Jarrot's Aborted Raid

by Nehemiah Matson

Nehemiah Matson

A Winnebago chief, named Jerro or Sharro, who had a village on Rock river, with thirty of his warriors, visited Rock Island, and while there made some hostile demonstrations. With painted faces they entered the residence of Col. George Davenport without knocking or speaking, and placed themselves in a row around the room with the breech of their guns on the floor, and in this way they stood like marble statues without saying a word. The family became frightened, expecting every moment to be murdered by these savages, and sent one of their number for Col. Davenport who was at the fort, when, in great haste, he returned to his house. On entering the house, Davenport addressed the warriors in their own language, and at the same time offered them his hand, but they refused to take it, remaining silent and motionless. Failing to make them speak, Davenport went into his store and got thirty small looking glasses and gave one to each of the Indians. The chief asked Davenport what they were for, to which he replied, so they might see how pretty they looked. At this incident, Jerro laughed, picked up his gun, and, followed by his warriors, marched out of the house, and immediately left the island.

The object the Indians had in thus acting, still remains a mystery, but it is thought they had an evil design. Sometime afterward an Indian told Col. Davenport that it was Jerro's intention to murder him and his family, and carry off the goods in the store. but he was deterred from doing so by finding a large number of soldiers at the fort.

An Indian trader named Smithson, accompanied by a young half-breed, ascended Rock river in a canoe loaded with goods for the Indian trade, intending to stop at Jerro's village. The trader was never heard from afterward, and people believed that he was killed by the Indians and his goods confiscated.

During the spring of 1833, the Indians on Rock river, with Jerro at their head, held councils and war dance, when the people became alarmed. John Dixon sent his family to Peoria for safety, and for some weeks people were afraid to travel to and from the lead mine.

These acts of the Indians still remain a mystery, and their strange conduct has never been fully accounted for. Some think the Indians intended to make war on the settlers, but the latter fled before their plans were matured, while others believe different, as they made no hostile demonstrations. Shaubena said the Indians, as a body, had no intention of going to war. The trouble was confined to two bands of Winnebagoes and Autuckee's band of Pottawatomies at Indiantown.1

Commentary. "Jerro" — the proper form of his name is Jarrot, having acquired this nickname in an unusual way (see "Jarrot Gets His Name."). The name Jarrot would be transliterated in Hocąk as Žaro[ga]. Whitney's note on Jarrot sums up much of what is known about him:

Jarrot was a Winnebago Indian, perhaps a minor chief, whose village was on the Rock River north of Dixon (Gratiot Journal, April 22, 23, 1832). His Indian name was Owanico, but he was usually called Jarrot or one of its variants — Jahro, Jarot, Jarro, Jerro, Sharro, Zharro. He was given this name for preventing the murder of trader Nicholas Jarrot by a group of unfriendly Indians at a camp near Prairie du Chien just before the outbreak of the War of 1812. The Winnebago Jarrot signed the 1829 treaty.2

Jarro's Hocąk name, here given as Owanico, is probably Howánika, "He Seizes," from howáni, "to take." 

Fort Armstrong by Octave Blair (?), 1839

"Rock Island" — "As this celebrated fort was built on Rock Island, it will be proper to precede our account of it by a brief description of the Island itself. Rock Island is situated in the Mississippi River, opposite the upper end of the city of Rock Island, and between it and Davenport on the Iowa side. It is about two and a half miles long by three-fourths of a mile wide, and contains an area of about a thousand acres. The base of this island is a mass of limestone of the Hamilton group which underlies this section of country. At its lower extremity this rocky exposure rises in an almost perpendicular wall to a considerable height above the water, and was the cause of its being called by its appropriate name — Rock Island. ... After Fort Armstrong was built on the lower point of this island, the view on ascending the river became still more picturesque; and it has been described as one of the most beautiful and romantic scenes in the whole western country. ... In 1816, Fort Armstrong was built on the lower point of Rock Island. The force of regulars under Col. William Lawrence, which came up the river for the purpose of locating and erecting the fort, arrived at the mouth of Rock River and examined the country for a suitable site. They decided on the above location. On the 10th of May, 1816, they landed on the island, and as soon as they had completed their encampment, Colonel Lawrence employed the soldiers to cut logs and build store-houses for their provisions. He also had a bake-house and oven erected, which was the first building finished on the island. The erection of the fort and its accompanying buildings soon followed, and was named Fort Armstrong, in honor of the Secretary of War. It was a substantial structure of hewed logs, built in the form of a square, whose sides were four hundred feet in length. A block-house was built at each of the four angles, and embrazures for cannon and loop-holes for musketry were provided. A magazine store house barracks, and officers’ quarters were erected within the enclosure, and sections of heavy stone work built for protection against fire."3

Peter Britt   The Banditi of the Prairie
Attacking Col. Davenport
Col. George Davenport  

