St. Vrain massacre

St. Vrain massacre

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=St. Vrain massacre

caption=The graves of Felix St. Vrain and his companions are in a memorial cemetery near Kent, Illinois.
partof=the Black Hawk War
date=May 24, 1832
place= Near present day Pearl City, Illinois
result=Ho-Chunk and Sauk victory
combatant1= United States
combatant2= Ho-Chunk or Sauk/Fox
commander1=Henry Atkinson
Felix St. Vrain (Indian agent)
strength2=approximately 30
The St. Vrain massacre (although not a by the correct definition of the word) was an incident in the Black Hawk War. It occurred near present-day Pearl City, Illinois in Kellogg's Grove on May 24, 1832. The massacre was most likely committed by Ho-Chunk warriors who were unaffiliated with Black Hawk's band of warriors. It is also unlikely that the group of Ho-Chunk had the sanction of their nation. Killed in the massacre were United States Indian Agent Felix St. Vrain and three of his companions. Some accounts reported that St. Vrain's body was mutilated.

St. Vrain and his party were attacked while en route from Dixon's Ferry, Illinois (now Dixon) to Galena, Illinois. St. Vrain had been ordered by General Henry Atkinson to deliver dispatches to Fort Armstrong. Colonel Henry Dodge's men interred the remains of St. Vrain and his companions after the massacre.


United States Indian Agent Felix St. Vrain was traveling with several companions which included, John Fowler, William Hale, and Aaron Hawley. Those men, along with St. Vrain, were all reportedly killed in the attack; also traveling with St. Vrain was Thomas Kenney, Aquilla Floyd and Alexander Higginbotham. The Native Americans that attacked the group were not part of Black Hawk's band of warriors but they were en route to join that group when the massacre occurred. Older histories described the group as a band of Sac warriors while modern sources indicate that the band were associated with the Ho-Chunk nation.Stevens, Frank E. " [ The Black Hawk] War", Frank E. Stevens 1903, pp. 169–171. Available online at Northern Illinois University Libraries Digitization Project.] Black Hawk asserted that the group was Ho-Chunk and unaffiliated with his band in his autobiography. In fact, most Ho-Chunk sided with the United States during the Black Hawk War. The warriors that attacked St. Vrain's party acted with no authority or oversight from the Ho-Chunk nation. As the war began to be defined along racial terms most white settlers in the region did not notice the distinction. This led to unwarranted fear of all Native Americans in the area, even those friendly to the settlers' cause. One example of this appeared in an article published in the "New Galenian" on May 30, 1832. While the article described the events of the massacre it also went on to associate the murders of St. Vrain and his companions with the Sauk and Fox of Keokuk's band. Keokuk and his band were not near the scene when the murders occurred and had actually volunteered to assist white settlers against Black Hawk and his band of warriors.


The St. Vrain massacre occurred near present-day Pearl City, Illinois, in an area known as Kellogg's Grove. Felix St. Vrain, a U.S. Indian Agent to the Sauk and Fox tribes, was in Dixon's Ferry, Illinois, under the command of General Henry Atkinson prior to the massacre.

A group composed of Aaron Hawley, John Fowler, Thomas Kenney and Alexander Higginbotham had been purchasing cattle in Sangamon County, Illinois when news of trouble with Black Hawk's band reached them. They immediately decided to return to northern Illinois to protect their homes. On May 22, 1832 the men left Dixon's Ferry for Galena, Illinois. At Buffalo Grove they discovered the body of William Durley, who had been killed in the Buffalo Grove massacre. The men immediately returned to Dixon's Ferry to report their find and remained in the town overnight.

The following day General Atkinson returned to Dixon's Ferry on with dispatches destined for Fort Armstrong. Atkinson ordered St. Vrain to travel with the Hawley party and deliver the dispatches to the fort. The men traveled north from Dixon's Ferry and back to Buffalo Grove, where they interred the remains of Durley. They then traveled another ten miles toward Fort Hamilton before camping for the night.

The next morning, May 24, they set out again, but stopped for breakfast after about three miles. As they finished eating, about 30 warriors approached. The men retreated, but four were shot and killed. Slain with St. Vrain were John Fowler, William Hale, and Aaron Hawley. An account of the massacre from Gen. George W. Jones, who was St. Vrain's brother-in-law and the man who identified his body, said the warriors had scalped the dead men, but also cut off the hands, head, and feet of St. Vrain and removed his heart. They reportedly passed around pieces of the heart for the braves to eat. At least one source indicated that the mutilation began before St. Vrain was dead.

