The Horse Raid

by Charles Bent

Charles Bent

  Whiteside County, Frontispiece
  A Plat Map of Genesee Township

(219) The Winnebago Indians remained to hunt and fish in and around Genesee until 1839, and were generally quiet and peaceful, although they would occasionally steal horses and provisions. During that year, a party of them borrowed some of the equines without consent, and were followed and over-taken by the settlers. They were so indignant at this proceedure that they threatened to scalp every white person in the settlement before morning. The alarm was soon carried to every family on the north side of the grove with the word to hasten to the house of William Hill, where a general headquarters would be made, and after all had assembled there, the men barricaded the doors and windows inside and outside. After finishing the work outside, they entered the house through the gable window by means of a ladder, and upon being safely entrenched, drew the ladder up after them. Their weapons of warfare included everything from a rifle to a pitchfork. One man, a Methodist minister, was armed with a table fork, having heard that there was a tradition among the Indians that a stab from such an instrument always proved fatal to them. During the night one of the settlers in the neighborhood came home from the mill, and, finding his cabin deserted, went to the residence of Mr. Hill, but was unable to arouse the inmates. After laboring a long time he finally tore down the barricades, entered the dwelling, and found the garrison asleep on their arms. In the morning it was found that the Indians had all decamped during the night, but their trail was followed by some of the more adventurous settlers, and they were overtaken on an island in the Mississippi river, near Fulton, and the stolen horses secured. When this had been effected they were promptly punished by receiving a sound whipping. 

Commentary. "Genesee" — a township on the northeastern edge of Whiteside County, Illinois. Today, Genesee Township is largely farmland. It is centered around 41.887227, -89.802311.

"a table fork" — in the annals of white folklore about Indians, this is probably the most rediculous idea to have ever been advanced.


Whiteside County, Illinois, from Its First Settlement to the Present Time; with Numerous Biographical and Family Sketches, ed. Charles Bent (Morrison, Ill.: L.P. Allen, 1877) 219.