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Charles Cleaver

[Extracts from articles which appeared first in The Chicago Tribune.]

To the south of the village was an almost interminable prairie, said to be three hundred miles in length, with only one small belt of timber to break the monotony of its level surface, reaching, as we were told, to the most southern point of the state, to which you could travel by crossing only that one small belt of timber, before mentioned, not a quarter of a mile in width. The country immediately around the village was very low and wet, the banks of the river not being more than three or four feet above the level of the water. More than one-third of the river was covered with wild rice, leaving but a small stream in the center.

Parties informed us that in the spring we should find it almost impossible to get around for the mud — truth very forcibly illustrated


when a few months later I got into a wagon to go about a mile and a half northwest, to a house Daniel Elston was building on the west side of the river. It was with the greatest difficulty that two good horses could pull the empty wagon through the two feet of mud and water across the prairie we had to pass. I once heard Mr. Elston's place called "The Mud Farm," not an inappropriate name for it at that time. A year or two later I saw many teams stuck fast in the streets of the village.

I remember, once, a stage-coach got mired on Clark Street, opposite the present Sherman House, where it remained several days, with a board driven in the mud at the side of it bearing this inscription: "No bottom here." I once saw a lady stuck in the mud in the middle of Randolph Street at the crossing of La Salle. She was evidently in need of help, as every time she moved she sank deeper and deeper. An old gentleman from the country, seeing the situation, offered to help her, which had such an effect upon her modesty that with one desperate effort she drew her feet out minus her shoes, which were afterward found over a foot deep in the mire, and reached the sidewalk in her stockings. I could tell innumerable tales of the dreadfully muddy roads we had to encounter, but a few such will suffice.

In 1838 or 1839 the only way two of our most fashionable young ladies from the North Side could get to the Presbyterian Church on


Clark Street near Lake was by riding in a dung-cart, with robes thrown on the bottom on which they sat. I once saw those same ladies dumped on the sidewalk in front of the church through the negligence of their driver in not putting in the bolt.

Another story, told in a lecture given by James A. Marshall, is rather more than I can vouch for. It was this: That our minister, who was then a young bachelor, in walking home with a young lady from Wednesday evening meeting, got into a slough, and in their endeavors to extricate themselves kept sinking deeper and deeper, until they were more than waist-deep in mud and water, and that it was only from their screaming for help that assistance came and saved them from a muddy and watery grave.

I know of no slough that was deep enough for that except one running south from the river about State Street, gradually lessening to about Adams Street. There was also a very wet spot, or slough, on Clark Street south of Washington. The village trustees, wishing to drain it and having no fund on hand, applied to Strachan & Scott, the first brokers that came here, for a loan of $60; but the wary Scotchmen refused to let them have it unless E. B. Williams endorsed it, which he did. This was probably the first loan made by the city of Chicago. Compare it with the millions she has borrowed since. What a contrast!


Before leaving the subject, I must say a few words respecting the early efforts of our city fathers to effectually drain the village. As I have said before, Chicago was very low and exceedingly wet. The first effort made was on Lake Street, where, after mature deliberation, our village solons passed an ordinance for the digging out of the street to the depth of three feet — a little the deeper in the center. This naturally drained the lots contiguous to it, and on being covered with long, heavy planks, or timber, running from the sidewalk to the center of the roadway, for a few months after it was finished made a very good street; but it was soon found that heavy teams going over it worked the timbers into the mud, and it was consequently squash, squash, until at last, in wet weather, the mud would splash up into the horses' faces, and the plan was condemned as a failure. It was tried two or three years, when the planks were removed, and it was filled up two or three feet above the original surface. This was found to work better, as it naturally would, and the same system of filling up has been continued from time to time, until some of the streets are five or six feet above the original surface of the prairie. The filling up answered a double purpose, as it not only made better roads, but it enabled the owners of the adjoining lots to have good cellars without going much below the level of the prairie, thus getting a drainage into the river.


The first year or two we were here there was not a cellar in Chicago. A good joke was told about the first brick Tremont House that was put up. Of course it was at first built to the grade of that period; but as the grade was every now and then established higher and still higher, it at last left the hotel three or four feet below the surface of the road in front of it, and steps were built around it both on Lake and Dearborn streets for the convenience of persons going there or passing along the sidewalk.

A wag of a fellow from New Orleans, while visiting here, wrote back to his paper that they need not talk any more about the low land of New Orleans, for Chicago had got a brick hotel five stories high that was so heavy that it had sunk into the soft soil several feet, and had forced the ground up into the street around it. I must say it had that appearance. The building was afterward raised eight feet, bringing it up to the grade, and making cellars and basements underneath. It was the first brick building ever raised in Chicago, and the raising was done at a cost to the proprietors, Ira and James Couch, of some $45,000. The contractor, I think, came from Boston, and many were the prophecies that the building would fall down during the process; but it was raised without the breaking of a pane of glass, although it was 160 by 180 feet. After the success attending the raising of the Tremont many others were raised to grade, and at last


one-half of a block of heavy buildings on Lake Street were successfully raised. It took 5,000 screws and 500 men to accomplish it.

