On February 3, 1809, Congress had established the Territory of Illinois, which included all of modern Illinois, Wisconsin, the upper western peninsula of Michigan, and northeastern Minnesota, as shown in the map below. Ninian Edwards, Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals in Kentucky, was appointed by President James Madison as the governor of the new territory, and he served in that position until Illinois was granted statehood eight years later.
|Illinois Territory in 1809|
The War of 1812, launched by the U.S. in June of 1812, again brought Peoria’s French settlers into the position of being at war with the British and their Indian allies, including the Potawatomi. Because the Peoria French had a close association with the Potawatomi, who lived nearby and traded at the Peoria settlement, the position of the French settlers was difficult.
In August of 1812, Fort Dearborn, the American post at Chicago, was taken by the Potawatomi, and many of the inhabitants were killed or taken prisoner. Thomas Forsyth of Peoria, half-brother, and partner of the Chicago trader, John Kinzie, went north to negotiate with the Indians for the return of captives.
Governor Edwards had received reports that Peoria was a hotbed of Indian troubles. In October of 1812, just a few months after the Indian raid on Fort Dearborn, the governor led an attack of mounted troops across the prairies from Fort Russell, near Edwardsville, and destroyed the Potawatomi village of Chief Black Partridge at the upper end of Lake Peoria, on the east side of the river. Although the soldiers found the village deserted, they plundered and burned it. In clashes with Indians in the vicinity of the village, 25 to 30 Indians were killed.
After the raid, Captain Thomas E. Craig of Shawneetown and a company of troops boarded boats that were anchored in the river offshore from the French village. Sometime during the evening, shots were fired at their vessels. The troops stormed ashore to loot and burn the village. Craig then arrested the inhabitants; forced 41 men, women and children to board the two vessels; and brought them to "Savage’s Ferry," near present-day Alton. After the prisoners had been held for four days, Governor Edwards ordered their release. Captain Craig later reported to Governor Edwards, “I burnt down about half of the town. The damned rascals may think themselves well off that they were not scalped.” This episode marked the end of the French settlement at Peoria.
A year later in September 1813, Brigadier General Benjamin Howard led another expedition of about 1,400 men against Indian villages around Lake Pimiteoui. The first portion of the expedition, a detachment of 150 troops of the First United States Infantry under the command of Lt. Colonel Robert Carter Nicholas, arrived at Lake Pimiteoui on August 29th. The troops came from St. Louis in reinforced keelboats and immediately began to build a stockade adjacent to the river at the former French village. Trees were cut on the eastern shore of the lake and rafted across to the western shore. While the first blockhouse was under construction, 150 Indians under the command of Black Partridge made an attack on the troops but were driven off.
Eight hundred mounted rangers from the Illinois and Missouri militia reached the settlement three days after the arrival of the regulars. The rangers marched to the two Indian villages at the head of Lake Pimiteoui; on the eastern shore was the village of Black Partridge, and on the western shore was a Potawatomi village, led by Chief Gomo. When the rangers arrived, the occupants of both villages had already fled. The rangers burned what remained of the villages and returned to the French village.
|Fort Clark Illustration|
Charles Ballance, in his 1870 book, The History of Peoria, Illinois, described the fort as follows:
This fort was a simple stockade, constructed by planting two rows of logs firmly in the ground, near each other and filling the space between with earth. This, of course, was not intended as a defense against artillery, of which the Indians had none. This fort was about a hundred feet square, with a ditch along each side. It did not stand with a side to the lake, but with a corner toward it. The corner farthest from the lake was on the upper side of Water Street, near the intersection of the upper line of Water and Liberty streets. From there the west line ran diagonally across the intersection of Water and Liberty streets, at the lower corner of Liberty and Water Streets. At this corner was what I suppose military men would call a bastion; that is, there was a projecting corner made in the same manner as the side walls, and so constructed, as I imagine, as to accommodate a small cannon to command the ditches. And the same had no doubt been at the opposite corner.The War of 1812 was finally settled by the Treaty of Ghent (diplomats from the U.S. and England met at Ghent in the Netherlands) on December 24, 1814. Although this treaty did eliminate the British encouragement and support for Indian raids in the Illinois Territory, the settlement at Lake Pimiteoui remained unoccupied, save for the troops occasionally stationed at the fort, occasional trappers or Indians. Indians apparently set fire to the fort and burned most of the structure in 1818.
The first group of American settlers to come to the Fort Clark location after Illinois became a state in 1818 arrived in April 1819. These settlers were Abner Eads, Josiah Fulton and his brother, Seth Fulton, from Virginia; Joseph Hersey of New York; and S. Daugherty, J. Davis and T. Russell of Kentucky. Eads and Hersey arrived with pack horses, and the rest arrived on a keelboat, apparently poled upriver.
Upon their arrival, they reportedly found the walls of two deserted log cabins standing close to the river. It is possible that the soldiers garrisoned here when Fort Clark was built six years earlier had erected these cabins. They were made suitable for use and became the first two residences in Peoria. The settlers also reportedly found sufficient remains of Fort Clark to determine that it had indeed been a fort.
Ballance described what remained of Fort Clark when he arrived in Peoria:
When I came to the country in November 1831, there was no vestige of it remaining. In fact, at that time there was little to show that there had ever been a fortification there, except some burnt posts along the west side, and a square of some 10 or 12 feet at the south corner, and a ditch nearly filled up, on two sides of this square and on the west side of the fort. The fort had been burnt down to the embankment of this square and of the west side, after which the embankments had been mostly worn away by the rains and other means, until that part of the logs that was underground had become charred posts. Some of them, however, had become entirely decayed and were gone. On the other sides there was but little to be seen of logs or embankment.Today, the site of Fort Clark, at the foot of Liberty Street on the shore of the Illinois River in downtown Peoria, is commemorated by a pavilion in Liberty Park.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.