Three men, Thomas Kenney, Aquilla Floyd, and Alexander Higginbotham, managed to escape. They eluded the warriors and arrived safely in Galena, Illinois three days later." [ The Killing of Felix St. Vrain] ", Historic Diaries: Black Hawk War, "Wisconsin Historical Society". Retrieved July 28, 2007.] It is said that Aaron Hawley was initially able to retreat from the scene, but apparently was later killed as he fled.

'The Little Bear' incident

Frank Stevens in his 1903 history of the war, "The Black Hawk War" stated the attacker were Sauk and led by The Little Bear, a chief who had purportedly adopted Felix St. Vrain as a "blood brother." Noting The Little Bear's presence, St. Vrain allegedly had assured his companions that there was nothing to fear. The same claims were included in an 1887 book by Nehemiah Matson, "Memories of Shaubena". Matson's narrative described St. Vrain's allegedly pleading for his life with The Little Bear.Matson, Nehemiah. " [,M1 Memories of Shaubena: With Incidents Relating to the Early Settlement of the West] ", (Google Books), D.B. Cooke & Co., 1887, pp. 207–210. Retrieved July 31, 2007.]

Perry A. Armstrong's 1887 history dismissed the idea that The Little Bear had adopted Felix St. Vrain. Armstrong wrote that The Little Bear had never existed as a Sauk or Fox chief and said it was preposterous to think that a Sauk chief would have adopted St. Vrain as a brother.Armstrong, Perry A. " [,M1 The Sauks and the Black Hawk War] ", (Google Books), H.W. Rokker, 1887, pp. 415-416. Retrieved July 31, 2007] Matson, Stevens and John H. Kinzie, whom Armstrong's information was in part based on, all identified St. Vrain's assailants as Sac. They were more likely Ho-Chunk.


According to the "New Galenian" the three who escaped arrived in Galena at 7 a.m. on May 26, 1832. They provided a description of events, which the newspaper account printed in detail.

Following the massacre, a detachment led by Colonel Henry Dodge buried the bodies of St. Vrain and two other victims. The body of Aaron Hawley was never found. " [,4229 Memoir of Thomas Pendleton Burnett] " "Wisconsin Historical Collections, Volume II", 1856, "Wisconsin State Historical Society", pp. 340–341.]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Indian Creek massacre — Part of the Black Hawk War An 1878 depiction of the massacre …   Wikipedia

  • Felix St. Vrain — (March 23, 1799 ndash;May 24, 1832) was a United States Indian agent who was killed during the Black Hawk War. St. Vrain died along with three companions while on a mission to deliver dispatches from Dixon s Ferry, Illinois to Fort Armstrong. The …   Wikipedia

  • Spafford Farm massacre — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Spafford Farm Massacre caption=Monument near South Wayne, Wisconsin. partof=the Black Hawk War date=June 14, 1832 place= Near present day South Wayne, Wisconsin result=British Band victory combatant1= United… …   Wikipedia

  • Black Hawk War — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Black Hawk War date=1832 place=Illinois and Michigan Territory result=United States victory caption=Black Hawk combatant1= combatant2=Black Hawk s British Band : Sauk Fox Kickapoo commander1=Henry Atkinson Henry …   Wikipedia

  • British Band — Participant in the Black Hawk War This 1854 artist rendering depicts members of the British Band at Stillman s Run …   Wikipedia

  • Battle of Bad Axe — Part of the Black Hawk War …   Wikipedia

  • Black Hawk (Sauk leader) — For other uses, see Black Hawk (disambiguation). Black Hawk Born Ma ka tai me she kia kiak 1767 Saukenuk, Illinois Died Octobe …   Wikipedia

  • Buffalo Grove ambush — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Buffalo Grove ambush caption=Historical marker located west of Polo, Illinois partof=the Black Hawk War date=May 19, 1832 place= Near Polo, Illinois result= combatant1= United States combatant2= Kickapoo… …   Wikipedia

  • Minor attacks of the Black Hawk War — Minor attacks Part of the Black Hawk War Date May–July, 1832 Location present day northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin …   Wikipedia

  • Thomas Forsyth (Indian Agent) — Infobox Person name = Thomas Forsyth image size = caption = birth name = birth date = birth date|1751|12|5 birth place = Detroit, Michigan death date = death date and age|1833|10|24|1751|12|5 death place = St. Louis, Missouri, United States death …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.