"Col. George Davenport" — George Davenport (1783-1845), born in England, he had been a sailor when he came to the United States in 1804. He joined the Army in 1805 and served with the American forces during the War of 1812. After his discharge in 1815, he went to Rock Island in 1816, the same year that Fort Armstrong was being constructed. Having set up as a trader at Rock Island and Fever River, he afterwards joined the American Fur Company. Having been the postmaster at Rock Island since 1825, when the Black Hawk War broke out, he assumed the position of Assistant Quartermaster General of the Illinois Volunteers. Davenport, Iowa, is named after him as one of its founders in 1835. While at home in Rock Island on the Fourth of July in 1845, he was surprised by a gang of robbers, called "the Banditi of the Prairie," and murdered.4

"John Dixon" — Whitney's note nicely sums up his life:

John Dixon (1784-1876) came to the Sangamon country in 1820 from New York in the hope that the climate of the West would restore his health. Not only did he recover from the "pulmonary disease" that had seemed imminent when he gave up his clothing business in New York, but he outlived all of his twelve children as well. From Sangamon County, Dixon and his family moved on to Peoria in 1825. There he held numerous county positions — recorder of deeds, circuit clerk, clerk of the county commissioners' court, and justice of the peace. Three years later he moved still farther north to Boyd's Grove in Bureau County, and from Bureau County he went to Ogee's Ferry in 1830. A post office had been established at that place in 1829, and Dixon obtained the position as postmaster soon after his arrival. During his residence in Bureau County, Dixon subcontracted for portions of mail routes and was proprietor of the Galena-Springfield mail stage. In the BHW [Black Hawk War], Dixon served as an assistant to Q. M. [Quartermaster] Enoch C. March and accompanied the 3d Army through part of its expedition across Wisconsin to the Mississippi. After the war he expanded his trading operations and was active in the development of Dixon, which was named in his honor. In 1838 he was elected by the legislature to the state board of public works. Largely through his influence, the U.S. Land Office was moved to Dixon from Galena in 1840. Dixon retired from business some thirty years before his death, but he remained active in civic affairs throughout his life.5

John Dixon died in 1876 at the age of 92, an age seldom attained by anyone of his historical period.

John Dixon   Shaubena as Chief

"Shaubena" — Nehemiah Matson, who was well acquainted with Shaubena, gives this sketch of him:

Shaubena said that he was of the Ottawa tribe, but in his youth he married the daughter of a noted Pottawatamie chief, whom he succeeded at his death, which occurred a few years afterwards, as one of the principal chiefs of the tribe. In 1811 he accompanied Tecumseh in his mission to the Creek Indians, in Mississippi, and was with him at the council of Vincennes. At the time of the British war, in 1812, he was made a war chief, was an aid to Tecumseh, and stood by his side when he fell at the battle of the Thames. Shaubena was a fine looking Indian, tall and straight, with broad shoulders, a large head, and a stranger could see by his general appearance that he was no ordinary personage. He spoke the English language very imperfectly, and was not celebrated as a great orator in his native tongue, but his superior knowledge of men and things, gave him great influence over his people. After the death of Senachwine and Black Partridge, no chief between the lake and Mississippi exercised so much influence over the Indians, as Shanbena. His home was at Shanbena Grove, now DeKalb county; but for thirty years he had made Bureau his hunting ground, and was well known by many of the early settlers. Shanbena had two wives, one of whom was the partner of his youth, and by her he had many grown up children. ... Shaubena, with his warriors, joined Atkinson's army, and participated in all the battles during the [Blackhawk] war. In the fall of 1836, he and his band abandoned their reservations of land at the grove, giving way to the tide of emigration, and went west of the Mississippi. But Shaubena's fidelity to the whites, caused him to be persecuted by the Sacs and Foxes. In revenge, they killed his son and nephew, and hunted him down like a wild beast. Two years after going west, in order to save his life, he left his people, and with a part of his family returned to this county. For some years he traveled from place to place, visiting a number of eastern cities, where he was much lionized, and received many valuable presents. ... Shaubena died in July, 1859, on the bank of the Illinois river, near Seneca, in the eighty-fourth year of his age.6

"Autuckee" — living in Indiantown, he was chief of all Potawatomi bands in the area. He was tall of stature and owned a "crown of turkey feathers."7 Although he had little use for the whites, he did prevent a raid against the settlers by an outlaw member of his band.8

"Indiantown" — Matson has a nice description of this town:

(29) On the present site of Tiskilwa was located an Indian village, called by the natives Wappe, but known among the whites by the name of Indiantown. This village contained some three hundred wigwams, or lodges, and at some seasons of the year, about fifteen hundred inhabitants. The lodges were constructed of bark or reeds, with an opening in the south, and a hole in the top, to let out the smoke. Streets, or alleys, were disregarded, as the lodges were built close together, and on both sides of the spring branch, which runs immediately west of the Tiskilwa house. On a little green knoll, by the creek bank, and between the depot and Stevens’ mill, was located their council house, and by the side of which was their dance ground. In the bottom prairies above and below the village, was located their cornfield. These corn fields consisted of small patches, fenced in by driving sticks into the ground, and tying on poles with bark or withes to prevent the ponies from destroying their crop. In the fall the (30) would gather and dry their corn, and bury it in the caches (caves in the ground), where it would be safe for future use; after which a large portion of the Indians would leave the village, and scatter all over the country, some along Bureau timber and Illinois river, others on Green river, for the purpose of hunting and procuring furs. The principal chief of the village was known by the name of Autuckee, and the next in authority under him was called Meommuse. Both of these chiefs were well known to many of the early settlers.9

Autuckee was the chief of this Potawatomi village.

