Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Antoine Ouilmette, Chicago's First Resident (from July 1790-1826), and the first settler of Evanston and Wilmette (1826-1838).

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.



Antoine Louis Ouilmette (ca.1758-1841), a French Catholic, baptized "Antoine Louis Ouimet," not Ouilmette, on December 26, 1758, in the parish of Ste. Rose northwest of Montreal, Canada. It is unknown why or when his family name changed to Ouilmette, also referred to as Ouilmet, Houillamette, Willamette, Wilmette, Wilmot, Wemet; second son of Louis Ouimet. Ouilmette came to Chicago in July of 1790 [his statement] and built his cabin on the north bank of the Chicago River, a short distance west of Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable's cabin.

Correct: Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable. The "du" of Point du Sable is a misnomer. It is an American corruption of "de" as pronounced in French, The misspelling first appears long after his death.

Successive owners and occupants include:
  • Jean La Lime & William Burnett: 1800-1803, owner. (A careful reading of the Pointe de Sable-La Lime sales contract indicates that William Burnett was not just signing as a witness but also financing the transaction. Therefore, he had controlling ownership.)
  • John Kinzie's Family: 1804-1828 (except during 1812-1816).
  • Widow Leigh & Mr. Des Pins: 1812-1816.
  • John Kinzie's Family: 1817-1829.
  • Anson Taylor: 1829-1831 (residence and store).
  • Dr. E.D. Harmon: 1831 (resident & medical practice).
  • Jonathan N. Bailey: 1831 (resident and post office).
  • Mark Noble, Sr.: 1831-1832.
  • Judge Richard Young: 1832 (circuit court - temporary resident).
  • Unoccupied and decaying by 1832.
  • Nonexistent by 1835.

The primeval beauty of that ancient forest that stood on the western shore of Lake Michigan immediately north of Chicago and covered the ground that now constitutes the northern portion of the City of Evanston and the Village of Wilmette has passed away. Many of its towering elms and great oaks that have stood for centuries remain to indicate in some measure what the real beauty of that forest was in the days when this Illinois country was unknown to white men.

A View of an Ancient Landscape in Early Evanston.
In the place of much of that forest stand costly dwellings, public buildings, paved streets, and all the evidence of the individual and public effort that illustrate so graphically the advance of our Western civilization, especially the rapid growth and enterprise of Chicago and its suburbs. There is probably no spot in America where such rapid and marked change has taken place, for there are many young residents of that part of Illinois known in later days as the "North Shore" who have observed step by step these changes that have transformed this wild woodland into the suburban home of thousands of Chicago's citizens.

In the midst of this former forest was the "Ouilmette Reservation." Those two quoted words have a particular significance to the few old settlers still living who knew Antoine Ouilmette and his half-breed Potawatomi wife Archange. The few lawyers and others who have to do with land titles and county records indicate only the legal description of a tract of land. 

The Ouilmette Reservation and its former Indian occupants and owners have been the subject of much solicitude and investigation, not entirely for historical purposes, but that the white man might know that he had a good white man's title to the Indian's land. 

The southern half of the district was originally part of the Ouilmette Reservation, an Indian reservation that was sold to developers and became the original village of Wilmette in 1872.

The Chicago Genealogist describes the Ouilmette Reservation as having been 1,580 acres, of which "some" 300 now fall into the city limits of Evanston, and 1,280 falls into Wilmette. The borders are given as follows: southern boundary at Central Street in Evanston or a line due west from the Evanston light-house; eastern boundary at the lakeshore; northern boundary at the level of Elmwood Avenue (Elmwood Avenue, formerly North Avenue) in Wilmette, a little south of Kenilworth; and the western boundary at the western terminus of the present street-ear line on Central Street in Evanston and Fifteenth Street in Wilmette.

The Reservation takes its name from its original owner, Archange Ouilmette, wife of Antoine Ouilmette, described in the original Treaty and Patent from the United States as a Potawatomi woman. The name given the village—Wilmette—originates from Antoine himself and from the phonetic spelling of the French name "0-U-I-L-M-E-T-T-E," and is said upon good authority to have been first suggested as the name of the village by Judge Henry W. Blodgett, late of Waukegan, who was interested in the very early real estate transactions of the village. 

There are many interesting facts regarding Ouilmette and his family. Antoine, the husband, was a Frenchman who came to the West in the early days and married an Indian wife like many of his countrymen. He was one of the first white residents of Chicago; some of the authorities say that he was the very first, except for Marquette. He was born in a place called Lahndrayh, near Montreal, Canada, in the year 1760.

His first employment was with the American Fur Company in Canada, and he came to Chicago to be employed by that company in the year 1790. This striking figure in our local history, and in the very early history of Chicago, is sadly neglected in most if not all, the historical writings. Almost everyone in this locality knows that the Village of Wilmette was named after him; many misinformed people speak of Ouilmette as an Indian chief; a few of the writers merely mention his name as one of the early settlers of Chicago. And that has been the beginning and end of his written history.

Ouilmette's occupation cannot be more definitely stated than to say that, after his employment by the American Fur Company, he was an employee of John Kinzie at Chicago and, thereafter, an Indian trader, hunter, and farmer. He was an early French voyageur who lived and died among their Indian friends, loving more the hardships and excitement of the Western frontier than the easier life of Eastern civilization.

