Fort Payne at Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape
"Fort Payne" by Les Schrader
During their first spring planting in 1832, panic spread as Naper’s settlers heard that the great chief of the Sauk Indians, Black Hawk, was crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois with a band of men, women and children from the Sauk, Fox, Potawatomi and Kickapoo nations. Black Hawk vowed to reclaim and never again leave the land which he believed that the United States government had unfairly taken in the Treaties of 1804 and 1822. But Illinois settlers believed that the land was theirs to develop. Rumors that men had been killed in a nearby settlement fueled their fears, although the threat of attack was much greater in their imagination than in actuality. When Chief Half Day, a neighboring Potawatomi Indian, alerted a family to Black Hawk’s approach, women and children from the settlement were evacuated to Fort Dearborn in Chicago. They returned to Naper Settlement within a month, and lived in wagons that encircled the newly constructed Fort Payne. By September, Naper’s settlers were back in their homes, secure that Black Hawk was far north and they were out of danger. No battles ever took place in Naper’s Settlement during the Black Hawk War. The original fort, much larger than this reconstruction, stood near today’s Ellsworth and Chicago streets. It was late turned into a cattle pen and eventually dismantled.