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History of Pokanoka

Pokanoka, The Wife…

It is said that while Shabbona, an Ottawa Indian by birth, was on a hunting expedition from his native Ohio Territory, he visited the Potawatomi living near the southern tip of Lake Michigan. This visit resulted in his marriage to Chief Spotka’s daughter, Pokanoka (Pa-Kwuk-no-quah). After Chief Spotka’s death, Shabbona became Chief of the Potawatomi.

After Shabbona’s death, Pokanoka and two of her daughters, came back to their old home at Shabbona Grove. On July 5, 1864 , they took quiet possession of a thicket near their old home. Soon after this, on November 30,1864 , while crossing the Mazon Creek, in Grundy County , with her grandchild, they were thrown from the wagon and both drowned. Pokanoka always rode in a cart because she was too heavy to ride on a horse (she weighed over 300 pounds). Pokanoka and the grandchild are buried next to Shabbona in Evergreen Cemetery , Morris , Il.

The courtship and marriage of the Indians was extremely simple. If a Brave fancied a certain Indian Womanuaw, he would send word that he would visit her wigwam on a certain night. He would enter the wigwam and stir the embers of the fire and add a bit of wood. If the Indian Womanuaw remained wrapped in her blanket, he was rejected and departed without more ado. If she got up and blew out the torch, he was accepted and they were man and wife thereafter.

Shabbona and Pokanoka spent much of their early marriage alternating between Paw Paw Grove and Shabbona Grove. The Paw Paw grove got its name from the abundance of Paw Paw apple trees found there, and which still grow there today. This fruit is small, juicy and luscious. It is found nowhere else in this vicinity. They also made sugar from Maple trees using the backs of turtles as sap buckets. They would boil the syrup and add rabbits or woodchucks. Game was plentiful. Deer, prairie wolfs, wild cats and an occasional bear, along with wild turkeys, geese, ducks and prairie chickens were the main game.

At a ball in Ottawa, Sheriff George Walker asked Chief Shabbona to choose the most beautiful lady present to preside as Queen of the Ball. Chief Shabbona accepted this challenge. He proceeded by asking each lady to stand while he critiqued her. Once he finished with the ladies, he walked over to his large wife and said “Much big, heap prettiest squaw”, and Pokanoka was named Queen of the Ball.

Two sons and five daughters were born to Pokanoka and Chief Shabbona. The boys were named Smoke and Wynonwy. Smoke lived as a white man and was given a Christian burial in Iowa and Wynonwy lived with the Indians. The daughter’s names were: Sebequay (River Woman), Waywash (Bad Girl), Mkosiqhah (Bear Woman), Motowayquah (Maude), and Mary. Mary, was Shabbona’s favorite and Sebequay, was the most beautiful.

It is said that Shabbona offered a bushel of silver dollars to any white man who would marry his most beautiful daughter, Sebequay. However, onevisit at meal time may have frightened any eligible young man. Any bird or small animal of the prairie might be roasted or boiled with all claws, feathers, fur, etc. intact. Then it was torn apart and eaten. The sight of the beautiful Sebequay devouring food in such a fashion might have seemed repulsive to any white man not used to the Indian culture.

After Shabbona’s death, Pokanoka and two of her daughters came back to their old home at Shabbona Grove. On July 5, 1864, they took quiet possession of a thicket near their old home. Soon after this, on November 30, 1864, while crossing the Mazon Creek, in Grundy County, with her grandchild, they were mysteriously thrown from the wagon and both drowned. Pokanoka always rode in a cart because she was too heavy to ride on a horse (she weighed over 300 pounds). Pokanoka and the grandchild are buried next to Shabbona in Evergreen Cemetery, Morris, IL.

Mrs. William Dewar of Morris related Pokanoka’s last day in an interview for the Sycamore True Republican Newspaper on November 24, 1909. “On a trip to Sam Holderman’s farm for flour, vegetables and meat, Pokanoka met her death. Sam was very kind to them, always loading their wagon. Her ponies stopped at our place. We lived on the Ed Lott place then. My father went and put the ponies back on the road again for her and gave her the lines. She started away, sitting in the bottom of the wagon. We thought she would be alright. She had her little granddaughter with her. This was in the evening”.

“The next morning we were going to the field to husk corn and just before we drove onto Pine Bluff bridge, we discovered her lying on her face in just enough water to reach her ears. A little further down stream was her granddaughter. Both had drowned. Their ponies were found near by, feeding in the woods”.

All of Shabbona’s people who remained moved out west, after the death of Pokanoka.

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