Illinois’ Starved Rock State Park Has A Terrifying Origin Story
A beautiful state park in Illinois actually got its name from a pretty gruesome situation.
Starved Rock State Park is a lovely place to explore. There's a waterfall, 18 canyons, sandstone bluffs, 13 miles of trails, and plenty of wildlife, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Starved Rock itself is a towering 125-feet sandstone cliff. Within the park, you can hike, go camping, go fishing, and generally live your best outdoorsy life.
But the area has a dark past.
The Basic History of Starved Rock
Before we get to the intense stuff, let's review the basic history of the land from the DNR. According to them, humans have lived there since 8000 B.C. Hopewellian (read: a bit of a hot minute), specifically Native American tribes, but the French explorers came across it in 1673. The French built Fort St. Louis on the butte in 1682 because it has such a good view of the Illinois River. Many Native American tribes lived on the land and were called the Illinois Confederation.
Here's Where It Gets Thick: Retribution Enters The Chat
Starved Rock got its name years later in 1770, after Fort St. Louis was abandoned. The Native American legend is this: Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa Tribe was killed by a Peoria brave while he was attending tribal council. Legend says that in a fight to avenge the chief's death, a band of Peoria were under attack by the Potawatomi (which were allies of the Ottawa tribe). The Peoria tried to get to safety on a tall butte (as you guessed: Starved Rock).
Their efforts were ultimately in vain.
The Potawatomi and Ottawa tribes outlasted the Peoria by surrounding the butte and staying there until the Peoria eventually died of starvation on the rock.
Thereby, giving the butte the name 'Starved Rock'.
The Rock Discovered
According to the Illinois DNR, the legend says that it was traders who found the dead Peoria.
A few days later, traveling traders enroute 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.
Is It True?
In short, it's hard to say. The DNR says that there aren't written records to show that this event actually happened. But stuff did go down on Starved Rock. Because it has a good strategic location (with its good view), there's evidence that it was definitely used as a battleground at some point, with excavations turning up skeletons and weapons.