Archange Ouilmette, the wife of Antoine, was a squaw of the Potawatomi tribe, belonging to a band of that tribe. She was married at "Gross Point," or what is now Evanston and Wilmette. However, the band constantly traveled over the territory, which later became Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. While Archange was of the Potawatomi tribe, her father, it is said by one authority, was a white man, a trader in the employ of the American Fur Company, and a Frenchman bearing the rather striking name of Francois Chevallier. Archange was born at Sugar Creek, Michigan, in about 1764 and died at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1840. 

Ouilmette had eight children, four sons and four daughters, viz.: Joseph, Louis, Francis, Mitchell, Elizabeth, Archange, Josette and Sophia; also an adopted daughter, Archange Trombla, who, on August 3, 1830, married John Mann, who in early times ran a ferry at Calumet. (Authority John Wentworth and Sophia Martell, the only surviving daughter of Antoine Ouilmette. She was still living in 1905 on the Potawatomi Indian Reservation at St. Mary's, Kansas.)

If a detailed account of all Ouilmette saw and did could be written, we would have a complete history of Chicago, Evanston, and the North Shore during the eventful fifty years intervening between 1790 and 1840. He and his family certainly bore no unimportant part in the history of Illinois during that half-century of time.


It appears from a letter signed with "his mark," written and witnessed by one James Moore, dated at Racine, June 3, 1839 (also corroborated by his family), that Ouilmette came to Chicago in 1790. The letter is addressed to Mr. John H. Kinzie. It says: 

“My home affairs are such that I cannot leave to see you at present. I cairn into Chicago in the year 1790 in July witness old Mr. Veaux... and Mr. Griano... These men were living in the country before the war with the Winnebago’s. Trading with them I saw the Indians break open the door of my house and also the Door of Mr. Kinzie's House. At first there was only three Indians come. They told me there was forty more coming and they told me to run. I Did So. In nine days all I found left of my things was the feathers of my beds scattered about the floor, the amount destroyed by them at that time was about Eight hundred Dollars. Besides your father and me had about four hundred hogs destroyed by the Siam Indians and nearly at the same time, further particulars when I see you. I wish you to write me whether it is best for me come there or for you to come here and how soon it must be done."
Yours with Respect, 
X [Antoine Ouilmette’s signature mark] 
"Jas Moore" [Witness]
The original letter was furnished to Mr. Blanchard by Mrs. Eleanor Kinzie Gordon of Savannah, Georgia, the daughter of John H. Kinzie (Son).

Ouilmette owned and occupied one of the four cabins that constituted the settlement of Chicago in 1803. The other residents were John Kinzie, Thomas Burns, and Charles Lee (or Charles Leigh, who also owned a cabin at Hardscrabble - today's Bridgeport community of Chicago).

Ouilmette was in Chicago at the time of the Fort Dearborn Massacre of the garrison of old Fort Dearborn in 1812 by the Potawatomi, and his family was instrumental, at that time, in saving the lives of at least two whites. Mrs. John H. Kinzie, in her historical book, "Wau-bun" (The Early Day), describes the circumstances:

"The next day after Black Partridge, the Potawatomi Chief, had saved the life of Mrs. Helm in the massacre on the lakeshore [commemorated by the monument recently erected at the place], a band of the most hostile and implacable of all the tribes of the Potawatomi arrived at Chicago and, disappointed at their failure to participate in the massacre and plunder, were ready to wreak vengeance on the survivors, including Mrs. Helm and other members of Mr. Kinzie's family. Mrs. Kinzie says.

Black Partridge had watched their approach, and his fears were particularly awakened for the safety of Mrs. Helm (Mr. Kinzie's stepdaughter). By his advice, she was made to assume the ordinary dress of a French woman of the country.

In this disguise, she was conducted by Black Partridge himself to the house of Ouilmette, a Frenchman with a half-breed wife, who formed a part of the establishment of Mr. Kinzie, and whose dwelling was close at hand. It so happened that the Indians came first to this house in their search for prisoners. As they approached, the inmates, fearful that the fair complexion and general appearance of Mrs. Helm might betray her for an American, raised a large feather bed and placed her under the edge of it, upon the bedstead, with her face to the wall. Mrs. Bisson, the Bister of Ouilmette's wife, then seated herself with her sewing upon the foot of the bed."

It was a hot day in August, and Mrs. Helm suffered so much from her position and was so nearly suffocated that she entreated to be released and given up to the Indians. "I can but die," said she. "Let them put an end to my misery at once." She remained quiet when they assured her that her discovery would be the death of them all.

"The Indians entered, and she could occasionally see them from her hiding place, gliding about and stealthily inspecting every part of the room, though without doing any ostensible search, until apparently satisfied that there was no one concealed, they left the house. All this time, Mrs. Bisson had kept her seat on the side of the bed, calmly sorting and arranging the quilt patchwork on which she was engaged and preserving the appearance of the utmost tranquility. However, she didn't know if she might receive a tomahawk in her head the next moment. Her self-command unquestionably saved the lives of all present... From Ouilmette's house, the party proceeded to the dwelling of Mr. Kinzie." 

