This website has been created by historical researcher Peter T. Gayford to support his research on Chief Billy Caldwell. Mr. Gayford has a Master of Library and Information Science degree, and is currently a Trustee for the Edgebrook Historical Society in Chicago, IL. Since 2004, he has amassed over 2,000 primary documents from institutions across America, Canada, and England. The majority of which are unknown to researchers. Added, he has collaborated with Billy Caldwell's descendants in Canada, and members of several Native American communities. As a result of these efforts, he has been able to bring a great deal of transparency to this once clouded subject. The following site provides a wealth of educational information for all interested persons. Attached is an email address if you need more primary information or a release of copyright from the author. Happy researching!!!
****SITE UPDATE DECEMBER 2014****
IN THE NEWS
*In May of 2015 the Council Bluff Historical Society and City Council will commemorate Billy Caldwell's grave with a new granite memorial at St. Joseph's Cemetery (Council Bluffs/Traders Point, IA). For more information visit the Council Bluff Historical Society Website or Council Bluff City Council Website. Contact information is available.
A printable PDF is available at the bottom of this site also.
1. As written in his own words, March 17, 1782 was his date of birth. On March 17, 2015 he will be 233!
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 legally documented, the northwest 80 acres of Billy Caldwell's reserve was never
conveyed with an endorsed approval of a President of the United States.
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
8. It is hypothesized Peymo died between 1895 and 1900. That he was buried in a Kickapoo
cemetery near Leavenworth, Kansas. No records exist to confirm this theory.
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. The illustration comes from the 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.
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.
The "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.
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).
(LEFT) Native American Marker Tree located within the boundaries of the Caldwell Reserve. This is a Black Walnut which could be well over two hundred years of age. The end was sawed off at some point. (RIGHT) The famous Deer Tree. The magnificent Native American Marker Tree stood in the Old Edgebrook neighborhood until the early 1970's.
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 copy is held in the archives of the Edgebrook Historical Society.
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.
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.
Aerial photograph of the northwest 80 acres (Billy Caldwell Reserve).
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.
PICKERING v. LOMAX (1899)
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.
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.
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 Canada. This land was granted to him as a result of his services to the Crown during the War of 1812.
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.
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.
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.
More Historic Information Available At...
1. The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois houses the Peter T. Gayford Collection (2010).
This 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
2. The Old Edgebrook Historical Society in Chicago, Illinois houses the
Billy Caldwell Collection.
This 2000 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.
3. 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. Chief Billy Caldwell, His Chicago Reserve, and Bloodline: A 21st Century Biography
Ebook Publication - Iron Gates Production
2. The Chicago History Journal
Chief Billy Caldwell
Archange Ouilmette Reserve: https://sites.google.com/site/archangeouilmettehistory/
Chief Alexander Robinson History and Reserve: https://sites.google.com/site/chiefalexanderrobinsonhistory/
Claud Laframboise Reserve: /site/claudlaframboisereservehistory/
Have a history question for the author? Use the following email address.
Responses to your questions will occur within a day or two.
Legal Copyright Notification
Nothing on or attached to this webpage may be used for personal or corporate gain without the expressed
handwritten consent of Peter T. Gayford (author). Information and images may only be used for
educational purposes if cited back to the author correctly.