Saturday, September 17, 2022

Lost Towns of Illinois - Totten Prairie, Illinois.

When the Indians were sporting over the prairies of Illinois and wolves were prowling through the forests, William Totten placed his family and effects in a one-horse cart in Ohio and found his way to Kentucky, then to Indiana, and finally to Fulton County, Illinois, where he settled in 1823. Mr. Totten was remarkable for retaining peace with the Indians. When on the warpath, they would visit him, trade and sport with him and leave peaceably. 

Totten Prairie (aka Totten's Prairie) was a small settlement in Cass Township, Fulton County, Illinois, just to the southeast of the present Smithfield, Illinois. It was named after William Totten, who was the first to settle here in 1823. He settled upon the southwest quarter of section 27.


By an act of the State of Illinois legislature approved on January 28, 1823, Fulton county was given authority to organize. A commission consisting of Hugh R. Colter, John Totten and Stephen Chase was appointed to locate the county seat. In the same year, William Totten was appointed as a Constable.

The Sheriff was ordered to summon persons to compose the first grand jury "for the next term of the Circuit Court," which was to have been held at the courthouse on the second Monday of October 1823. From the Circuit Court records, it is evident that no Court was held until the following spring, when another jury was summoned, which was composed of almost the same men. Totten was on that list as a Grand Jurist.

Totten and others built a fortified blockhouse on Totten's prairie during the Winnebago troubles in 1827 [1]. 

Black Hawk (Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak) was very friendly to the Totten's and would not allow his braves to disturb them, even during the Black Hawk War of 1832. He often visited the Totten's, and they shot at targets as a pastime. 

A small cemetery, called Totten Cemetery or Old Totten's Prairie Cemetery, still exists in Smithfield, Illinois.


Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.



[1] The Winnebago War was a brief conflict that took place in 1827 in the Upper Mississippi River region of the United States, primarily in what is now the state of Wisconsin and the northern portion of Illinois. Not quite a war, the hostilities were limited to a few attacks on American civilians by a portion of the Winnebago (or Ho-Chunk) Indian tribe. The Ho-Chunks were reacting to a wave of lead miners trespassing on their lands and to false rumors that the United States Government had sent two Ho-Chunk prisoners to a rival tribe for execution.

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