Chicago Tribune, March 4, 1900
Some of the southern suburbs are among the oldest of the many which cluster about or have been absorbed into Chicago. They embody the history of the coming of the early Dutch settlers to the Calumet region; of the pioneer life of Norman Rexford, the tavernkeeper, who named Blue Island; of Paul Cornell. who, more than any other one man, contributed to the development of the region between Chicago and the Calumet; and of George M. Pullman, the builder of the “model city.” In them is embodied the story of the establishment of great industrial enterprises, of educational institutions of widest influence, and of cities whose names are now but history. The story of the origins of these suburbs and their names, briefly told, follows.
Hyde Park owes name and existence to Paul Cornell. The name was suggested by both Hyde Park, New York, and Hyde Park, London. The former Mr. Cornell had seen, the latter he had read much about it, and each he greatly admired. He says of his choice of name that he himself hardly knows whether the American or English town most influenced him. He christened the seemingly hopeless region of sand and swamps, where he meant to build a suburb, in June, 1855. Though the first known settler in the immediate locality, Nathan Watson, had built a log shanty in what is now Fifty-third street before 1836, the tract had not invited sudden population and it was most sparsely inhabited when Mr. Cornell bought his first holding nearly forty-six years ago.
Mr. Cornell’s acquaintance with the site of Hyde Park was due to two accidents. One was a chance remark by Stephen A. Douglas:
- Whenever you have a spare dollar, plant it between here (Chicago) and the Calumet. There the future city will lie.
The other was poor health, for which his doctor advised the young lawyer to take exercise and fresh air. He bought a horse and every morning rode out to the farm of Mrs. Garnsey on the lake shore and drank a glass of milk. This farm of sixty acres, lying near the present station of “Hyde Park,” was the first purchase and the nucleus of the suburb.
Mr. Cornell’s Property (Arrow)
Compiled and Drawn by W.L. Flower
In 1856 Mr. Cornell induced the Illinois Central people to put on regular trains between the City of Chicago and his suburb. The “Y,” where the makeup of the trains was changed, was where the Field Museum now stands and was clear out on the frontier. From this time the growth of the new town was steady and sometimes almost rapid. In 1857 the Village of Hyde Park was incorporated and the town was organized in 1861 to cover an extensive area. When Hyde Park was absorbed into Chicago in 1889 it was the largest village in the world and was known as such far and wide. The population was about 70,000, largely in excess of that of most cities.
As an example of the rapid growth of Chicago and its suburbs there are living today many young men and boys who when boys shot quail in the northern part of Hyde Park and picked wild flower along the old stage road that is now Lake avenue. Over this road came all the early residents who made their way to Chicago from the East by land. The road led them from southern Michigan, across northern Indiana, and into Illinois, following the bend of Lake Michigan.
The work done by Mr. Cornell in establishing Hyde Park was only part of his service to the South Side, however. He was an enthusiast on parks, and from the inception of his suburb scheme unceasingly turned over park projects in his mind. One of his first public exploits was setting aside a park on his own property at the foot of Fifty-third street on the lake shore, which was for several years the favorite resort of the townspeople. Later, being in New York City, he saw the elaborate plans for Central Park, and before he had reached Chicago again Washington and Jackson Park and the Midway Plaisance had taken form in his mind.Men of foresight and public spirit joined him in pushing the park scheme through the Legislature, which was done only by dint of hard fighting, but Mr. Cornell’s familiar title of the “father of the south parks” no one has ever successfully disputed. He was for many years a member of South Park Commissioners and most of the purchases were made by him as chairman of the Purchasing committee.
Mrs. H. B. Lewis named Englewood. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis came to Chicago in 1867 and settled on the West Side. Mr. Lewis engaged in the lumber and later in the wool business. After the family had been here twelve or fourteen years it was decided that a suburban home was preferable to living in the city. So Mr. and Mrs. Lewis looked about for a place “in the country.” They thought the present site of Englewood was just about what they wanted, and settled there.
