“A few figs from thistles…”
by Howard A. Tabor
The prehistory of Agincourt is the stuff of enlightened speculation. Evidence of the Sac and Fox and earlier inhabitants is casual and fragmentary—the contents of The Hump (an archaeological excavation from the WPA era) and the occasional arrowhead. Two figures who bridge that transition—to the platting and subsequent incorporation of the city—are Amos Beddowes and his wife, Sac and Fox medicine woman She-listens-to-the-moon.
Amos had served as U.S. government agent to the S&F, but as with Jeremy Irons’ character in the 1986 film “The Mission”, Beddowes came to identify with the native aboriginal cause and “went native”. We recall him best as the carpenter-builder of Agincourt Baptist Church. Mrs Beddowes evocative native name was inevitably Europeanized: She-listens-to-the-moon became Circe, Homeric goddess of all things lunar, and that soon morphed to the more familiar Sissy. If there is a kalendar of local saints and martyrs, the Beddowes family are high in its ranks.
The home they occupied, built by Amos himself and the birthplace of their children John and Mary—she died young of an unnamed fever; he was our first Civil War casualty and returned for a hero’s burial at The Shades—once sat near the intersection of Louisa Avenue and Sixth Street SW. After Amos’ death in 1867 Sissy live their until her own in 1900, always ready to consult on matters of herbal and other alternate remedies. She once traveled to the Hahnemann Hospital in Chicago to offer a seminar on natural remedies. But her more immediate contribution to the community lay in her Margaret Sanger-like role promoting birth control measures that today would jeopardize her freedom, if not her life.
Years after her death, flowers continued to appear on the grave of a woman who had died without heir but with considerable social capital. Their home, as rugged and rustic as its inhabitants, stands restored in Riverside Park, relocated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places (but not without opposition) in 1975. Those who cycle past should stop to pay respects and visit a reproduction of the herbal garden she maintained at the original site. Amos’ tool box is displayed at the Fennimore Heritage Center not far away.
Howard omits much here about the close friendship that grew among Mrs Beddowes and her collaborators in social engineering Annabelle Miller, his great-grandmother Martha Tennant, and Dr Rudyard Fahnstock. That controversial tale will have to await another teller.