Skokie Historical Society

The VILLAGER Thursday July 10, 1958

"SETTING DOWN THE RECORD"

by Bertha M. Rosche, Libarian
Skokie Public Library

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE - OUR HISTORY
First of a Series on Niles Township's Past
German Immigrants
Depression Ends Growth

CHAPTER TWO - FIRST PALEFACE COMES TO NILES TOWNSHIP

Shoots a Wolf
'Dutchman's Point'
Skokie Settler
Hardy Pioneers

CHAPTER THREE - THE PIONEERS

Book Needed
Klehm's Arrive
Lincolnwood Settlers
Only One Doctor

CHAPTER FOUR - 'IRON HORSE' COMES TO NILES TOWNSHIP

Salaries Skyrocket
Township Incorporated
Came The Railroads

CHAPTER FIVE - MILLIONAIRE MURDERED

His Toll Gate Burned to Ground by 'Indians'
Opportunity Knocks
System Was Legitimate
Indian Uprising

CHAPTER SIX - FROM SETTLEMENT TO VILLAGE

Niles Settlers
Three Old Churches
Old Newspaper

CHAPTER SEVEN - SKOKIE'S GREAT FIRE OF 1910

Market Day
Sewage a Problem

CHAPTER EIGHT - BOOM AND BUST

"Investors Paying $5000 per Acre for Attractive Homes!"
First New 'L' Extension
Region Remote
'Booming Fast'
Eyewitness Picture

CHAPTER NINE - IN THE SHADOW OF CHICAGO

Tessville Incorporated
Name Change
Niles Center Referendum
'Big Swamp'

CHAPTER TEN - THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH . . .

'Ocean liner'
Tremendous Growth
Jewish Migration

CHAPTER ONE - OUR HISTORY

First of a Series on Niles Township's Past

In the darkness the ship from across the lake missed Chicago. There was a passenger aboard who had come from England to try his fortunes in the windy city. The captain landed him up the wooded north shore and he struck out westward. So came the first paleface to the soil of Skokie in 1834.

The entire Skokie story is unique. True, every town differs from every other in its origin and development; just as individuals differ in their life histories. Thus it could be said by citizens everywhere that their own community is different.

Nevertheless, Skokie has followed a pattern unusual not only in America but also among its neighboring villages.

In the history of many places white man and red shared the area together for a time. Here the Indian had been divested of his ancestral lands and driven farther west before the earliest settlers came.

Many midwest localities received their first white population from states back east. Illinois, except for Chicago, was largely settled from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and the middle seaboard states.

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German Immigrants

But those who migrated to Niles Center, the old name for Skokie, had come directly from central Europe or had paused only briefly on the way. They built the characteristic American village with its own sawmill, markets, stores school and churches, but they stamped it with their own Germanic traditions and energy.

While the greater part of Illinois was becoming a vast cornfield, Niles Center and its adjacent towns, especially old Bowmanville, were cultivating truck gardens to supply the markets of rapidly growing Chicago.

Within the memory of many living Skokians, public transportation to the city was only by the Milwaukee Railroad from Morton Grove, and the village was basically rural, showing little of the influence of its big neighbor. Modern utilities came slowly to Niles Center, brought only gradually by Chicago's northward expansion.

Not until after 191O did electricity, water and telephone reach us, whereas other towns much more remote from metropolitan centers had these conveniences before the turn of the century.

In the middle twenties came a change: The sudden tide of migration surging out from Chicago. A real estate scheme caused the extension of the "L" from Howard Street and that in turn brought a boom in speculation and speeded the movement, giving Niles Center overnight a suburban aspect to replace the rural.

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Depression Ends Growth

Then came the Depression, ending growth for a decade, followed by the war, with building at a standstill for another ten years. But these were only an intermission, a pause for shifting the stage scenery.

When priorities on building materials were eventually loosened the curtain rose on such activity as scarcely another town in our land has seen.

The tide from the City became a flood, and census figures bounded from five thousand to seventeen thousand, to twenty, thirty, forty thousand, making Skokie the most rapidly expanding community in Illinois, perhaps in the United States. Industrial plants mushroomed in the area, treading one upon the heels of the other.

Forests, fields, market village, residential suburb, industrial town - all these in succession in little more than a hundred years; this in brief is the history of Skokie.

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CHAPTER TWO - FIRST PALEFACE COMES TO NILES TOWNSHIP

John Jackson Ruland plodded westward.

The ship that couldn't find Chicago in 1834 had landed him some ten miles up the lake shore. If his starting point was as far north as the present downtown Evanston area he slogged through a wooded swamp until he struck the rise to Ridge Road.