At the time the district was called Junction Grove, because of the meeting there of the Fort Wayne, Rock Island, and Michigan Southern railroads. This wasn’t a pretty name for the suburb, the Lewis family thought, even if it did only have a dozen or so houses. So they cast about for a suitable title. Mrs. Evans finally suggested that it be named after Englewood, N.J. She had visited the Eastern city and was delighted with it. Correspondence was had with the Postal department at Washington, and it was learned that the New Jersey Englewood was the only Englewood in the United States. This obviated any duplication that might lead to serious mixes in the delivery of mail, and Mrs. Lewis gave the place that name.
Englewood today has a large population, estimated at 150,000, and is a city n itself, though a part of Chicago.
Mr. and Mrs. Lewis reside at 6012 Indiana avenue.
The Land Owner,
When in 1879 the business of the Pullman Palace Car company had reached such proportions that it was no longer industrial economy to maintain the company’s shops in different cities, George M. Pullman decided to build a plant on a far greater scale than then existed and to concentrate the principal part of the company’s manufacturing business. A broad but business-like philanthropy also entered into his plans, and in this combination the Town of Pullman had its inception.
To carry out his plan Mr. Pullman purchased a large tract of land on the shore of Lake Calumet, and there the “Model City” rose. In 1880 the great plant went into active service. Side by side and wall by wall with the great shops had risen the residence portion of the town, and when the skilled artisans first went to their labor in the factories their homes in the suburb were waiting for their return at the close of the day. Such a record of municipal growth was unparalleled even in record-breaking America. Pullman was the Minerva of industrial suburbs.
At the start of the conditions of the best municipal life was recognized, and the town evenly and harmoniously along all lines. Sanitary conditions, water supply, paving and lighting—all were attended to by the company of its own motion and at its own expense. Beauty of surroundings was a prime factor. The architecture of the was tasteful and in some things even ornate, while parks and open places ornamented with trees, shrubbery, and flowers broke at frequent intervals the solid masses of residence blocks. Nor were amusements slighted. A playground for the children, a baseball park, tennis courts, and, in time, a bicycle track were added to the attractions of the town, and the Pullman Band was one of the famous organizations of the West.
While all this savors of high philanthropy on Mr. Pullman’s part, it should not be forgotten that business sagacity had much to do with his attitude towards his fellow-man. It was his idea that in a manufacturing town, where all the houses were neat and tasteful, and the environment morally and physically pure and wholesome and suggestive of system and thrif, the workmen would turn out more, better, and more profitable work than in a place where opposite conditions existed. Business principles governed from the start. Absolutely nothing was given away at Pullman. Mr. Pullman presented the town with a public library, but the patrons had to buy membership tickets. He built churches, but they were rented to the congregations. He spent great sums on public utilities, but they were returned, theoretically at least, in the more valuable services of the people who lived and worked in such environment, and were unconsciously led to better and more thorough methods by their influence. Everything in Pullman, from its inception onward, has been on the principle of quid pro quo.
Pullman was absorbed by Chicago when Hyde Park was annexed to the city.
Norman Rexford gave Blue Island its name. He was the first permanent settler in the suburb, and up to the time of his death Mrch 28, 1883, he was one of its most prominent residents.
Mr. Rexford was born in Charlotte, Vt., in 1802, and represented the fifth generation of his family in America. The year 1835 found him married and living in Pittsburg, Pa. At that time he caught the Western fever. He selected Chicago as the most desirable place to settle and drove with a team of horses all the way from his Pennsylvania home to this city. He first stopped at Bachelor’s Grove, Cook County, where his brother Stephen had preceded him in 1833. Shortly after he moved to Long Wood, near the north end of what is now Blue Island. Here he kept a tavern in a log cabin of four rooms. The only building in the place was a log cabin 12×15 feet in size and without a floor. This had been built by a man named Courtney.
Mr. Rexford was much taken with the location and, banking on its future, he began erecting a hewed frame building for a hotel. The structure was sided with boards hewed drawn by team from Pine Creek, Ind., over a hundred miles away. The lumber cost $40 a thousand. The hotel stood on the east side of what is now Western avenue, nad at the top of the bluff on or near the site of the present Blue Island postoffice.
The migration to the West was strong in those days and Mr. Rexford’s hotel did a good business. He called the Blue Island House. After a time the structure was enlarges. In 1858 it was destroyed by fire.
Pioneers of Chicago used to visit this old hotel frequently on festal occasions. It was customary to dance all night and eat breakfast in the morning before making the drive of twenty or thirty miles home.
