According to the oral traditions from elders of the Vinyard Indian Settlement, our ancestors crossed the Ohio River in the summer of 1810 near Shawnee Town, Illinois. This date was quoted by Clyde Vinyard (1890-1980), son of Ilay and Ada Lawrence Vinyard. The area of Karber's Ridge, Hardin County, Illinois, including High Knob and the hollows that encompass it came to be known as the Vinyard Indian Settlement by local settlers and those who became intimate with the indigenous citizens and their history.
Oral history says that a band of about eighty Kispokofa (Shawnee people) was being pursued by a large force of colonial militia out of Ohio. The militia was attempting to prevent the various bands of Shawnees from traveling to Prophetstown and joining with Tecumseh's resistance to the taking of native homeland by European immigrants.
The salt making Shawnees and fur trapping French encouraged the warrior band of Shawnee to move on into the hills. They were afraid the militia may take revenge upon them for giving rest to the retreating people. This tough band of ancestors stayed two days at Shawnee Town, so we are told, before going into the hills.
Some of today's local residents tell stories of a heavy exchange of gunfire between the Shawnees and recent colonial immigrants who were establishing farms in the Shawnee homelands. More interviews and recordings need to be done before a lot of primary sources of this history disappear. Much, if not all, of the legends recorded by non-Natives tends to be biased, even racist.
When the ancestors arrived near High Knob, they were greeted and received by a large family of Irish-German immigrants known as Vinyards. The Vinyards befriended the Shawnee people who built camps in a hollow northeast of present day High Knob. When rumors of the encampment spread locally, the rumors also reached the ears of the militia. The stories say that the Vinyards were able to convince the militia that the Vinyards had enlisted several families of blacks and mulattoes to help with the farming and cutting of timber.
The frontier of America was a hard place in those days with very few examples of justice. The Vinyard natives took the name of Vinyard not only to honor the people who had helped them but also as a cover. The frontier was alive with chaos and children abandoned in the forests. Some of these abandoned children were brought into the native community to be reared without the benefit of knowing who their first families were. Their names and clans were lost on one hand and new ones gained on the other. Shawnee people were serious about children; even today, the tradition of adoption carries on. Intermarriage with non-natives took place. The law requires that we identify those descendants to fulfill a part of the requirements for state recognition.
There are many families whom we know to be direct descendants. The frontier left a bad taste in the mouths of many families who did not want to remove to the Indian Territory. Some, to this day, have a fear of having their identities known. Part of the band removed themselves anyway. Many returned. Stories abound about the incarceration camps around Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Ancestors often "bought" their relatives from these camps, inspiring rumors of Indians possessing gold. Often it was white people who provided the payment to liberate relatives of their native friends. Many Vinyard descendants still live in Oklahoma. The last known to be brought back and buried in the homeland was Arzee Vinyard, around 1928, from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, brother of Ilay and other brothers. His obituary read, "...and the white plumed spirit followed him all the way home."
Descendants' names in Oklahoma and Illinois are Tyer, Tyner, Colbert, Black, Ferrell, Snake, Davidson, Karber, and more. The infamous Aunt Shawnee, who was the medical informant for the more famous Anna Bixby (a.k.a. Granny Bixby), was a grandmother from the Vinyard Indian Settlement.