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Friday, March 25, 2011

Aptakisic - Half Day


The historic town of Half Day claims many firsts in the annals of Lake County history—the first post office (1836), the first school (1836) taught by Laura Sprague in her family's log cabin, and the county's first non-native settler, Daniel Wright.

Perhaps most intriguing about Half Day is its name, which provokes more interest and debate than any other place name in the county.

You may wonder why there's debate. Ask anyone and they'll tell you it got its name because, "It took half a day to get there from Chicago." That may have been true back in the day of horsedrawn transportation, but Half Day was named for Aptakisic, a Native American leader of great standing.

Aptakisic's name (also spelled Aptegizhek), was translated as "center of the sky," "sun at meridian" or "half day." He was known to the settlers as Half Day. Both Daniel Wright (1778-1873) and Henry Blodgett (1821-1905), who knew Aptakisic, documented that he was "known as Half Day." Wright went on to say that the village took its name from Aptakisic.



A depiction of Aptakisic (Half Day) waving goodbye to the settlers he had led to Fort Dearborn in 1832, by Lester Schrader, courtesy of Naperville Heritage Society.

Blodgett had met Aptakisic in 1832, during the Black Hawk War, when Aptakisic protected the settlers in Downer's Grove from an impending attack.

Wright became acquainted with Aptakisic and his tribe of Potawatomi in 1833 when he settled along the Des Plaines River.

Wright remembered: "When I stuck my stake in the banks of the Aux Plain [sic] River I was surrounded by the native tribes of Pottawatamies [sic]. They helped me raise my first rude cabin, being the first house built in the county." These native people also assisted Wright in planting crops, and tending to his family when they became ill.

According to James A. Clifton in his book, The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture 1665-1965, Aptakisic was present at the negotiations for the Treaty of Chicago, which took place in September 1833. "Apparently wearing Meteya's [Mettawa's] moccasins, Aptegizhek stood and informed Commissioners Porter and Owen that the Potawatomi had no wish to consider moving west of the Mississippi until they had been given the opportunity to inspect the country there... He insisted the Potawatomi had assembled merely to enjoy their Great Father's beneficence and liberality. Could the annuities due the Potawatomi be distributed quickly so that they might go back to their villages to tend their gardens?"

Ultimately, the treaty was signed by Aptakisic (twice!) and other leaders of the United Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi Indians on September 26, 1833.


In 1918, the students of Half Day School wrote a history of their school and community. In it, they recounted that "Half Day was named so in honor of an Indian chief, Hefda, who some people say is buried in this locality." They went on to say that Half Day was a "half way station" between Chicago and the northern part of Lake County.

Excerpt from the Half Day School history, 1918.

When and how did the origin of the name change?


It is my assertion that the confusion was started by visitors to Half Day, possibly as early as the 1840s. In 1843, the Half Day Inn (shown above LCDM 97.18.3) was established on the Chicago and Milwaukee Road (today's Route 21) as a stagecoach stop. The rutted and muddy road would have most certainly made for slow travel, leading travelers to surmise the town's name came from its distance from Chicago.

The Wisconsin Central arrived in Prairie View in 1886, and later became the Soo Line.
LCDM 94.47.5
In 1886, train service was available on the Wisconsin Central Railroad to Prairie View, several miles west of Half Day. That trip would have taken at least two hours, and then a buggy ride over to Half Day, again leaving visitors to believe the name was a matter of travel time. Even with the advent of the automobile, travel was slow until roads were paved in the 1930s and beyond.

Travelers not knowing the true origin of the name, adopted a new meaning. As the people who knew Aptakisic died, and generations passed, the connection to Aptakisic faded, and the new tradition took root with no one around to contradict it.

In a letter, written late in his life, Henry Blodgett once again recalled his friend, Aptakisic:

"In the fall of 1837, Aptakisic's band was removed to a reservation on the west side of the Missouri River near the mouth of the Platte and later were moved into what is now a portion of the state of Kansas, south of the Kansas River. I well remember the sad face of the old chief as he came to bid our family goodbye. ... We all shed tears of genuine sorrow ... his generous kindness to my parents has given me a higher idea of the red man's genuine worth." Henry Blodgett as a young man in 1850. (above right)

Aptakisic's legacy continued in the names Aptakisic Road, Aptakisic Creek, and the former community of Aptakisic located in today's Buffalo Grove. Aptakisic was a railroad stop on the Wisconsin Central line at Aptakisic Road (west of Route 21), and had its own post office from 1889-1904.

The town of Half Day never incorporated, and in recent years was absorbed into the Village of Lincolnshire.