The North Side between the river and North State Street was very wet, — the water lay six to nine inches deep the year round, — and on the West Side for ten miles out the water lay in places two feet deep, and in wet weather the whole surface was covered with water, with the exception of the two ridges between the city and the Des Plaines River. I built, in the fall of '36, on the corner of Washington and Jefferson streets, and many a time had to wade ankle-deep in water to get there before I cut a ditch to the river to drain it.

On taking a trip to the Northwest in the spring of '35, the water was so deep a little north of Fullerton Avenue, on the Milwaukee road, that it came into the wagon-box several times before we reached the ridge at Jefferson. In going out to a convention, June 1, 1849, there was so much water on the prairie west of the city that it took us nearly the whole day to reach Doty's Hotel, on the ridge about ten miles west of the courthouse. We were, of course, traveling in wagons, as that was long before the era of railroads. But I have said enough to show the character of the soil of Chicago and surrounding country. It certainly was decidedly a very low and wet spot on which to build a city before it was drained and sewered, and the only wonder is that it has become the


magnificent city that we boast of at the present day, with blocks of buildings far surpassing in elegance of structure, durability, and size any that can be found in the business parts of either London or Paris.

In 1836 I drove up to Milwaukee, when the most of the village was on the west side, at Kilbourne Town, although they had made a beginning to build up the Cream City even at that early day. The Milwaukee House, a large frame hotel, was just opened, being built on one of the highest hills in the city. It has since been lowered about fifty feet, to bring it on a level with the rest of the town. From my first visit for twenty years I went there continually, marked its growth, and many a time listened to the boasts of its citizens that it was going to rival Chicago in its growth, and did actually contain as many inhabitants as the Garden City. The runners from the hotel would go on board the Eastern boats and tell passengers such tales of the dreadful sickness and daily deaths in Chicago that many a one was frightened and deterred from coming here.

I was with Captain Ward on the first steamer that ever entered the river, which was then filled with numerous mud banks, on which we grounded several times before getting up to where the wharves now are. The citizens were about crazy with delight at seeing the boat


enter, and got up quite an impromptu glorification. Waukegan was not then settled. Kenosha, or Southport, as it was called, was just laid out, and Root River, on which is located Racine, was crossed about three miles from its mouth. In 1842 or 1843 I first visited Galena, then quite a city of note, doing a larger wholesale business than Chicago. It was the center of the mining district for lead, and was the point at which all the shipments were made for the South and East, being the distributing point for the upper Mississippi and Northwest. From there Chicago received its first shipment of clarified sugar, bought from the agent of the St. Louis refinery, who was stationed there. It was only sixty barrels, but was the forerunner of an immense trade afterward done with St. Louis, through an agent appointed here.

In the fall of 1842 I made two trips to St. Louis for the purchase of sugar and molasses, being the first ever brought into the city direct from the South. The route was from here to Peru by stage, and from there by boat. The water was very low — so much so that there were only two small boats running, out of about twenty in the trade. The rest were stuck on the different sandbars, some ten or twelve being at Beardstown. The small boat on which I took passage only drew about two feet of water. Consequently she continued her trips, but was a whole week reaching St. Louis.


The deck hands on board were all slaves, and the way the poor fellows were treated was really shameful. After meals in the cabin everything was swept off the plates into tin pans and then taken below, when the darkies would scramble for the contents like so many hogs.

At Beardstown the boat grounded, and the darkies were driven into the water to float a hundred barrels of whisky over the bar. When thus lightened, they pried her over; and yet, with this wretched treatment, they were the jolliest, merriest set of fellows ever seen, singing and playing when they were not at work, as if they had not a trouble or care in the world. Just opposite Alton, at the entrance to the Mississippi, she struck a snag and nearly sank, but, after running ashore, they stuck their jackcoats into the hole and continued their journey as if nothing had happened, reaching the city a few hours afterward without further mishap. A second trip I made soon after took over two weeks on the river.

There is one other episode in my early travels which I must relate, particularly as it was made with others, and was, I think, the first political convention ever attended by Chicagoans. It was in the presidential canvass of 1840 — the year Harrison was elected. Some seventy of us were nominated to attend a convention to be held at Springfield, and, as we wished to make a sensation, we determined


to get the thing up in style. Great preparations were made. We secured fourteen of the best teams in town, got new canvas covers made for the wagons, and bought four tents. We also borrowed the government yawl — the largest in the city — had it rigged up as a two-masted ship, set it on the strongest wagon we could find, and had it drawn by six splendid gray horses. Thus equipped, with four sailors on board, a good band, and a six-pound cannon to fire occasional salutes, made quite an addition to our cavalcade of fourteen wagons, we went off with flying colors, amid the cheers and well-wishes of the numerous friends that accompanied us a few miles out. Major-General, then Captain, Hunter, was our marshal, and the whole delegation was chosen from the best class of citizens, of whom but few, very few, remain: Gurdon S. Hubbard, Stephen F. Gale, Thomas B. Carter, Robert Freeman, and, Mr. Carter informs me, two of the musicians are still living, being all we could call to mind. It was June 7, I think, that we started, leaving the city between nine and ten o'clock. From the Three-Mile House to the ridge, ten miles from town, took us about the whole day to accomplish. It was past five o'clock before we got our tents pitched.