Blue Island, Illinois
Norman Rexford’s farm indicated by arrow
In the spring the prairie roads about Blue Island often were impassable because of the swollen Calumet River and its tributary, Sony Creek. It was the custom of Mr. Rexford on such occasions to put in the upper windows of his hotel beacon lights to guide the travelers who might lose their way in the almost impassable prairie.
Blue Island was given a postoffice in 1838, and Mr. Rexford was made the first postmaster. Fayette Rexford, the pioneer’s son, used to carry the mail on horseback from Chicago to Buncombe, Il., a distance of ninety miles. He made weekly trips.
In 1852 Mr. Rexford sold his hotel and retired to a farm adjoining the village. Most of that farm is now included in Blue Island.
The suburb, which in the early days was called Portland, got its present name from its natural environment. The place is built partly on a long, narrow hill, surrounded by prairie. Looking at it from a distance the air above and bside the hill was a blue tinge. The hill looks like an island set in blue. The color effect is heightened in the spring when the Calumet River, which flows near the place, inundates the flat prairie land.
Mr. Rexford had so great a distaste for quarrels and lawsuits that he has been known to pay sums in dispute out of his own pocket after trying vainly to adjust the differences of his friends. As for himself he never engaged in litigation.
Children of Mr. Rexford now living are Fayette D. Rexford of Centralia, Ill., and Norman B. Rexford and Mrs. H.H. Massey of Blue Island.
South Holland is the pioneer settlement of the Dutch district in the Calumet region. Its first settler was Hennedrik De Jong. He came from the Netherlands in 1847. The journey westward from New York to Chicago was made by boats on the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, and the Great Lakes. The pioneer walked from Chicago to the point on the Calumet River where South Holland afterward sprang into being. The land was low there. It reminded him of Holland, and his heart warmed to the place.
With Henedrik De Jong were his wife Geertje De Jong, Roel Van Vuuren and his wife Grietje, their 13-year-old son Dirk, and Wilhelm Gouwens and his family. Mr. and Mrs. De Jong had a daughter, Maatje. Dirk Van Vuuren grew up and married her, and today they are the only survivors of the pioneer settlers in the South Holland district.
At first Dirk Van Vuuren and his neighbors called the place Low Prairie. Near by and shortly after what is now Roseland was called High Prairie. Each took its name from the character of the land. South Holland remained Low Prairie until about eighteen years ago, when the name given the place by outsiders finally crowded the old name out of the mouths of the people.
Roel Van Vuuren, the father of Dirk, bought 700 acres of land in Low Prairie, paying the government 10 shillings an acre for it. Years afterward he sold the land at $200 to $300 an acre.
Jacob De Jong, a son of Henedrik, was the first postmaster of Low Prairie. The postoffice was the pocket of his ample coat. He carried the mail from Chicago to Low Prairie when Chicago had a population of 25,000.
The people in and about South Holland were, and today, farmers for the most part. Their produce was sold in Chicago. Twice a week ox teams drew the lumbering wagons to market. The start was made at 2 a.m. out across the prairie, and when home was reached it would be between 10 p.m. and midnight.
There were only two houses between Chicago and Low Prairie in the early days. A large inn, kept by one Osterhaut came to Chicago and bought a lot of barrels. The Hollanders wondered what he intended to do. Osterhaut said nothing. He made his barrels water tight, fastened them together, and put planks over the top. Thus he had a floating bridge. Next he got a boat. With the boat he towed his barrel bridge back and forth across the river and ferried the heaviest wagons in competition with his former partner and the stationary bridge. Low Prairie seemed to favor Osterhaut, and finally the pontoon had all the business and the bridge went into decay.
South Hollanders live today much after the quaint customs of their mother country. Dirk Van Vuuren, who sold fifteen acres of his land for $3,000 an acre a few years ago, still retains five acres and a few houses and lots of a local subdivision, but he tills the soil as he did in pioneer days and sells his produce in Chicago.
But he says the railroad is a great improvement over the ox team and prairie path followed by him in wooden shoes in his 13th year.
Roseland, five miles nearer Chicago than South Holland, was High Prairie in the early days. It was settled two years after Henedrik De Jong crossed the open lands and settled on the site of South Holland.
