The Henline Stockade

(July 2004)

 

The following piece is copied from Ancestors Yours and Mine

Volume 1, Number 3 August, 1975

 

          At the outbreak of the Black Hawk War in 1832, there were only a few scattered settlements in McLean County, the principal one in the eastern section being located along Henline Creek, a tributary of the Mackinaw. The Henlines after whom this creek was named, came from Kentucky in the fall of 1828 and made their homes along this stream forming the nucleus for the little colony which grew up around them.

 

          Although the personal operations of Black Hawk were confined to the northern part of the state, there were tribes in this county who might easily be influenced into joining their fortunes with his. Old Masheens, chief of the Kickapoos promised to remain friends but it was feared that he could not control his warriors, once their warlike passions were roused. For this reason and upon the advice of the Veteran Indian Fighter, General Bartholomew, two forts were built for the protection of the settlers. General Bartholomew, died November 2, 1840 and is buried in Clarksville Cemetery.

 

          One of these was located in Money Creek Township and the other, known as the Henline Stockade with which this paper shall deal, was built on the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 30 in Lawndale Township, about a half mile north of the Evergreen Church.

 

          The method of construction was this. Logs a foot or more in diameter and ten or twelve feet long were split in two, a trench was dug and logs placed perpendicularly in the trench and the dirt trampled solidly around them. The upright timbers were fastened together with cross-pieces, making a solid wall of green timber eight or ten feet high, capable of resisting any Indian bullet and likewise impervious to fire. At each corner was a block house which projected over the wall and had loopholes through the floor, thus making possible for the defenders of the fort to fire down upon an attacking force should they attempt an assault on the wall. The fort was situated on the bank of Henline Creek, enclosed about a half acre and was probably the strongest one of its kind in the state.

 

          This fort was built under the direction of George Henline, a companion Boone and Kenton and a survivor of the battle of Blue Licks fought in the state of Kentucky in 1782. He modeled it after the ones in which he had fought with the Indians in Kentucky in the days when the state was little more than a perpetual battle ground.

 

          The primary use of the fort was a refuge for the settlers should their Indian neighbors take the war-path but it was occupied most of the time by a regular garrison. Captain Covellís Rangers also included it in their round of scouting arriving there about once a week.

 

          The garrison was never called upon to defend itself from the Indians for they never appeared. However, this did not prevent them from enjoying the thrill of anticipated danger for hardly a day passed in which there was not an alarm raised. These usually originated in the fertile imagination of the one who gave the alarm for any unusual thing was sufficient to excite him into the belief that "the Indians were coming."

 

          At one time a man came to the fort and reported suspicious happenings back in the woods, whereupon a party was dispatched to see about it and after much scouting found the trail of a hog. While most of the settlers were men of undaunted courage there were a few whose natural timidity was increased threefold by the fear of the red men. One valorous member of the garrison when an alarm was given one day, handed his gun to his companion, ran and jumped in bed beside his sick wife and declared that he also was sick and therefore unable to fight. His wife, suspecting that it was only a false alarm seized a gun and flourished it declaring that she was not afraid of the Indians, while her husband lay with his head under the bedclothes expecting every moment to hear an attack on the stockade.

 

          J. J. Henline, the last survivor of those who did garrison duty at Fort Henline, fired off his gun one night when the Rangers were camped outside and the scramble to get inside the fort was perhaps more enjoyed by the perpetrators of the joke than by those who participated in it.

 

          But the fear which overshadowed the settlers of this county soon passed away and with the decline of the fortunes of Black Hawk and the subsequent departure of the Indians from this county, the usefulness of the fort was ended and it was abandoned. Up till twenty years ago some of its timbers were still standing but time has done its work and today there is no trace of where the Henlines, the Shaws and the Millers settled. The pioneers of this county marked another step in pushing back the frontier in the days when the state of Illinois was young.

 

SOURCE: Contributed by Mrs. Robert Moberly -- Lexington, Illinois

Author -- Elmo Scott Watson

 

 

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