Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Bowe Brothers of Company "D" of Birge's Western Sharpshooters (66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry)

The three brothers from the Bowe family of Michigan, Seth, Prosper and Gilbert enlisted in Company "D" of Birge's Western Sharpshooters (later known the the 66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry). The unit was recruited by John C. Fremont, organized in St. Louis and mustered into Federal service on November 23, 1861. 
Tintype photograph of five Company "D" privates reveals the diversity of dress in the regiment. Seated from the left - Front row: Prosper O. Bowe, James Smith, Unidentified. Rear: Unidentified, Gilbert S. Bowe. Note the smoking pipes, oversized cravats and bottle pouring into a cup.
It consisted of ten companies recruited in different Midwestern states, Company "D" being from Michigan. Seth and Prosper enlisted in late 1861, and Gilbert in September of 1862. The regiment first operated in Northern Missouri; five companies would see their first action there at Mount Zion Church. In February 1862 they were shipped to Fort Henry shortly after its capture, taking part in the capture of Fort Donelson.
Sergeant Seth A. Bowe, left and brother Gilbert S. Bowe.
Note the sack coats tucked into their trousers.
At Fort Donelson, Pvt. Prosper Bowe was known to have captured the colors of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry. Although, it's not exactly known if he captured it in battle or after the surrender. 

The Western Sharpshooters went on to see action at Shiloh and in the Luka-Corinth Campaign. In late 1862 they were transferred to Illinois service, becoming the 66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry (Western Sharpshooters). Seth A. Bowe was discharged on June 17, 1862 due to disability, Gilbert enlisted September 1, 1862, and Prosper remained in service and reenlisted on December 24, 1863. That December 470 men reenlisted and the regiment was sent to Chicago to be given a veteran furlough.


Prosper O. Bowe in civilian
clothing. Date unknown.
Prosper O. Bowe's two brothers, Seth was the oldest, born in 1837, and Gilbert the youngest, born in 1844. They also had a sister, Dorcas P. Bowe, born in 1840, who Prosper is known to have written letters to. 

All four siblings seem to have originally been born in Jefferson County, New York; the family moved to Michigan in 1855.

After reorganization in early 1864, the 66th Illinois Sharpshooters returned to Pulaski, leaving for Chattanooga in April. From there they would travel to the Army of the Tennessee in Georgia and see action in the Atlanta Campaign. 

Being sharpshooters, they saw a good amount of skirmishing all throughout the campaign, and were heavily engaged on July 22 of 1864 at the Battle of Atlanta. 

The 66th Illinois was known for being largely equipped with Henry repeating rifles. Prosper wrote to his sister on how he put his Henry rifle to good use in the Battle of Atlanta, "I stood and fired nearly ninety rounds without stopping. My gun was so hot I could not touch it - spit on it... and it sizzled!"
In order to become a member of this regiment a prospective member was required to fire a 3-shot group of 3 ⅓″ or tighter cluster, at 200 yards. These rifles were originally known as Birge’s Western Sharpshooters after their commander Col. John W. Birge. They were made in a variety of calibers ranging from 33 up to 69 and fired a special Schuetzen bullet.
The 66th Illinois finally participated in the March to the Sea and the Carolina's Campaign (May 7, 1864 - December 2, 1864).

They marched in the Grand Review at Washington on May 24, 1865, and were discharged from service on July 7, 1865. All three brothers survived the war; both Prosper and Gilbert mustered out with the regiment on July 7th, 1865.


History of the Bowe Family.

Seth A. Bowe:
Birth: Feburary 20, 1837, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, USA
Spouse: Nellie H. Walton Bowe (1850-1931)
Death: March 21, 1905, Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, USA
Burial: Riverside Cemetery, Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin, USA

Prosper O. Bowe:
Birth: March 26, 1842 - Clayton, Jefferson County, New York, USA
Death: March 25, 1923, USA
Burial: Watervliet Cemetery, Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan, USA

Gilbert L. Bowe:
Birth: April, 1844, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, USA
Spouse: Mary Bowe (????-1926)
Death: January 16, 1921, California, USA
Burial: Los Angeles National Cemetery, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA

SISTER: Dorcas Priscilla Bowe Boyer:
Birth: March 20, 1840, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, USA
Children: Sterling Edward Boyer (1859-1923) & Seymour Albert Boyer (1871-1914)
Death: May 17, 1917, Bangor, Van Buren County, Michigan, USA
Burial: Arlington Hill Cemetery, Bango, Van Buren County, Michigan, USA

FATHER: Horace Bowe:
Birth: November 12, 1802, Connecticut, USA
Death: October 28, 1880, Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan, USA

Horace moved from Connecticut with his family in 1848 to Watertown, New York and in 1855 to Michigan, where he settled in Berrien County. Horace died in the home of his son Prosper with whom he had been living for several years. 

MOTHER: Susan Clark Bowe:
Birth: November 5, 1809, Connecticut, USA
Death: November 25, 1882, Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan, USA 

The History of Carmi, Illinois.

The story of Carmi, Illinois, reveals itself to anyone standing on the steps of the 1883 White County Courthouse. To the east is the Little Wabash River, which first attracted settlers from Kentucky or Tennessee via Shawneetown mostly from 1809 through 1814. 

