The Lost Shaubena Silver Mine

Growing up at Lake Bracken, Camp Shaubena was a place of mystery and challenge. It was strictly off limits. It was rented out as a private camp where children would come for outdoor experiences. It had cabins, swimming docks and a seemingly endless flotilla of aluminum canoes. The canoes, when filled with young ladies of the correct age, were an attraction on a hot summer day. It is perhaps the only time when aluminum exercises magnetic forces. But I digress.

To my recent amazement, I learned that Camp Shaubena was likely named for a Pottawatomie Indian Chief. The Pottawatomies reportedly came to Illinois from Wisconsin and were the last tribe to leave Knox County. They were in residence, when the first European settlers appeared in Knox County.

Chief Shaubena was born in an Indian village near the Kankakee River on or about 1775. He joined the famous Tecumseh and fought beside him in 1812. Nevertheless, Chief Shaubena proved to be a friend to early settlers of Knox County. He effectively worked to keep the Pottawatomies out of the Winnebago war in 1827 and the Black Hawk war in 1832. Shaubena's decision to "sit out" the Black Hawk war may have been critical for the Knox County settlers.

It is recorded that Black Hawk met with Chief Shaubena on two separate occasions, seeking his support in making war against the settlers. Shaubena declined. Black Hawk was reported to have said, while in prison following the Black Hawk War, that if it had not been for Chief Shaubena, the entire Pottawatomie Nation would have entered into the war. Black Hawk claimed that if that had happened, he would have been able to continue the war for years.

Chief Shaubena apparently was a friend of John Essex, of Lynn Township. History records that Shaubena would frequently visit John and on at last one occasion, brought the Essex family a quarter of deer that he had killed. Because Shaubena grew in reputation locally as being a friendly and helpful ally to settlers, in later years, young Indians often claimed to be descendants of Shaubena as it helped them to receive a free meal.

Chapman (1878) in his History of Knox County, Illinois tells the story that Chief Shaubena told William Morris, of Persifer Township, that he would show him the location of a silver mine in the northwest corner of the township. Chef Shaubena told him that the entrance was marked with a large flat rock. Morris was not acquainted with Shaubena and feared to go traveling with a strange Indian and declined the offer. Some time later, Morris, as the story goes, came across the flat rock that Shaubena had told him about, with the location and general description matching. But Morris had his wife along with him as well as a large supply of honey from a recently discovered bee tree. Despite several subsequent searches, Morris was never able to relocate the silver mine entrance described by Shaubena.

Shaubena was a friend of the settlers, but it cost him dearly and he received shabby treatment from the government in return. The Sac and Fox tribes tried unsuccessfully to kill Shaubena on two occasions. They did kill his son, Pypeogee, and a nephew. In later years and in apparent total disregard to Shaubena's proven friendship, when he left his land in Shaubena Grove (DeKalb county) temporarily to travel west, the land was declared forfeited and sold by the government. Upon returning, Shaubena discovered the loss of his land and possessions.

Local residents stepped in and provided assistance to Chief Shaubena by buying him land along the Illinois River near Seneca, and building him a house. He remained there the rest of his life, dying on July 17, 1859 at the age of 84. His wife, Pokanoka, died a few months later, drowning in Mazen Creek. Both were buried, side by side, in a cemetery at Morris.

This article posted to Zephyr online September 19, 1997
Back to the Zephyr home
page.Send us e