The prairie was covered with water, and the wagons would often sink up to the axles in mud, making it a most tedious and fatiguing journey. But on reaching the tavern, and


finding an old coon there, with a barrel of hard cider, on the stoop — emblems of the Whig party — we soon made ourselves jovial around the camp-fire, over which some of our party were busy cooking supper, as it was understood, before starting, that none of the party were to go to taverns, but all fare alike, sleeping under the tents. We were, of course, well supplied with buffalo-robes and blankets. These, with a little hay under them, made comfortable beds. We set a watch in true military style, though it was hardly thought necessary so near to the city.

We were astir by sunrise the next morning, and, after partaking of breakfast, started again on our journey, reaching Joliet, where we again encamped for the night. During the evening we were visited by a few of the citizens, who advised us to put on a strong guard during the night, as a party of Irishmen at work on the canal had determined to burn our vessel. On receiving this information we took measures at once for its protection. The wagons were placed in a circle, the vessel in the center, and the horses corraled in the enclosure. Then we doubled the guard, which was relieved every two hours, and, thus prepared for any emergency, sought our tents. About twelve or one o'clock the guard arrested two men found sneaking under the wagons, and held them until morning. With that exception we passed a quiet night, but in the morning received decisive


information that we should be attacked in fording the river.

When all preparations were made for a start, our marshal rode along the line, telling those who had not already done so to load their arms, consisting of shot-guns and old horse-pistols (revolvers being then unknown), but to be sure and not fire until he gave the word of command. Fortunately we escaped without bloodshed, but it looked very serious for about half an hour. When we reached the ford we found a party of two hundred or three hundred men and boys assembled to dispute our passage. However, we continued our course, surrounded by a howling mob, and part of the time amid showers of stones thrown from the adjoining bluff, until we came to a spot where two stores were built — one on either side of the street — and there we came to a halt, as they had tied a rope from one building to the other, with a red petticoat dangling in the midst, used by the Democrats to show disrespect to General Harrison, whom they called the "Old-Woman Candidate." Seeing us brought to a stand, the mob redoubled their shouts and noise from their tin horns, kettles, etc. General Hunter, riding to the front, took in the situation at a glance. It was either forward or fight. He chose the former, and gave the word of command, knowing it would be at the loss of our masts in the vessel. And sure enough, down came the fore-and-aft


topmast with a crash, inciting the crowd to increased violence, noise, and tumult. One of the party got so excited that he snatched a tin horn from a boy and struck the marshal's horse. When he reached for his pistols, the fellow made a hasty retreat into his store. After proceeding a short distance, we came to the open prairie, and a halt was ordered for repairs. It took less than half an hour for our sailors to go aloft, splice the masts, and make all taut again. Then it became our turn to hurrah, which we did with a will, and were molested no further. But the delegation that were to join us from the village, being deterred from fear, were set upon by the mob and pelted out of town with rotten eggs. This was Democracy in '40 — we were Whigs. From that time forward we had no further trouble from our opponents. In fact, the farmers along our route treated us with the greatest hospitality and kindness. One in particular, I remember, met us with a number of hams, bread, etc., in his wagon, and when we arrived at his home said, "Now, boys, just help yourselves to anything you want; there is plenty of corn in the crib, potatoes in the cellar, and two or three fat sheep in the flock," which he had killed for us. In the morning he escorted us on our journey some miles, with twenty or thirty of his neighbors. In fact, with the exception before mentioned, we met with nothing but kindness the whole of our trip.


It took us about seven days to reach Springfield, where we met some 20,000 fellow-citizens from the central and southern portions of the state. There was one part of the procession that I shall never forget. It was a log-house, some twelve by sixteen feet, built on an immense truck, the wheels made of solid wood cut from a large tree. This was drawn by thirty yoke of oxen. A couple of coons were playing in the branches of a hickory tree at one corner of the house, and a barrel of hard cider stood by the door, with the latch-string hanging out. These were all emblems of the party in that year's canvass.

With the above exception, Chicago took the lead in everything. What with the vessel — a wonder of wonders to the Southerners, who had never seen, or perhaps heard of, a sailing-vessel before — the natty tents fixed up with buffalo-skin seats, interspersed with blue and red blankets, and festooned with the national flag and bunting, made such a display that the young ladies of the city paid us a deal of attention, making numerous visits, and during the early part of the evening complimented us with a serenade, which we returned later. One person, a Mr. Baker, threw open his house after midnight, and entertained us in good style with cake and wine. We stayed two or three days, making many friends, and enjoyed ourselves greatly. But there was six or seven days' travel to reach home again, which was not so pleasant.


We were delayed by two public dinners on our route back — one given at Bloomington by a right jolly lady, who made a capital speech. We returned by way of Fox River, avoiding Joliet, traveling through Oswego, Aurora, and Naperville, and, though enjoying our three weeks' trip very much, we were glad to meet a large number of citizens to escort us again to our homes in Chicago. Such was a convention in old times. What a change forty years has brought about! By rail, the journey would take one night, a day or two spent in Springfield, and by night home again in luxurious sleeping-cars.

