On the east branch of the DuPage river were the families of Pierce Hawley and wife, Stephen J. Scott and wife, Willard Scott and wife, Walter Stowell and wife, Israel P. Blodgett and wife, Rev. Isaac Scarrett and wife, Harry Board man and wife, Robert Strong and wife, Seth Wescott and wife, Lester Peet, and a hired man at Hawley's and another at Boardman's. Here was built Fort Naper (1831-1832), a settlers' fortified trading post which today is Naperville.
Up the west branch of the DuPage river was the Naper settlement, probably embracing about the same number of settlers. Among these were the families of Baily Hobson, Uriah Payne, Capt. Joseph Naper, John Naper, H. T. Wilson, Lyman Butterfield, Ira Carpenter, John Murray, R. M. Sweet, Alanson Sweet, C. Foster, J. Manning, H. Babbit and others. This is where Fort Payne (1832) was built.
|Painting of Fort Payne|
In the spring of 1832, startling news that Black Hawk was on the war path and all town building activities ceased temporarily. Aptakisic (Hafda), a friendly chief of the Pottawattamie, whose name was translated as "half day." (An early cartographer misspelled Hafda as "Half Day," as in Half Day, Illinois, and so it remained.) sent a message by Shata, to Bailey Hobson, express from the Pottawattamie village at Big Woods (in today's Joilet) advising the settlers to go to Fort Dearborn in Chicagou as rapidly as possible. He said that people were being massacred south of the settlement. Fort Le Pouz (1729-1730), a French fort, was located in Big Woods.
As much alarm now prevailed throughout the company, it was decided that Capt. Naper and Alanson Sweet, should start that night for Fort Dearborn to procure more men. They started on horseback, but Sweet's horse giving out, he was obliged to journey on foot. They reached Fort Dearborn early next morning, and asked assistance from Gen. Williams, who was there with three hundred troops from Michigan, but he refused to furnish it, "as he did not deem it safe to send men into the country at that time. At length Major Wilson informed Capt. Naper, that if General Williams would consent, he would take some of his men and return with him to the settlement. Whereupon, a council of officers was held, but it was deemed unsafe for any to go, even as volunteers. Capt. Naper then left Fort Dearborn and returned to the settlement, very disheartened.
Filled with fear, families quickly located one another in the vast prairie settlement and packed their clothing and provisions for the journey to Fort Dearborn. Crossing the prairie was slow and escape difficult. Roads were no more than muddy ruts. Wheels became embedded in marshy soil and fresh water was not readily available. The Hobsons spoke of traveling thirty-six hours without food. Mrs. Hobson is said to have frequently used her shoe to dip water from the pools by the roadside in order to get a drink.
No battles took place at Fort Payne, for General Winfield Scott made a treaty with the Sauks at Rock Island, thereby ending the Black Hawk War. The settlers once more resumed the task of subduing the wilderness.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.