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Local

Then & Now: Chief Shabbona – Morris

Shabbona was born into an Ottawa tribe, somewhere along the Maumee River in Ohio, around the time of the Revolutionary War.

Early in his life, Shabbona became associated with the Potawatomi, Chippewa, and Ottawa Native American groups that lived north of Peoria along the Illinois River and in the northeastern part of Illinois territory.

During the War of 1812, Shabbona not only fought against the Americans, but also saw the demise of the legendary chief Tecumseh. At the conclusion of the war, Shabbona vowed to pursue a path of reconciliation and become a loyal friend to white settlers.

Before the Black Hawk War of 1831, Shabbona persuaded the war Chief Wauponsee, who was once an ally of the British, to not terrorize and attack the white settlers in Illinois.

After the uprising and the Indian Creek Massacre, a peace treaty ended the Indian threat in Illinois and settlers returned to homesteading in the area. Many Potawatomi Indians moved to reservations in Kansas, including Wauponsee.

Shabbona, however, was granted land in De Kalb County, in what is known as Paw Paw Grove. By 1849, however, the land grant was taken away from Shabbona and sold, leaving the great chief homeless.

Not much is known of what happened to Shabbona after 1849, but it is believed that he lived with remnants of his tribe west of the Mississippi River for several years and returned to Ottawa, Illinois around 1855. In Ottawa he often stayed with George E. Walker, a former local sheriff. Longing for his own home, the citizens of Ottawa decided to buy a piece of land for the famous chief in 1857, and in time he erected a dwelling on his land.

Shabbona remained active until the day of his death on July 18, 1859. Following a funeral that was held in the Claypool schoolhouse in Morris, Shabbona was buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Shortly before his death, Shabbona and his family took Christian names, so his death record reads “Benjamin Shabbona.”

On Aug. 29, 1898, Shabbona’s daughter, Matwaweiska "Martha", her husband Chief Cack Cack, and granddaughter Ruth came to Morris from a reservation in Kansas, as a guest of Perry Armstrong, to visit her father’s grave.

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