I have previously written several articles describing the difficulties the first settlers had in reaching Chicago, as well as their experiences in the first few years of residence here. I will now give you some idea of the trouble and difficulties they found in providing timber and material with which to build even the small houses and stores that were put up in those early days. There were no well-filled lumberyards, with an office adjoining, into which you could enter, as now, and leave your order for all the different kinds wanted. The whole stock of pine lumber in the village when I came here amounted to 5,000 or 6,000 feet of boards, and that was held at $60 a thousand. Previous to 1833 most of the houses had been built of logs, some round, just as they came


from the woods; while the more pretentious, belonging to the officers of the army and the great men of the village, were built of hewn logs. There was a small sawmill run by water about five or six miles up the North Branch, where they had built a dam across the stream, getting a three or four foot head of water; there was also a small steam sawmill, run by Captain Bemsley Huntoon, situated a little south of Division Street, at the mouth of a slough that emptied itself into the river at that point, in both of which they sawed out such timber as grew in the woods adjoining, consisting of oak, elm, poplar, white ash, etc. Of such lumber most of the houses were built, and any carpenter that has ever been compelled to use it, particularly in its green state, will appreciate its quality. In drying it will shrink, warp, and twist in every way, drawing out the nails, and, after a summer has passed, the siding will gape open, letting the wind through every joint. Such was the stuff used for building in 1833 and 1834. Some even did worse than that, and went into the woods for their scantling, cutting down small trees and squaring one side of them with the broadax. One of the largest houses built that winter, by Daniel Elston, was built with that very kind, both for uprights and rafters.

During the summer of 1834 the supply of pine lumber was greatly increased, and the price much lower. I think the most of it came


from Canada, but even as late as 1837 timber was so scarce (and heavy timber was used in large buildings in those times, the frame being pinned together by mortise and tennon) that, wanting considerable of it to put up a factory, I found it cheaper to purchase ten acres of land, ten or twelve miles up the North Branch, from which I cut the necessary logs, hauled them into the city on sleighs, and had them squared on the ground with the broadax. But heavy timber for frame buildings soon after that came into disuse, as it was found the present way of putting up frame buildings was much stronger and better. It used then to be called balloon framing. G. W. Snow, an old settler, had the credit of first originating the idea.

Lumber in 1837 had got to be more plentiful at $18 to $20 a thousand. I put up a building, 30 by 40 feet, two-story and basement, on the corner of Washington and Jefferson streets. It was the largest building on the West Side south of Lake Street, and, standing there alone for years, served as a beacon for many a belated traveler over the ten miles of prairie between the village and the Des Plaines River. At that time it seemed a long way out of town. There was but one shanty between it and Lake Street Bridge, and it really seemed quite a walk over the prairie to reach it.

The West Side at that time contained but few inhabitants. When a year or two later


the village took upon itself city airs, the Third Ward, extending from the center of Lake Street south, and all west of the river, contained but sixty voters, the majority of whom were Whigs. It was a Whig ward, but that did not prevent the Democrats of that early day from colonizing about fifteen Irishmen from the North Side to try and carry it. I merely mention this fact as showing that the Democrat of 1839 was very much like his brother Democrat of 1880. I might tell a good joke of two prominent politicians of that time — how they cursed and swore at us when they found we positively refused to receive their Irish votes, after they had furnished them for ten days with whisky and board; but as they are still living in the city, I will not mention names.

From 1838 to 1843 people began gradually to build a house here and there on the streets adjoining, between the location I had selected and the river; but the progress made was very slow. We were right in the midst of the panic which commenced in 1837. I changed my location in 1843, and built on Canal Street, just south of Madison, and still had an unobstructed view of the bridge at Lake Street, and walked to it over the greensward of the prairie. At this point it was foolishly supposed by many to be a good location for a residence, as it was a dry, good soil on the bank of the river, which was then a clear, running stream, and really looked pleasant. I built a brick house,


surrounded it with a garden, and had fine, growing fruit-trees; so, also, did two or three others, among whom were Charles Taylor and George Davis, whose widows are still living on the West Side; but before we reaped the fruits of it, business drew near us. Gates & Co. started a foundry within a block of us, and in 1848 a lumber-yard was established on the adjoining lot. That settled our idea as to residence property, and in 1852 I moved to the corner of Thirteenth Street and Michigan Avenue. Here I rented a house and garden that was nearly surrounded with prairie. But business again followed us, and six months after we settled there the Michigan Central Railroad put up a temporary depot directly opposite on the east side of the street. To be sure we had the pleasure of seeing the iron horse make its daily trips to the city of our choice, but that hardly compensated us for the annoyance we continually received from the tramps and others that came on the cars begging for food and water; so we determined once more to pull up stakes, and selected a place on the lake shore two miles south of the city, in the grove, where Fortieth Street now is. But before speaking of that I will give you some idea of the expansion of the city in a southerly direction of what is called the South Side.

I think it was in 1836 or 1837 that the old Tremont was put up on the northwest corner


of Lake and Dearborn streets, owned and kept by Ira and James Couch, though in a very different style to what it has been kept the last twenty-five years. It was then a common country tavern, for the accommodation of farmers and others visiting the city. I have many a time met one of the proprietors on the prairie bringing a load of wood from the Dutchman's Point, twelve miles up the North Branch, and once or twice, when business was slack, met him on the road to Milwaukee, with a sleigh-load of butter, dried apples, etc., to trade off to the denizens of the Cream City and turn an honest dollar. In 1838 the city had got as far south as Madison Street. Two of my friends built on the south side of Madison, directly facing Dearborn Street. This was the very outskirts of the city and seemed a long way from the center of business — Clark and South Water streets. But it kept creeping southward, until in 1850 it had reached Twelfth Street, where, on the northwest corner of that and State Street, stood the Southern Hotel. In 1849 I was offered the ten acres adjoining, running from Twelfth to Fourteenth Street and west of State, for $1,200. Mathew Laflin tells me he purchased it for $1,000. It is part of the property that has lately been sold to the railroad for a depot at $200 to $300 a foot.