Carmi is 15 miles west of New Harmony, Indiana. It is about 40 miles north of (Old) Shawneetown Illinois' first settlement on the Ohio River. This town was largely abandoned after the 1937 Flood, but its 1840 bank building, badly in need of restoration, impresses travelers crossing the Illinois Route 13 bridge. 

The oldest house in town, originally a double-pen log cabin built in 1814, sets just beyond the city park. It was used as a courthouse when White County was founded in 1815, and Carmi was chartered in 1816. 
Double-pen log cabin built in 1814.
U.S. Senator James Robinson and his family lived in the home until the 1870s, when the Italianate home of descendant Frank Hay was finished across the street. After the collapse of Hay's bank in the Panic of 1893, the family's fortunes declined and the Senator's granddaughter Mary Jane Stewart moved back into the sided cabin after 1901. Upon her death in 1966, she willed the home and its contents to the White County Historical Society which maintains it as a museum.

James Ratcliff, known as "Old Beaver" served in many county offices from 1818 to 1848. Abraham Lincoln stayed at the Ratcliff Inn on September 1, 1840 and spoke for the Whig Party at a rally at the western edge of Carmi. 
Ratcliff Inn, Carmi, Illinois
A member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Lincoln was 31 years old when he hit the campaign trail for William Henry Harrison in the "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" campaign song. Lincoln, although six years older in this photograph, still looked like he did when he visited Carmi in 1840.
Abraham Lincoln photograph 1846.
Directly across from the Courthouse is "the Castle", an 1896 mixture of Richardsonian Romanesque, Eastlake Victorian, and fantasy architecture dominated by three turreted towers and strong limestone arches over brick.

The home was built by Rep. James Robert ("Dollar Bob") Williams, who oversaw the construction of the Courthouse while serving as County Judge from 1882-1886. Williams served several terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and spoke for his friend William Jennings Bryan in his presidential campaigns. 
The "Castle" built in 1896.
William Jennings Bryan (in 1896) and Harry Truman (in 1896) both made whistle-stop visits to Carmi during their presidential campaigns. Williams owned a house designed by Knoxville Tennessee architect George Franklin Barber, who sold plans by mail . Barber sold pre-cut woodwork and shipped it to wealthy homeowners in Washington, California and Texas. The home was almost destroyed in the 1980's, but local preservationists had the home placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and helped find buyers for the property.

To the east of the Castle is the James Robert Ready building, a small office building built in 1940 to the design of the Ready family storefront of 1840. The new building was needed to allow the Williams family to manage its oil interests, which was discovered in White County in 1939. 

Carmi's population grew from 2,700 to 5,500 in a matter of years during the Illinois Basin oil boom, and is now about 5,100 (in 2014). Many of these residents came to Illinois from Oklahoma and Texas, where the oil business was already established. West of the city park are the 1828 Ratcliff Inn and the 1896 L. Haas Store, both maintained as museums. 
L. Haas' Store (with banner) is next to the Schoemann's store in 1910.
Erwin Haas' cast-iron storefront reminds us that the early merchants of Carmi included several Jewish families who fled turmoil in German in the 1860s. These structures, as well as the Robinson-Stewart house are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Robinson-Stewart House, Carmi, Illinois.

The Chicago Fire of 1857.

News Story: Chicago, October 20, 1857 - We learn by indirect information from Chicago that they were visited by one of the most disastrous conflagrations ever know in that city the evening of the 19th of October.

The fire commenced on South Water street, between Clark and Dearborn, and had consumed, by 10 o'clock the next morning, both the American and the United States Express Company's offices on Dearborn street.
From time to time, riverfront property in Chicago became the home to houses of ill-repute, including one located on the second floor of a brick warehouse situated at 109 South Water Street (now 35 West Wacker Dr.). As a harbinger of Chicago fires to come, one of the women working at this location accidentally kicked over a lantern leading to a massive conflagration. All of the brothel employees escaped unharmed.

Several large stores on Lake street were lost causing the deaths of twenty-three people, some of whom were firemen, all except one have been recognized. Losses were estimated at about $800,000 dollars ($20,918,491 in 2017). We also learn that several lives were lost by falling walls of D.B. Cooke & Co.'s book store.

A lady reported that she and her husband were on their way back to their home in New York. They were staying at the Tremont House in Chicago the night of the of the fire, and he, from curiosity, went to it, and when there, was crushed under a falling wall. So mutilated was he, that it was only some remnants of his clothing that the agonized wife could recognize him, who but a moment before was in the full vigor of manhood. Their money was with him, and was, we understand destroyed.

The widow, heart broken, meets with active kindness from Chicagoans. The Railroad men pass her free, and others are also attentive. A Mrs. Whitaker, wife of a merchant of Toledo, Ohio, interesting herself on this lady's behalf, went through the train cars with the kind Conductor Ames and obtained over $20 ($525 in 2017) for her. The corpse is to be forwarded by the Express companies.
The Fire Insurance Patrol № 6, 332 South Hoyne, Chicago, Illinois.
As a result of this fire, the Citizens Fire Brigade of Chicago was formed on November 19, 1857. Consisting of businessmen and insurance companies, the duties of the brigade were to take valuable goods from burning buildings and prevent damage by water and thievery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Evolution of Streets in Chicago.

