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This website has been created to support Peter T. Gayford's research on Chief Billy Caldwell.  For 13 years he has been working to establish a record of truth on the history of Billy Caldwell and his heirs.  Through ongoing research of primary resources and working closely with blood relatives a great deal of transparency has been brought forth. His research is a first on many levels and is recognized by several federal and local agencies.  As more information is uncovered it will be posted to this site.  Please check back for updates as new information is updated often.   Should you require copyright permissions please contact the author at peymocaldwell@gmail.com.   Below is Peter Gayford's comprehensive work on Billy Caldwell, his Chicago River Reserve, and surviving heirs.  It is free to all interested persons.  It may be used for educational purposes only.

October 2016 News...

Congratulations to Scott M. Priz of John Marshall Law School!  Mr. Priz has spent the past year reviewing the legal quandary surrounding the Caldwell Reserve.  His examination is to be published this winter in a legal comment through The John Marshall Law Review.  It will detail who has legal rights to the land and the process for recovering it.  On October 18th, he delivered a lecture on his legal research at the John Marshall Law Review Symposium.

October 2016 News...

As new research finally confirms,  from the Bureau of Indian Affairs files at the National Archives and attorney records, 160 acres of land was never sanction for sale by the United States Federal Government. This affects the northwest 80 acres located on Forest Preserve land, and the Wildwood community in Chicago. That is approximately 1.2 billion dollars worth of real estate. Look to the future media for more information on the current movement that is taking place.


Click on the provided link to download a pdf version...

1. As written in his own words, March 17, 1782 was his date of birth (two separate letters). 

2. Through the 1829 Prairie du Chien treaty, Billy Caldwell received a 1600 acre reserve on the Chicago River.
3.  Billy Caldwell's land patent for his 1600 acre reserve was issued in June of 1839 by
President Martin Van Buren.
4. As written within Billy Caldwell's land patent, no parcels of land from his reserve could  be conveyed or  
leased without the written approval of a President of the United States.
5. Lands within Billy Caldwell's reserve not given written approval by a President of
the United States were to be reserved for his heirs forever (or until legally sold off by
6. As documented, the northern 160 acres of Billy Caldwell's 1600 acre reserve was never sanctioned for sale by a President of the United States.  More a deed of ownership was also never established by its original possessor William De Camp circa 1834 for the NW 80 acres.  Instead, De Camp flipped the northwest 80 acres to Francis Allyn, who did not secure a warranty deed from the county until 1843. That was 2 years after Billy Caldwell's death, and no course of action to locate heirs occurred.  Hence, an illegal title on the northwest 80 acres was established and has existed ever since.  For the record, a warranty deed is a deed that fully warrants and promises that the title being transferred is fully valid and free of encumbrances.  As described above this was not at all the case in 1843.
7. Contrary to what history has written, Billy Caldwell did have a son (Peymo) who survived into adulthood.  Peymo had a wife and several children.  They were members of the Kansas Pottawatomie and Kickapoo.

Illustrations For Your Educational Viewing 

This drawing is of Billy Caldwell's framed house. It once stood on John Kinzie's property (Hardscrabble), north of his home.  Caldwell's house was built in 1828.  It has historically been written the house was built for him by the U.S. Government for services rendered during the Prairie du Chien Treaty of 1829.  This is false as no documentation from the federal government records exist to support this claim. Added, the house was built one year prior to the treaty negotiations and Caldwell did not know he would be involved with them until the time of.  He more than likely built it himself with his own money.
Miles V. Hartongction Collection, Plainfield Historical Society, idaillinois.org


Contrary to what many local residents believe, Billy Caldwell never lived on his reserve off the Chicago River. The rumored site was to have been on the east side of the river just north of Devon Ave, at the top of a hill.  This tale was first told by the Cook County Forest Preserve in their 1918 publication. It was later embellished by Laura Adams of Edgebrook in a 1953 publication.  Interestingly, as documented in the FPD's 1921 publication, the site was actually a camping ground that contained wells and toilets.  Thus, this is the reason why several earthen pits exist there today.  Formal investigations conducted years ago also supported this truth. The above FPD map from 1921 details the camping ground and structures.  As a side note, Billy Caldwell turned over the reserve to Arthur Bronson in the early 1830's in order to sell it off.  The previously described piece of land was sold to Philo Carpenter in 1833.  That being stated, Caldwell would not have moved back onto it in 1834. 