Goris Vandersyde, Cornelius Kuyper, and Peter Dalenberg, with theor families and friends, numbering in all sixty souls, were the first settler where Roseland now stands. Kuyper was acquainted with Jan Paardeberg, a settler of Low Prairie, and when the new party reached Chicago from the Netherlands, they set out across the prairie to visit the little Dutch colony on the banks of the Calumet. On the journey the pioneers came across the high ridge lying between what is now West Pullman and Blue Island. Kuyper was delighted with the place. He said to his companions:
- This is a fine place for us to settle. The grass about here would make fat cattle and ducks.
The rest of the party agreed with Kuyper, but they all went on to Low Prairie, intending to return unless something developed to change their minds.
The little band made its visit with the Dutchmen in the Calumet settlement, and then went back to the goodly ridge. Cornelius Kuyper, who had left the Netherlands with $400, bought fifteen acres of land at $5 an acre. Goris Vandersyde bought eighty acresm and later 160 more at $8 an acre. Twelve years later he sold thirty-three acres at $2,000 an acre.
The new settlement was named Nigh Prairie because of the contrast of the site with that of its neighbor, Low Prairie. The same methods of life were pursued in both places.
Goris Vandersyke was the first postmaster and Cornelius started the first store. He sold everything required in a pioneer settlement, from boots and shoes to stick candy. Among his customers were Indians who roamed up and down the Calumet River fishing and hunting.
They were the most peaceful and honest neighbors a man could want,” said Cornelius Kuyper one day last week. “They bothered no one. They were fair and upright in their dealings and were always willing to show us the best places to fish and the most favored marshes to find wild duck. Deer and other game were plentiful here then.
High Prairie remained the name of the place until twenty years ago. Then a real estate agent came along. He was buying land for George M. Pullman. He did not like the name of High Prairie. He was about to subdivide and sell lots.
“People won’t buy lots in High Prairie,” said the agent. We’ve got to have a better name for it. We are going to make this place as pretty as a rose garden. People will be anxious to buy here, if we give the place a catchy name.”
The idea of a rose garden suggested the name Roseland; and Roseland supplanted High Prairie.
Goris Vandersyde and Cornelius Kuyper, companions in the pioneer days, are still in Roseland, and are cronies as of yore. They live in adjoining houses, and during the long evenings over their pipes they discuss the Transvaal war.
South Chicago has had a nominal existence only since 1871. Next before that it was known as “Ainsworth Station.” Still earlier it was “Calumet Postoffice,” and “Calumet” dates back to Indian days. Until late in the ’30s the region was known indiscriminately as “Calumet” and “Callimink,” both being Indian words signifying “pipe of peace.”
The first known proprietor in the vallet was Ashkum, the ancient Pottawatomie Chief. He gave the title to La Salle, and the latter’s successors in turn deeded it to Father Sorin of South Bend, whence indirectly came to the name of that portion known as Notre Dame addition to South Chicago.
“Calumet” was the paradise of hunters an the early days, and many pioneer Chicagoans made pilgrimages there for deer and wil fowl. Lewis Benton, who settled in the valley in 1833, is believed to have been the first permanent white resident. In that same year Jefferson Davis, then a Lieutenant of Engineers, spent considerable time there while conducting for the government a critical survey of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers to ascertain their relative commercial values. The first subdivision of “Calumet” ws filed in 1836.
South Chicago, however, really owes its existence and its name to the Calumet and Chicago Dock company, which dates from 1869. In 1856 Elliot Anthony and O.S. Hough acquired most of the land in the original site, and in 1869 they with others organized the Canal Dock company, of which James H. Bowen was the first president. Even in those days high hopes were entertained locally that the old “Calumet” was to become the commercial and maritime center at the head if the lake.
One of the most delightful and even famous of Chicago’s southern suburbs, Oakland, is known now to fame only in the memory of its older residents and in the name of the station on the suburban lines of the Illinois Central. It was known first at Cleaverville, from Charles Cleaqver. who established a soap factory and built a residence there in 1853. His house, which he named Oakwood Hall—whence Oakwood boulevard—stood where 3938 Ellis avenue is now, and was widely known for its hospitable host’s sake. Ellis avenue, by the way, which runs by its site, commemorates the name of Samuek Ellis, the pioneer tavern-keeper of the South Side.