From there to what is now Crawford he had easier going, for it was a treeless stretch to be known later as East Prairie. After a mile of that he hit swamp again until he came to the next ridge, now Cicero Avenue.

These ridges and others represent the successive retreats of ancient Lake Chicago which, after the glacial period, covered a large portion of northeastern Illinois and as far south as Valparaiso a matter which didn't interest Mr. Ruland.

Within the memory of persons now living in Skokie, the area from Cicero to the canal was a swampy forest they called Lauderbach, which afforded good duck hunting. In the spring, say some of the older people, it was sometimes so filled with water that a rowboat could be used, and at the highest it could be rowed even to the junction of the canal with the North Branch of the Chicago River near Kedzie and Foster. At such times it was not unknown for lake sturgeon to come up the river into the swamp.

But on this day in 1834 John Ruland was looking for drier land and pushed on through the dense oak and maple forest to the next ridge, our Lincoln Avenue, which was a well trod Indian trail. Still westward he trudged as the afternoon sun flickered down through the branches, until he came to a sandy bank beyond which the Milwaukee Railroad now crosses Oakton. There he called it a day's journey and made himself a dugout for a shelter.

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Shoots a Wolf

There is a story that when he finished it he took his gun and started to hunt for fresh meat. He had gone only a few rods when a huge wolf rose from behind a log close at hand. He leveled his gun and fired, then dropped it and ran for his cave. Next morning he came cautiously back to look for his gun and found the wolf dead some 25 feet from where he had shot him.

He should not have lacked for food, for the woods abounded in deer. Even twenty years later they formed a staple winter's meat for the settlers. Buffalo still existed in the region. Prairie chickens and quail were plentiful, and ducks and geese and even swans were upon the rivers and ponds, and fish of many varieties in the waters.

For two or three more decades, berries could be gathered by the bucketful in a short time. One has only to look into the Cook County forest preserves in the spring when the fruit trees are all abloom to know what an abundance they must have provided of apples, wild pears, plums and other fruits. A Skokie citizen remembers that along Lincoln Avenue grew wild oranges as large as our commercial ones.

Of predatory animals Mr. Ruland's wolf did not lack for companions. There were the bear, the panther, fox and wildcat. Along the streams were otter, mink and beaver. The museum in Lincoln Park preserves for us the wild life of the region in its natural setting.

Mr. Ruland may soon have been called upon by his red neighbors. Though the treaty of 1833 had evicted them, many remained. Their villages were scattered along the rivers. A large one centered a little south of Devon and Cicero, while another was at the present Village of Golf. The nearest on the Des Plaines River were at Irving Park Road at Park Ridge, and north of Des Plaines village. In Skokie, near Lincoln and Laramie, was an established camping ground; another in Morton Grove was north of the railroad station, and yet another lay in the southwest corner of Niles, east of the river.

Indian trails were the earliest roads. Ridge Avenue follows the old Green Bay Trail. Lincoln Avenue was a trail that branched as now, one fork going to Gross Point up the Lake Shore, the other turning west. St. Peter's Catholic Church now occupies the vantage point of this fork.

All these cut diagonally through forest and prairie to the big Indian village at the mouth of the main river, just as they do today. In fact, all our present main highways converging upon Chicago from westerly directions are built upon old Indian trails.

However, Ruland already had a few white neighbors, too. The nearest was Joseph Curtis who had come in 1831 or 1832 and settled on Section 17 in Morton Grove only little more than a mile from the dug out. He built a rude log house and later kept a tavern.

The following year John Dewes (also recorded as De Wees) located a half mile north of Curtis. Dewes had come from England, Ruland from the East. John Schadiger and Julius Perrin built on the North Branch, the first house within the present limits of the village of Niles. The story is told that it was a house with no windows and only one door. Schadiger soon moved to Wisconsin, but Perrin lived in Niles until his death in 1873.

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'Dutchman's Point'

In 1834 came John Clark from Chicago, and Christian Ebinger and his brothers John and Frederick from Wurtenberg, Germany. For some years Christian had been manager of the flower gardens of King William of Wurtenberg.

He had come to America in 1831 and now built the second house in Dutchman's Point, as Niles soon came to be called. He was a farmer and a local preacher in the German Evangelical Association. His son Henry at one time owned the entire area of Edison Park.

In 1832 Mark Noble had come from England and bought 160 acres in the township and enough were in the town of Jefferson to make up 600. He got it all for $2.50 per acre.

The next we hear of John Ruland, his circumstances were much improved. He was no longer in his dugout but had moved over to join the settlement on the North Branch, now consisting of the Ebingers, Perrins, Clark, and Noble. He had built a house and had his wife and two children with him.