Forest Preserves of Cook County, 1918.


Archives, Edgebrook Historical Society, Edgebrook, Illinois.

The "Old Treaty Elm" stood at the intersection of Rogers and Kilbourn Avenues until 1933.  In 1937 a bronze plaque was erected in its absence.  On the bronze plaque was engraved "site of the Indian Treaty of Chicago in 1835".  Unfortunately, the information was wrong, as the Treaty of Chicago took place (and was signed) at Fort Dearborn in 1833.  More, it is not where Billy Caldwell and his band of followers received annuities before moving west in 1835.  The transaction as clearly documented took place near the Des Plaines River under the guidance of U. S. Army Captain J B F Russell in May of 1835.  

In reality, the Elm was simply a point of reference used during the surveying of Caldwell's 1600 acre reserve in 1836 (north 66 degrees of the intersection of section 3 & 10).  The Elm sat on the southern boundary of the reserve.  It divided the reserve into two equal halves (Caldwell and Rogers Avenues).  The fact being proven through Billy Caldwell's land patent of 1839.  Peter T. Gayford discovered this lost truth in May of 2012. 

"Old Treaty Elm" specutively gained its nickname because Caldwell's Reserve was  born out of the 1829 Prairie du Chien Treaty. 

Fact, trees used in the surveying of early American lands were called witness trees.  Hence, the "Old Treaty Elm" was a witness tree.

Billy Caldwell Land Patent, Department of the Interior, Virginia.  


In 1836, the Caldwell Reserve was officially surveyed.  It is currently thought this White Elm was used as a reference point in the surveying of the reserve (if not earlier when other surveys took place).  Trees used in the surveying of wilderness lands during the early history of America were called "Wittness Trees". The tree sits next to a boundary line of the reserve pointing toward the it.  Another theory is that it may be a Native American Marker tree.  Investigations are still occurring to determine what it is.  Photos do not accurately depict its size (larger than seen here).

Photographs, Peter T. Gayford, 2014.

(LEFT) Native American Marker Tree located within the boundaries of the Caldwell Reserve.  This is a Black Walnut which could bewell over two hundred years of age. 
The end was sawed off at some point.

Photograph, Peter T. Gayford, 2014.
(RIGHT) The famous Deer Tree.  The magnificent Native American Marker Tree stood in the Old Edgebrook neighborhood until the early 1970's.  

Archives, Edgebrook Historical Society, Edgebrook, Illinois.

First paragraph of Billy Caldwell's 1839 land patent for his Chicago River reserve.  The original land patent is held by the Department of the Interior, in Virginia. The entire patent is 5 pages in length.  A photocopy of it is held by the Edgebrook Historical Society.  

Billy Caldwell never saw his land patent as he was west of the Mississippi River in 1839 with his people.  Instead, it was deposited with the Cook County Recorder in 1840.     At the same time a second copy was provided to Arthur Bronson.  Bronson's rare copy is still available for viewing at the Chicago History Museum.  The copy placed with Cook County's Recorder was destroyed in the Chicago Fire (1870).

In 1842 an Indenture/Partition was deposited with the Recorder of Deeds. It outlined all grantees of Caldwell's Reserve.  A copy of this partition is available at the Chicago History Museum in the Arthur Bronson Collection. Concerns surrounding who actually owned the northwest 80 acres of Caldwell's Reserve exist in its written language as different persons are identified in separate sections. Again, W. De Camp never  established a deed of purchase in 1833. He instead flipped his 80 acres to a Francis Allyn.  After doing so, De Camp ordered Allyn to get a deed from Billy Caldwell. Allyn did not secure a deed until 1843.  That was 2 years after Billy Caldwell's death.  This act of land sharking combined with not getting an approval of sale from the President of the United States established an imperfect title. The imperfect title exist today still.