The Indians had just left Ouilmette's house when Griffin, a non-commissioned officer, who had escaped and had been concealed among the currant bushes of Ouilmette's garden, climbed into Ouilmette's house through a window to hide from the Indians. "The family stripped him of his uniform and arrayed him in a suit of deerskin with a belt, moccasins, and pipe like a French engage," in which disguise he also escaped. 

After the massacre, when John Kinzie and all the other white settlers and their families fled, Ouilmette and his family remained. He was the only white resident of Chicago for the following four years, 1812 to 1816. The reason for their thus remaining was on account of their friendly relationship with most, if not all, the Indian population. 

In 1814, Alexander Robinson (afterward chief of the Potawatomi) came to Chicago, and he and Ouilmette cultivated the field formerly used as the garden of old Fort Dearborn. They raised good crops of corn and sold the crop of 1816 to Captain Bradley after he arrived in Chicago to rebuild the fort. 

​In the summer of 1820, a traveler named John Tanner passed through Chicago with his family, going by canoe to St. Louis. In Tanner's narrative, he recounted how his progress was hailed by the low state of water in the Illinois River. During this time, he suffered greatly from illness and destitution. He was rescued from his plight by Antoine Ouilmette, who had been able to carry some boats across the portage. Although his horses were gravely worn from their long journey, he agreed, for a moderate price, to transport Tanner and his canoe 60 miles - and if his horses should hold out, twice the distance or the length of the portage at this stage of the river. In addition, he lent Tanner, who was weak from illness, a young horse to ride. Before 60 miles had been traversed, Ouilmette was himself taken sick, and as there was now some water in the river, Tanner dismissed him and attempted to descend the river in his canoe.

He was still in Chicago in 1821. 

He had horses and oxen and other stock in abundance. In the early days, he kept a small store in Chicago and used to tow boats into the Chicago River with his ox teams. He also furnished the Fort Dearborn garrison with meat and fuel. He carried on trading operations with the Indians along the North Shore from Chicago to Milwaukee and Canada, where he frequently went. 

Mrs. Archibald Clybourne says that Ouilmette raised sheep when he lived in Chicago and that her mother, Mrs. Galloway, used to purchase the wool from him with which she spun yarn and knit stockings for the Fort Dearborn soldiers. Ouilmette was a thrifty Frenchman.

His name was on the first Chicago tax list from July 25, 1825. Ouilmette was assessed on $400 of personal property, including cows, horses, sheep, wagons, and farm implements, and paid $4 in taxes. With one exception, none of the fourteen taxpayers of that year owned property over $1,000. John Kinzie's holdings appear on the same role as worth $500, while those of John B. Beaubien are set down at $1,000; the lowest man on this list is Joseph La Framboise, who paid 50 cents on property valued at $50, and Ouilmette's taxes appear considerably above the average in amount. He also appears as a voter in the poll book of an election held in Chicago on August 7, 1826. In this election, it is said he voted for John Quincy Adams for President, which is the last record of his residency in Chicago.

Ouilmette was a Roman Catholic. In April of 1833, he joined, with Alexander Robinson, Billy Caldwell, several of Mark Beaubien's family and others, in a petition to the Bishop of the Diocese of Missouri at St. Louis to establish the first Catholic Church in Chicago. The petition (written in French) says: "A priest should be sent there before other sects obtain the upper hand, which very likely they will try to do." 

The early enterprise of the church is demonstrated by the fact that the petition was received on April 16 and granted the next day. The seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of this church was celebrated with a great ceremony [1908] in Chicago. 

This circumstance, in 1833, and many others, seem to indicate that even after Ouilmette's removal from Chicago to the North Shore, he and his family remained intimately associated with affairs in Chicago.

Mrs. Kinzie took Ouilmette's daughter Josette with her to the Indian agency her husband was in charge of at Old Fort Winnebago in Wisconsin on her return from Chicago in 1831. She describes her as "a little bound girl, a bright, pretty child of ten years of age. She had been at the Saint Joseph's Mission School." Mrs. Kinzie, at the time of the Black Hawk War (1832), fled from Fort Winnebago to Green Bay in a canoe and took this same little Josette Ouilmette with her. 

That Josette was a protégé of the Kinzie family and took a lively interest in her welfare further appears from the Treaty of 1833 with the Potawatomi in Chicago. She is personally provided for, probably at the demand of the Kinzies, in the following words: "To Josette Ouilmette (John H. Kinzie's Trustee) $200." The other children did not fare so well, for the treaty further provides "To Antoine Ouilmette's children $300."

It also seems that the kindness of the Kinzies to Josette was not entirely appreciated by the Ouilmettes. 

Mitchell Ouilmette, on May 2, 1832 (as John Wentworth says), enlisted in the first "militia of the town of Chicago until all apprehension of danger from the Indians may have subsided"—probably referring to the "Black Hawk War." Mr. Wentworth's authority is a copy of the enlistment roll, where, in transcribing the copy, his name is stated as "Michael," an evident mistake in transcribing from the original signature.

While it is true that Captain Heald of Fort Dearborn was notified on August 7th or 9th of 1812 of the declaration of war against England by a message carried by the Potawatomi chief, Win-a-mac, or Winnemeg (the catfish), from General Hull at Detroit, warning Captain Heald that the Post and Island of Mackinac had fallen into the hands of the British, of the consequent danger to the Chicago garrison and the probable necessity of retiring to Fort Wayne, still it is stated upon fairly good authority that Louis Ouilmette, son of Antoine, when a mere boy, learned the same facts from a band of Indians on the North Shore, coming either from Mackinac or from that vicinity and at once carried the information to the garrison several days before the arrival of Win-a-mac. 