But Curtis and Dewes gave up the hardships of pioneer life and returned to England, thus reducing the population of our future township to the five families over in the southwest corner. We wonder not at the two Britishers' discouragement, but at the tenacity of the others.

One day Ruland and the Ebinger men started for Chicago to buy seed potatoes. Over the muddy trail the journey to the city with oxen and empty wagon could scarcely be made in one day. They bought their load at $1.25 a bushel and began the slow return to Dutchman's Point, but bogged down in the mire and were two days getting home.

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Skokie Settler

In Skokie the very first white man to build a house was an Irish bachelor by the name of O'Brien. It was a little log cabin on what is now the lawn of the Blameuser house in Oakton west of the Northwestern tracks, across from the Public Library. Apparently he did not stay long for that is all we know of him, but his cabin was still standing when, about the turn of the century, Peter Blameuser brought his bride Clara Hoffman to the big house.

Skokie's first permanent white settler, Nicholas Meyer, came from Alsace Lorraine in 1835. He later was one of the first merchants in the township. Though he died in 1857, the stories he passed on have come down the century by word of mouth.

He described the beautiful hardwood forests and how pigs roamed at large in them fattening on the acorns. (The rendered lard sold for three cents a pound!) As many as fifteen deer hung at one time from the rafters of the barn. He told, also, of his closest early neighbors: Samuel E. Ferris, the first permanent settler in Morton Grove who came in l839; toward Gross Point, Lyman Butterfield, and two miles or so east Schneider and Huffmeyer, the first two men on East Prairie.

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Hardy Pioneers

There were still others within an easy day's walk, for the first pioneers had come to Jefferson Park and along the Des Plaines. In 1836 Abraham Hathaway built where the Evanston park is now, and Philip Rogers arrived the same year, put up a log house farther south and began the business of burning charcoal. Rogers Park was named for him.

Along the ridge between Rosehill and Evanston came many of the first settlers, who built on it to keep clear of the water which fully half the year rose over the adjacent lands. In 1840 Benjamin Hall, after whom Hall Road was named, built the old tavern at Dutchman's Point.

With a dozen or more log houses in little clearings in this and our neighboring townships, the area was really booming. In the meantime the new town at the mouth of the Chicago River was booming, too, with about 1,000 inhabitants. But as yet it had not cast its shadow this far.

In between lay some l5 miles of forests with winding trails and fallen timbers, with streams to be forded, and of open prairies with high, tangled grass. The great barrier, however, was the deep, rich, black Illinois mud into which the weary oxen sank above their hooves and strained against wagons mired to their hubs. This for many years held back the new settlements from contact with the city.

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CHAPTER THREE - THE PIONEERS

The story of Niles Township might have kept to the same slow tempo had not conditions in central Europe given it a different turn. All unwittingly Wilhelm I and Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia and Count Bismarck changed the course of history in this region.

From 1830 to 1848 Europe was a seething stew of wars and revolutions, of constitutions granted and withdrawn. The ruling families made determined efforts to hold their position and power by main force against the awakening masses. The people stirred with the new conviction that control belonged by right to them, not to the monarch.

The French Revolution had aroused the common man, and the Declaration of Independence had repercussions in Europe. The great reigning houses of Hohenzollern, Hapsburg and Bourbon fought each other for territory, and their subjects were caught in the melee that swept the Continent.

Bismark laid a heavy hand upon the smaller states to unite them under Prussia. This he succeeded in doing, but in the process wrought rebellion among the Germanic peoples. Disgusted with military service and exploitation, they turned to America.

To top off the general discontent, l849 was a year of famine in Germany. The grain crop failed and the total potato crop rotted. The peasants were reduced to near starvation. This combination of evil forces, political and economic, precipitated the great German migration to the Midwest with its rich agricultural areas. Niles Township became a bit of transplanted Germany, and German it remained at least until the close of World War II.

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Book Needed

Every life is a story. To do justice to the sturdy pioneers would require a book which should be written before time blots out the records. In the space which can be allotted to this era of our history, roughly the 1840's and early 1850's, the narrative must be limited to a few representative men, and apologies made to the many Skokie descendants of the others.

The real founder of the village of Niles Center (Skokie) is considered to be Henry Harms, known in those days as "Farmer Harms", who, in December, 1854, built a small frame house almost on the site of the present Municipal Building.

A native of Mecklenburg, he came to America in 1851. After working three years on a farm near Chicago he came here to buy one of his own. Later he engaged in the building trades and, along with another contractor laid he foundation of the Chicago courthouse.

In Niles Center he filled many public offices including those of Constable, Street Commissioner, Supervisor and Postmaster. Under Governor Beveridge he was Drainage Commissioner for Cook County and superintended the drainage project in Niles Township. For six years he ran a store, which was later taken over by his brother-in-law, George C. Klehm.

