Saturday, July 30, 2011

Who is Chief Shabbona?

If you're a regular traveler through Illinois, it's hard not to miss the name, "Shabbona."

DeKalb County is home to Shabbona Lake State Park. LaSalle County is home to Shabbona Park. Morris, Illinois (my hometown) is home to Shabbona Middle School. Heck, even my parents' old office building in Lisle was named "Shabbona Place."

So who, exactly, is or was Shabbona?

Shabbona was the name of a Potawatomi Indian chief who resided in Illinois during the 19th Century. He grew up in the Ottawa tribe, and historians believe he was either born in Ohio, Ontario or in Illinois.

Click here to view a portrait of Shabbona that now hangs in the Grundy County Historic Museum in Morris, IL.

The Ottawa and Potawatomi were very close, and Shabbona was actually the grandnephew of Chief Pontiac, whom we learned about in this post. In fact, Shabbona fought with Pontiac at "Pontiac's Rebellion" and then later fought alongside the famed Chief Tecumseh in the War of 1812.

Despite his participation in Pontiac's Rebellion, and fighting against the British in the War of 1812 — Shabbona later gained notoriety for being a friend of the white settlers. On more than one occasion, he warning the settlers of oncoming Indian attacks.

One of these occasions was during the Black Hawk War, in which Shabbona rode across northern Illinois to warn settlers of the impending attacks. One of these settlers was William Davis, leader of a settlement located in what is now LaSalle County, just north of Ottawa, Illinois. Davis failed to heed Shabbona's warning and he and his fellow settlers were victims of what is now known as the Indian Creek Massacre of May 21, 1832.

Later in life, Shabbona migrated west (probably to Nebraska) with the Potawatomi, but then returned to Illinois. He finally settled in Morris, Illinois where he died and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, which I visited last week. His grave is marked by a large boulder (see photo above), which sits next to the graves of his wife and children. The cemetery is open from dawn to dusk and visitors are welcome.

Morris, IL is also the ending point of the Chief Shabbona Trail, which was created by the Boy Scouts in 1950 to honor Chief Shabbona. It basically follows the I&M Canal from Joliet to Morris, and is open year round to bikers, hikers and runners.

In the near future, I plan to visit the Indian Creek Massacre memorial that currently stands in Shabbona Park in LaSalle County.


  1. Thank you from a long-gone student from the long-gone Shabbona Elementary School in Ottawa. But shouldn't the first sentence read, "It's hard to miss the name"?