14 comments:

Ben C said...

Thank you so much for this. I've unwittingly passed along the "half a day's travel" myth many times, but the real story is much more interesting. I had no idea such a notable chief lived so nearby.

Anonymous said...

Diana, about 30 years ago, a gentelman who was in his 90's told me about where Aptakisic was buried. Where was the old half day school?

D_Dretske said...

I have not come across where Aptakisic died and is buried. Henry Blodgett stated that Aptakisic went west to Kansas with his tribe. Some have said that Aptakisic was part of the Potawatomi Trail of Death march to Kansas in 1838.

The Half Day School was located in the triangle of land where the school is today-West of 21/45, north of 22 and south of Half Day/Olde Half Day Road.

nichdele said...

Thanks for the interesting read - My father's grandmother was of the Halfday line as well as the Potawatomi Caldwells on the other side - connecting more and more pieces of my lineage.

Thanks Nicholas

Anonymous said...

Are there photos of the old Aptakisic one room school house of Aptakisic road??

Diana Dretske said...

The museum has a drawing of Aptakisic School made by a student in 1918, and a photo of a school interior that may or may not be Aptakisic School.

Please email me at ddretske@lcfpd.org for a copy.

Thank you!

Vicki LP said...

Thank you. As a traveler to this part of the world, visiting cousins, they have lived and worked here for 40 years without knowing the origin of this name ... your explanation is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any more information about the owner of the Half Day Inn (Hotel Half Day) circa 1912?

Diana Dretske said...

The closest plat map we have to that date is 1915. It appears the property was owned by the Estate of J.G. Sexaner. Please email me at ddretske@lcfpd.org and I can send you a copy of that section of the plat.

Thanks for reading!

Craig said...

Diana,
I too had a conversation about the area history with an older gentleman (90+) about 20/25 years ago from Half day.
He told me where Chief Aptakisic was buried, it is right here in Half Day, (ok Lincolnshire)but it will always be Half Day to me. Could that be accurate?

Diana Dretske said...

The legend that Half Day is buried here is intriguing.

Here's what we know:

Half Day's good friend, Henry Blodgett, wrote that Aptakisic went west with the Potawatomi (about 1838). Dr. James A. Clifton, Dept of Anthropology at Western Michigan University wrote in his book "The Prairie People" that Aptakisic/Half Day was in Oklahoma in 1843 and in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1847.

I've not come across a death date for Half Day, but it was most likely pre-1860.

There is no known documentation or tradition that Half Day's remains were returned for burial in Lake County or Illinois.

Anything's possible, but we need more information to confirm.

If you come across more information, please let me know.

Thank you!

Diana Dretske said...

Another possibility for the older gentleman's comment about Half Day being buried here, is that in 1910 a Native American burial was found in a local gravel pit. Your gentleman would've been about 10 at that time, and if he was living there, would've heard about the find.

According to the Aptakisic School History written in 1918 (just a handful of years after the find): "These skeletons must have been very old for as soon as they were handled they crumbled."

No mention was made of Chief Half Day, and the condition of the skeletons suggest a burial much older than the mid-19th century.

Anonymous said...

On the demise of the Chief:

Long Grove Historical Society's Sep 2010 newsletter:

longgrovehistory.org/newsletters.html

"Whatever happened to Chief Half
Day? In the 1830’s as settlement
increased in Indiana and Illinois,
settlers became increasingly
nervous about living in such close proximity to native Americans. They lobbied the
government to do something to control and prevent possible uprisings. A serious of
treaties, some signed by Chief Half Day, led to the Potawatomi being forcibly relocated
further west. Locals here were sad to see Chief Half Day leave—he was very well liked
and respected in this area. After a brief relocation to near Kansas City, the chief ended up
near Elmont, Kansas (just north of Topeka). A bit further north, near Mayetta, Kansas,
exists today the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Reservation, which is home to about
5000 tribal members.

Apparently, the Chief was as memorable and as well liked in Kansas as he was here. A
creek there is named in his honor (Half Day Creek), as is the cemetery where he is
buried—Half Day Cemetery. The funny thing is, if you Google the origins of this creek and
cemetery, you’ll find a story that involves their location ―being a half a day away‖ from
that Potawatomi Reservation in Mayetta.
"

Diana Dretske said...

According to information posted on FindAGrave.com for Topeka, Kansas:

>> After settling on the reservation north of Topeka Chief Half Day, his wife and their daughter often camped along Halfday creek that bears his name on trips into Topeka. The three are buried in a pasture near the creek at N.W. 39th Street and Button Rd. The graves are unmarked. <<

Interesting! More research is needed.