During the autumn of the Chicago fire he was running for County Treasurer and was thought to have been elected, but was unable to prove it to his opponent because the ballots burned.

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Klehm's Arrive

George C. Klehm, born in Dudelsheim, HesseDarmstadt in 1839, came to America with his widowed mother and his brother John in 1851. When they reached Buffalo she had only seven dollars left from the sale of her property.

For two years all three worked for farmers near Buffalo and then George worked at brick laying in that city, a trade to which he had already been apprenticed in Germany. Early in 1855 he came to Jefferson Park where he went to school during the winter months and later taught until he had earned his teacher's certificate in 1860.

He taught one term in Northfield and three in Niles Center. He moved here in l864 and for forty years held numerous offices: Street Commissioner, Postmaster, and for many terms Town Clerk and Township Treasurer. He served in the State Legislature one term and in l88l was elected to the Cook County Board, of which for some years he was chairman.

Michael Harrer, with his father Wolfgang and his brother Henry, came from Kaltenbrunn in the Oberfall in 1845 and settled on East Prairie, later to become active in the township and in the village of Morton Grove. John Dilg was another early settler in Morton Grove, coming in 1856 and opening a store there two years later.

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Lincolnwood Settlers

The earliest pioneers in Lincolnwood were George and Magdaline Proesel, natives of Bavaria, who came to the United States with their six children in 1844. From Bremen, Germany, their sea voyage took several weeks. From New York they came by way of Albany to Buffalo and up the Great Lakes to Chicago.

Mr. Proesel had $2,000 with him, and coming directly to this area, bought a farm of 160 acres in Section 35, the northeast corner of Lincolnwood, a part of the open country then known as East Prairie.

At the time there were very few settlers to the north of him. He began at once to clear his land, and farmed there until his death in 1884 at the age of 82. He was the grandfather of Henry Proesel, who for many years had been Village President of Lincolnwood.

Johann Tess, also from Mecklenberg, came here in l856 and made a farm in the southern portion of the township. The village we now call Lincolnwood took its earlier name from him and was known as Tessville until l935.

To Niles Center came Ernest Galitz from Pomerania in 1867, and the first Peter Blameuser in 1865 after 13 years in Chicago.

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Only One Doctor

In Niles in the early 1850s, Dr. Theodore Hoffman was the sole doctor for miles in any direction. His only means of reaching the sick was by picking his way through the woods on horseback, saddlebags packed with his medicines and instruments.

In later years he often told of the night he left a case late and missed the trail homeward. He wandered through the forests a part of the night until he saw a light. Following its rays, he found a cabin and aroused its occupants.

They took him in and he spent the rest of the night on a pile of shavings in a corner. The breakfast they shared with him was potatoes, and bread, with no trimmings for either. In early days no pioneer refused shelter and food to a prospective settler, for those who had established homes were glad to have others locate near them.

With so many century-old names surviving in the four villages of the township, it is an unhappy task to choose between them and eliminate all but a few. Each name is a story of leave taking of the homeland and of privations and perseverance in the new country.

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CHAPTER FOUR - 'IRON HORSE' COMES TO NILES TOWNSHIP

As the stream of German migration into this region swelled, more and more tiny clearings opened in the woods, each centered by a log dwelling.

They were definitely German settlements, German speaking, with ties to the Fatherland. They were still isolated; distances to anywhere were measured by mud and swamp. But by mid-century the accompaniments of a pioneer American community began to appear: a school, a church, a mill, a store.

In what is now the Village of Niles the first school was held in 1838, near the present intersection of Touhy and Harlem. It had four pupils from the Ebinger and Ruland families and was taught by a Scotchman named Ballentine. Its second teacher was a Miss Phillips who was paid $2 per child per term, the bachelors chipping in to help maintain it.

The third teacher, Miss Cordelia Wheaton, found her profession more profitable, for she was paid $l2 a month and board. In l849 John Odell gave a plot of land at Milwaukee and Harlem, material was donated, and John Ketchum, brother of Mrs. Ruland, put up a new schoolhouse for $25.00.

The earliest school board must have comprised all the men in the neighborhood: John Ruland, John Ketchum, Dr. Hoffman, and the three Ebinger brothers. The little building was used only eight years; then a brick one was erected at a cost of $1,000.00.

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Salaries Skyrocket

By 1860 teachers' salaries had leaped to $51 a month for the head teacher, Mrs. Hinman, and $25 for her assistant, Mrs. Langdon. So says an early settler writing in an old report. But $51 seems unbelievable. Country school salaries in general reached no such amount for another 40 or 50 years.

