Daniel Avery, the War of 1812, and the Illinois land bounty that brought my family west

OK, as long as we’re talking about David Avery’s service during the Revolutionary War military under Colonel William Prescott, I should probably mention that he wasn’t the only one of my ancestors to fight against the British. His son, Daniel Avery, fought them again in the War of 1812, and, ultimately, that’s what brought this branch of my family to the midwest.

You see, on May 6, 1812, the United States legislature passed an act of Congress which set aside so-called bounty lands as payment to volunteer soldiers who fought in the War against the British, or, as we now refer to it, the War of 1812. And, on December 26, 1817, Daniel Avery was given 160 acres in the area of Schuyler, Illinois, just west of the Illinois River. [The law passed in 1812, but it took until 1816 for all of the land to be surveyed and opened to settlement.] I don’t know whether Daniel Avery made the choice to take land in Illinois, or whether or not it was just assigned to him, but that’s where the family went, and where they stayed for well over 100 years. [Land in both Arkansas and Michigan was also being offered up through this program, which made approximately 3.5 million acres of land deemed fit for cultivation available for military bounties.] Here, if you’d like to see it, is the document that brought the Averys west to Illinois. [A higher-resolution image can be found here.]

If not for this piece of paper, Daniel Avery would likely never have come to Illinois, and over 100 years later, my grandfather, Robert Avery, would never have met his wife, Dorothy Lambie, and my mother never would have been born… So, thank you, President James Monroe, for my existence. If not for you, I would not be here today.

As for my great, great, great, great, great grandfather’s service during in the War of 1812, all I know is what’s on this paper… namely that he served as a Private in the 13th Infantry, in a company under the command of Captain John L. Fink, which was headquartered at Sackets Harbor, New York. [I haven’t looked at them yet, but, as luck would have it, Captain Fink’s papers at the University of Michigan’s Clements Library.]

And, yes, it would appear as though my ancestor, abetted by the United States government, took possession of land that had been home to Native Americans for centuries. The white population of Illinois, according to Wikipedia, “exploded after the War of 1812, exceeding 50,000 in 1820, and 150,000 in 1830.” And, as a result, U.S. government liaison Thomas Forsyth, in 1828, informed these native Indian tribes that they should begin vacating their settlements east of the Mississippi, setting the stage for the Black Hawk War of 1832, which, as we know, the United States won. So my very existence is not just predicated on the above letter, granting my great, great, great, great, great grandfather land in the Illinois territory, but on the forced relocation (and systematic genocide) of the Sauk and Meskwaki (Fox) people who lived along the Mississippi River… something I will be discussing with my children this evening over dinner.

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted January 2, 2020 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Quite a few people who got these land tracks never went. They sold them to speculators. As I enjoy your blog, I’m glad your family went.

  2. Posted January 2, 2020 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    I know that everyone who came here post-Columbus is guilty of taking Native American land. It’s part of the deal when you start researching your family history if you’re a white American. You know there’s going to be bad stuff. You know, if you had ancestors here early on in the American experiment, that they, either directly or indirectly, fucked over the people who predated them on the continent. And I was prepared for that when I started digging through the archives. I wasn’t expecting, however, that my ancestors would be among the first people pushing west during the post-War of 1812 expansion. I guess I thought that they moved out later, once a little more time had passed. I mean, I thought that I’d be thinking about these issues with earlier ancestors, some of whom may have been in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but I didn’t think it would come up with the Averys of Illinois. And now I’m reading about the forced relocation of the Sauk and Fox people, who, beginning in 1825, were pushed to Iowa, and then Kansas, and wondering about the role my ancestors played. [Apparently that was also after years of pressure from the French had pushed them into Illinois.]

    So, yeah, I’m sitting here tonight trying to reconcile these two things. First, I wouldn’t be here if my great, great, great, great, great grandfather hadn’t moved his family to Illinois after the War of 1812. And, second, that my family played a part in a system that saw the Sauk and Fox tribes absolutely decimated. I suppose I could try to downplay the role of my ancestors, and say it was a different time, and that these actions were made possible by treaties, and that other people were the ones who ultimately made the decisions, but, with over 200 years of hindsight, it’s difficult not to see the criminality of it all, and the cruelty of the system that was put in place by the European occupiers.