Links: ...

Stories: about Chief Jarrot: Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, How Jarrot Got His Name; about famous Hocąk warriors and warleaders: How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Masaxe War (Hogimasąga), Wazųka, Great Walker's Warpath (Great Walker), Great Walker's Medicine (Great Walker, Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Šųgepaga (Dog Head), The Warbundle Maker (Dog Head), Black Otter's Warpath (Dog Head, Black Otter), The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara (Smoke Walker, Dog Head, Small Snake), Big Thunder Teaches Cap’ósgaga the Warpath (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Osage Massacre (Big Thunder, Cap’ósgaga), The Fox-Hocąk War (Cap’ósgaga), The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, White Thunder's Warpath, Four Legs, The Man who Fought against Forty (Mącosepka), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, The Hills of La Crosse (Yellow Thunder), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Fighting Retreat, Mitchell Red Cloud, jr. Wins the Medal of Honor (Mitchell Red Cloud, jr.), How Jarrot Got His Name, Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, They Owe a Bullet (Pawnee Shooter); about the (post-Columbian) history of the Hocągara: The Cosmic Ages of the Hocągara, The Hocągara Migrate South, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I, Annihilation of the Hocągara II, First Contact, Origin of the Decorah Family, The Glory of the Morning, The First Fox and Sauk War, The Fox-Hocąk War, The Masaxe War, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, Black Otter's Warpath, Great Walker's Medicine, Great Walker's Warpath, The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, The Spanish Fight, The Man who Fought against Forty, The Origin of Big Canoe's Name, Jarrot's Aborted Raid, They Owe a Bullet, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Origin of the Hocąk Name for "Chicago"; occurring in Illinois: The Waterspirit of Rock River, Jerrot's Temperance Pledge — A Poem, Jarrot and His Friends Saved from Starvation, The Shrewd Winnebagoes of Dixon’s Crossing, Xųnųnį́ka, First Contact (v. 2), How Jarrot Got His Name, Witches; set at Rock River: The Waterspirit of Rock River, Xųnųnį́ka, The Shrewd Winnebagoes of Dixon’s Crossing, Witches.


1 Nehemiah Matson, Memories of Shaubena. Incidents Relating to the Early Settlement of the West (Chicago: D. B. Cook and Co., 1878) 235-237.
2 The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832: Vol. II, Letters and Papers; Part I, April 30, 1831-June 23, 1832. Ed. Ellen M. Whitney (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1973) 60-61 note. Whitney also cites the following: William D. Barge, Early Lee County, Being Some Chapters in the History of the Early Days in Lee County, Illinois (Chicago: Barnard and Miller, Printers, 1918) 73, 74, 76-77; History of Lee County, Dr. Cochran (Chicago: H. H. Hill, 1881) 154; Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee County (Dixon, IL: Inez A. Kennedy, 1893) 262-267; Nehemiah Matson, Memories of Shaubena. Incidents Relating to the Early Settlement of the West (Chicago: D. B. Cook and Co., 1878) 235-237; Nehemiah Matson, Reminiscences of Bureau County (Princeton, IL: Republican Book and Job Office, 1872) 308-9; Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, Treaties. Compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904) 302.
3 The Past and Present of Rock Island County, Ill. (Chicago: A. F. Kent & Co., 1877) 116, 118.
4 (Reuben Gold Thwaites), "Documents Relating to the Stockbridge Mission, 1825-1848," Wisconsin Historical Collections, XV: 39-204 [111 nt. 1]; The Past and Present of Rock Island County, Ill., 120-21; Historic Rock Island County; History of the Settlement of Rock Island County from the Earliest Known Period to the Present Time (Rock Island, IL: Kramer & Co., 1908) 45; Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II, Treaties, 310, 351.
5 The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832: v. II, Letters and Papers; Part I, April 30, 1831-June 23, 1832. Ed. Ellen M. Whitney (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1973) 60-61 note. Whitney also cites the following: William D. Barge, Early Lee County, Being Some Chapters in the History of the Early Days in Lee County, Illinois (Chicago: Barnard and Miller, Printers, 1918), passim; History of Lee County, Dr. Cochran (Chicago: H. H. Hill, 1881), 150-158; Lee County (1914), I: 237-60; Newton Bateman, Paul Selby, Ezra Morton Prince, John H. Burnham, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Chicago: Munsell Pub. Co., 1908) I:134.
6 Nehemiah Matson, Reminiscences of Bureau County (Princeton, IL: Republican Book and Job Office, 1872), 1:130-131. See also Thwaites, Notes to Wau-Bun, Caxton Club Edition (1901), 409 nt. 69.
7 Matson, Reminiscences of Bureau County, 72.
8 Matson, Reminiscences of Bureau County, 48.
9 Matson, Reminiscences of Bureau County, 29-30.