The first schoolhouse in the settlement to the east was not built until 1858. It was a half mile south of the center of the present Village of Skokie, at the junction of Howard and Carpenter. It was a plain one-story frame, and served not only for school but also for church and Sunday school services.

Later it was lifted and a lower story of brick built beneath it. This was old Fairview school and was in use until about 1940. One of its first teachers was George C. Klehm.

In Niles the Methodists began the first English speaking church in the old schoolhouse in 1872 or 1873. It was attended for a time by settlers from miles around.

The North Branch Hotel was built in Niles by John Marshall and Benjamin Hall in 1837 - a hotel out there in the woods in 1837 when our now populous township is unable to boast even one!

In Niles Center the earliest store was combined with a hotel on the southeast corner of Lincoln and Oakton where a filling station now stands. "Farmer" Henry Harms built it in 1857.

In the 1850's a post office was opened in Niles Center with Henry Harms as Postmaster.

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Township Incorporated

The incorporation of the township came in 1850. On April 2 of that year a town meeting was held for the election of officers and the name Niles was chosen. The origin of that name is one of the common questions asked of librarians.

The Chicago Tribune of August 25, l929, has this information to offer: "Where the name came from is a matter of conjecture. There was no family by that name among its settlers. But the city of Niles in Michigan, one of eight spots in the country with the name, was christened in l829, and its namesake was the Niles Register, a newspaper of widespread political influence at that time, published in Washington., D.C.

A fact that makes it seem likely the Illinois town had the same source is that William Ogden Niles was connected with the Register as late as l840., and Ogden is a name with a Chicago bookup." Samuel Ferris was the first supervisor.

Neighboring settlements also were feeling the need to organize. Prior to 1850 Evanston and vicinity was included in the old Gross Point district. In 1850 the Township of Ridgeville was organized and included the present Evanston and Lake View.

In 1857 Evanston Township was incorporated and the Ouilmette Reservation was made a part of it, but in 1859 the latter was detached and made a part of New Trier Township. These rapid changes indicate the steady growth of population.

One of the first duties of the new officials of Ridgeville Township was to appoint a committee to draft an ordinance preventing livestock from running at large and invading grain fields. They ruled that all cattle and horses should be restrained during December, January and February, and hogs and sheep at all times.

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Came The Railroads

Now again an event occurred that changed the face of our township. The Iron Horse came snorting through the valley and the forests went to feed him.

The trunk line of the St. Paul Railroad (now Milwaukee Road) was laid through Niles and Morton Grove, and the Northwestern Railway through the settlements west of them. As the locomotive burned wood exclusively, the giants of the forest were cut for their fuel.

A German language newspaper, "Der Westen," of a later date, has this vivid description: "Through the forest resounded constantly the ring of the wood-cutter's ax. Everyone threw himself upon the ax handle, and endless trains of firewood were daily forwarded to Chicago.

"Among those who here laid the foundation for later prosperity was the famous millionaire Amos J. Snell. He acquired hundreds of acres of woodland and built himself a lumber kingdom." (Snell and his acquired wealth, and his mystery murder, will figure in the next chapter of this history.)

Wood also was almost the only fuel used in Chicago at this time. Except at the center of the city it was the chief building material, increasing the market for the forests. The trees went, and fields appeared in their place. More money was in the pockets of the farmers.

Farm dwellings, some commodious, took the place of the little log cabins. Passenger and freight transportation linked the communities with the rapidly growing city by the lake. Niles Township was out of the woods.

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CHAPTER FIVE - MILLIONAIRE MURDERED

His Toll Gate Burned to Ground by 'Indians'

In the preceding chapters much has been said about the impassable roads through the good rich Illinois mud. Such roads prolonged isolation for our township. Moreover, they gave the farmers great disadvantage in competition with those from other areas. The difficulties of transportation increased cost of production, and the Niles farmer took the loss.

All the diagonal roads now leading to the city were originally Indian trails. Those from this direction are now Lincoln, Elston and Milwaukee Avenues. Milwaukee Avenue was the trail to Green Bay; Lincoln Avenue, turning west as it still does, went through the present Morton Grove and off toward the western part of the state. As traffic increased over Milwaukee Avenue the ruts deepened, until at last a company was organized, headed by a Mr. Mitchell, to surface it with three inch planks.

The planking of Lincoln Avenue from Niles Center (Skokie) to the city limits, then at Division, was done by Henry Harms, who was able to finance it himself for he had become a large landholder. He set up toll gates to recover the cost of the undertaking, and was the first keeper of one such gate. It was at the bend of Lincoln Avenue at Lincoln School.

It was simple: only a log pivoting on a pole and the short end weighted.