Some twenty years later, this same Louis Ouilmette rendered further substantial aid to the whites in the Black Hawk War. Mr. Frank E. Stevens, in his recent book (1903), "The Black Hawk War," seems to be the only writer who has given him the deserved though tardy recognition to which he seems to be so well entitled. He is spoken of as "a French trader, thoroughly familiar with those parts (Western Illinois and Wisconsin) and with Indian character." At this time, he seemed to be a trader frequenting La Sallier's Trading Post, Dixon's Ferry, and other points in that vicinity, rendering valuable assistance as an Indian interpreter and scout.

From the foregoing facts, it is evident that Ouilmette was located in Chicago in 1790 and lived there for some thirty-six years and that, as will be shown later, sometime between 1826 and 1829, he was located within the present limits of Evanston or Wilmette Village, and certainly within the Reservation.


The Indian Treaty of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, which will be referred to more in detail later, in describing the boundaries of a part of the lands ceded by the Indians, and dated July 29, 1829, begins the description as follows:

''Beginning on the western shore of Lake Michigan, at the northeast corner of the field of Antoine Ouilmette, who lives near Gross Point, about twelve (12) miles north from Chicago, thence due west to the Rock River," which is the first evidence I have found of Ouilmette 's permanent residence in this vicinity, although he was married to Archange in 1796 or 1797 at "Gross Point," or what is now Wilmette Village and Evanston, this being the first North Shore wedding of which there is any history. 
This latter circumstance would seem to clearly indicate that the band of Potawatomi to which Archange belonged was located more or less permanently at this point on the North Shore in the eighteenth century. John "Wentworth says in his reminiscences that Ouilmette 's daughter, Elizabeth, married for her first husband on May 11, 1830, Michael Welch, "the first Irishman in Chicago." 
With the son of Erin, the groom, and the Potawatomi bride, this wedding was celebrated in an old log cabin that stood until 1903 on the east side of Sheridan Road at Kenilworth and about two blocks north of the Kenilworth water tower. The writer took a Kodak picture of this log cabin shortly before it was removed. This cabin was built by one John Doyle, who, considering his name and date of residence, may be safely designated "the first Irishman of the North Shore," for it is certain there are few living witnesses who can successfully dispute this statement, nor can any good reason be shown why the North Shore should not have its "first Irishman" as well as Chicago. 

The authority as to this being the house where the wedding was celebrated is Mr. Charles S. Raddin of Evanston, who secured the information some years ago from Mrs. Archibald Clybourne, who may have been present at the wedding, although Mr. Raddin neglected to ask her. Mr. Raddin was further neglectful in failing to get the name of the best man and maid of honor and whether they were Irish or Potawatomi. The ceremony was performed by John B. Beaubien, a justice of the peace, as is shown beyond question by the records of Peoria County. 

Ouilmette and his family lived in this cabin at the time of this wedding and for some time thereafter, although their most permanent abode was about a mile south of there and will receive later mention.


The treaty of Prairie du Chien with the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi Indians, by which the Reservation was ceded to Ouilmette's wife, was concluded on July 29, 1829. Among other provisions of land for Indians and others. Article 4 of the treaty provides as follows:
"To Archange Ouilmette, a Potawatomi woman, wife of Antoine, two sections for herself and her children on Lake Michigan, south of and adjoining the northern boundary of the cession herein made by the Indians aforesaid to the United States... The tracts of land herein stipulated to be granted shall never he leased or conveyed by the grantees, or their heirs, to any person whatever, without the permission of the President of the United States." 
The land was surveyed by government surveyors in 1842, and the patent was issued on October 29 of the same year.

This treaty is of special historical interest. By it, the United States acquired title from the Indians to all of the lands within the city limits of Evanston and great tracts to the west, bounded as follows: Beginning at the north line of Ouilmette's Reservation, or a little south of Kenilworth on the Lake Shore, due west to the Rock River, thence down the river and east of it to the Indian boundary line on Fox River, established by the treaty of 1816; then northeasterly on that line to Lake Michigan, thence north along the lakeshore to the place of beginning.
Map of the Rogers Park and West Ridge communities of Chicago showing Indian Boundary Road.
Interested in the 'LAKE' at Pratt and Kedzie? Click Here.
The line mentioned as running "northeasterly to Lake Michigan" is the center of the street in Rogers Park, known for many years and in our records as the "Indian Boundary Road," now unfortunately changed by the direction of the City Council of Chicago to "Rogers Avenue." It is about half way between Calvary Cemetery and the Rogers Park depot; crosses Clark Street or Chicago Avenue at the site of the old toll-gate and Justice Murphy's birthplace on the opposite corner. There should be active co-operation in restoring the name "Indian Boundary" to this highway. I am informed that the name was changed at the solicitation of Mr. Rogers' family. He was, no doubt, a worthy pioneer, but his name seems to have been sufficiently perpetuated by the name Rogers' Park which was the former village, now annexed to Chicago. There is, too, a railroad station there of that name and many real estate subdivisions also bearing his name. This Indian Boundary line is not only a great landmark, but the treaty which fixed it has great historical significance in the development of Illinois. 