THE PRE-HORSECAR ERA
The history of Chicago's street life has been shaped largely by changes in predominant forms of transportation. Before the mid-1850s Chicagoan's walked or used private horse-drawn vehicles. The lack of effective paving and sidewalks made it difficult to use the streets for any purposes. Most people tolerated the mud and dust because they had no choice but to walk the largely unpaved streets to get to work. Even well-to-do men angrily petitioned city officials that the lack of sidewalks forced their wives to traipse through a thick coating of spring mud to get to church or to shop. Many women would not have used the downtown district at all had it not been for a group of young “crossing sweepers” — often homeless youth — who swept brick crosswalks that had been installed at the corners. 
Chicago Street Scene - circa 1880
During the late 1850s the elevation of the street grade to improve sewer flow also inhibited street life because it was done on a piecemeal basis by individual property owners. Those who lifted their buildings to the new level also elevated their sidewalks, leaving pedestrians to climb up and down tall ladders simply to walk down the street. (Raising Chicago Streets Out of the Mud.)
Raising Chicago Streets Out of the Mud.
From the beginning, the borders between private and public use of the streets frequently blurred. Inadequate fencing allowed farm animals to wander, forcing the county to erect an estray[1] in the courthouse square. And when early ships arrived carrying a miscellany of unconsigned merchandise, their captains set up impromptu retailing areas along boat docks and adjacent streets.

When street and sidewalk conditions finally improved, Chicagoan's began to use them as places to spend idle time. A summer's eve stroll on Michigan Avenue became a favorite way for middle and upper-class “saunterers” to catch the lake breezes. But the proper citizenry of the city had a difficult time with a second group who used the streets for recreation. The press and city leaders condemned what appeared to be intentional idleness among a less desirable social stratum. Known in the 1850s as “corner puppies,” these “loafers” whistled, made rude comments, or grabbed at women passing on the sidewalk. By mid-century, Chicagoan's were avoiding such dangerous parts of town as “the Patch” and “Kilgubbin” (today's Goose Island), in part because the inhabitants appeared to be so menacing.

The development of the omnibus, an urban version of the stagecoach, began a series of subtle changes in the perception of the street. Patrons could not only travel longer distances in the same amount of time they used to walk, they also enjoyed a voluntary separation from the life of the street, much in the manner of the very wealthy who utilized private carriages. Omnibus riders became more interested in getting home as quickly as possible and began to regard any non-transportation uses of the street as obstacles.
In 1857, Mayor “Long John” Wentworth temporarily stopped businesses from invading the sidewalks with merchandise displays and signs, although by the late 1860s it had once more become commonplace for advertisers to cover the exterior walls with billboards and hang banners from wires strung over streets.

Despite the dominance of workday uses, there were many efforts to use the streets for unifying public celebrations. Some were impromptu. For instance, before railroads provided all-weather links to the outside world, crowds greeted the arrival of the first ship from the East, which signaled the end of the long winter isolation. Other events were more carefully planned. From the 1830s and 1840s there were parades on the Fourth of July and St. Patrick's Day. Political parties also used the streets for torchlight parades that unified the ranks and demonstrated their strength to the opposition. An inaugural speech delivered from the tall steps of City Hall traditionally followed each mayoral election. 

Within a few years of the introduction of the telegraph in 1848, news of wars and elections would cause crowds to gather outside newspaper offices for public postings of telegraphic reports. 
May 10, 1869 - The procession was going east on Lake Street from the corner of Clark Street
in Chicago celebrating the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad's driving in
four symbolic spikes, two of which were solid gold, to celebrate the completion of the first
transcontinental railroad in Promontory Summit, Utah. (note the telegraph poles and wires.)
During the Civil War, the city reverberated to the sound of military marches, and torchlight parades accompanied departing units to depots. The same streets hosted victory celebrations and such mournful events as the funeral procession for Lincoln.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE STREET
The post-fire decades ushered in the era of most intensive street life, as one observer's view of excitement became another's description of a nightmare. Increasing volumes of human and vehicular traffic, squeezed into a public space that couldn't easily be widened, brought unprecedented congestion. At the same time, the growing anonymity of city life and the general inability of an understaffed city police force to control what went on in the streets created what amounted to laissez-faire conditions. 

Different social groups continued to compete for control of the same space. Those who might be described as “destination travelers” became a more clearly defined group; their principal use of the street was in getting from one place to another with maximum efficiency. These included travelers moving between hotels and railroad stations, as well as commuters who rushed to work and back home either on foot or on omnibuses and horsecars. 

The introduction of cable cars in the 1880s and electric trolleys the following decade increased the intrusion of technology on the street, especially during rush hours. The construction of the “L” system between 1892 and 1907 aided this quest for efficiency by creating a whole new layer of street above the surface traffic. Its downtown structure assumed the name “ Loop, ” which had originally described a square of streetcar tracks.