One of our towns people (Miss Alma Klehm), who was a little girl at the time, tells how the children liked to go there to open the gate for the teamsters when they had paid their toll. To do it they put their weight on the short end, lifting the log to swing it out of the way. This makes a pretty interlude for the drab story to follow.

How far Mr. Mitchell's improvement on Milwaukee Avenue reached is uncertain. A Mr. Gould soon planked it from Niles to Chicago. He established toll gates on it at Elston, Irving Park and Western.

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Opportunity Knocks

At this point Amos J. Snell enters the scene in Niles Township and in the villages' of Irving Park and Lake View to the south.

When the two railroads, Northwestern and St. Paul, pushed northward from the city, and their woodburning locomotives created a demand for timber, Snell saw opportunity knocking at his door.

While the farmers of the region, to repeat the apt phrase from the old German newspaper, "fell upon the axhandle" Snell fell upon the timberlands, buying them up until he had a timber kingdom. He hired others to do the clearing: Johann Tess was one who chopped for him.

Snell set up a lumberyard on the North Side, and as his wealth piled up he gradually came to possess most of the land between Addison and Irving Park Road from the main line of the St. Paul Railroad to Narragansett, a tract half a mile north and south and more than two miles east and west, a total of more than a square mile.

He divided it into small farms, built frame houses on them and rented them. (As late as 1950 it was reported that some of the houses were still standing.) Snell was well on the way to being a millionaire.

If the valuable forests were viewed by Snell through the dollar sign, so also were the deplorable muddy roads.

He bought the Northwest Plank Road (Milwaukee Avenue) from Mr. Gould from Division (Chicago limits) to the Des Plaines River. Though it had seemed at first that planking was the happy solution to the road problem, it proved shortlived. With no roadbed, soaking in the deep ooze, the cracks spread, the mud rose, the planks warped, and the ends curled up like rockers.

Snell rebuilt the road with a hard gravel surface and extended it to Wheeling, establishing another gate at Welcome Park. Besides the four gates already mentioned, he set up others on Milwaukee Avenue at Leland, Jefferson, Belmont, and Fullerton. There also was one at Elston and Division which possibly was his, preventing a detour on Elston to avoid the toll. There were others not owned by him, namely those on Lincoln Avenue and a notable one on Clark at Rogers Avenue, where the gatekeeper's house was still standing in 1902.

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System Was Legitimate

Now, lest there be any misunderstanding, these gates and the whole toll system was legitimate and fair. The County Board licenses private concerns to build and operate toll roads and to collect fees as a means of defraying the cost and maintenance.

It was a method of obtaining passable roads by use of private capital instead of taxation. In some places in our country a road tax was imposed, but a man might "work it out" on the road if he chose. In the toll system it was paid by the user.

The system was considered just and brought no complaint up to a point. The point was reached when the revenue exceeded that justified by the investment.

By the 1880s, on a normally lively day, a gate might bring in as much as $400. The gate at Milwaukee and Fullerton took in $710 on a Sunday when the new cemeteries had been opened northwest of the city and some Polish and Bohemian organizations happened to be holding a picnic at Niles.

One night in 1888 Snell was murdered in his home. Clues were few, and suspicions were many. It had appearances of being an inside job. A nephew, Willie Tascott, became the prime object of search. Detective work spread through the nation, and trails were picked up in Europe. The case dragged on and all leads faded out. Neither Tascott nor other suspects ever were caught. The murder remains a mystery.

For several years the Snell heirs kept their hands on the gate business. The traffic grew and also the profits, and indignation rose among the farmers, especially of the Polish and Bohemian communities.

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Indian Uprising

On April 28, 1890 protest was made to the County Board. A few nights later the farmers took action themselves. Disguised as Indians, they made a surprise attack on the gate at Milwaukee and Fullerton and burned it and the keeper's house. The Chicago Tribune of May 3, 1890 gives these details:

A crowd of 200 men made a descent on the Milwaukee institution. Shortly after midnight they aroused the guard by a heavy knocking on his door. After putting him to flight they burned his house and the gate to the ground. As the flames rose the Indians' danced and whooped in glee. By the time the firemen from the nearest engine house had arrived, the little building was nearly consumed. A police patrol came, but the mob did not budge.

The police looked on and made no effort to do anything. They, as well as the general public, were on the side of the arsonists. The Tribune reported some of the remarks among the crowd. When asked by the police how the fire had started, one man said, "I guess Snell's heirs burned it." Another said, "Perhaps it started from spontaneous combustion." But a third amended that answer by "From spontaneous indignation!"

Some said the deed had actually been incited by the County Board when the protest was made to them a few days before. At any rate, no action was ever taken.

