportunity for striking a blow occurred, or, if discovered, would elude them by his superior skill. He died an old man, and it is never supposed in his life that he failed to embrace an opportunity to kill a savage.

The reader must not infer from this description that Colonel Moredock was unsocial, ferocious, or cruel. On the contrary, he was a man of warm feelings and an excellent disposition. At home, he was like other men, managing a large farm with industry and success and gaining the goodwill of all his neighbors through his popular manners and benevolent deportment. He was cheerful, convivial, and hospitable, and no man in the territory was more generally known or universally respected. He was an officer in the ranging service during the war of 1813-14 and acquitted himself with credit. He was afterward elected to command the militia of his county when such an office was honorable because it imposed responsibility and required the exertion of military skill. Colonel Moredock was a member of the legislative council of the territory of Illinois and, at the formation of the state government, was spoken of as a candidate for the governor's office but refused to permit his name to be used.

Moredock's tragic story and an insatiable thirst for revenge mark him as a complex character shaped by the brutal realities of pre-statehood Illinois.
John Moredock is buried in the
Miles Cemetery, Monroe County, Illinois.

From "Sketches of History, Life, and Manners, in the West." By James Hall, Published 1834.
Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. Thanks Neil. I like these stories of early Illinois.Ive been to Grand Tower to eat at Ma Hales .The restaurant was legendary to students of SIU in Carbondale .

  2. Thank you for this. My great great grandfather was a remarkable man.


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