Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1900
OME of the best farming lands of Chicago non longer in tillage are the lands embraced by the Ninth and Tenth Wards. They were considered good farms once and were interesting for that reason as early as 1826. Long before that, however, a page of Chicago’s history was written in what is now the Tenth Ward. Mud Lake is in the Tenth Wards, and while it is the least dignified of all the navigable waters that contribute to Chicago’s greatness it is the one spot which is identified withe the first and last of the larger historical things that relate to the extraordinary history of Chicago.
Mud Lake was the first stretch of water within what is now the boundaries of Chicago to be navigated by the boats of a white man. Its later greatness comes from the fact that it is the head of the drainage channel. Long before the Ninth and Tenth Wards were turned into the uses of agriculture, and nearly two centuries before the cows of the Tenth Ward farmers went to Mud Lake to drink and to cool themselves in its reedy shallows, a pale, scholarly-looking man in the garb of a Jesuit priest, accompanied by two companions, came to the margin of Mud Lake, dragging their canoes overland from the Desplaines River. They were making the portage necessary in those days between the Desplaines and Chicago Rivers. This was Father Marquette and one of his companions was Louis Joliet.
“Mud Lake” as it looked in 1908, seen from the Kedzie Avenue Bridge along the South Branch of the Chicago River.
Here at Mud Lake they pushed their boats into the water and paddled its length. Where the Chicago River left Mud Lake to flow on to Lake Michigan it was only a trickling rivulet, without sufficient water for a birch bark canoe, although today lumber-laden steamers and deep-draft barges are constantly coming and going there. At the east end of Mud Lake they drew their canoes out of the water and carried them overland to what is now Center avenue and the river, where a sufficient depth of water was found to float them again. This was in 1673, when Marquette was returning to St. Ignace after having discovered the Upper Mississippi River, the Missouri, the mouth of the Ohio, the Arkansas, the Illinois, and Desplaines Rivers. He had carried out his intention of visiting the Illinois Indians and was returning to the mission of St. Ignace, to come again the following year on the trip that caused his death by exposure and privation.
It was on this first trip that Marquette and his keenly observing companion, Joliet, saw the advantage of a canal that would connect the water of the great lakes with those of the south sea. After 100 years the building of such a canal was begun, the old Illinois and Michigan Canal. More than forty years later saw the completion of the greatest of all canals, the drainage deep channel. This channel has its beginning in the Tenth Ward, in the little grass-grown lake that eased the journey of the tired Marquette when he came to make the first visit a white man ever made to the site of Chicago.
It was entirely beyond the dream of these daring French explorers that a canal should be built with a water depth of thirty feet. When, after a century and a half, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was projected there was a demand that it should be a “deep waterway.” Then six feet was called deep water for navigation. The southern half of the old canal was, for lack of funds, finished at a depth of only three feet.
THE DREAM REALIZED.
The reason that prompted the big drainage canal was not navigation. The direct inspiration of it was a heavy rain that flooded Desplaines Valley and the southern and southwestern portions of the city in 1885. On Aug. 3 of that year a committee, consisting of Dr. Frasnk W. Reilly, Lyman E. Cooley, and Ossian Guthrie, was appointed by a gathering of citizens to look over the ground and report on the advisability of a big drainage ditch. The final fruit of that committee’s work is the present channel, which was considered completed when the water was turned into it on March 2, 1900. The cost of the channel was $33,000,000.
Legislation was needed before the work could be undertaken and a district was created, called the Sanitary District, embracing the territory to be benefited by the channel. A Board of Sanitary Trustees was provided for and empowered to carry out the work. A special tax levy within the district provided the immense amount of money needed for the work. The digging of the canal begun in 1892. Eight years were required to complete it as far as Lockport, which is sufficient for the purposes of carrying off the sewage of the city. More than half the length of the canal is through solid limestone, and in order to do this work expeditiously new machinery had to be invented. In many essentials it is the greatest canal in the world. When the intercepting sewers are built all of the sewage of the city will be carried away in this channel, which will have a flow of 600,000 cubic feet of water a minute. This canal will not be considered finished, however, until it is continued to a point in the Illinois River where deep water to the Mississippi River is found.
In conjunction with the gigantic work of building the canal 279 of the workmen met violent deaths. Of this number forty-two were murdered, thirty-three were found dead, and 204 were killed by accidents.