This line is referred to in many maps, surveys, deeds and conveyances, is in part the dividing line between the cities of Chicago and Evanston, runs in a southwesterly direction, intersecting other roads and streets in such manner as to make it an important and distinctive highway, the importance of which will grow more and more as the years go by. The disinclination of City Councils to disturb historical landmarks by changing the names of old highways should surely have been exercised in this instance. Both the Chicago and Evanston Historical Societies in joint session at Chicago, November 27, 1906, by urgent resolutions requested the City Councils of Evanston and Chicago "To change back to its original form the name of this highway, thus restoring to it its former proper and historic name - Indian Boundary Road." It is to be regretted that such action has not yet been taken.

This treaty also included a vast territory lying between the Mississippi River and the Rock River in Illinois and Wisconsin. It was planned, it is said, concerning the succeeding Treaty of Chicago in 1833 to finally clear Western Illinois and Southern Wisconsin of the Indians. "By its provisions, the Indians became completely hemmed in or surrounded. To use a common saying in playing checkers, the Indians were driven into the 'single corner' before they were aware of it."

The word "Mississippi" comes from the Ojibwe Indian Tribe (Algonquian language family) word "Messipi" or "misi-ziibi," which means "Great River" or "Gathering of Waters." French explorers, hearing the Ojibwe word for the river, recorded it in their own language with a similar pronunciation. The Potawatomi (Algonquian language family) pronounced "Mississippi" as the French said it, "Sinnissippi," which was given the meaning "Rocky Waters."

This treaty was the entering wedge, designed, as above stated, to eventually oust the Potawatomi and other tribes from Illinois and Wisconsin. How its execution was secured reflects no credit upon our nation. If the writers who have investigated the subject can be relied upon, hardly any treaty with the Indians ever made is subject to more just criticism. 

It is claimed by Elijah M. Haines, author of "The American Indian," that the two sections of land constituting the Ouilmette Reservation were given to Ouilmette's wife and children as a bribe for the husband's influence in securing the execution of this treaty. Mr. Haines, late of Waukegan, was Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives for some years and spent a portion of each year among the Indians. In his book, he devotes some ten pages to "the ingenious work in overreaching the Indians in procuring the execution of this treaty," from which it appears, if Mr. Haines is correct, that plans were laid in advance by the Government's agents to carry it through by electing chiefs to fill vacancies in the Potawatomi tribe who was not only friendly to the whites but who were parties to a prior conspiracy to dupe the Indians. As the author says, "the jury, being thus successfully packed, the verdict was awaited as a matter of form." Mr. Haines seems to have reached this conclusion after careful investigation, including personal interviews with some of the principals, among whom was Alexander Robinson, one of the chiefs who was elected at the very time the treaty was signed. Mr. Haines sets out a personal interview between himself and Robinson on the subject, which is as follows:
"Mr. Robinson, when and how did you become a chief?"
"Me made chief at the treaty of Prairie du Chien." 
"How did you happen to be made chief?"
"Old Wilmette, he come to me one day and he say: Dr. Wolcott" (then Indian agent at Chicago, who Mr. Haines says, planned the deal) "want me and Billy Caldwell to be chief. He ask me if I will. Me say yes, if Dr. Wolcott want me to be." 
"After the Indians had met together at Prairie du Chien for the Treaty, what was the first thing done?" 
"The first thing they do they make me and Billy Caldwell chiefs; then we be chiefs... then we all go and make the treaty."
Chiefs Robinson and Caldwell were handsomely taken care of, both in this treaty and subsequent ones, in the way of annuities, cash, and lands, as were also their friends. Archange Ouilmette, the Indian wife of the man designated by Chief Robinson as "Old Wilmette," and her children thus, according to Mr. Haines, secured the two sections of land constituting the Reservation under discussion and which seems to show if Mr. Haines is correct, that Ouilmette was, indeed, as already stated, a thrifty Frenchman. 

However, there is ample ground for disagreement with Mr. Haines in his voluntary criticism of Ouilmette in this transaction. It must be borne in mind that Ouilmette and his family were not only friendly to the whites during the stirring and perilous times at Chicago in the War of 1812 and also in the later Black Hawk War, but they themselves had suffered depredation at the hands of the Indians, as shown by Ouilmette's letter to John H. Kinzie. Then, too, he was occupying this very land, then of little value, and, considering his fidelity to the Government, notwithstanding his marriage to a Potawatomi wife, it would seem that this cession of these two sections of land, under the circumstances, was entirely right and probably minimal compensation for his friendly services. Then, too, it must be remembered that he did not get the land, but it went to his Potawatomi wife and her children. 

Mr. Haines says of this transaction and Dr. Wolcott's and Ouilmette's connection with it: "In aid of this purpose, it seems he secured the services of Antoine Wilmette, a Frenchman, who had married an Indian wife of the Potawatomi tribe, one of the oldest residents of Chicago, and a man of much influence with the Indians and a particular friend of Robinson's."

It is fair to say that Mr. Haines excuses both Robinson and Caldwell for their action in the matter on the grounds that they had long been friendly to the whites and were misled into believing that the integrity of their white friends was as lasting as their own. It is to be regretted that Mr. Haines did not express the same views as Ouilmette, for history clearly demonstrates that he was richly entitled to it. 

