Documented in the 1883 publication “History of Effingham County, Illinois,” Griffin Tipsword came to Effingham County in either 1814 or 1815 taking up residence with the Kickapoo Indians. The Kickapoo established a community in the area comprised of parts of what is now known as Fayette, Effingham and Shelby counties in an area close to the Kaskaskia River.
Living South of the Kickapoo Indians were the Winnebagos and Delaware tribes.
The Kickapoo Indians were described as a tribe from a central Algonquian group who formed a division with the Saux and Foxes, according to the “Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico” published in 1907. In 1817, the population of the Kickapoo tribe was 2,000.
Members of the Kickapoo nation lived in a structured village living in bark houses in the summer and reed houses in the winter months. Kickapoos knew the value of horses and their tribe traveled as far south as Texas before the Civil War to steal horses and mules from the Comanche tribe.
In 1819, the Kickapoo tribe gave up their claims of land in Central Illinois and eventually moved on to Missouri.
According to “The Indians of Illinois” published in 1983 by Helen Cox Tregillis, a prisoner of the Kickapoo Indians, William Biggs, in 1788 described the tribe as “very white-skinned Indians.” The Kickapoo tribe was described as “industrious, intelligent and had clean habits.”
The “History of Effingham County, Illinois” described Griffin Tipsword as “a strange compound of white man by birth and Indian by adoption. Tipsword lived, hunted, fished, spoke the language and danced the Kickapoo tribe dances."
Tipsword gave the Kickapoo his oldest son so he too would be fully educated in the Kickapoo culture. The oldest son is said to have lived with the Kickapoo tribe for several years.
John A. and Edith B. Wilson published an article in the Effingham Daily News on Aug. 6, 1986, about their research on Indians in Illinois. They were both members of the Effingham County Genealogical Society at the time:
About 50,000 years ago, an Asiatic people moved from Siberia out of the Kamchatka Peninsula to Alaska on dry land by the way of the Bering Straits. These were of the Mongolian race, and the white man is of Caucasian race. All peoples originated in Asia according to the Bible. No man originated in the three Americas, and there are no fossil remains in the Americas.
These first Indians were Paleo Indians or big game hunters, and it is estimated that it took them 25,000 years to reach South Chile. On the Alaska pipeline, 189 campsites were discovered.
Illinois Indians have been here about 10,000 years and lived on buffalo, deer, bear and elk and used some 559 plants for food, medicine and other uses. Buffalo provided most of the meat, teepees and clothing. They moved with the herds.
The book published in 1918, “Making of Illinois” by Mather lists the tribes of Miami, Piankeshaw, Illini and possibly the Shawnee in this region of the state in 1765.
In the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report of 1979 on the proposed Louisville reservoir, it says that the Paleo period was from 15000-8000 B.C. and 52 sites were found in the proposed area, and the Piankeshaw tribe, a member of the Miami tribe, occupied the area of Effingham and Clay counties.
They ceded their land to the United States in 1805 and all tribes were moved west of the Mississippi River by 1832-33 or at the time of the Black Hawk War. The Paleos were followed by the Archaic. Both used spears and stone hammers. Archaic 8000-2500 B.C. invented the spear thrower.
Archaic was followed by the first period of Woodland, 2500-500 B.C., who were makers of pottery, the second period, 1350-100 B.C., followed by the Hopewellian 500 B.C. to 500 A.D., who were growers of corn and potatoes, makers of pottery and builders of mounds.
The final Woodland 200-900 A.D., were mound builders. Stone grave vault people of Missouri and Western Illinois were not of this area. The Chunkey stone game and crude flint arrows and bows were invented about 1100-1500 A.D.
Spear points found in Illinois are as follows: Hardin Barb and Thebes, Dalton and Meserva, Dovetail and Agate Basin. Most spear points are from the Achaic culture, a few are Folsom and Clovis points found in Illinois from the Paleo culture. Most points are flint, obsidian or chert.
The Upper Mississippian culture buried their dead in dome-shaped earthen mounds. They were plant growers, had bow and arrows rarely side notched, tomahawks, celts and pots. Twenty-seven mounds of this type were on the Little Wabash bluff in Blair Township, Clay County, Illinois. Some tribes cremated the dead or bleached the bones on racks. Both methods included burial of the bones afterward.
The Illini (1500-1833) meaning “men” were farmers and hunters. The horse was introduced by the white man. The men did the hunting and fighting.
Women did most of the camp chores and owned the possessions. Meat was dried and smoked, vegetables were dried and stored in stone pits. They also used fire pits dug in the earth.
In religion, the Indian worshiped the sun, moon and stars and believed in many spirits and reincarnation. Medicine men were used, corn and vessels were placed with the dead with all their apparent needs.
The tribes shared no common language and few common customs. Buffalo were sacred animals and the Indians prayed for successful hunts. The Sundance was the most important. We are indebted to the American Indian for corn, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, squash, pumpkins and superior cotton.
The Indians used hide, flint scrapers, arrow points, hammer stone for chipping, deer antlers for chipping spears and arrows and grinding stones, celts, Chunkey game stones, flint knives, tomahawks, ceremonial work and war, shell and stone hoes, pendants, flint drills, all types of pottery, stone pestles for grinding and grooved plummets.
Tribes that occupied Illinois that have not been stated are the Sauk and The Fox in the northwestern part of the state, Hopewell of the entire state, Cahokia, Ottawa, Osage, Iroquois, Cherokee, Kaskaskia, Morton and Baumer.
We owe a lot to the Indians for trails, plants and customs in the early history of our state. In the Census of 1980, Illinois had 222,134 Indians living in the state.