Conflicting stories have come down to us, as is to be expected of incidents so long past. One is that the mob went on that night and tore down other gates but did not set fire to them. But the record seems to be that the county soon bought the Milwaukee Avenue toll rights from the Snell heirs, and the Lincoln Avenue rights from Henry Harms, and then abolished the whole system. One gate was still left on the Milwaukee Road as late as 1892.

Another mistaken story, still in historical society records, is that the burning was done by real Indians whose wrath had been smoldering over infringement on their rights. But police reports do not bear this out, and they could surely have distinguished between real Indians and artificial ones, even by firelight. Besides, few Indians were left in the vicinity in 1890, and those who were would hardly have picked the toll gates as the object of their vengeance, since only vehicles, not pedestrians, were taxed. The long story of the sticky roads had finally come to a dramatic conclusion.

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CHAPTER SIX - FROM SETTLEMENT TO VILLAGE

Niles Center (Skokie) was incorporated in 1888, and so named because it then occupied the center of Niles Township.

Its eastern limit was the Northwestern Railroad and its north boundary was Main Street. Adam Harrer was elected President. Trustees were Michael Harrer, Peter Blameuser Sr., Ivan Paroubek, Fred Rose, Fred Stielow, and Chris Baumann.

The town hall was the present fire engine house for the apparatus of the original Volunteer Fire Department organized May 6, 1881. The upper floor was the meeting place of such organizations as the village had: the Catholic Order of Foresters, the Plattdeusch Guild, the German Singing Club, and several lodges.

Morton Grove was incorporated Oct. 24, 1895. George Harrer was its first President and served as such for fourteen years.

The village was named after Levi Parsons Morton, who was then Governor of New York but had been Vice President of the United States the previous term. The Americana Encyclopedia has an imposing list of the great financial institutions he founded in the East. He had assisted in floating the government war loans during the Civil War, was a Republican Member of Congress one term, and was Minister to France. His only connection with the village seems to have been his service on the Board of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad which passes through the town, and whose station became the nucleus for its growth.

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Niles Settlers

The village of Niles had the earliest settlers in the township; the Shadigers, Perrins, Rulands, Ebingers, and John Ketchum. By 1884 it had two stores, two hotels, a drug store, harness shop, two blacksmiths, three churches, two schools, a doctor, and about 200 inhabitants. Andreas, the Cook County Historian of that time, makes it 250 inhabitants and adds six saloons.

Incorporated in l902, it took the name "Niles" from the township. Previously it had been known as "Dutchman's Point." That name was official, but was in general use. The origin easily seen. It lay in a point of the North Branch and its people were German. Until well after the turn of the century Germans were quite commonly known as "Dutchmen," probably from their own name for themselves, "Deutsch." Perhaps the disuse of the term begins from the first World War.

At any rate the old name, "Dutchman's Point" stuck long after the new name had been adopted. By the census of 1910 the place had 569 population, outstripping by just one its neighbor town, Niles Center, which had 568.

Tessville, (Lincolnwood) organized in 1911 had 365 by the same census. It was named, it has been mentioned, for Johann Tess, one of the early pioneers. The first president was Frank Meier, and his brother John was its first clerk. As in its three companion villages, all the earliest families had been German or Luxembourger, and the business was truck gardening and flowers.

The outdoor market made Niles Center really a center, not of Niles Township alone, but all the surrounding country. It reached from the intersection of Lincoln and Oakton to the fork at St. Peter's Catholic Church and around the bend of old Market Street, which has in recent years been renamed Warren.

Market days were the first Tuesday and third Thursday of each month. On those days farmers arrived from miles around with their vegetables and livestock, especially pigs and poultry. Merchants from the city sold a great variety of goods.

It was also a horse fair. Horses that had gone lame on the cobbled pavements of Chicago brought to work out many more valuable years on the soft soil of the fields.

On those days the village was full of strangers. Mingling with the crowd were Gypsies whose caravans camped at the edge of town and where women told fortunes. Farmer, merchant, beggerman, thief; the last two species being sufficiently numerous to require extra police protection.

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Three Old Churches

A few random items gleaned from those who remember, may well find their place in the story at this point.

The three old churches in the center of the village were the first north of the city probably north of Bowmanville. The land for St.Peter's Catholic Church and its cemetery was donated by Peter Blameuser Sr., as was also the land for St.Peter's Evangelical and Reformed on Oakton Street. He contributed the bells for both churches; those in the Catholic Church were named for him and his wife, "Peter" & "Clara." He offered the land for St.Paul's on Carpenter Road, but Mr.Rohr's donation of a site had already been accepted.

Ferdinand Baumann was the keeper of the road gates at Niles Center Road. They were raised and lowered for trains by pumping. In his spare time he laid out a miniature park fifty feet square with little walks, and fashioned a loo to it from odd-shaped slag picked up from the tracks.