Cleaverville prospered from the start. Its factory gave it business standing in the community, and its founder was a man of enterprise. In 1854 he built the first church erected south of Van Buren street, known after ward as the Oakland Congregational Church. This and the natural advantages of the site induced rapid settlement by good people, and after the war the place grew rapidly in popularity as a suburb for fine residence.
The name “Oakland” was substituted for Cleaverville in 1871 by common consent of the populace, suggested by te oaks which lined the streets. Cleaver was a lover of trees, and many old-time names of streets in the suburb—Elm, Locust, Maple, etc.—were bestowed by him on account of the trees he caused to be planted when the thoroughfares were laid out.
Whitings was so christened by the Standard Oil company when it established its plant there, but the real source of the name was most remote from any connection with the Rockefeller interests, and, as a matter of fact, embalms the memory only of one of the humblest men that ever pulled a throttle or ditched a train.
Many years ago, when the Lake Shore railroad was in its infancy, “Old Pap Whiting” was an engineer pulling freight in and out of Chicago over that line. It was before the days of train dispatchers, and “Old Pap Whiting,” who was withal a fearless, if not a reckless, runner, not seldom took large chances in order to “make time.”
On one of these occasions he was pounding along down the line with a heavy train, trying to make a certain siding to get out of the way of a fact passenger train that he knew was booming along behind him. His haste overcame his discretion and on a nasty bit of track he ditched his entire train, doing it all so neatly that he left the passenger as clear a track as if he had pulled in on the desired siding.1
From that day the spot was known among railroad men as “Pap Whiting’s Siding.” When the Standard Oil people came along looking for a spot to locate their odoriferous plant, this “no man’s land” of a place seemed to fill the bill exactly, and they were quickly its owners. But “Pap Whiting’s Siding” was altogether too long and too commonplace for their use as a station name, so they amputated the tradition at each end and “Whitings” the place has been ever since.
James M. Morgan Property
Morgan Park, the site of the Baptist Theological Seminary, was known for years politically as “North Blue Island” and colloquially as “Horse Thief Hollow.” Bothe names were creatures of circumstance, The first was due to its position relative to the already old and flourishing Town of Blue Island. The second referred to a ravine where it was certain that horse thieves had their fastness, though the plundered farmers never succeeded in catching the depredators there or recovering any of their four-footed booty.
The name of “Morgan Park” was bestowed by James Morgan, the old-time South Park Commissioner, in 1869, in memory of his ancestor, who had settled on the ridge in 1844. The town was developed in large part by the Blue Island Land and Building company, which platted Morgan Park in ’69.
1853 Grand Crossing’s first name was “Cornell,” bestowed by Paul Cornell, who bought the origibal site of 600 acres fir $6,000 from W.B. Ogden late in the ’50s. For many years the ground was left in meadow, but Mr. Cornell was always hopeful of its ultimate value for factory sites, and immediately after the great fire platted it as Cornell’s Subdivision. That was too long a name for people as busy as Chicagoans and their neighboring Phoenixes were at that time, and colloquially the place soon came to be known simply as “Cornell.”
The Cornell Watch Company
79th and Ellis
Mr. Cornell established a watch Factory there in the big gray building which is still standing, and the hamlet soon became an important industrial and railroad point.
The postoffice authorities discovered, as the mail for the village increased, that there was another “Cornell” in the State, and in 1872 the name was changed to “Grand Crossing” by W.B. Kniskern.
Kenwood took its name from the residence of Dr. Kennicott, who called his home “Kenwood,” after the ancestral seat of his family near Edinburg, Scotland. Dr. Kennicott built his house in 1856, the year after Hyde Park was founded, and gradually a considerable settlement gre up around him. When in 1859 the hamlet had become of sufficient importance to warrant a station of its own, the railroad people adopted the logical designation and bestowed the name of Kenwood own what was destined to become one of the most charming and aristocratic of Chicago’s suburbs.
