Horrifying Illinois: How Starved Rock State Park Got Its Name
When you've lived in a state for your entire life, it's sometimes jarring to find out something about its history that you had absolutely no idea about.
My family and I had been discussing cool spots for day trips here in Illinois, rather than taking a week to vacation in just one spot. There's certainly no shortage of must-see attractions, and I was taking my time checking out a few different possibilities when I stumbled upon some information that was pretty shocking to me.
For The Uninitiated, Let's Start Out With "What Is Starved Rock?"
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) describes Starved Rock State Park as a wilderness area on the Illinois River known for its steep sandstone canyons formed by glacial meltwater. One of Starved Rock's many highlights is a 125 foot high sandstone butte.
According to everything that I've researched, Starved Rock has been home to humans since at least 8000 BC. The area was "discovered" by French explorers in 1673, and the French even built a fort they called Fort St. Louis atop the butte in 1682, only to abandon it in the early 1700s before moving to what is now Peoria.
Let's Get To The Gruesome Details That Brought About The Name "Starved Rock"
I've never really given a thought to why it's called Starved Rock. Up until yesterday when I came across the real story, I would have guessed that it's because the rock is somewhat skinny looking.
Like many of my guesses, that would be wildly wrong.
Starved Rock received its name for an event that allegedly took place there about 1770. According to Native American tradition, some Peoria Indians who came under attack by a war party of Potawatomi Indians suffered starvation when trapped on the rock without food or water.
Wait...It Gets Worse. A Lot Worse.
Several other published accounts say that Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe was murdered by an Illinois tribe member during a trip to what is now southern Illinois. Pontiac's tribe, along with another allied tribe, the Potawatomi, took their revenge by attacking the Illinois tribe. The Illinois sought refuge at the top of Starved Rock, where those who weren't killed by the Ottawa and Potawatomi starved to death while under siege.
A few days later, traveling traders en route to Canada stopped to see why flocks of buzzards were circling the rock. On approaching the top, the traders were sickened by the numbers of decaying bodies. The stench was so offensive that the traders left and took with them the legend of the dead.