Late-nineteenth-century street life also contributed to the mixed images of Chicago, especially as it was portrayed in illustrated national magazines and in travelers' accounts. After the fire of 1871, civic leaders were proud to point out how the busy streets reflected rebuilding and rebirth. At the same time, illustrations of the bloody railroad strikes of 1877, the 1886 Haymarket Affair, and 1894 Pullman Strike focused on street confrontations and provided a quick stereotype of the instability of society in the mushrooming city. Likewise, the street created an instant impression on such foreign visitors as Rudyard Kipling, who disdainfully described the “collection of miserables” who daily passed through “turmoil and squash.” In 1900, Scottish author William Archer proclaimed that “New York for a moment does not compare with Chicago in the roar and bustle and bewilderment of its street life.” 

Similarly, many of Chicago's greatest writers — especially those of rural origin — wove their fascination with the energy and variety of the public spaces, especially downtown, into their works. This is evident in the arrival scenes in novels such as Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie (1900). Sherwood Anderson's Marching Men (1917) described the way in which the working poor displayed their misery as they tramped the streets or rode the cars. Chicago-born Henry Blake Fuller's The Cliff Dwellers (1893) described the view from a skyscraper as if through the eyes of a bird of prey looking from its nest down at the street. Street life was also prominent in shorter forms of literature. George Ade drew inspiration from peddlers and passersby for his aptly titled column “Stories of the Streets and of the Town,” which ran in the Chicago Record (1893–1900). And of course, the “painted women” of Carl Sandburg's “Chicago,” as well as “Clark Street Bridge” and other pieces among his lesser-known poetry, celebrated workaday street life.

In the real world, street life—and expectations about it—became as specialized as the neighborhoods that contained it. Downtown, the display windows of department stores invited pedestrians to pause and ponder, and by the 1880s strangers' guidebooks provided tourists with suggested routes and maps to enable them to wander in search of “the sights.” Police, meanwhile, remained vigilant for “mashers,” an updated version of corner puppies, who might make the Loop shopping visit unpleasant for women. Outside of downtown, commuting patterns concentrated traffic along certain main streets that linked downtown and the sprawling neighborhoods. Major outlying shopping districts appeared where these heavily used destination travel corridors intersected, such as at 63rd and Halsted, or Lincoln and Belmont.

Out in the neighborhoods the patterns of street life varied by class. The levels of poverty and congestion in the adjacent housing usually determined the extent of the residents' dependence on the public places for their daily survival. For those at the bottom of the social scale, the street was home. After the fire of 1871, living in public places had become part of the survival strategy for tens of thousands of temporarily homeless victims, many of whom wandered the city for months. During the depression that began two years later, the first generation of tramps (mobile non-workers) and hobo's (mobile seasonal workers) arrived in Chicago because it was the hub of the nation's growing rail network. 

By the end of the century thousands of unemployed men populated three Skid Row districts that ringed the downtown area. Here, day labor agencies did their hiring curbside, while the local street life consisted of the denizens of cheap restaurants, barrooms, pawnshops, used-clothing stores, and a variety of hotels ranging upwards of “nickel flops.” Amidst them on the sidewalks and streets were such noisy “redeemers” as the Salvation Army band and the Gospel Wagon of the Pacific Garden Mission. It was easy for the more affluent Chicagoans to conflate idlers with the poor, who utilized public spaces as a necessary last resort for survival.

Each step up the economic ladder allowed participation in street activities to become more voluntary. Just above the transients, the tenement neighborhood provided somewhat more permanent dwellings, although conditions still forced a blurring in the distinctions between private and public. The street functioned as a verbal communication conduit within largely non-literate communities, as well as a place to work and play. Sweltering nights saw much of the population sleeping on the sidewalks, and evictions cast newly homeless families and their meager possessions onto the curbstones. By 1868 there were already enough homeless youth peddling papers on the streets to justify the creation of the Newsboy's and Bootblack's Home, and their ranks grew. Greedy adults also snatched the earnings of large numbers of immigrant juveniles who had been imported during the 1870s to become street musicians.

Mass-produced subdivisions — reached by streetcar and “L” — allowed a further move up the social scale by making affordable such bungalow neighborhoods as Englewood, with its world of small porches, vegetable gardens, and modest fences. Further up the income scale, the lawns and ornamental fences in such substantial middle-class areas as Ravenswood divided neighbors from the street and each other, while children played in parks rather than on the streets. Here, also, neighborhood improvement associations pressured residents to maintain peace and order and beautify their private property, and residents joined private bicycle clubs. Finally, at the top of the social scale, residents of such elite neighborhoods as Prairie Avenue and Astor Street utilized streets primarily for such symbolic activities as the annual opening-day parade to the Washington Park Race Track or for efforts toward public beautification. The wealthy rode in private carriages, ate lunch at downtown clubs, and conversed by telephone or at teas, not on the curbstone.

The level of independence from the street not only helped to determine one's social class, but that same space was often the meeting place or interface between social classes. More affluent Chicagoan's, who could ride through tenement districts on streetcars, the “L,” and commuter trains, came in contact with the poor largely through the street trades. Peddling, which involved an amazing variety of goods and services, was the source of economic survival for some and a convenience or annoyance for others. Adult immigrants realized that a minimum financial investment and hard work could provide an entree into capitalism and the means to avoid working for someone else. Successful vendors positioned themselves amidst the flow of likely customers. “Shoeshine boys” and news vendors knew where to find male commuters, while fakirs, who sold generally useless trinkets, occupied spots just outside department stores where mothers, who might have felt a bit of guilt at their personal spending, might be tempted to buy something for their children. 

