The Red Men's Burying Ground

The Red Men's Burying Ground, Sonora Township, Hancock County, Illinois

The Father of Waters as the Indians called the Mississippi River, "The big waters" to the simple red children of the great Father "The great river" to the white pioneers on the Illinois frontier,  rolls 2,555 mi down the map of North America.  It begins and like Itasco in the wilds of the northwestern Minnesota and it pours into the Gulf of Mexico in semi tropical southeastern Louisiana.

The site of the present big ghost town of Sonora landing which has been practically under the muddy waters of the top half of the Mississippi known as the upper Mississippi since the completion of the Keokuk and Hamilton Dam in June of 1913, is Sonora Township, Hancock County, Illinois.

The 1880 Gregg Hancock county history, page 881, refers to this place as "The business center" of the Township "On the River line".  And, "Sonora post office, at the same point as the only post office in the Township. "

According to the 1968 Hancock county history, page 548:

"On the Bank of the river at Sonora landing, which is known as the "French Channel" Put, the river was deep enough and barges to land and take on cargo.  The boat ring is still embedded in the river bank. "

This pioneer river town might well have grown into a fairly large city like many other trading points up and down the upper Mississippi.  But it lacked proper salesmanship to promote it and so it is now ghost town not even recalled anymore in local talk because all the people who once knew about it and takes some interest in it are deceased and gone.

The Sacs were the Sulk, meaning woodland Indians and the fox or the clan of the red fox.  The Sac and the Fox were part of the Algonquin tribe.

The 1968 county history States, page 2:

"The first white settlers in this county found the Sulk and Fox Indians living here.  Of Algonquin lineage, they were driven west by the more powerful Iroquois.  The Fox tribe was driven into Illinois by theOjibways and Chippewas in Wisconsin and forced to ally with the Sauk for a common defense.  Their largest village in this county was Quashquema at the head of the rapids, which was said to contain four to 500 Wikiups, dwellings made of poles and bark. "

The 1921 Schofield history of Hancock County, volume to page 1097, describes the terrain here as follows:

"There is some very valuable prairie land in the eastern part (of the Township), but the land is considerably broken in the western part, especially along the Mississippi River where there are quite elevated bluffs. "

At the simple red children of the great Father found wild game in the forest.  They found fish in the "big waters" River and to Creeks known today as Larry's Creek and Chandler's Creek which poured their waters into the river.

When the white pioneers came they found these red people unsatisfactory neighbors.  Even if friendly they had a very poorly developed sense of morals.  Probably they did not mean to pilfer but like 2 years old children they would simply carry off edibles from homes or what ever they took a fancy to.

Women and children were afraid of them to when a housewife with small children was alone in her home with the man of the house away at work in the field or on the river and a group of Indian man would come expecting food who did not understand English well enough for her to even talk to them she naturally experienced some fear.  Well there seems to have been no cases of women being molested or little children killed were carried off here these natives were still savages and there had been such things happen in other parts of the country.

Too, there were strained relations between the white population and the Sac and Fox Indians further north in the state of Illinois.  Just a few years later in 1832 there was a war between them known in history as the Black Hawk war (so-called after the famous Sac and Fox Chief Black Hawk).

The white pioneers here in the Sonora landing area soon decided if not due to have this Indian community here so close to the homes of the settlers.  A solution was soon worked out by which the red men were talked into moving across to river to what is now Iowa, helped along, it is said, by gifts.  They never came back to the Illinois side to live.

The 1968 county history, page 2 states:

"Relations between the Indians and the early settlers were friendly, and the fact that the people of Hancock County did not suffer any violence in the Black Hawk war is credited cockatoo Captain James White' and s fair treatment of the Indians when he came to take up this claim to land at the head of the rapids. "

When the Indians left our side of the river they left their dead behind in the cemetery and what before 1913 was river's edge at the Sonora landing point.  Now they are beneath the muddy waters of the Mississippi.

(1968 Hancock county history, page 548)

Sonora Township is bounded on the west by the Mississippi River and the this played a major part in the development of the town of Sonora.  The land was obtained from the government by Robert Wallace in 1831 and shortly thereafter he deeded it to George Middleton who built the first log house in Sonora.  It was located on the Bank of the River just south of Sonora landing.  It was very strongly built and had augur holes for rifle fire and when Indians were menacing these parts several families took refuge in it.  However it was never fired upon.

In 1852 there was a cholera epidemic among the early settlers and many Indians were buried just north of the Fort along the river.  When the building of the dam at Keokuk, Iowa backed the water over the land, the shallow graves built of flat Rock, top, bottom and sides were generally  washed away; as late as 1921 could go in a rowboat and see this skulls projecting from the bank with arm and leg bones as well.  During a time of low water many Indian axes and arrows were found.