Another suburb whose pr-annexation name is preserved only in the Illinois Central railroad station was South Park. It grew to be a pretty favorite residence section, but its first effort at individuality could hardly be called auspicious. When Charles A. Norton came there in 1863 it was a station on the suburban road whose sole apparent reason for being was emphasized in its uneuphonious title of “Woodpile.” After Mr. Norton and a few others had built houses a sense of the fitness of things led to trainmen calling it “Woodville,” and this, in turn, as the hamlt grew in population, was changed to “South Park,” by Mr. Norton.
Woodlawn was christened by Colonel R.B. Mason, former Mayor of Chicago, who bought up the site of the suburb. He called it “Woodlawn Park,” and that name still survives in the name of the railroad station. When it was first subdivided it was remarkable for a fine growth of timber on the ridge fronting what is now Madison avenue, and running south from Sixty-third street. Between the timber and the adjacent lowlands, east and west, lay fine stretches of sward, and the combination suggested to the Colonel’s mind the name of “Woodlawn Park.”
Charles H. Dolton is the man after whom Dolton was named. Mr. Dolton came West about 1857 with his brothers, Henry and Andrew, and settled where the present town is located. About thirty-five years ago, when the Great Eastern road, now a part of the Pan-Handle, was built, Mr. Dolton was largely instrumental in getting the right of way. As a return favor the road named the station Dolton. The town that sprung up naturally got its name from the depot. Henry and Andrew Dolton are dead, but Charles is still living.
OTHER SOUTHERN SUBURBS.
Lansing came by its name because John Lansing settled there in early days. He owned a large amount of property, and was instrumental in getting the old Great Eastern road to build through the place. An in the case of Charles H. Dolton and his town, the road named its depot, where Lansing now stands, after John Lansing. Mr. Lansing died many years ago.
Turlington W. Harvey. who was the leading spirit of the Harvey Land ass, gave the name it carries to Harvey. The founder was interested in many large enterprises.
West Hammond is located on the State line between Illinois and Indiana. Hammond, Ind., lies east of the place, and naturally the little neighbor got the name of West Hammond. When it was incorporated six years ago, the name was given legal sanction.
Egandale, long forgotten except by old settlers, was a beautiful suburban spot laid out by Dr. William Bradshaw Egan of Chicago, southwest of the present intersection of Forty-seventh street and Cottage Grove avenue. Here he established a magnificent park and garden, ehich he opened to the public in 1869, and which remained for several years a favorite resort of the people.
Dr. William Bradshaw Egan Property
Brookline was named by Paul Cornell when he platted it in 1860. The topography suggested the name.
Cheltenham Beach was known first as “White Oak Ridge.” Its present name, and also that of Windsor Park, were given by Mrs. W.K. Ackerman.
Colehour was christened for Charles W. Colehour, the attorney. Though settled in 1851, its separate identity was not recognized until 1873, when it was platted as Ironworkers’ addition to South Chicago. It received its postoffice in 1875.
Irondale began life as “Brown’s Mills,” so called from tjhe plant of the J.H. Brown Iron and Steel company, which was the first enterprise to be established there. In 1882 the name was changed to “Cummings,” in honor of the President of the New York, Chicago and St. Louis railroad. The character of its industries led later to its present appropriate title.
Hegewisch commemorates Adolph Hegewisch, the President of the United States Rolling Stock company, which located there and started the town, something on the industrial-center idea of Pullman, in 1883.
Riverdale was named by George Dalton, who came to the Little Calumet in 1835. The stream and valley suppled the inspiration.
Wildwood was appropriately so called by James H. Bowen, who long had his residence there. The site was once an Indian burying-ground.
Homewood was known as “Hartford,” from James Hart, who platted it in 1852, until it was christened by a development company.
Kensington originally was “Calumet Station,” on the Illinois Central and Michigan Central railroads. Patrick Fitzgerald was its pioneer in in 1852. Its present name was given by the railroad.
What is now Washington Heights was known for years simply as Gardner House, indicating the tavern opened by Jefferson Gardner in 1836. It was part of North Blue Island, and received its present name in 1869 from the Blue Island Land and Building company.
Dauphin Park was named by S.E. Gross for Dauphin County, Pa., the home of some of his ancestors.
Bryn Mawr is one of many Western suburbs which commemorate the Pennsylvania college town.
Burnside was so named by the Illinois Central railroad in memory of the Union general.
1 It appears this story has evolved from what actually happened at the 1853 Grand Crossing Accident.