This statement of Mr. Haines, the writer, called to the attention of Sophia Martell and her son, and we have his written reply thereto to the effect that "it is all rot" and that if it was true, "Antoine Ouilmette would have received other and different lands for himself." This Reservation was theirs "by right" and "their share of lands allotted to the Potawatomi and to different families at that time."

Ouilmette was also on hand when the Treaty of Chicago (1833) was negotiated, as he was at Prairie du Chien, for the treaty not only provided for the donations already mentioned to Chiefs Robinson and Billy Caldwell to Ouilmette's children and others but he secured $800 for himself, as the treaty shows. Whether this was compensation for his hogs that had been "destroyed" some thirty years before by the Indians (mentioned by him in the Kinzie letter), or as further compensation for his prior services at Prairie du Chien or at Chicago in 1812 is not disclosed, but it certainly is evidence of his desire to see that his finances should not suffer in deals made with his wife's relations.


The acquaintance of the first white settlers with the Ouilmette family on this Reservation is of interest. To some of their reminiscences, reference will here be made: In a letter written by Alexander McDaniel to the publishers of Andrea's History of Cook County (1884), and quoted in that work, Mr. McDaniel thus describes his first trip to the North Shore and his first observation of the Ouilmette family.

"On August 14, 1836, I left Chicago in the morning, and about noon, I brought up at the house of 'Anton' Ouilmette. The place was then called 'Gross Point' and is located about fourteen miles north of Chicago on the lakeshore. The house that the 'Wilmette' family then occupied was a largely hewed log block-house, considered in those days good enough for a very congressman to live in, at least I thought so when I was dispatching the magnificent meal of vegetables grown on the rich soil, which the young ladies of the house had prepared for me. I was then a young man, about twenty-one years old, and this being my first trip out of Chicago since I had come West, I naturally was curious to know more about my hosts. Upon inquiry, I soon found out that the family consisted of Anton and Archange, the heads of the family, and their eight children, Joseph, Mitchell, Louis, Francis, Elizabeth, Archonce, Sophia and Josette, Lucius R. Darling, husband of Elizabeth, and John Deroshee, husband of Sophia; the father who was a Frenchman and the mother a half-breed. The children were nearly white, very comely, well-dressed, and intelligent. Josette, in fact, had obtained quite a reputation as a beauty. The Ouilmettes owned cattle, horses, wagons, carriages, and farming implements, working a large tract of land.

"After leaving the family, I passed along in a northwesterly direction to where Winnetka is now located. I purchased the claim on 160 acres of Government land of Perry Baker and Simeon Loveland in March of 1837, built a house on the land, and kept 'Bachelors' Hall' there for five years. I had occasion to become very well acquainted with my Indian friends and found them most agreeable neighbors."

The following is quoted from Andrea's History of Cook County:

"About the time Mr. McDaniel settled at Winnetka... Charles H. Beaubien, a cousin of Mark, settled near the center of Section 27, on the place now occupied by Henry Gage. Like his cousin, Mark, Charles Beaubien was a great fiddler and always in demand at dances attended by the few young white girls of that vicinity and those of a duskier tinge. The Wilmette family were upon such occasions in almost as pressing demand as Beaubien himself." 

"Joseph Fountain, late of Evanston, now deceased, says in an affidavit dated in 1871 that when he first came here, he lived with Antoine Ouilmette; that at that time he (Antoine) was an old man, about 70 years of age, and was living upon the Reservation with his nephew, Archange, his wife, being then absent. Within a year or two thereafter, the children returned and lived with their father on the Reservation. The children went away again and returned again in 1844. They were then all over lawful age, had the usual and ordinary intelligence of white people, and were competent to manage and sell their property. That he was acquainted with the children and their father and, after their return, assisted them in building a house to live in on the Reservation. During the last twenty (20) years, the Indian heirs have not been back there. That is, in the years 1852 and 1853, the land was not worth over $3.00 per acre." 

"On inquiry in 1901 of Mary Fountain, Joseph Fountain's widow, a very old lady, (Mrs. Fountain died in Evanston, February 17, 1905.) and by like inquiry of Mr. Benjamin F. Hill (Benjamin F. Hill died in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 7, 1905, his residence up to that time, however, having been in Evanston) and others, the writer ascertained that this house of Ouilmette's just mentioned was built of logs, situated on the high bluffs on the lakeshore, opposite, or a little north of Lake Avenue, in the Village of Wilmette, and that the former site of the house has long since and within the memory of old residents, been washed into the lake, many acres of land having been thus washed away. Mr. Hill says that this house was once occupied by Joel Stebbins, who used it as a tavern."

In 1857 John G. Westerfield acquired that part of the Reservation where this house stood and, in 1865, "tore the old house down."