In order of time the next thing related of the Ninth and Tenth Wards after the visit of Marquette in the accounts of the early days around Fort Dearborn. Near the shores of Mud Lake in 1812 a village of Pottawattamie Indians stood. Mud Lake was a good place to find wild duck, snipe, rail, and wild geese. When Marquette was lying sick in his cabin at Center avenue and the river in the winter of 1674-’75 his companions used to go to Mud Lake to find fish and game for their invalid companion.
When the commissioners of the Illinois and Michigan Canal laid out the lands allotted for canal purposes in 1830, there were already several farmers in what are the Ninth and Tenth Wards. The Ninth Ward was the farm of Pagan Barton. The Tenth Ward, being larger, was divided into several farms. These were owned by Richard Bickerdike Sr., Richard Bickerdike Jr., Peter Cartwright, John Montgomery, and Miss Zebiah Wentworth.
In the later days when the farms were cut up into town lots and the lots were built upon for city residences, Mud Lake continued to be a place of interest. It was the “swimming hole” for all the boys of the Southwest and West Side of town. The building of factories along the South Branch and the turning of sewage into the river spoiled it for swimming in later years. There are, however, few of those now grown to men who passed their boyhood on the West Side who have not gone swimming in Mud Lake.
A GREAT WATERWAY.
According to the geologists Mud Lake has a past that reaches back to the glacial period. They say it is a souvenir of a great natural waterway. The story has been epitomized as follows:
In the remote past the overflow of the waters of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan ran through the Mississippi south in the Gulf of Mexico, instead of as now—northeast through the Gulf of St. Lawrence into the Atlantic through Lake Ontario and the ST. Lawrence; nit by the Niagara, but by the Dundas Valley, a channel not far from the line of the present Welland Canal. Then, at some epoch unknown and for some cause unguessed, the Detroit Strait and the Niagara Strait were opened, Lake Michigan slowly fell about thirty feet, and its outlet (now “the Divide,” at Summit, close to the city limits, twelve miles southwest of the City Hall) gradually filled up with mixed deposit; so that Mud Lake is the sole remaining part of the great waterway that once connected the lakes with the Southern seas.
If one visits the Ninth Ward today the most interesting feature of it will likely be found to lit in the Bohemian quarter. All of that part of Blue Island avenue which lies in the Ninth Ward may be considered as a Bohemian business thoroughfare. The other business street which has all of its signs written in Bohemian is Eighteenth street. Some of the finest retail stores in Chicago outside of the down-town district are in the Bohemian quarter. The Bohemians have a college of their own, which lies just over in the Eighth Ward, many grammar schools, churches, and assembly halls. There are several daily newspapers published in the Bohemian tongue, and to all its purposes of commerce and social life this part of Chicago is a veritable Bohemian city. It not only is a a populous part of the city but it is a prosperous and contented section.
In the western part of the Ninth Ward there are many Polish residents. At Eighteenth and Ashland avenue the Poles have erected Pulaski Hall, one of the prettiest public buildings in the city.1
In Blue Island avenue, as it extends southwest into the Tenth Ward, as it extends southwest into the Tenth Ward, one may find interest in the commonplace thoroughfare. The lower end of it, near where it merges into Twenty-sixth street and Western avenue, was formerly called “Black Road.” It was built on what was once a part of the marshes of Mud Lake. It needed filling and the cinders from the factories thereabout were used for that purpose and that is wjy it was called the “Black Road.”
THE RIOT OF 1886.
Another reason might be found for giving it that in the riots that took place there, around the McCormick reaper works in May, 1886. It was these riots that led to the Haymarket riot. A strike at the McCormick reaper works led a crowd there which became riotous. The police charged them and in the tumult six of the rioters were killed. That evening August Spies wrote the famous “Revenge” circular, which caused him to be hanged when the law’s victims for the Haymarket were gathered in. The circular is as follows:
Workingmen, to Arms!!!
Your masters sent out their bloodhounds – the Police. They killed six of your brothers at McCormicks this afternoon because they had dared ask for the shortening of the hours of toil. They killed them to show you that you must be satisfied with whatever your bosses condescend to allow you, or you will be killed! The working class masses were whipped into a bloodthirsty frenzy by that German August Spies. As he butchered the English language with references to dynamite, the crowd loudly cheered. Many of the less civilized workers even vowed to dynamite the very factory that they themselves were paid to construct, that furnished them full employment and that filled the hungry bellies of their wives and children.If you are men, then you will rise in your might to destroy the hideous monster that seeks to destroy you. To arms we call you. To arms!
