In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act. Intended largely to move native peoples who still resided in the southeastern states, the Act authorized the president to grant lands west of the Mississippi River to tribes who agreed to give up their homelands.
The Prairie Band website states that “the policy revolved around a dream that the Indian ‘problem’ could be eliminated forever by persuading the eastern Indians to exchange their lands for territory west of the Mississippi. The exchange would leave the area between the Appalachians and the ‘Father of Waters’ free for white exploitation and settlement.”
As part of this goal, the United States government concluded a series of treaties with the Potawatomi that granted in some cases reservations east of the Mississippi where Potawatomi could remain. One of these treaties, signed at Camp Tippecanoe in Indiana in 1832, dealt with lands extending southward from Chicago to the Kankakee River.
Of the two dozen reservations created by the treaty, one was granted to Joseph Laughton and another to Ce-na-ge-wine. Research by the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Center for Archaeology Investigations for An Archaeological Survey of the Laughton and Ce-Na-Ge-Wine Reserves, commissioned by the Forest Preserve District of Will County, discovered that Joseph Laughton was the mixed blood son of an Anglo-American fur trader, David Laughton, and a Potawatomi named Wais-ke-shaw, the daughter of a locally famed chief, Shaw-was-nas-see. According to this research, Joseph Laughton was only six years old at the time the reservations were established and, in actuality, the land was granted to his father. Ce-na-ge-wine was the son and successor to Potawatomi tribal leader Senachewine the Elder. Each parcel granted would be located at Twelve Mile Grove, or Na-be-na-qui-nong. This land consisted of a total of 1,280 acres.
The History of Wilton, Illinois, 1907 also reports on the Potawatomi methods in which small children who had died were entombed. “Another way of disposing of the bodies of small children that had died was to build a sort of nest of sticks up in the crotch of some large tree, some distance from the ground, and there place the body. It was then covered and the covering fastened on with strips of bark. When the first settlers came to the country, those ‘nests’ were often seen in the trees, looking much like large squirrel nests of the present day.”
One of the early settlers at Twelve Mile Grove was a notorious figure, Rueben Putnam, who was known as “Old Put.”
“Putman had a reputation of being a horse thief, a cattle, pig and sheep thief, and a robber of all kinds of goods on which he could lay hands,” according to the History of Will County, 1878. It was widely believed that Old Put had excavated “an underground stable in which he concealed his ill-gotten gains, and in which he accommodated members of a then numerous gang of horse-thieves that infested the country. . . .Suits numerous had been brought against him; indictments had been procured; and all legal measures had been tried to bring him to justice, but always to the defeat of those instituting such proceedings.”