"Mr. Charles P. Westerfield, the surveyor and a veteran of the Civil War, now living in Waukegan, son of John G. Westerfield, in a recent letter (March 9, 1908), corroborates this statement as to the location of this cabin with the exception that he says it stood just a little north of what is now Lake Avenue, or, to be exact, immediately east of the present Ouilmette Country Club House." The following is quoted from the same letter:
"Quite a little grove that stood still east of the cabin site in 1857, when we first occupied the land, was also washed away. I remember that part of the logs of the Ouilmette cabin was used by father to build a cowshed on the old place; he also saved some of the parts as relics, but I presume they are now lost... I remember that my child-like curiosity was aroused on at least two occasions, as I watched a small squad of Indians turn out from the old Green Bay Road and go up to the old cabin and look it over as though they were familiar with it, and then again resume their tramp, up to about the year 1860-61, the passing of two or three Indians at a time along the Green Bay Road was a common occurrence." 
No photograph of this cabin is known to exist, but Mr. Westerfield has a distinct recollection of its appearance. At the writer's request, he has kindly utilized his recollection and ability as an artist to supply this society with a watercolor drawing of it.
North Shore Cabin of Antoine Ouilmette and Family (1828-1844).
Should the present intention of the citizens of Wilmette and of the Sanitary District of Chicago to create and maintain a public park at this place on the lakefront, built by spoil excavated from the Drainage Canal now in progress of construction, be carried out, it is respectfully suggested that the Evanston Historical Society or the citizens of Wilmette, or both, erect at, or near the foot of Lake Avenue, on the former site of the cabin, a suitable monument bearing in substance the inscription:
"On this spot stood the Log Cabin of Antoine Ouilmette, the first permanent white settler of Chicago (1790) and of the North Shore (1826-1841). He married a Potawatomi woman of the band of that Indian tribe, located here in the 18th Century. To her and her children, this land was granted as a Reservation by the Indian Treaty of Prairie du Chien, July 29, 1829. From him, the Village of Wilmette derives its name."
Within a very short distance of Ouilmette's cabin (about 100 feet north) was an Indian mound that had been used for burial purposes—not a large mound but a small one some 10 to 15 feet in length and about 4 feet in height—later this mound was obliterated in the plowing of the field by farmhands of Mr. John Q. Westerfield and later by the washing away of the embankment by the action of the lake. One of Mr. Westerfield's employees, Daniel Mahoney, while plowing with an ox team about the year 1857 or 1858 over and around this mound, plowed up several implements, including a small steel tomahawk now in the collections of this society. 

The affidavit of Mr. Fountain indicates that Ouilmette lived on the Reservation until 1838. His letter of 1839 indicates a residence at Racine, where he had a farm for several prior years, and while living in Chicago, or at least a tract of land where he frequently went.

Mr. Benjamin F. Hill says that he knew him about the year 1838, that he was then a very old man, rather small of stature, dark-skinned and bowed with age, and that about that year, he went away. He died at Council Bluffs on December 1, 1841.

Mr. Hill says that Mr. Fountain omits in his affidavit one item concerning the acquaintance between Ouilmette and Fountain, viz., a lawsuit in which Ouilmette prosecuted Fountain and others for trespassing upon the Reservation by cutting timber, Avhich resulted unfavorably to Ouilmette; that there was a large bill of court costs, which Fountain's lawyer collected by having the sheriff' levy upon and sell a pair of fine Indian ponies belonging to Ouilmette, which were his special pride, and that it was immediately after this incident that Ouilmette left the Reservation, never to return. 

In 1843 and 1844, "several of the family returned" to the Reservation, "occupying the old homestead until July of the latter year."

The timber value probably accounts for the selection of this land by Ouilmette when the treaty was drawn. There are many other interesting reminiscences among the old settlers of Evanston regarding Ouilmette. One from William Carney, former Chief of Police of Evanston and for many years a Cook County Deputy Sheriff, who was born in Evanston, is to the effect that Ouilmette often went through Evanston, along the old Ridge trail on which the Carneys lived, on foot, and always carrying a bag over his shoulder; that the children were afraid of him, and that Carney's mother, when he was a small boy, used to threaten him with the punishment for misconduct of giving him to "Old Wilmette," who would put him in the bag and carry young Carney home to his squaw. Mr. Carney says: "Then I used to be good." And it is local history that in later years, my youthful associates used to say something to the same effect about "being good" after an interview with Mr. Carney himself when he had grown to manhood and became the first Chief of Police of Evanston, his brother John constituting the remainder of the force. In those days, "Carney will get you if you don't look out!" was a common parental threat in Evanston. (Mr. Carney died in April of 1907 in Evanston.)


As already shown, neither Archange Ouilmette nor her children could, under the Treaty and Patent, sell any of the lands without the consent of the President of the United States. Consequently, much data is respecting the family both in the recorder's office of this county and in the office of the Interior Department in Washington, especially in the General Land Office and the Office of Indian Affairs. To some of these documents, I refer to: 

By a petition dated February 22, 1844, to the President of the United States, signed by seven of the children of Ouilmette (all except Joseph), it appears that Archange Ouilmette, the mother, died at Council Bluffs on November 25, 1840, that six of the children signing the petition then resided at Council Bluffs, and one (probably the former little Josette) at Fort Winnebago, Wisconsin Territory; that in consequence of their living at a remote distance, the land is deteriorating in value "by having much of its timber, which constitutes its chief worth, cut off and stolen by various individuals living nearby," which would seem to indicate that people were not so good in those days in Evanston as they have been reputed to be in some later days if the Chicago newspapers can be believed in this respect. The petition further says: "The home of your petitioners, with one exception, is at Council Bluffs, with the Potawatomi tribe of Indians, with whom we are connected by blood, and that your petitioners cannot, with due regard for their feelings and interests, reside away from their tribe on said Reserve" also that they have been put to expense in employing agents, whose employment has not been beneficial.

