Former Oregon, Ill., resident reprints book about Black Hawk

LAWRENCE, Kan.—Former Oregon, Ill., resident Kevin Groenhagen has published a reprint of Benjamin Drake’s The Great Indian Chief of the West: Or Life and Adventures of Black Hawk in conjunction with the 175th anniversary of the Black Hawk War of 1832.

First published in 1838, Drake’s book offers detailed accounts of Black Hawk and the war named after him. Drake also offers a sympathetic examination of the Sac and Fox tribes, their struggles in the face of the white man’s expansion into northwest Illinois, and their plight after the defeat of Black Hawk.

“Having grown up in Oregon, I, like every resident, am quite familiar with the name Black Hawk,” Groenhagen said. “The town’s most famous landmark is Lorado Taft’s 48-foot-tall statue, which is commonly known as the Black Hawk Statue. Those of us who joined the Boy Scouts belonged to the Blackhawk Area Council. Our high school yearbook was called the Little Black-hawk. An Internet search finds several pages of area businesses named after Black Hawk. The Blackhawks play hockey in Chicago, the Hawks (formerly the Tri-City Blackhawks of Moline, Ill., Rock Island, Ill. and Davenport, Iowa) play basketball in Atlanta, and numerous high school teams have Black Hawk as their namesake.”

“However, while the name Black Hawk is popular in the Rock River Valley area,” Groenhagen continued, “few know much about the man, the war named after him, or just how important that war was in relation to the future expansion of the United States. Little, if any, time was devoted to the subject when I was in school in Oregon. Drake’s book does an excellent job of teaching readers about the importance of Black Hawk.”

Groenhagen’s reprint of The Great Indian Chief of the West is based on the 1856 edition of Drake’s book, which included a dozen woodcut illustrations. Groenhagen reset the copy, and then added a new editor’s introduction, illustrations from other sources, several recent photos, and a new and more comprehensive index.

“I also changed the name slightly,” Groenhagen said. “In 1838, Illinois was still part of the frontier and considered the ‘West.’ That was a year before the term ‘manifest destiny’ was coined and before inventions such as John Deere’s steel plow and Joseph Glidden’s barbed wire made it possible for homesteaders to settle on land west of the Mississippi. I thought the title Black Hawk: The Great Indian Chief of the West would give potential readers a better idea of what the book is about.”

Groenhagen’s reprint (ISBN: 978-1-4303-0704-4) is available as a 196-page paperback book at Copies can also be ordered directly from Groenhagen. Call (785) 841-9417 or e-mail for more details.

from the March 21-28, 2007, issue

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