In 1851 I was offered, by the Marine Bank, twenty acres, running from State Street to the


lake, for $500 an acre. A year or two later I was one of a committee to locate Dearborn Seminary. I urged them to locate between Wabash and Michigan avenues, just south of Fifteenth Street, which was offered us for $25 a foot, both fronts; but it was rejected with scorn, inquiring of me where I expected to get the young ladies to fill the school in that neighborhood. At this time there was only a single buggy track running in a direct line across the prairie from the corner of State and Twelfth streets to the "oak woods," as the groves south of Thirty-first Street were then called. In driving to that point we only passed two houses — Mr. Clark's on Michigan Avenue and Sixteenth Street, who owned a farm there, and Myrick's Tavern at Twenty-ninth Street, who owned sixty or seventy acres from Twenty-seventh or Twenty-eighth to Thirty-first Street. Then we came to the Graves' tract of sixty or seventy acres, situated near the lake in the beautiful grove between Thirty-first and Thirty-third streets, on which was a house of resort called "The Cottage." The adjoining property of the same description, south of Thirty-third and north of Thirty-fifth streets, was, in 1852, purchased by Senator Douglas, who donated ten acres of it to the Chicago University. This tract of seventy acres was owned before Douglas bought it by some bank in Philadelphia, and was offered for $7,000. I urged its purchase by the city


for a park through the papers of that day, but had my communications returned to me, with the remark that it certainly would benefit Cleaverville, but they did not think it would benefit the citizens of Chicago, being so far out. From Thirty-fifth to Thirty-ninth Street was the Ellis farm of 200 acres, owned by Samuel Ellis, who lived in a clapboard house on the southwest corner of Thirty-fifth Street and Lake Avenue, where they had kept tavern for years, it being formerly the first station out of Chicago for the Detroit line of stages. It was about half a mile from "The Cottage" and three-quarters from Myrick's. These were then the only houses south of Thirteenth Street, except one or two small places on the river; but it was upon the Ellis farm that I determined to build a factory, and for that purpose purchased twenty acres of him, on the lake shore, from the center of Lake Avenue to the lake, between Thirty-seventh and Thirty-ninth streets. It was thought to be a wild scheme, and many a time I was laughed at, and asked with a smile if I ever expected Chicago to reach as far south as that, being then two miles beyond the city limits, which were at Twenty-second Street. However, that did not deter me, even when I got out plans for a three-story building and cellar, 80 by 160 feet, and was informed that it would take 100 cords of stone and 400,000 brick to complete it. But it did become a


matter of grave importance how I was to get the brick, stone, lumber, etc., on the ground, as the brick-kilns were on the West Side, near Twentieth Street, and there was no bridge south of Madison Street. But being accustomed to face difficulties, and, after looking the matter over, concluded the cheapest way was to build a scow and run a ferry over the river about Twenty-second Street, which I did for three or four months. But the trouble was not then over. Before the teamsters had been hauling thirty days the road track in some places got so deep in sand that they informed me that they should have to throw up the contract (which I think was only $1 a thousand) unless I would build some half mile of plank road, which I accordingly had to do, and also build a bridge in front of the university over a slough 150 feet in length. The stone I had but little difficulty with, as I contracted to have that taken down by tug on canal-boats. But for the heavy oak timbers and joists which were needed I built another smaller scow and towed it down the lake shore with horses. This was before the Illinois Central Railroad had put any piling or crib-work in the lake, when the shore was a beautiful sandy beach, extending many feet from the high land to the water. I had, previously to this, put up several houses on the west side of the river, on the North Branch, near Division Street, for the use of my workmen, and wanted those moved to the lake


shore at Thirty-eighth Street. The problem to be solved was how to get them there. Many difficulties were in the way of taking them by water; yet that seemed the only feasible plan. One great objection was that Chicago Avenue Bridge had no draw in it to let a boat pass; but, after taking advice upon the subject, I notified the city authorities they must remove it, as they had no right or authority to obstruct a navigable stream. They removed it after a day or two's delay. But that delay cost me the loss of one of the boats employed in moving the houses. I hired two canal-boats, lashed them abreast of each other, and chained two houses crossways on them. In this way we found no difficulty in going to the mouth of the river. But a storm had come up on the lake, which compelled us to wait three days until it subsided. A man who had been left on board as watchman, getting tired of such a solitary life, of his own accord hailed a passing tug, and by himself braved the rolling waves of Lake Michigan; and, though the storm had in a great measure abated, yet there was a heavy swell washing shoreward, and the consequence was, the minute the tug cast them off a couple of hundred feet from land they began to drift in broadside to the shore, and were soon driven up on the beach, the outer boat sinking, leaving the houses, to all appearances, pitching into the lake. But, fortunately, the chains held them, and, without further damage,


they were landed on the shore. But we were not so fortunate with the boat, which was wrecked the following day before we could get a tug to lay hold of it. Two other trips were made, and four more houses safely landed without further loss.

