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.
The use of old commonly used terms, disrespectful today, i.e., REDMANor REDMEN, SAVAGES, and HALF-BREED, are explained in this article.
— PLEASE PRACTICE HISTORICISM —
THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PAST IN ITS OWN CONTEXT.
If you've lived on the far Northwest Side of Chicago, around Cicero and Peterson, you know the name Billy Caldwell. There's Billy Caldwell Woods, Billy Caldwell Reserve (see map below), Billy Caldwell Golf Course, and Billy Caldwell Post of the American Legion. And, of course, Caldwell Avenue. The Chicago neighborhood named "Sauganash," in the Forest Glen community, was named for William "Billy" Caldwell Jr. He claimed "Sauganash" was his given Potawatomi name.
Billy Caldwell is a figure of legends but was a real person. Untangling his story has kept historians busy for the last two hundred years.
William "Billy" Caldwell Jr. was born near Fort Niagara, in upper New York, on March 17, 1780. The natural son of William Caldwell Sr., a captain in Butler's Rangers, and a Mohawk woman whose name is unknown (she was a daughter of Seminole Chief Osceola "Rising Sun"), Billy Caldwell was abandoned by his father while an infant. There's some evidence that Billy was baptized as Thomas.
Caldwell Sr. was ordered west to Detroit. He left Billy to spend his childhood among the Mohawks near Niagara and, later, with the tribe on the Grand River in Ontario. About 1789, Caldwell Sr. brought Billy back into the family, created by his marriage to Suzanne Reaume Baby (birthed 22 children; 11 survived infancy) at Detroit. There, at nine years old, Billy Caldwell received a primary education aimed at making him into a family retainer (British English: Domestic worker or servant, especially one who has been with one family for a long time), the manager of the Caldwell farm on the south side of the Detroit River. Billy rejected the status of a second-class son.
In Chicago between 1827 and 1833, various legends and myths grew concerning Caldwell's ancestry, rank, and social status, eventually making him a "half-breed principal chief" of the Potawatomi. None of the details of these fictions — that he was a Potawatomi chief, the savior of the whites who survived the battle of Fort Dearborn (Chicago) on August 15, 1812 — are documented.
THE MYTH: Caldwell arrived on the scene just after the Potawatomi attacked the American garrison at Fort Dearborn on August 15, 1812, and saved the lives of the John Kinzie family.
ANOTHER UNPROVEN TALE: In 1828 the U.S. Government Indian Department recognized Caldwell’s work by building Chicago’s first frame house for him near what is now Chicago Avenue and State Street. The next year he was appointed "Chief Sauganash" of the Potawatomi Tribe. The Potawatomi knew that the Americans were going to force them out of the area. They wanted to get the best deal possible. Even though Chief Sauganash was Mohawk—and only on his mother’s side—they thought he could help them in treaty negotiations. So they accepted him as a tribal Chief.
Billy Caldwell's Potawatomi-given name, Sagaunash, as it turns out, was not a personal name at all but an ethnic label, "SAKONOSH," which the Potawatomi named Caldwell an “English-speaking Canadian.”
|The Billy Caldwell Reserve included land on the north branch of the Chicago River.|
|Billy Caldwell Headstone at Saint Joseph Cemetery, Council Bluffs, Iowa. His plot is in the Northwest corner of the cemetery.|
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.