This webpage has been created by historical researcher Peter T. Gayford. Mr. Gayford has a masters degree in Library and Information Science from Dominican University (River Forest, IL). He currently is the archivist for the Edgebrook Historical Society, which is located on the northwest side of Chicago. For the past nine years, Mr. Gayford has been researching and rewriting the history of Billy Caldwell. Through his journey he has amassed a collection of over 1,000 documents, worked with descendants of Billy Caldwell, and published two works on him. All of Mr. Gayford's research on Billy Caldwell and other subjects is available through The Newberry Library, and Edgebrook Historical Society.
*More information added in December of 2013*
Now available here at no cost Chief Billy Caldwell, His Chicago River Reserve, and Bloodline: A 21st Century Biography. Read about this fascinating historical topic and its impact today.
To access, simply scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the attached file.
1. Through the 1829 Prairie du Chien treaty, Billy Caldwell recieved a 1600 acre reserve on
the Chicago River.
2. Billy Caldwell's land patent for his 1600 acre reserve was issued in June of 1839 by
President Martin Van Buren.
3. 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.
4. 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
5. 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.
6. Contrary to what history has written, Billy Caldwell did have a son (Peymo Caldwell) who survived into
adulthood. Peymo, also had a family of his own. Nothing is known of his children lives thus far.
7. Although it is hypothesized that Peymo died around 1900 in Kansas and was buried in a Kickapoo cemetery
(perhaps near Leavenworth), there are no records or evidences to support this. As communicated by the Brown
County Historical Society, only a few Kickapoo cemeteries have been formally inventoried due to the religious
beliefs of local Native Americans. Thus at present it is not known where he rests.
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 to sell off. Being that the above described section of land was sold off in 1833 to Philo Carpenter, Caldwell would not have been able to move back onto it in 1834 with his new wife.
Many stories have been told over the years as to what the true significance of Sauganash's "Old Treaty Elm" was. This tree which stood until 1933, even had a memorial placed on its spot in 1937, suggesting it was the "site of the Indian Treaty of Chicago in 1835". This however (as well as all other stories) is incorrect, 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. This transaction as documented occurred off the Des Plaines River under the guidance of U. S. Army Captain J B F Russell in May of 1835.
In regards to this Elm tree's true significance, it was simply a point of reference used when the Caldwell Reserve was being surveyed in 1836 (north 66 degrees of the intersection of section 3 & 10). This Elm sat on the southern boundary of the reserve and divided it into two equal halves (Caldwell and Rogers Avenues). This fact being proven through Billy Caldwell's land patent of 1839. Peter Gayford discovered this lost truth in May of 2012. The reason for why this Elm gained the name of "Old Treaty Elm," was likely because Caldwell's Reserve was created out of the 1829 Prairie du Chien Treaty. Another term used for surveying trees was "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". This tree sits next to a boundary line of the reserve pointing toward the it. It is not believed to be a Native American Trail Tree. Investigations are still occurring to determine what it is. Photos do not accurately depict its size.
(LEFT) Likely 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. This 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 from 1836. This is from when the reserve was first surveyed. Right: Later survey map showing land conveyances. This map has an acknowledged mistake upon it by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Department. This being the northwest 80 acres, which was never given written approval for sale by a president.
1839 plat of Billy Caldwell Reserve. This plat is from when the second survey of the reserve was completed. This was viewed as the official survey of the reserve.
Aerial photograph of the northwest 80 acres in Billy Caldwell's reserve.
First page of Arthur Bronson's deed for land purchased within the Caldwell Reserve in 1833. The total amount of land he bought from Billy Caldwell was 720 acre, at a price of $900. This deed, which was endorsed by President Martin Van Buren is located at the National Archives. A copy of it, along with other deeds pertaining to this reserve's history, have been donated to the Old Edgebrook Historical Society in NW Chicago.
PICKERING v. LOMAX (1899)
This case, which made its way to the Supreme Court, supported United States Presidents' power to retroactively approve conveyances made for the lands of "Indian Reserves". This approval being a requirement of recipients' land patents, which stemmed from the 1829 Prairie du Chien Treaty. Within Cook County alone six Reserves were created. These included the Claud Laframboise, Alexander Robinson, Billy Caldwell, Jane Mirandau, Victoire Pothier, and Archange Ouilimette Reserves. To date, the "Northwest 80 Acres" of the Billy Caldwell Reserve was never affected by this case. This fact, being the result of it never having been successfully conveyed by Billy Caldwell or his surviving heir Peymo.
An early typed copy of Billy Caldwell's original 1816 letter, in which he expresses his life long desire for a boundary line between the Indians and Americans. This and his original four page handwritten letter from 1816 are housed at the Ontario Archives in Canada.
Discovered in 2012 for the first time ever 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 the land in Harwich District, given to William Caldwell Sr. in August of 1803. This tract consisting of approximately 200 acres was given to Billy Caldwell in his father's Last Willand Testament. As communicated by a descendant of William Caldwell's son William (March 2012), this land was sold off as one parcel by Billy Caldwell.
Although Billy Caldwell's role in the Fort Dearborn Massacre has been one of historical debate, Charles Dilg's interviews of Alexander Robinson's daughter Mary (who was a brilliant woman) provides the most grounded logical evidences for what it was. Charles Dilg was a local historian/archaeologist, whose work on Native American cultures of the Chicago Region is currently housed at the Chicago History Museum. Whereas Juliette Kinzie's Massacre at Fort Dearborn tale (1836) was fictitious in nature, and possibly geared toward the emerging Fiction/American Gothic Fiction market of its time, Dilg's experiences were not. Added, her tale was written from the molded memories of her relatives, and the first mention of Caldwell's involvement in the event. Further, unless someone was recording the actual event word for word her use of exact quotes and details would not have been possible to write. Thus, her work is likely a finely spun tale which other writers 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 Kinzie's version. As such, her tale is accepted as being fictitious geared toward the selling of her book.
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. This letter is from June 5, 1843. She passed during thewinter of 1843-1844, after speculatively 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.
2. 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 this 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. Iron Gate Productions
Chief Billy Caldwell, His Chicago Reserve, and Bloodline: A 21st Century Biography
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/
Jane Mirandau and Victoire Porthier Reserves: /site/pothierandmirandareservesccfpd/
Claud Laframboise Reserve: /site/claudlaframboisereservehistory/
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