Chicago Celebrates 163 Years

Vol. XI No. 2 - SPRING 2000

By: Kathy Gemperle

On March 4th the city of Chicago celebrated its 163rd anniversary. Since our fair city has such a long history it is interesting to read the 1910 version from a book called, A Civic Manual for Chicago and Cook County written by S.R. Winchell. The following excerpt tells of the incorporation of the city and its rapid growth from a small town to a metropolis. On March 4,1837 the town of Chicago was chartered as a city.

Chicago Begins to Grow. It was not until about 1830 that Chicago really began to grow. Previous to that time it was simply a military post and fur station and the whole region around the fortification had been known as Chicago. In August, 1833, this whole region contained only 28 voters- 28 being the number of votes cast for the election of the first trustees of the village. The country was inhabited by Indians; the Indian trails leading to Chicago at that time being as numerous as are the railroad lines today.

The name Chicago was definitely assigned to a certain plat of land, by maps, in August, 1830 by the Illinois and Michigan Canal Commissioners. The United States Congress had, in 1827, made a grant of land to aid in the construction of this canal. The act had been secured by the efforts of Daniel Cook, from whom Cook County was named. Chicago, by its first map was bounded by the streets now known as Madison, State, Kinzie, and Halsted. The highest price paid for real estate the first year of Chicago was $102 (some authorities say $114) for which two lots were sold, the average being much less. These lots were 3 and 4 (160 feet) on the south west corner of Lake and Market streets. They are now (1910) worth about $500,000. In 1831 there were twelve families in Chicago. Cook County was incorporated by the state legislature January 15, 1831. In 1832 the taxes amounted to nearly one hundred and fifty dollars. With twelve dollars of this sum Chicago’s first public building- a pound for stray cattle- was constructed, Clark Street was at that time the main street in the settlement. The lot on which the Chicago Opera House now stands was sold that year for sixty-one dollars.

In July 1833, a meeting of citizens voted twelve to one (the total vote) to incorporate the town of Chicago, agreeable to the statute for that purpose.

August 10th, following, at the house of Mark Beaubien (called the Sauganash Tavern and standing at the northeast corner of Lake and Canal streets) the first trustees were elected, 28 votes being polled.

In a few months after this the influx of buyers from the East was so great that temporary structures had to be erected for housing them. Chicago was having its first “boom.”

In 1834 the population was about 2000. Four years later it had more than doubled, and since that time the rapid increase has been the marvel of the civilized world. An incident which occurred in October 1834, is worth recording. On the morning of the 4th a large black bear was seen in the strip of woods existing south of Madison Street. The men seized their guns and made for the woods, where the bear was soon found and killed, at the point where LaSalle and Adams Streets cross. But the hunting fever was up, and instead of returning to their homes the men organized a systematic wolf-hunt which resulted in the killing of twenty wolves in one day, all within the limits of the present great metropolis. The howling of wolves at night within the city limits is reported as late as 1838.

The city obtained it first charter March 4, 1837 when its population was said to be 4,149. W. B. Ogden, a Democrat, was the first Mayor of Chicago, elected May 2,1837.

Thanks to Mark Harding for the loan of this interesting book about Chicago from the perspective of 1910.