Those houses are still standing, just north of Pier or Thirty-eighth Street, on Lake Avenue, and are the same that were floated down in to 1851, more than thirty years ago, and, with the brick building and slaughter-house erected the same year, were the commencement of the large settlement in that neighborhood. The following year I built several more cottages, and soon found it almost a necessity to build a meeting-house, which I did in 1854, in which school was kept and the Gospel was preached for many years. This building was afterward removed to Hyde Park, and I think is now used as the Village-Hall. In 1857 one hundred acres were platted and laid out as the Village of Cleaverville — so named by the reporter for one of the papers of that day — and has since kept its cognomen, legally, at all events, although from the station on the Illinois Central Railroad being called Oakland, it has gradually been known by that name, until many suppose that to be the legal appellation, and want their title-papers so designated.

It was but a year after I erected the factory on the lake shore that the Michigan Central came thundering along with their rails and


iron horse, within 100 feet of the building, thus rendering it almost useless for the purpose for which part of it was erected — viz., a slaughterhouse for the city butchers to kill in. They began killing there, but the cars frightened the cattle so they dropped off one after the other, although Colonel Hancock made his debut in it as a Chicago packer, killing a few hundred head of cattle that Winter. But others as well as myself soon recognized the locality as one of the most beautiful around Chicago for residence purposes, and I soon had an offer for a lot to build on, by Mr. Farrington, the well-known wholesale grocer, who was the first, except myself, to erect a building on the village tract. Others soon followed, and, on the Illinois Central putting on a train to run three times a day, citizens began to be attracted by the beauty of the location, and the first week of their running I sold five or six lots. In 1853 I built a house for myself, where I have since resided, and still live to see the gradual but wonderful change that has taken place in the country around; from a farm, fenced in with a rail fence, to a populous neighborhood, filled up with elegant stone, brick, and frame houses, acknowledged by all to be one of the most beautiful suburbs of the city, with its large brick school-houses, containing hundreds of children each, churches of all denominations, and improvements of every kind.

For the first ten or twelve years of my


residence there I had to depend on myself for everything that was done to improve the neighborhood. There were no Hyde Park officials, and the city would have nothing to do with us, so far as making streets and sewers were concerned. I well remember the making of Thirty-ninth Street. It was such a swamp, west of Cottage Grove Avenue, that I had to employ men to shovel it up, as a team could not work it. In fact, all the swales between the ridges were covered with water the summer through, breeding mosquitoes by the million, which was supposed to be one of the greatest draw backs to the settlement of the neighborhood. But with the drainage of the land they soon decreased, and on running a sewer from the lake in 1867, west on the street mentioned to Langley Avenue, thus draining all the lots contiguous to it, they disappeared altogether.

When this part of the country was first settled there were no public conveyances of any kind. For years I drove in and out of the city in a buggy. Then came the first omnibus, running to Twelfth Street every hour. It was, after a year or two, extended to the city limits at Twenty-Second Street, and gradually more 'busses were put on. Then some public-spirited individual put on a four-horse omnibus, to run to Myrick's Tavern, on Thirtieth Street. That continued until about 1855 or 1856, when, I think, the horse-cars began to run, first to Twelfth, then to Twenty-second, extending


soon to Thirty-first, where they stopped for several years, until 1867, when the track was laid to Thirty-ninth, its present terminus. All who ride on them now know what success they have met with, as they are continually filled to overflowing, though running every three or four minutes for sixteen hours out of the twenty-four. Could Doctor Egan and Senator Douglas arise from their graves, they would indeed look on with astonishment. I mention them, as the doctor was the first to get a charter through the legislature for a horse-railroad from the Calumet River to Chicago. He, the senator, and myself organized a company to build the road some time before it was commenced, but were defeated in the city council by their refusing us the right to lay down tracks in the city. Some two or three years after, the privilege was granted to others.

While writing of public improvements, I will mention the water-supply. Citizens, the first year or two of my residence here, went to the river-bank and dipped it up by the pailful. Then for a few years it was carted from the lake shore, in water-carts, and sold at ten cents a barrel. After that, if I remember right, a stream was pumped from the shore into a tank or reservoir adjoining the steam flouring-mill built on the northeast corner of Lake Street and Michigan Avenue, run, if I remember right, by the late James H. Woodworth.


The two tanks were certainly not over twelve feet deep, and stood probably four feet above the level of the ground, and from this water was distributed through log pipes to a small portion of the city. This continued until about 1855-56, when J. H. Dunham called a meeting of the citizens to meet over his store on South Water Street, to take into consideration the need of a better and purer supply of water. At that meeting there were only five individuals present, but it was the first of a series that at last accomplished the object sought, and was the commencement of the present system of supply throughout the city. For many years it was pumped from the shore at the present site of the waterworks, but finding at length that they pumped about as much small fish as they did water, the tunneling of the lake to the crib, two miles from shore, was conceived and successfully accomplished.

Seeing in your valuable paper the late statistics published by you of the business done in this city, for the past year, both in Packing and in Grain, I thought it would be interesting to those connected with the trade to know from what small proportions it originally sprang. I will commence with the butchering and packing business, and to do that must go back to the early days of 1833, when Archibald Clybourn had a small log slaughter-house on the east


side of the North Branch, a little south of the bridge now known by his name. He then killed weekly a few head of cattle, supplying the garrison, and also the townspeople, and was one of the first who afterward put up both beef and pork for the surrounding country and villages, north and west of us. He did quite an extensive trade as early as 1836-37, and was reputed to be a wealthy man in those days, not only from success in his business, but also from his land speculations.