Similarly, teamsters maintained street stands near the retailers of furniture and other large items, while hacks cruised near the depots and hotels. Street trades on the edge of legitimacy and beyond also knew the importance of location. Years of contact with the street brought an understanding of the flow of traffic: a location outside of train stations, for instance, was ideal to collect donations from sympathetic rural travelers. Streetwalkers ( prostitutes ), who peddled sex in public places, and their customers mutually discovered places where they did not draw unnecessary attention to themselves.

Other types of vendors learned the most productive routes through residential neighborhoods. Street peddlers bought food that was often near the end of its shelf life from wholesalers and carried it to poorer districts that were too far from marketplaces for housewives to visit in person. Such mobile services as knife and scissors grinders alerted neighborhoods of their presence by the sound of a bell. Recyclers of various kinds also worked their way through the neighborhoods. Rag pickers, metal buyers, and other kinds of scavengers resold their findings at a profit because bottles, cloth, and even castoff cigar stubs could be recycled into new products. The specialties that developed in this economic street life mirrored the city's ethnicity, with Italians dominating in produce sales, Greeks as confectioners, Jews in recycling trades, Dutch in scavenging, and Germans in handyman services. But what was a convenience to the working class was a nuisance to the more affluent, who valued privacy and wanted peddlers banned from their neighborhoods.

This hierarchy of class and privacy explains much about the nature of street life, but superimposed over the story were the temporal rhythms that determined the ebb and flow of activity. In the predawn hours hundreds of workers bought and sold produce at the Randolph and South Water Markets, while lamplighters turned off gas jets and crews from the city and the Municipal Order League watered and swept the surfaces. The morning rush hour saw factory workers walk to work as well as thousands of vehicles cross the bridges into the Loop. Women shoppers began to appear on the streets later in the morning, while the noon hour saw thousands of downtown employees and shoppers pour out of buildings in search of lunch. In the mid-afternoon, women shoppers left downtown to be home when their children returned from school. Then began the evening rush hour of streetcars and pedestrians. Workers walking home along “Dinner Pail Avenue” (Milwaukee Avenue) near Chicago Commons settlement house were so numerous that they raised clouds of dust.

The character of street life changed after the dinner hour. Out in the patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods, children played in the roadway while their parents conversed on stoops and curbstones. Some workers left for all-night factory shifts. In warm weather, middle-class bicycle riders took to the outlying streets. But the deepening darkness also increased the fear of crime. Chicagoan's thought many tough neighborhoods were safe enough to pass through in the daytime but dangerous at night. Newspapers reported frequent muggings near the ends of streetcar lines and at open bridges and described the night as dominated by criminal elements. Downtown, there were sharp contrasts. Diners and theatergoers filled the “bright light” Randolph Street district late into the night, while the nearby Levee hosted a lively street life around the clock. 
The Levee, with its "sporting clubs" of all sorts, was the city's most notorious vice district.
The names of many of the businesses suggest the unapologetic allure that scandalized
and outraged most "proper" Chicagoan's.
But after the cleaning crews departed, the large office blocks became what one newspaper called the “loneliest place in Chicago.”

The life of the street reflected other cycles of life, including age and seasonality. Cold weather drove indoors all but the heartiest peddlers of necessities, while others restocked with holiday merchandise. Transit lines utilized closed-side equipment, heated by stoves, instead of the open-style cars which brought summer riders close to the sounds and smells of the street. The street also meant different things to people who were near the beginning or the ending years of life. The street was a micro-environment of socialization where youths set their own rules and learned the ways of the world. Their games and songs were a part of city folklore. Youth gangs, however, had already begun battling for domination of neighborhood turf by the mid-nineteenth century. At the other end of the spectrum, aged Civil War veterans came to the Loop post office to collect their monthly pension checks, and many elders sold newspapers or worked at such jobs as “baby watcher” outside of outlying department stores.

THE NEW AGE OF THE STREET
By the turn of the century several factors were already beginning to transform the streets and create a more restrictive attitude toward them. First, a variety of reform efforts attacked inner-city street life as the locus of the city's social problems. Middle-class reformers joined economic elites to separate the poor from public places. Curfew and truancy laws were aimed not only at eliminating child labor but also at keeping children off the streets; the Special Park Commission created dozens of inner-city playgrounds with the same goal. Reformers also became increasingly hostile to street peddlers, condemning them as public health hazards, loiterers, and as disorderly and intrusive obstructions to the flow of traffic. New health laws banned outdoor dining and the vending of perishable food to avoid contamination from dry clouds of airborne horse manure.

At the same time, decades of urban growth had fostered the process of sorting urban functions by land use (wholesale, retail, residential), social class, and ethnicity. The heterogeneous urban mixture of the mid-1800s had given way to a pattern of more homogeneous districts of social classes and neighborhoods. Citywide anti-noise laws were aimed at silencing obtrusive peddlers and imposing quietude and order on middle-class neighborhoods as well as the Loop. In 1913 the city began an effort to push all street trades out of middle-class areas and into the Maxwell Street district. At the same time, the enforcement of anti-loitering laws gradually drove the transient population into Skid Row districts to the north, south, and west of the Loop. The goal of these efforts was a more orderly street life that was confined to what were deemed appropriate districts.