The petition then asks to sell or lease the land, and the prayer concludes in the following words:

"Or, that your Excellency will cause the Government of the United States to purchase back from us said Reserve of land and pay us one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre therefor."

"And your petitioners further show that they are now at Chicago on the expense, waiting for the termination of this petition, and anxious to return home as soon as possible," and request action "without delay."

As the result of this petition and subsequent ones, Henry W. Clarke was appointed a special Indian agent to make the Reservation sale, or, rather, that part of it owned by the seven petitioners so that a fair price could be obtained. The sale was made to real estate speculators during the years 1844 and 1845. In the correspondence between the various departments of the Government concerning the sale appear the signatures of John H. Kinzie, John Wentworth (then a member of Congress), William Wilkins, Secretary of War; President John Tyler, W. L. Marcy, Secretary of War; also the signatures of President James K. Polk and Ulysses S. Grant. 

The south half of the Reservation, including all that is in Evanston (640 acres), sold for $1,000 or a little over $1.50 per acre. The north section was sold in separate parcels for a larger sum. The correspondence tends to show that the seven Ouilmette children carried their money home with them. Still, as the Special Indian Agent had no compensation from the Government and several lawyers engaged in the transaction, the amount that the Indians carried back to Council Bluffs can be better imagined than described. 

Joseph Ouilmette, in 1844, took his share of the Reservation in Severalty, deeding the remainder of the Reservation to his brothers and sisters, and they, in turn, deeding his share to him. The share that he took was in the northeastern part of the Reservation; he secured the best price in making a sale and seemed inclined not only to separate his property interests from his brothers and sisters but to be more of a white man than an Indian, as he did not follow the family and the Potawatomi tribe to the West for several years, but adopted the life of a Wisconsin farmer, removing later to the Potawatomi Reservation in Kansas. At that time, he was a well-known man in Saint Mary's, Kansas. 

An affidavit made by Norman Clark on May 25, 1871, states that Joseph Ouilmette was, in 1853, a farmer residing on his farm in Marathon County, Wisconsin, "about 300 miles from Racine" and that the $460 he received for his share of the Reservation' was used in and about the improvement of his farm," upon which he lived for about seven years, and that he was capable of managing his affairs "as ordinary full-blooded white farmers are"; that from 1850 to 1853 he carried on a farm within two miles of Racine, presumably on the land formerly owned by his father, Antoine. 

It appears from various recorded affidavits that all of the children of Ouilmette are now dead. Such affidavits must have been made from hearsay and with a view of extinguishing upon the face of the records all possible adverse claims, for, as heretofore stated, Sophia Martell was living at last accounts (1905) on the Potawatomi Reservation in Kansas, at a very advanced age, but with a good memory that has served a useful purpose in supplying the writer with some of the facts here noted. With this exception, all of the children are dead. However, many of their descendants are still living on this same Kansas Reservation, and several of them are people of intelligence and education, highly prizing their ancestors' history.

The only relic of Antoine Ouilmette in the hands of the Evanston Historical Society is an old chisel or tapping gouge used by him in tapping maple trees in making maple sugar on the Reservation, at a point a little west and some two blocks north of the present Wilmette station of the Northwestern Railway, immediately west of Dr. B.C. Stolph's residence. Mr. Benjamin F. Hill secured this chisel or gouge in this sugar bush soon after Ouilmette went away. There is not the slightest doubt of its being the former property of Ouilmette, for Mr. Hill was not only the John Wentworth of Evanston in the matter of being an early settler (1836), with a great fund of authentic information but was a man of force and intelligence, of excellent memory and unquestionable integrity, and always interested in historical subjects, as his many valuable contributions to the Evanston Historical Society abundantly show.

Mr. Edwin Drury of Wilmette Village presented (1908) to this society a very curious relic found within a short distance of the former site of the Ouilmette cabin and of Mr. John G. Westerfield's former residence, viz., a very odd piece of broken statuary dug up by workmen in making an excavation. This broken image was found in a bed of blue clay, some three feet below the surface, immediately under a large wild crabapple tree, the age of which would seem to indicate that the soil had not been excavated nor disturbed for very many years. Whether Mr. Drury's suggestion that it might be a relic of the early Jesuits, possibly of Father Pinet, who founded in this vicinity a mission among the Miami Indians in 1696, is a question respectfully referred to the local archaeologist. It is, at all events, an interesting object for study. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.
Contributor; Frank R. Grover, Evanston Historical Society, 1908



    1. ​In the summer of 1820, a traveler named John Tanner passed through Chicago with his family, going by canoe to St. Louis. In Tanner's narrative, he recounted how his progress was hailed by the low state of water in the Illinois River. During this time he suffered greatly from illness and destitution. He was rescued from his plight by Antoine Ouilmette, who had been able to carry some boats across the portage. Although his horses were gravely worn from their long journey, he agreed, for a moderate price, to transport Tanner and his canoe 60 miles - and if his horses should hold out, twice the distance or the length of the portage at this stage of the river. In addition he lent Tanner, who was weak from illness, a young horse to ride. Before 60 miles had been traversed, Ouilmette was himself taken sick, and as there was now some water in the river, Tanner dismissed him and attempted to descend the river in his canoe.


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