It was about that time, or probably a year or two later, that he made his famous trip to Milwaukee on horseback. He rode an old favorite gray horse of his, making the trip in ten or twelve hours, to secure a certain eighty acres of land, in or near the city, by which transaction he made some $20,000, — considered a large amount in those times, — and ever after gave his faithful old horse free fodder in his barns and pastures. In the winter of 1842-43, he slaughtered and packed for William Felt & Co. two or three thousand head of cattle, to ship to New York City — the first beef ever packed in this city for an Eastern market. The same season Gurdon S. Hubbard packed some cattle for the East, and perhaps he is entitled to the first place in Chicago packing, as he had a drove of about three hundred hogs brought in and sold to the villagers as early as 1833, and from that time for many years was largely identified with the


packing interests of the city, continuing in the business as late as 1855 or '56, perhaps later. Mark Noble also killed a beast now and then, and sold among the people in the early days of 1833-34, keeping it up for two or three years later — when he married and left for Texas, making several trips to the city years after with large droves of cattle. His brother, John Noble, still resides on the north side of the city.

Sylvester Marsh also started a butcher-shop on Dearborn Street, between Lake and South Water streets, as early as 1834, carrying it on until 1836 or 1837, when, from his success in the business and land speculations, he thought he was rich enough and left for Dunkirk, N. Y., where in some unaccountable way he soon lost all he had, and in two or three years was back in Chicago, in partnership with George W. Dole, under the firm name of Dole & Marsh. They did quite an extensive business, both in killing for market and also in packing for themselves and others, at their slaughter-house on the South Branch.

It was with this firm that Oramel S. and R. M. Hough served their apprenticeship to the packing business, who, for many years after, were extensively known among those connected with the packing interests of Chicago as Hough & Co., and Hough, Brown & Co. Sherman (Orin) & Pitkin (Nathaniel), an extensive dry-goods firm of 1842-43, also went heavily into


hog-packing that winter, keeping it up for several seasons thereafter; they went into it when pork was at the lowest price ever known in Chicago. I bought several loads of dressed hogs out of farmers' wagons that winter as low as $1.25 a hundred. Packing in those early days was quite an experiment, and few were found willing to risk their money in it, as they had to carry everything packed till spring and then ship East by vessel. William and Norman Felt, extensive farmers near Rochester, N. Y., were the first to make a regular business of it, as they continued killing at different packinghouses in the city until about 1858 or 1859, and after that for years were the most extensive shippers of live stock from this place. Moshier & Clapp (Wm. B.) also packed largely of pork for the Eastern market as early as 1844 or 1845; they packed for a time in a store of Col. Gurdon S. Hubbard, in the centre of the city, used by him for that purpose. They kept in the business for several years, until the death of Mr. Clapp, about 1850.

In connection with the slaughtering business of the city, I must not forget Absalom Funk, later Funk & Albee, who for years kept the largest and best meat-market in the city. Mr. Funk had also several large farms near Bloomington, Ill., where he raised and fattened cattle for his own killing, making semi-monthly trips between the two places on horseback, following his droves of cattle. When railroads commenced


bringing cattle to the city, rendering his riding unnecessary, he soon felt the want of his customary exercise, sickened and died, his partner, Cyrus P. Albee, following him some years later. Reynolds (Eri) & Hayward (John) were also early packers of Chicago, taking Dole & Marsh's packing-house, on the South Branch, where they carried on the business quite extensively for many years, packing for themselves and others.

Tobey (Orville H.) & Booth (Heman D.) commenced business in their present location on the corner of 18th and Grove streets, quite early. Mr. Tobey commenced first melting in a small rendering concern he bought of Sylvester Marsh, and moved there from the North Side, and from that worked themselves up to be the most noted shippers of pork to the old country, still keeping up their reputation to this day for curing the best meats.

Col. John L. Hancock came to the city about 1853, making his first venture in packing by killing some 1,500 head of cattle in my slaughterhouse, on the lake shore at Thirty-eighth Street, but soon became one of the largest packers in the state, carrying on an extensive business at Bridgeport, both in beef and pork, for many years; and I believe is still there at his old trade. I have mentioned all of the first packers of Chicago; at all events, all I remember.

I think there were only about 35,000 head of cattle slaughtered during the season from


October to January as late as 1857, and perhaps about 150,000 hogs; this seems a small business when compared with these times, when hogs are counted by the million, but it was then thought to be a very large trade. Up to this time, 1857, I had taken all, or nearly all, the tallow and lard from the various packing-houses of the city, rendering it in the melting-house adjoining my factory, on the lake shore at Thirty-eighth Street, where I used to manufacture it into soap, candles, lard oil, neat's-foot oil, etc., supplying the country west and north of us, and also in the later years shipping tallow and oil to New York and Montreal.