Finally, the efficiency of crowd control during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition inspired Chicagoan's to believe that they could impose a similar sense of beauty and order on the rest of the city. 
World's Columbian Exposition - Chicago Day, October 9, 1893 
Infrastructure innovations included newly designed bridges and the elevation of steam railway tracks to remove crossing hazards. But nothing symbolized the desire for aesthetic and efficient streets more than Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago (1909). 

Its emphasis on traffic flow countered the traditional working-class social uses of the street. The plan's impressionist-style illustrations by Jules Guerin emphasized the celebrational city as if viewed on a warm Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, a series of statues financed by the Benjamin F. Ferguson Fund stressed the streets' artistic rather then survival possibilities. Beauty and efficiency, which were supposed to contribute to the economy by making workers happier and more contented, also represented a triumph of the middle- and upper-class view of what street life should be.

Burnham's plan, with its unimpeded traffic flows, also represented a transition into the automobile age, which dramatically changed the relationship between Chicagoan's and their streets. The auto not only benefited from the growing disdain for the street by providing the kind of isolation from street life that had once been enjoyed by only the wealthy, but cars and trucks also accelerated other changes. Their gradual displacement of horse-drawn vehicles in turn displaced animals — along with manure and dead carcasses — which had been a familiar part of street life. Drivers also demanded speed and the elimination of peddlers, plodding wagons, playing children, or any other street use that interfered with getting from here to there. 

By the 1920s the growing volume of fast-paced traffic produced intersection hazards that encouraged the introduction of mechanical traffic signals; this, in turn, resulted in the displacement of hundreds of traffic officers, another familiar part of street life. Even then, auto fatalities, which had already soared to 302 in 1918, included many pedestrians. The extension of Ogden Avenue from Chicago Avenue to Armitage at Lincoln Park symbolized a new attitude. In the quest for an efficient way to link the West and North Sides, the roadway slashed thought existing neighborhoods and scaled Goose Island with a lofty bridge. That same attitude that almost any part of the built city might be expendable was present in early plans for wide, limited-access roadways. The idea of the street as a place for getting from here to there was about to triumph.

But hints of the former uses of the street would not disappear. During the Great Depression the public ways once again became a means of survival. Jobless thousands flocked to Chicago in search of work but ended up utilizing the street as an employer of last resort. Some of the newly homeless sold apples; others took jobs on government public works projects that built hundreds of miles of new infrastructure. 
One of Al Capone's Depression Soup Kitchens Feeding the Jobless and Homeless, Chicago.
All of that ended during World War II, when the streets once more assumed a unifying and celebratory role. Downtown State Street became an outdoor museum of military equipment, while the LaSalle Street side of City Hall became “Victory Square,” scene of patriotic rallies. Out in the neighborhoods, civilian defense exercises, flagpole signs, and memorial shrines promoted unity, as did the countless parades that wound through every part of the city.

After V-J Day — when the streets were once more used to celebrate — and the period of postwar recovery of the national economy, the street became a barometer of another kind of urban transformation. Pundits predicted that urban renewal, high-rise apartments, air conditioning, and television would kill off neighborhood street life. The newspaper box, for instance, displaced hundreds of human vendors, in part because the general decline in public transit ridership put so many former pedestrians into autos. The idea of the street as employer of last resort survived in impoverished neighborhoods. Peddlers elsewhere became such a rarity that the visit of the once-ubiquitous scissors grinders now became the subject of great excitement. 

During the 1950s the press began to note a loss of neighborhood social life that had traditionally grown out of public places. The front porch or stoop, which had fostered neighboring on warm evenings, had begun to give way to air conditioning and television. And in the poorest neighborhoods, high-rise public housing completely destroyed the role of the street in the community.

The expressway system, which removed much of the traffic from the major city thoroughfares, represented the near triumph of the idea of the single-use street: the only possible function was as a place for cars to drive. (Chicago managed to create an ingenious exception by routing rapid transit down the otherwise-useless median strip.) Neighborhoods that lay in the way were now regarded as irrelevant piles of rubble-to-be, and the older transient districts were flattened to make way for superhighways. 

Meanwhile, at the other end of the auto commute, the mass production of a limited number of house designs in booming suburbia was reflected in the mass creation of quiet residential streets. Juvenile trees matched tricycles and other juvenile transportation equipment. Sociologists noted that cul-de-sacs favored neighborliness. Even the temporal rhythm of the suburban street was different. Rush hour dominated the clock, although the shopping centers that displaced older commercial streets were now open evenings.

Meanwhile, the street life of downtown Chicago fell into decline, as the boast that State and Madison was the “world's busiest corner” disappeared during the 1960s and '70s. Loop department stores were displaced in part by suburbia and the rise of North Michigan Avenue as the high-end street for strolling and window shopping. As downtown streets began to empty out after dark and the Loop took on the unwarranted reputation of being unsafe, movie distributors helped to drive away the street life. They had formerly released new films in downtown theaters weeks before they arrived at outlying screens; when they began distributing them everywhere at once, the Loop theater crowds disappeared. 

