LA GRANGE – Brian Bardy traveled to Springfield on Sept. 26 to share a research paper on the 19th century relationship of Chief Shabbona of the Potawatomi tribe and the Vial family of Lyons Township, who were among the first settlers in the La Grange area.
Bardy’s paper, which he presented at the 15th annual Illinois History Symposium sponsored by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is the culmination of 33 years of research on the Vial family.
The former college professor and current librarian’s assistant at Lyons Township High School answered a few questions about his project.
Ruppenthal: How did this project come about?
Bardy: I was an anthropology major in college after graduating from Lyons Township High School in 1978, and was conducting general research of the immediate area of Lyons Township. I met Ruth Vial Martin, a cousin of Charlie Vial, who told me about Charlie living at Plymouth Place. I interviewed him and he told me stories about how his grandfather, Samuel Vial, knew Chief Shabbona of the Potawatomi Indians.
Ruppenthal: What did you find most interesting in your research?
Bardy: Chief Shabbona had a dynamic personality. On one side, he came to rescue Americans taken hostage during the War of 1812, but also fought alongside Tecumseh and the British in an effort to stop American expansion on the frontier. After he vowed never to take arms up against the Americans again, he was considered a Peace Chief, and was considered to be a traitor among the Winnebago and Sauk and Fox Indians in later tensions in the upper Midwest. Many attempts to kill Shabbona occurred. He lost his oldest son and a nephew who were murdered by Sauk Indians during a buffalo hunt in Missouri in 1837.
Ruppenthal: What do you most want residents to know about the Vial family and Chief Shabbona?
Bardy: Joseph Vial came to Chicago in 1833 during a time of dramatic change for the entire region. The fur trade came to an end and Indian removal was beginning to occur as pioneer settlers were arriving from the east to buy land from the General Land Office at a $1.25 an acre. The Vial family was no exception; they started a farm, operated a tavern and stage coach stop out of their home (log cabin) on Plainfield Road near Flagg Creek. They were instrumental in building the first church in the area, Lyonsville Congregational, and were active in local politics in the state as well as in Lyons Township. They were well-educated Yankee farmers from upstate New York that came west looking for a better life and found it here in our community. Shabbona often visited the Vial family. Obviously, he felt a sense of comfort within their abode.