Billy Caldwell Land Patent, Department of the Interior, Virginia.  
Arthur Bronson Collection, Billy Caldwell, File 70, Chicago History Museum, Chicago.
Property Insights, Ante Fire Ledger, Reserves S & H, 307, Block 6.

Left: Survey map of the Caldwell Reserve from 1836 (when it was first surveyed).  Right: Later survey map showing its conveyances.  The map has an acknowledged mistake upon it by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Department.  The northwest 80 acres was never granted written approval for sale by a president.

Billy Caldwell Reserve 422A Papers, U. S. National Archives, College Park, MD.


1839 plat of Billy Caldwell Reserve.  The plat is from the second survey of the reserve.  It was accepted as the official survey of the reserve.

Billy Caldwell Reserve 422A Papers, U. S. National Archives, College Park, MD. 


Aerial photograph of the northwest 80 acres (Billy Caldwell Reserve). 

Archives, Edgebrook Historical Society, Edgebrook, Illinois.

First page of Arthur Bronson's deed (1833 land purchase in the Caldwell Reserve).  The total amount of land he bought from Billy Caldwell was 720 acre at a price of $900.  The deed was endorsed by President Martin Van Buren and is located at the National Archives.  A copy of it and all other deeds have been donated to the  Edgebrook Historical Society in Old Edgebrook, Chicago.

Miscellaneous Deeds, U. S. National Archives, College Park, MD.



The case made its way to the Supreme Court and supported U S Presidents' power to retroactively approve land conveyances made for Indian Reserves (a requirement written into Indian land patents).  Within Cook County alone six Reserves were created.  They included the Claud Laframboise, Alexander Robinson, Billy Caldwell, Jane Mirandau, Victoire Pothier, and Archange Ouilmette Reserves.  The northwest 80 acres of Billy Caldwell's Reserve was never affected by this case.  It was never  successfully conveyed by Billy Caldwell or his surviving heir Peymo.

Pickering v. Lomax, https://supreme.justia.com/, accessed 2011.


A typed copy of an 1816 letter by Billy Caldwell. In it, he expressed  his life long desire for a boundary line between the 
Indians and Americans.  The original four page  letter is housed at the Ontario Archives in Canada.

Caldwell to Claus, 1816, William C. Caldwell fonds, Library and Archives Canada, Ontario, Canada.



Discovered in 2012 was Billy Caldwell's land petition to the British Government.  This petition was submitted and accepted in 1818, and allowed Billy to secure 500 acres of land in Upper CanadaThis land was granted to him as a result of his services to the Crown during the War of 1812.

Billy Caldwell Land Petition, 1818, Upper Canada Land Petitions, “C” Bundle 11, Pt. 3, 1818-1819, Library and Archives Canada, Ontario, Canada.


Title to land in the Harwich District.  The land was granted to William Caldwell Sr. in August of 1803.  It consisted of roughly 200 acres.   Billy Caldwell inherited it through his father's Last Will and Testament.  As communicated by a descendant of William Caldwell Sr.'s son William (March 2012), this land was sold off as one parcel by Billy Caldwell. 

William Caldwell, Last Will and Testament, March 9, 1822, William Caldwell Essex County, Archives of Ontario, Ontario, Canada.


Carl A. Dilg, “Blue Island and Chicago History” (1903), Charles Dilg Collection, Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL.

Historically debated has been Billy Caldwell's role in the Fort Dearborn Battle.  Around 1900 local historian Charles Dilg conducted several interviews with Chief Alexander Robinson's daughter Mary (a highly intelligent individual) which revealed an alternate version.  Unfortunately, historian and author Milo Milton Quaife's rejection of Dilg's work (Chicago and the Old Northwest, 1913) led to the dismissal of Mary's portrayal.  Until recent years, Juliette Kinzie's Massacre at Fort Dearborn (1836) tale reigned supreme in popularity.  The question is why?  Was this the result of politics, bias, or pure ignorance?  A question for a future researcher to uncover. 

Fact, a descendant of Juliette Kinzie several years ago admitted the tale was embellished.

