This course is about Chicago, We will cover the history of the city and region, the politics, corruption, arts, plans, neighborhoods, humor, achievements and the future of the City.
Before the Canal
Bridgeport has a long history. While the commencement of the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal is regarded as the beginnings of Bridgeport, the area around the southern fork of the Chicago river was traversed by many travelers long before canal construction got underway.
The native American Indians were familiar with the area, which was the eastern end of the portaging route that was called Portage de Checagou (or Portage des Chenes) by early French explorers. Jacquez Marquette and Louis Jolliet passed through the portage in 1673. Marquette returned the next season and spent the winter here -- this spot is thought to be near present-day Damen and what was at one time the West Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago river (now the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal). The portage was under French Jurisdiction until 1763; although after 1720 northern Illinois country (not of course a state yet) was controlled by Indian tribes. From 1763 to 1783, the Portage of Chicago was in British hands, who continued to dominate Great Lakes military and trading routes until 1795 and were active in trade even after then, being based in Canada. All during this time Indian, French, and French-Indian fur traders conducted their trade through the portage, but to what extent is unknown, as they operated independently. Americans entered the picture in 1803 with the founding of Fort Dearborn.
The first American settlements that arose were farmer dwellings connected with the Charles Lee and Russell farm shortly after the establishment of Fort Dearborn (Charles Lee himself lived nearer the lake). At the farm lived tenant farmers, housed in cabins. Their names were Liberty White, John B. Cardin, a soldier named John Kelso (or Kelson), and one other not described. Farm products such as livestock and hay were known to be produced here.
The Lee farm, or "Lee's Place" as it was called by locals, was the site of an Indian raid in April of 1812. This was the precursor to the Fort Dearborn Massacre later that summer. John Kelso and a young lad there at the time managed to escape. The two remaining at the farm were shot, stabbed, mutilated and scalped. The event has been recorded by Julliet Kinzie:
The farm at Lee's Place was occupied by a Mr. White and three persons employed by him in the care of the farm. In the afternoon of the day [7th of April, 1812] on which our narrative commences, a party of ten or twelve Indians, dressed and painted, arrived at the house, and, according to the custom among savages, entered and seated themselves without ceremony. Something in their appearance and manner excited the suspicions of one of the family, a Frenchman, who remarked, "I do not like the appearance of these Indians--they are none of our folks. I know by their dress and paint that they are not Pottowattamies." Another of the family, a discharged soldier, then said to the boy who was present, "If that is the case, we had better get away from them if we can. Say nothing; but do as you see me do." As the afternoon was far advanced, the soldier walked leisurely towards the canoes, of which there were two tied near the bank. Some of the Indians inquired where he was going. He pointed to the cattle which were standing among the haystacks on the opposite [right/south] bank, and made signs that they must go and fodder them, and then they should return and get their supper. He got into one canoe, and the boy into the other. The stream was narrow, and they were soon across. When they had gained the opposite side, they pulled some hay for the cattle--made a show of collecting them--and when they had gradually made a circuit, so that their movements were concealed by the haystacks, they took to the woods, which were close at hand, and made for the fort. They had run about a quarter of a mile, when they heard the discharge of two guns successively, which they supposed to have been levelled at the companions they had left behind.[note 1]
Like Chicago itself, The Lee farm was abandoned following the Fort Dearborn massacre in August of 1812. While fur traders were thought to have still traversed the area, American activity did not resume until after federal troops returned (4th of July, 1816) to rebuild Fort Dearborn. See the maps below for a general idea of how Chicago and Lee's Place were laid out in 1812. [note 2]
1816 was also a new beginning for Lee's Place, though the name would be changed to Hardscrabble. Until roughly the Black Hawk War of 1832, Hardscrabble served as a fur trading outpost consisting of several cabins, a trading post, and a lodging house. Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard recalls the place as it had existed in 1818 which he described in a letter (1880) to Rufus Blanchard:
...Mrs. John H. Kinzie in her book, 'Waubun,' correctly describes the location as 'Lee's Place.' Mack & Conant, extensive merchants at Detroit, in the Indian trade, became the owners of this property about the year 1816. They sent Mr. John Craft with a large supply of Indian goods to take possession of it, and establish a branch of their house there, the principle object being to sell goods to such traders as they could residing throughout this country, without interfering with the interests of those traders who purchased goods from him.Mr Craft repaired the dilapidated building, adding thereto, and erecting others necessary for the convenience of business. He, I think, named it 'Hard Scrabble;' whether he or some one else, it bore that name in 1818.[note 3]
Chief Alexander Robinson owned a cabin at Hardscrabble, and several members of the La Framboise family, who were French-Indian, lived there. Robinson had put up the Galloway family at his cabin when they were coldly received by agents of the American Fur Company at Chicago in 1826. One of the girls of the family later became the wife of Archibald Clyborne. She recalled five or six cabins of the several persons living nearby.The area was surveyed in 1821 as part of the federal land survey of Illinois. The land along the canal corridor was among the earliest land surveyed in northern Illinois, since the anticipated canal would presumably prompt land sales nearby before other areas were accessible. The federal land surveys typically took brief note of the conditions of the land that was being surveyed. These surveys are the first accurate and reasonably standard descriptions of the northern Illinois country.