    I don’t know how accurate it is, but here’s a brief history of the movements of the tribes…

    The Fox and the Sauk are two closely related, but separate, tribes which in 1600 occupied the eastern half of lower Michigan between Saginaw Bay and Detroit. Both of their oral histories tell of an earlier time when they migrated from the Atlantic coast via the St. Lawrence River. When this happened is unclear. The Sauk lived around Saginaw Bay (which is named from them), while the Fox were just to the south and west. Driven from their homeland during the 1640s, the Fox resettled in central Wisconsin. The Sauk crossed over to the upper peninsula near the Mackinac Strait and moved into the headwaters of the Wisconsin River west of Green Bay. Except for the two-years (1710-12) the Fox lived near Detroit, neither tribe ever returned to Michigan. They remained in Wisconsin until 1734, when both were driven across the Mississippi River into eastern Iowa by the French.

    The Fox afterwards lived along the upper Mississippi in northeastern Iowa except for the period (1765-83) when they maintained some villages in western Wisconsin. The Sauk were also located along the upper Mississippi after 1734 just south of the Fox but, being the more numerous of the two, occupied a larger area. Through wars with the Illinois Confederation, Missouria, and Osage, the Sauk expanded southward. By 1800 they controlled the upper Mississippi between St. Louis and Dubuque, Iowa. These lands were ceded to the Americans beginning with a treaty signed in 1804. Internal disagreements over accepting this treaty caused one Sauk group to separate from the others and move south to the Missouri River. Known as the Missouri Band, they remained there until 1824 when they were removed to the northwest corner of the state. In 1836 they exchanged their last lands in Missouri for a reserve west of the Missouri River on the Kansas-Nebraska border. Despite allotment, the Sac and Fox of Missouri have retained a small reservation with their tribal headquarters located in Reserve, Kansas.

    Pressures from settlement after 1825 forced the Sauk along the Mississippi to leave western Illinois and relocate to southeast Iowa. The exception was Blackhawk’s Band at Rock Island (Illinois) which did not finally leave until after the Blackhawk War in 1832. As a consequence of the war, the Sauk were forced to surrender a large part of eastern Iowa. The Fox and Sauk remained in Iowa until 1842 when they ceded their lands for a reserve in Kansas just south of present-day Topeka. However, many of them refused to leave Iowa and kept the army very busy trying to find them. Once in Kansas, major disagreements developed between the Fox and the Sauk. Some of the Fox moved in with the Kickapoo and later left with them for northern Mexico. By 1859 most of the Fox had left Kansas and returned to Iowa where they purchased land near Tama.

    The remaining Fox and Sauk sold their Kansas land and relocated to Oklahoma in 1869 where they were given a 750,000 acre reservation in Potawatomi, Lincoln, and Payne Counties east of Oklahoma City. After allotment, most of this was released to whites in 1891. Currently, the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, headquartered in Stroud, has kept less than 1,000 acres. On the other hand, the Fox in Iowa have used their own money to purchase land, and their tribal holdings have grown to almost 5,000 acres. The only federally recognized tribe in Iowa, they prefer to be called the Mesquaki Indian settlement, but because of treaties signed jointly with the Sauk, their official name is the Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa.

    At the time of their first contact with the French in 1666, both the Fox and the Sauk were living in Wisconsin. The initial French estimates placed the Fox at 5,000 and the Sauk at 6,500. Since both tribes had just endured 30 years of war, a relocation to Wisconsin, and numerous epidemics, it appears their original populations must have been at least twice this – approximately 10,000 for each tribe. By 1712 the Fox had dropped to about 3,500. They lost half of these in the First French War (1712-14). They began the Second Fox War in 1728 with about 1,500, only 500 of whom survived the attempt by the French to remove them from the face of the earth. The Sauk relations with the French were friendly until they protected the Fox in 1734, and they numbered close to 4,000 at this time. Later estimates are sometimes confused because the Fox and Sauk were treated as a merged tribe. Both tribes increased after 1737. Zebulon Pike in 1806 listed the Fox at 1,750 and the Sauk at 2,850. His estimate of the Sauk may actually have been too low. Government records in 1829 reported there were 5,000 Sauk, 1,600 Fox, and another 500 Sauk in Missouri.