Where Juliette Kinzie's Massacre at Fort Dearborn (1836) portrayal was fictitious in nature (most likely geared toward the emerging American Gothic Fiction market), Dilg's interviews were not.  Julliette's tale was written from the molded memories of her relatives some 20 years later (second hand!).   Further, unless someone recorded the event word for word her use of exact quotes and details would not have been possible to write.  Thus, her work is a finely spun tale which many authors and researchers have also concluded. 

To date, the author has uncovered hundreds of letters never before known to exist. 
 None of these or other known letters provide information related to Juliette's version.   Simply put, her work is an embellished tale geared toward the American Gothic Fiction movement of the time.

Fact, the Gothic Fiction market was huge during the 1820-1850's in Europe and America (i.e. Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, Irving, Dickens, Poe, etc.). 

It is Peter T. Gayford researched based view that Mary Robinson's version is correct.
Ma-Sa-Qua's attempt to secure Billy Caldwell's final annuity payment.  Ma-Sa-Qua (Saqua Legrand) was Billy Caldwell's final wife.  Peymo Caldwell was their birth son. The letter is from June 5, 1843.  Ma-Sa-Qua passed during the winter of 1843-1844, after being plunged into a life of poverty.  

Richard S. Elliott to D.D. Mitchell, June 5, 1843, Kansas Historical Society.
Naturalization and Power of Attorney Documents for Billy Caldwell's only surviving son Pe-y-mo.  Pe-y-mo who was illiterate and  lived his days with different tribes,  did have a family of his own.  Thus, it is very likely that descendants of  Billy Caldwell live today.

Samuel V. Niles to Francis A. Walker, November 8, 1872, Billy Caldwell Reserve 422A Papers, U. S. National Archives, College Park, MD.
Samuel V. Niles, April 7, 1872, Power of Attorney for Pawymo Colwell, Billy Caldwell Reserve 422A Papers, U. S. National Archives, College Park, MD. 

Other Cook County, Illinois Reserves Researched by Peter T. Gayford

More Historic Information Available At...

1.  Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Cook County Forest Preserve Preservation Project (2013).
The donated collection contains information on historical and Native American sites in the Cook County  Forest Preserve System.  Over a period of approximately 13 years in-depth analysis of all preserves was  conducted by Peter T Gayford. There are roughly 500 pages in the collection.  It is being used as a reference by  the ISAS for the development of the CCFD's preservation plan and other projects.  A current version of this manuscript was donated to the Park Ridge Historical Society in 2016.
2. The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois houses the Peter T. Gayford Collection (2010). 
The collection consists of historical NARA files, maps, letters, land patents, and other information related to Billy Caldwell and his reserve.  Also apart of this collection, are historical NARA files and documents related to the reserves of Alexander Robinson, Claud LaFramboise, Victoire Pothier, Jane Mirandau, and Archange Wilmette. 
This complete collection is the only one of its kind anywhere, and thus a true treasure chest of local historical information for all interested researchers.  Also included are Peter T. Gayford's written works on Billy Caldwell, Alexander Robinson, and Archange Ouilmette.
3.  The Old Edgebrook Historical Society in Chicago, Illinois houses the Billy Caldwell Collection. 
This 1000 plus document collection consists of NARA files, maps, letters, land patent, and more. This information was donated to the society by Peter T. Gayford in 2011.

4.    Several community specific historical collections have been made at other organizations.  
These organizations include the Franklin Park Public Library (Laframboise Collection), Niles Historical Society  (Pothier Collection), Norwood Park Historical Society (Mirandau Collection), Wilmette Historical Society  (Ouilmette Collection), and Winnetka Historical Society (Albert Scharf Collection).  These collections were donated to these institutions by Peter T. Gayford in the Fall of 2011.



1. Cited by Geoffrey Baer on Chicago Tonight (11/19/2012)
2. This Website is linked to WTTW's  Ask Geoffrey Baer's Chicago History Webpage.

1.  Self Online Publication, 2013, 2016  

2. The Chicago History Journal
     July 2011

3. Wikipedia

     Chief Billy Caldwell


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