In 1968 the term “Streets of Chicago” took on connotations of disorder similar to those of 1877, 1886, and 1894. In desperation, the city rebuilt State Street into a mall, a misplaced suburban model that failed to bring people back.
State Street Mall Illustration. 
But even during this low point, there had been a few hopeful signs. Mayor Richard J. Daley had revived the downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1956, an important symbolic gesture, while Chinese, Germans, Greeks, Poles, and others also used the streets for celebrations. Triumphs achieved by Chicago sports franchises, as well as the symphony, astronauts, and other dignitaries, prompted massive parades. Meanwhile, newly arrived Latin American and Asian ethnic groups were quietly bringing with them their own celebratory processions and parades, as well as a strong tradition of street trading. And the taxicab industry continued to allow the kind of low-capital entry into American entrepreneurship for immigrants that street trades have always provided to newcomers.

Neighborhood block parties and the gradual return of outdoor dining were the first signs of the manner in which the booming economy of the late 1980s and 1990s and a gentrified inner city would bring about a revival of activity. New office towers and the conversion of factories and warehouses into apartments nurtured a revival of center-city dining. But contemporary street life only hints at the rich variety of activities that were once there. What returned was closer to the “city beautiful” of the Burnham Plan than it was to the workaday intensity of the late nineteenth century. ChicagoFest, followed later by Taste of Chicago, the Blues and Gospel Music Festivals, and a patchwork of neighborhood festivals, represented a highly selective new form of 'Disneyfied' street life, carefully planned, advertised, predictable, sanitized, and policed.

During the late 1990s, many of the last remnants of the old street life were threatened. Police removed the homeless from Lower Wacker Drive, while gentrification nibbled away at the old south and west transient districts. The demise of SRO (Single room occupancy) hotels and the charities that supported their tenants resulted in the removal of most of the transients, many of whom had been dumped from state institutions. Meanwhile, campus expansion at the University of Illinois at Chicago brought an end to the storied Maxwell Street Market, while the city launched a crackdown on ethnic food street vendors, proclaiming them a nuisance and health hazard.

[1] Estray, in law, is any domestic animal found wandering at large or lost, particularly if the owner is unknown. 

Lost Communities of Chicago - Shanty Town and the District of Lake Michigan. (Streeterville)

Captain George Wellington Streeter
George Wellington Streeter was born in Flint, Michigan in 1837. Prior to the Civil War, he wandered the Great Lakes region, working at various times as a logger and trapper, an ice cutter on Saginaw Bay, a deck hand on Canada's Georgian Bay, and a miner. 

He married his first wife, Minnie, and then traveled west in a covered wagon, returning to Michigan on the eve of the Civil War. He joined the Union Army as a private and served in the Tennessee theater.

After the war he became a showman, lumberjack, and steamship operator. After his wife left him (she ran off with a vaudeville troupe), he came to Chicago in the mid-1880s and married again. 

He and his new wife, Maria, decided to become gun runners in Honduras. Streeter bought a steamship and named it "Reutan." 

Before piloting it down to Central America, Streeter decided to take a test cruise in Lake Michigan in 1886 during a gale. The ship ran aground about 450 feet from the Chicago shore.
The Steamship "Reutan" docked on the Chicago River.
In the days that followed, Streeter surveyed the situation and decided to leave his boat where it was. At the time, Chicago was in the midst of a building boom after the great Chicago fire of 1871, Streeter found excavation contractors who were eager to pay a fee for the right to dump fill on the beach near his boat. 

He eventually amassed 186 acres of newly created land. Consulting an 1821 government survey, Streeter determined that his man-made land lay beyond the boundaries of both Chicago and Illinois and therefore claimed that he was homesteading the land as a Civil War veteran.
 
Unfortunately, prominent Chicagoan's such as Potter Palmer and N.K. Fairbank owned the land adjacent to Streeter's land accretions. These men claimed that Streeter was a squatter and that he had no legal rights to the land. Streeter argued differently, claiming that, "When I come here ther warn't a particle of land for me to squat on!"
 
Sensing that his enemies would try to oust him, Streeter replaced his ship with a homemade two-story tar-paper “castle.” The first floor was his war room; the second floor was his residence.
Captain Streeter's Converted Boat Fortress/Home
When private detectives and thugs attempted to serve allegedly specious warrants on Streeter, he and his wife responded with sawed-off muskets filled with bird shot. On one occasion, Streeter's wife drove off three deputies by dousing them with boiling water.


Click for a full size map.
Several times assailants were killed during their attempts to storm what Streeter called his "District of Lake Michigan." But the city found it difficult to keep Streeter in jail. One time he was acquitted on self-defense. 

Another time he proved that the bird-shot in his rifle could not possibly have killed the policeman found with a piece of lead in his heart. When he was arrested for refusing "to disburse," he successfully argued in court that as he was only one person, he could not disburse. 


But in March 1902, John Kirk, an imported Western gunman, was killed in Streeter's district. Streeter was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Streeter claimed he was framed; the governor of Illinois agreed and pardoned him nine months later. But while Streeter was in prison, his wife died.


Streeter resumed control over his domain. To finance his side of the battle, Streeter sold lots to upward of 200 prospective homeowners, as well as refreshments, alcoholic beverages and snacks to real estate shoppers and the just plain curious. 