    After their removal from Iowa in 1846, the population of both tribes underwent a drastic decline. The Indian Bureau in 1845 stated 1,300 Fox and 2,500 Sauk had left Iowa, but only 700 Fox and 1,900 Sauk arrived in Kansas. The Missouri Band at this time numbered less than 200. After a terrible smallpox epidemic, 300 Fox and 1,300 Sauk were all that remained on the Kansas reserve in 1852, but at least 300 Fox and an unknown number of Sauk were hiding in Iowa. Others were on the Kickapoo reserve or in places where no one could count them. Most of the Fox left shortly afterwards and returned to Iowa. Following the Civil War, 600 Sauk and 100 Fox relocated to Oklahoma. Only the Missouri Band managed to stay in Kansas. The 1910 census listed 343 Fox in Iowa, 630 Sauk and Fox in Oklahoma, and 90 Sauk in Kansas. The current enrollments of the three federally recognized Sac and Fox tribes are: 1,100 Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi (Iowa); 400 Sac & Fox Tribe of Missouri (Kansas and Nebraska); and 2,200 Sac & Fox Tribe of Indians (Oklahoma)…

  3. Anonymous
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    But isn’t this always the case in human history? Tribe A takes lands previously considered as territory of tribe B, who might have taken it from tribe C. Since tribe A is the latest tribe to occupy the land, the story is told from the view of tribe A, with only a few remembering the story of tribe B, and none remembering tribe C, since it was so long ago. The difference now is that more people in tribe A are interested in the story of tribe B and tribe C, with the goal of moving beyond tribe A. B, or C to form a supertribe ABC. You shouldn’t feel bad about that. I don;t even know if we can be a supertribe, but it’s a noble goal to strive for. Regardless, supertribe ABC will be the name of my new band.

  4. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I think Anonymous’ post makes more sense in this thread.

    Posted January 3, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink
    I had a roof leak once. I got out the ladder and then decided it was too difficult to tackle on my own. Since I had already picked up the hammer, I decided to fix the plumbing in the basement. It was a shame to let such a fine tool go unused.

  5. Lucky Pierre
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I don’t get it. What’s the hammer, what is the leak, and what is the metaphorical plumbing in this story? Where is the roof, what does the basement represent, and who is the plumber?

  6. Lucky Pierre
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I don’t get it. What’s the hammer, what is the leak, and what is the metaphorical plumbing in this story? Where is the roof, what does the basement represent, and who is the plumber?

  7. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I’m sure there are genuine Lucky Pierres out there who can teach you how to receive the metaphor.

  8. Jean Henry
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    My son at 10, after a discussion of tribalism and war along the lines of Anonyous’ ABC:

    “Mom you know what would end all tribalism and tribal conflict on earth?– Aliens.”

    Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
    (How serious people’s faces have become.)
    Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
    everyone going home lost in thought?

    Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
    And some of our men just in from the border say
    there are no barbarians any longer.

    Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
    Those people were a kind of solution. — CP Cavafy (written in 1898 and still apt)


  9. Lucky Pierre
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Seriously, does anyone understand what Foolish Fakes is talking about?

  10. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if this guys roof and plumbing is in good working order?


2 Trackbacks

  1. […] you may recall, it was a land bounty earned by my ancestor David Avery after his service in the War of 1812 that bro…, so I’d thought that something similar may have happened here. There were, after all, bounty […]

  2. […] great great, great grandfather hadn’t fought in the War of 1812, earning a land bounty that brought the family west to Illinois, where my grandfather would eventually meet my grandmother some 120 years later, I likely […]

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