The distribution of this circular was the cause of the meeting at the Haymarket the night of May 4, 1886, at which meeting Anarchist Samuel Fielden made an inflammatory speech that was followed by the throwing of bombs into the ranks of the police attending the meeting. The murder of the police and the hanging of the leaders of the Anarchists will be related in the story of the Eighteenth Ward.
In the sequence in which these maps are being published the first glimpse of Western avenue is shown in the Tenth Ward. This is the longest city street in the world. It was formerly said Halsted street was the longest and that was true for a time. The annexation of territory in the southwest and on the north have given this distinction to Western avenue. Halsted street continues to be a longer street than any other city than Chicago may boast and it is the most kaleidoscopic.
Just beyond the “Black Road” of unhappy memories is another place of present unhappiness, the bridewell, or city prison and workhouse. It is an institution grown from the unpretentiousness of the village calaboose. The first place of confinement for offenders was the guardhouse in Fort Dearborn. When Chicago became an incorporated place the calaboose was deemed necessary and one was built in the block of ground given to the county by the Canal Commissioners and which is now covered by the City Hall and County Building.
In 1851 a city prison of such pretensions that it was called a “bridewell.” It was located at Polk and Wells streets, and there it remained until it was consumed by the fire. The new city prison was built on a broad tract of land on the edge of Mud Lake, and afterwards Twenty-sixth street was extended in front of it and Western avenue was stretched down along side of it. The origin of the name, “bridewell.” is often given, but seldom with complete explanation. That it is borrowed from a prison in London, England, is generally known. That prison got its name from being established in a building which was originally a convent dedicated to the Irish saint, Bridgid. There was a well alongside it for the benefit of the public, and as the public had more occasion to use the well than the benefits of the teachers the place was known as bridewell. The reason for that twist in the name came from the fact that the Irish name, Bridgid, is not Bridget at all, but Brigid. When properly pronounced the “g” takes the sound of “y” and the first “i” has the long sound of “e.” The name is therefore pronounced as if spelled “Breeyid.” The tongues of the Cockneys’ were a little too stiff for the proper pronunciation of the word, so they called it “Bride.”
The Chicago bridewell is a great penal institution. It receives annually 10,000 prisoners. None of them is for a longer term tan one year. The popular sentence is thirty days. Only such offenders as do not come under the notice of the grand jury, but who fall under the eye of the police magistrates, are sent there. There are factories in the prison where shoes, brooms, and a few other commodities of commerce are manufactured.
Within the bridewell grounds there was recently erected the John Worthy School. This is a manual training institution where small boys are sent who are guilty of minor offenses, and who are regarded as having insufficient moral training at home. The bridewell grounds are large and part of the land is used for a farm, the produce of which helps to feed the prisoners.
Exterior view of Bridewell Prison
West 26th Street and California Avenue
Douglas Park is in the Tenth Ward. It is the first of the larger city parks to be mentioned in this series of articles. The park system of Chicago embraces more than 1,900 acres.
The parks of Chicago and their area are as follows:
The larger parks are governed and maintained by park boards and park districts. Lincoln Park on the North Side is maintained by a tax levy on the property of the Lincoln Park District. Douglas, Garfield, and Humboldt Park, in the West Park District, are governed by West Park board. Jackson and Washington Parks are in the South Park District. The boulevards in these districts are a part of the charges of the Park boards.
Douglas Park is the smaller of the three great parks of the West Park District. It is, however, one of the most beautiful parks in the city.
It has two ponds larger than in any other city park, and a fine natatorium, where thousands of men and women may bathe free in the warm season. It contains a conservatory costing $50,000, which is one of the finest in Chicago. A feature of the arrangement of the conservatory is a lily basin in which the tropical varieties of lilies have been grown with unusual success.
Douglass boulevard which forms a connection with Douglas Park on the north and with Garfield boulevard on the south, is one of the broadest and finest thoroughfares in the boulevard system.
Douglas Park Natatorium
1 Pulaski Hall was dedicated on January 1, 1893, and was located at Nos. 796-800 South Ashland avenue (1731 S. Ashland today), built by sixteen Polish benevolent societies. It cost $50,000 and is a brick structure with highly ornamental terra-cotta front, seventy-five feet wide, 125 feet long, and three stories high. In addition to an assembly hall for public gatherings and balls, there are eleven society meeting rooms and a large library and gymnasium. It is proposed to have a regular series of concerts and lectures during the winter seasons. This institution will be the headquarters for Poles from abroad during the World’s Fair.