Robinson Woods Indian Burial Grounds

Robinson Woods Indian Burial Grounds

East River Road at Lawrence Avenue

Norridge, IL.  60656


Alexander Robinson was the English surname of Chee-chee-pin-quay, Chief of the Pottawatomies, Chippewa and Ottawa Nation of Indians.  The name means “blinking eyes” and was bestowed upon him because of a facial mannerism of tic.  Robinson, like Billy Caldwell, was a half-breed.  Hurlbut, in Chicago Antiquities cites one account relating that he was the son of an Ottawan woman (whose father was a Frenchman) and a British officer at Mackinac in 1762. 

In 1866 while being questioned by secretary of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, Draper, Alexander Robinson said he was a son of an Ottawan woman and a Scotch trader in 1789.

On the rhyolite boulder marking the original graves, he was said to have died April 22, 1872, aged 110!  Even Robinson himself did not know when or where he was born.

On September 28, 1826, although he already had a childless Indian wife, he was married by John Kinzie to Catherine (Cateche) Chevalier, daughter of Francois Chevalier, a chief in the confederacy of the Three Fires.

Robinson was given this large tract of land, later to be named Robinson Woods, in deep appreciation for the consistently friendly services to the Americans and their influence as loyal intermediaries with the Indians before, during and after the Fort Dearborn massacre.  Billy Caldwell, Victoire Pothier, Jane Miranda and the wife of LaGramboise stood by the John Kinzie family during the massacre and it was Caldwell who saved their lives.  Afterward, he and Robinson conveyed the Kinzies, Capt. and Mrs. Heald and a few other survivors around the lake in boats to St. Joseph, Michigan.

By the terms of the treaty negotiated with the Sauk, Fox, Sioux and the “Three Fires” (the allied Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi) at Prairie du Chien on July 29, 1829, grants of land were made to several members.  These included:

“To Claude LaGramboise, one section of land on the Riviere Aux Pleins adjoining the line of purchase of 1816.

“To Alexander Robinson, for himself and his children two sections on the Riviere Aux Pleins above and adjoining the tract herein granted to Claude LaGramboise.

“To Billy Caldwell, two and one-half sections of the Chicago River above and adjoining the line of purchase of 1816.

“To Victoire Pothier, one-half section on the Chicago River above and beyond the tract herein granted to Billy Caldwell.

“To Jane Miranda, one-quarter section on the Chicago River above and beyond the tract herein granted to Victoire Pothier.

“To Archange Ouilmette, a Potawatomi woman, wife of Autoine Ouilmette, two sections for herself and her children on Lake Michigan south of and adjoining the northern boundary of the cession herein made by the Indians aforesaid to the United States.”

In those grants the term “line of purchase of 1816" refers to the Indian Boundary Line.  At Edwardsville, Illinois on August 24, 1816 with the support of Shabbona, Caldwell, LaGramboise and Robinson, a treaty was negotiated with the “Three Fires” whereby they ceded to the United States a strip of land from Lake Michigan to the Fox River, the Kankakee River, and the Illinois River at Ottawa.  The primary purpose was to provide a corridor thru which a canal could be built to provide a navigable waterway from Lake Michigan to the head of navigation on the Illinois .

Mrs. Robinson died August 7, 1860, twelve years before her husband in 1872.  The last of the Robinson’s lived on the property until their farm building burnt to the ground on May 26, 1955.  Firemen rescued Mrs. Katherine Boettcher, 89, a granddaughter of Robinson; her son, Herbert, 53, and a friend, Tony Bistry, 48.  Even after the forest preserve district bought the property provisions were made for the Robinson’s descendants to occupy the house and about one acre of land, rent-free for life.  This fire, however, brought the Robinson occupancy to an end.

Less than five months later on October 16th, the bodies of John and Anton Schuessler and Robert Peterson, 13, 11 and 14 respectively were discovered in a ditch bordering a parking lot in Robinson Woods about 100 feet east of the Des Plaines River and south of Lawrence Avenue.  All three had been strangled and one of the boys had been beaten on the head with a revolver butt or tire iron.  They were completely naked at the time of the discovery.

This case went unsolved and police officers and family survivors never thought it would ever be solved.  Finally in late August 1994, Kenneth J. Hansen, 61, was charged in the murder of the three boys.    Hansen who was twenty-two at the time and lived in the 5000 block of North Claremont, not far from where the boys were last seen.  He was sentenced to 200 to 300 years and died in prison.

Soon after the disasters, strange paranormal phenomena began to be reported at Robinson Woods at all hours of the day and night.  Strange lights, sounds and smells have all been reported by a variety of witnesses which vary from passing motorists, police officers on patrol, neighbors and residents just across the street, joggers running past this location and sometimes visitors to the site whether it is in the day or night.

During investigations in 1974 and 1975, two researchers carried out more than a dozen experiments in the area near the Robinson graves using various sophisticated recording devices and cameras.  During one such succession, an unusual recording was made between two small trees very near the gravesites and likened to a dull repetitive sound.  Later as the tape was played back over and over again, it became quite apparent that the closest thing the sounds resembled was the beating of an Indian Tom-Tom.  Needless to say there were no Indians or Indian Tom-Toms present that night.

Lights have been seen in the woods after the park has been closed for the evening, and they have been appearing for many years, but particularly in the last twenty.  The lights are almost always seen down a small trail just to the left of the large boulder.  This trail leads to the Des Plaines River . 

The Robinson’s used the river and often carried buckets of water back and forth to their home, sometimes in the dark while holding torches.  They used the water for drinking, washing and bathing purposes.  Could the lights be the ghosts of the Robinson’s still transporting water back and forth?

An audible sound has been heard out here as well.  It is described as a sound made when someone is cutting down a tree with an ax.  The Robinsons often used the wood they cut down to buy foodstuffs, blankets and whiskey or “fire water”.  The last of the Robinsons were very heavily into drinking.  Researchers have noted that people who die drunk or not in their right state of mind often make very good ghosts!  So perhaps the drunken ghosts of the Robinson descendants still wander those woods at night.

A psychic smell has been experienced very near the half-boulder which marks the positions were the Robinsons are buried.  It’s been described as a scent of lilacs or sometimes violets and it’s often sniffed in the dead of winter when there are no flowers or trees in bloom!  The odor appears to hover seven or eight feet up and witnesses claim to be able to sniff up into the fragrance.  Strangely, even though there may be a stiff breeze blowing, the odor stays in the same place and doesn’t drift away with the wind!  I myself, while conducting a senior citizens tour in 1990 around Halloween in the afternoon encountered the strange odor, as did the entire group!  They at first tried to blame it on someone’s cheap perfume but no one was wearing anything even remotely similar to that smell.

This is one of a few sites that it’s possible for almost anyone at anytime to have a brush with the supernatural.  Perhaps the next witness will be you!

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