The Turkey Scare
All the settlers in this vicinity had come to Fort Armstrong and taken quarters there or in the stockade, both of which were over-crowded. After the first scare, the settlers wanted to go back to their farms and do their spring planting. Captain Bliss, who commanded at the fort, yielded to their request, and arranged with them a signal of alarm in case they or any of them should be attacked, or were in imminent danger of an attack, which signal was that they should “fire off a gun.” When such gun was fired, everyone should flee to the Island. April 7, Joshua Vandruff and Hackley Samms, while crossing Vandruff Island, saw a flock of wild turkeys. They could not resist the temptation and, creeping within range, fired their guns at the flock, each man bringing down his bird. The noise of the two guns could be heard all over the settlement and it caused the greatest excitement, filling the hearts of the settlers with terror. Mothers caught their children and fled towards the fort. Those who had horses and were plowing, hastily, unhitched the animals, loaded their families upon the horses and started towards the fort. It is said some of the settlers fled pell-mell, leaving their families to take care of themselves. Vandruff and Samms soon realized the mistake, especially Joshua, when he encountered his wife and their ten children, running towards the fort. When the settlers reached the Mississippi they crowded the few skiffs tied to the shore and some came near being drowned. Captain Bliss had heard the gun-shots and hastily called together a company of his regulars and started to meet the Indians, while Captain Phil Kearney, who was left in command of the fort, began preparing it for a siege. Bliss and his men got nearly to Rock River when they met Vandruff and Samms running after the fleeing settlers trying to explain the mistake. When these two told the captain “how it happened,” it is said the air became impregnated with sulphur, so loud and vehemently did that warrior swear. For many years afterwards, the “turkey scare” was a tender spot with Vandruff and Samms.
Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908