I commenced in the fall of 1834, when a few hundred pounds a week was all I could get from the different butchers; it kept increasing slowly until 1843, when Felt and G. S. Hubbard commenced shipping beef, and Sherman & Pitkin pork, when, finding it coming in faster than I could melt it by the old process by fire, I conceived the idea of rendering by steam. John Rogers had tried it a year before in a small way, but did not make a success of it; but I found no trouble in bringing it into practical use, and from that day to this it has been used for all melting purposes; and at this late day has been brought to such perfection, in


the close tanks made of boiler-iron, putting on steam at eighty to one hundred pounds to the inch, that a tank of lard or tallow can be melted in a few hours. The first tanks I used were of wood, and took twenty hours to render out. P. W. Gates & Co., who had just then started as boiler-makers and machinists, set up the first boiler for me, with all the necessary coils, pipes, etc., and, from that time until 1856-57, I did the melting, or nearly all of it, for all the packers then in the city.

A firm from Cincinnati, Johnson & Co., put up extensive melting-works on the lake shore, north of Thirty-first Street, where they purchased five acres of Willard F. Myrick, in 1853, and spent some $40,000 in setting up their iron tanks, etc., but had not capital enough to carry it on, and it became a dead failure; but after it had stood idle for many years, Johnson came on and commenced suit against the Illinois Central Railroad Co. for ruining their business by putting their tracks between the building and the lake, and managed to get a check out of the company for $50,000 damages. Gurdon S. Hubbard did his melting there for two or three years. Hough & Co. were the next to put tanks and boilers into their packing-house at Bridgeport, about the year 1854-55; others soon followed; and in 1857 I gave up the business, and from that time all the different packing-houses have had their own tanks and melting apparatus, and there I


leave all reminiscences of early packers and packing.

I will now give my readers some idea of the beginnings of the present grain trade of the city of Chicago which has now reached such enormous proportions that it is counted by the millions of bushels; in speaking of its growth it will be well to divide it into four different eras, which will also mark the prosperity and growth of the city.

For the first three or four years, or until about 1837, we were indebted to other states for the larger part of what was consumed in the village and surrounding country; that would comprise the first era. From that time to 1842 or 1843 farmers began to raise enough produce for themselves and their neighbors' consumption, as well as supplying the citizens of Chicago with all that was necessary; but those years began to show the necessity of having some foreign market to take off their surplus produce, for in the winter of 1842-43 farmers' produce of all kinds was so low it was hardly worth raising; for instance, dressed hogs sold as low as ten to twelve shillings a hundred, lard three dollars and a half a hundred, tallow six and a quarter, flour three dollars a barrel, oats and potatoes ten cents a bushel, eggs four to five cents a dozen, dressed chickens and prairie hens five cents each. Such a state of things could not last, as farmers found it impossible to raise it for the money, and gradually


all classes of produce were held till spring, for shipment round the lakes by vessel to New York; this would end the second era.

From that period prices gradually improved; but the hauling of it so many miles took off nearly all the profit. Farmers living on Rock River would take five days to market thirty bushels of wheat, finding when they got home not over ten or twelve dollars left out of the price of their load; but for some purposes they had to have a little cash, and so continued to bring it. This lasted until 1850 or 1851. Previous to that time I have seen fifty teams in a line crossing the prairie west of us with their loads of grain for Chicago.

There was also another class of farmers from the south that used, in a measure, to supply the city with necessaries in the shape of green and dried apples, butter, hams, bacon, feathers, etc. These men would bring their loads two or three hundred miles, camping out on the way, cooking their rasher of bacon and corn-dodgers, and boiling their pot of coffee over the camp-fire, sleeping in their wagons at night and saving money enough out of their load to purchase a few bags of coffee, and the balance in salt — this was the invariable return-load of all Hoosiers, who used to come in great numbers in their curious-shaped covered wagons, known in old times as prairie-schooners. I have seen numbers of their teams camped out on the dry ground east of State Street. I once


counted one hundred and sixty from the roof of Bristol & Porter's warehouse, on the corner of State and South Water streets; this closes the third era, about 1852, when the iron horse made its triumphant entry into the city from the East, snorting forth its volume of steam and smoke, a blessed day indeed for the Great West, for without the railroad what could we have done?

Before the Michigan Southern and the Michigan Central railroads entered Chicago from the East, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad Company was laying its tracks and pushing on to the West, making its first stopping-place at the Des Plaines River, then at Wheaton, then the Junction, then on to Elgin, Pigeon Prairie, Belvidere, Rockford, and other stations, until at last it reached Freeport, relieving the farmers at every stopping-place from their long and tedious journeys by team, and enabling them to utilize their own labor and the service of their teams in improving their farms, and adding every season to the amount of grain sown, until with the great increase in the last few years of farm-machinery, and the facilities for moving and storing grain, there seems to be no end to the amount forwarded; and although railroads have stretched their iron arms through every county in the state, and thousands of miles into other states and territories west of us, it is as much and more than they can do to relieve the farmer of his surplus produce. What will be done with it in the next fifty years time alone will reveal.



1. Mr. Cleaver came to Chicago in 1833, and although we have in the main taken the portion of his reminiscences dealing with conditions in the forties and fifties, occasionally items of an earlier period occur. At the point where our selections begin, he had been leading up to the gradual emancipation of Chicago from the level of Lake Michigan. — ED.

2. BEEF PACKING. — Capital invested, $650,500; number of cattle slaughtered, 2800; barrels packed, 97,500. Annual receipts, $824,000. — Chicago Directory, December, 1850.