Unable to oust him by force, his foes turned to the courts. The law of riparian rights was murky, however, and Streeter's lawyers - paid with deeds of land - proved to be able adversaries. 


In real life, Streeter offered various theories about why the land belonged to him. Sometimes he claimed it by squatters' rights, other times he said he'd bought a deed from a mysterious John Scott, "some place in Michigan."

The longest-running explanation was a purported land grant from President Grover Cleveland that Streeter waved in front of judges for 25 years — until, that is, a handwriting expert took the witness stand in a 1918 trial and put a chemical test to the document's signatures, as the Tribune reported. "Lo and behold, the signature of Cleveland faded away and there arose in its place the quaint and sturdy signature of President Martin Van Buren!" Streeter's name vanished by a similar process, revealing the true grantee to have been Robert Kinzie, a pioneer Chicagoan. The judge ruled that the document "was and is now a clumsy forgery," adding that weather bureau records showed no evidence of a storm the night Streeter claimed to have been shipwrecked.

But finally, shortly after his arrest in 1918 for selling liquor without a license and assault on a police officer, agents of Chicago Title and Trust Company, armed with warrants, put the torch to Streeter's castle. 
By now Streeter had married a third time, and his wife, Emma "Ma" Streeter, charged the group with a meat cleaver, but to no avail, and the couple retreated to a nearby boat to wanly continue the fight. He never returned. Streeter spent the next few years operating a floating hot dog stand in East Chicago. When the old rogue died on January 24, 1921, at age 84.

Many dignitaries, including William Hale Thompson, the mayor of Chicago, attended his funeral. His wife continued to wage war both inside the courtroom and on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1925 the federal district court in Chicago ruled that because Streeter never divorced Minnie, his first wife, "Ma" Streeter was not legally married and thus ineligible to file claims for Streeter's property. The last suit brought by alleged heirs was dismissed in 1940, thus finally ending a half century of colorful warfare and litigation concerning sovereignty of the District of Lake Michigan - to this day still called Streeterville, in honor of its founder. 
Shows Expanding Chicago Shoreline by Year. 
The land that Streeter so ardently fought for is now the most expensive part of Chicago. It is on the Near North Side of the city, bounded by Oak Street on the north, Michigan Avenue on the West, Grand Avenue to the south, and Lake Michigan on the east.

Today this area is a named neighborhood called Streeterville. The property continues to be valuable. The John Hancock Center now towers where the Reutan fortress used to be.
A statue of “Cap” stands at Grand Avenue
and McClurg Court, Chicago, Illinois.
Read the free book; Captain Streeter, Pioneer. published in 1914, in the Digital Research Library of Illinois History® 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Downtown Chicago's Cow Path from 1844.

One of the oddest pieces of real estate in Chicago's Loop belongs to Cows. Much of the Loop we know today was once part of the Willard Jones farm.

As the city expanded from its roots around Fort Dearborn (today at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive) Jones sold off patches of his property to developers. Though this could have made him Chicago's first real estate mogul, he remained a farmer and needed to make sure his cows has a place to graze.

In 1844 Jones sold the southern half of his property to Royal Barnes. However, Barnes got only an 80-foot-wide lot. Jones retaining title to a small strip of his land at the west end. The contract included an easement for cattle to pass from his farmstead to a pasture land just to the south, where the Board of Trade now stands.

Two years after the Barnes sale, Jones sold the northern half of his original property to Abner Henderson. Written into the property deed was a provision that Henderson would have access to Monroe Street via that 10 foot wide corridor west of the Barnes land to be used to take his cows from stable to pasture.

Decades passed. In 1927 the owners of the old Barnes property were ready to erect a 22-story office building at Monroe and Clark. By then they’d acquired title to the 10-foot-corridor. But the owners of the Henderson plot to the north still had that right-of-way guarantee, and refused to surrender it.
November 26, 1932 - This photo shows the cow named Northwood Susan Sixth being milked on her arrival at the end of the historic cow path which can be seen behind her.
The courts ruled that work could go ahead on the Barnes property, but only if the access corridor were retained. So architect Frank Chase redrew his plans. In the end, the 100 West Monroe Building was constructed with an 18-foot-high tunnel through its western edge, big enough for any farm animals or hay wagons that might be passing through the Loop.

It was a story that a politician couldn’t resist. In 1937 Mayor Ed Kelly affixed a bronze historic marker on the side of the building, proclaiming the tunnel was “reserved forever as a cow path.”

Well, not quite. In 1969 the First National Bank of Chicago built an annex north of the 100 West Monroe Building. The new building blocked off the northern part of the old cow path, diverting traffic into an alley. According to a 1979 Tribune article, both Chicago Title & Trust and the Chicago Historical Society declared that the action was legal, and there don’t seem to have been any court challenges to it.
When Hyatt began converting the 100 West Monroe Building into a hotel, connoisseurs of Chicago trivia feared that the cow path would be totally obliterated. Happily, hotel management has a sense of history, and has preserved it. You can still use the bovine tunnel as a shortcut through to LaSalle Street, if that’s your pleasure.

And Hyatt also has a sense of whimsy. One of the hotel’s conference rooms is named for Willard Jones.