Chasing Billy Caldwell
Sarah Kanouse


















Thomas "Billy" Caldwell / Sauganash (1780-1841) British Indian Department official / entrepreneur / Potawatomi chief; born March 17 (?) 1780 near Fort Niagara (Canada) to William Caldwell and an Mohawk woman; abandoned by his father and spent his early years with his mother's tribe; sent to his father's Amherstburg estate ca. 1790 to be trained to manage the plantation; entered the fur trade in the US 1797; ca. 1803 became clerk of the Forsyth and Kinzie trading interests at Fort Dearborn (Chicago); claimed to have saved the Kinzie family during the Fort Dearborn massacre in 1812; joined the British Indian Department to fight against the Americans in the War of 1812; assembled a list of Potawatomi casualties in the Battle of Amherstburg on February 5, 1816; discharged for incompetence in October, 1816; disinherited by his father in 1818; returned to Chicago in 1820 and resumed work for the Kinzie, Forsyth, and Wolcott families; became Justice of the Peace in 1825; appointed Potawatomi chief by the American government for the purposes of treaty negotiation in 1829; received an estate of 2 1/2 sections along the north branch of the Chicago River and a government-built frame house at the corner of State and Chicago; Chicago's first hotel "The Sauganash" opened in 1831 at Lake and Market (Wacker); in 1833, signed a petition to open a Catholic church in Chicago; negotiated the Treaty of Chicago of 1833, which ceded the remaining Potawatomi lands in Illinois to the Americans; in the treaty, arranged a grant of $5000 for himself, a stipend of $400/year, and a grant of $600 for his children; the Kinzie family received $18,466 and the Forsyths $15,700 under the treaty; in 1837 convinced the Potawatomi to forfeit payment for lands if they did not voluntarily relocate; sold his land and relocated with the tribe to Council Bluffs, Iowa; resisted additional attempts to move the Potawatomi to Kansas; died of cholera September 27, 1841; the Potawatomi petitioned the US to officially recognize them as "The Prairie Indians of Caldwell's Band of Potawatomis." Caldwell's assumed Indian name, Sauganash, translates as "The Englishman."



___. Addresses delivered at the annual meeting of the Chicago Historical Society, November 19, 1868. Chicago: Fergus Printing, 1877.
___. "Document 5." Illinois and Michigan Canal Teaching Package. Illinois State Archives.
___. Treaty of Chicago, September 26, 1833.
Clifton, James A. "Billy Caldwell's Exile in Early Chicago." Chicago History. Winter 1977-1978 (Vol. 6 No. 4) p. 218-228.
___. "Merchant, Soldier, Broker, Chief: a Corrected Obituary of Billy Caldwell." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. August 1978 p.185-210.
Curnoe, Greg. Deeds/Nations Directory of First Nations Individuals in South-Western Ontario 1750 - 1850.
Jensen, George Peter. Historic Chicago Sites. Chicago: Creative Enterprises, 1953.
Morris, Patrick. "Indian Boundary Maps." Manuscript, 3 March 1999.
Snyder, Frank Miles. Real estate map of Chicago and suburbs. Chicago: Snyder, 1891.
United States General Land Office. Fractional township 41 north, range 13 east of the 3rd principal meridian. Manuscript, 24 June 1840.
Vogel, Vincent. Indian Place Names in Illinois. Springfield, IL: The Illinois State Historical Society, 1963.
Formal inspiration provided by Nicholas Brown and Greg Curnoe's Deeds/Nations.