Ice cream was first introduced here at a picnic about 1882. A large dishful could be bought for three cents. Later it was peddled from a wagon on Sunday afternoons. You ran out with your dish and it was ladled out for you at a penny a serving.

There was a picnic ground all the way from Harm's store at Lincoln and Oakton to the south end of the block. A picture of this area is one of those on the wall of Skokie's First National Bank.

An eventful occasion came to Morton Grove in the summer of 1897. The three day convention of the Plattdeutsch (German middle class) Guild was held on August sixth to eighth in St. Paul's Park near the railroad station. It attracted first and second generation Germans from the entire Chicago northern area.

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Old Newspaper

A German language newspaper, Der Westen (The West) of August 8 of that year, devoted a full page to the celebration. It makes a vivid story of the thousands of German people, young and old, streaming from all directions to the picnic grounds.

They came, it says, by every means of travel, by "Dampfross und Stahlross" that is, by steam horse and steel horse (bicycle).

It describes St. Paul Park in glowing terms as the most beautiful spot near Chicago. Created and owned by George C. Klehm, it was a tract of land bordering on the North Branch, which had been dammed to form a pond large enough for boating. Klehm supplied the boats.

The reporter waxed poetic as he pictured the joy of drifting downstream between banks so heavily wooded that the sunbeams only flickered through. The park also contained a pavilion for picnickers caught in sudden summer showers. The old yellowed and wrinkled German paper, now in the possession of a Klehm-Harms family, proudly recounts the stories of the pioneers, tracing each on his long voyage from the Old World, through the hardships in the New, to their successes and triumphs as their toil and native perseverance paid off.

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CHAPTER SEVEN - SKOKIE'S GREAT FIRE OF 1910

(Credit is due to Mr. George Blameuser for the greater part of this fire story. It is inevitable that an account taken orally in a number of personal interviews, should collect an assortment of gaps and conflicts. Before writing this chapter, the author had to make a long-distance SOS call, and Mr. Blameuser's help in ironing out the wrinkles is much appreciated.)

The Niles Center fire of 1910 has been called the miniature of the Great Chicago Fire because of several similar aspects:

- Both fires were in October after a prolonged period of drought.

- The town was tinder waiting for a spark.

- Both fires originated in a stable.

The barn in which this blaze began belonged to a Mr. Wolfe and was on the west side of Lincoln north of Oakton. A strong southeast wind whipped the fire along that side of the street.

As yet there was no water system in the village. Every house had its own well and cistern. The Volunteer Fire Department relied upon the bucket brigade method. All able-bodied men took a hand, passing buckets or sopping roofs with mops and brooms from pails hauled up by rope. The department had a hand pumper to draw water from a cistern, but, with so many buildings afire at once, such equipment was pitifully inadequate.

Calls for help were sent to Morton Grove and Niles, and they contributed their volunteer departments, though they, too, were largely dependent on bucket-passing.

Then the call for help reached Evanston and Chicago. They responded with an engine and a company apiece. They laid their hoses to the lagoon belonging to the Peter Blameuser family, west of their large old home across the street from the present location of the Public Library. Without the little body of water the town doubtless would have been doomed. The fire lasted from afternoon until evening of the next day and left a block and a half of the business district smoldering.

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Market Day

This, had been a market day with its usual motley throng of outsiders. As though officials did not already have trouble aplenty, they had to contend with looting.

Those citizens whose buildings were in the probable path of the blaze began setting their furniture or stock out on the walks to be carted to safety an ideal arrangement in the minds of the light fingered ones among the crowd. So it was necessary to deputize men to guard what the fire didn't take.

After the disaster discussion began in earnest on the need for a water supply.

The first system was an artesian well on Niles Avenue at the present Searle Parkway. It was drilled through hardpan and solid rock to a depth of 1400 feet. A water tank above it held 25,000 gallons. The tank was taken down in the middle 1930s, but the well now furnished Searle with water for air conditioning and sprinkling.

In the late 1920s a pipeline was laid from Chicago, bringing Lake Michigan into the faucets of Niles Center. The first home to have running water was the Klehms', the rambling house known to older residents as the "'Swedish Castle" in the 8200 block on Lincoln Avenue, now occupied by the American Legion.

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Sewage a Problem

Running water necessitated a sewer system.

Sewage disposal was a real problem, for Niles Center had no stream such as Nature had provided to Morton Grove and Niles. The Drainage Canal had been opened for use in January 1900's but the east boundary of Niles Center was still the Northwestern tracks, leaving a two-mile strip of unincorporated territory between the village and the canal.

The town was advised to install a septic tank, but the idea met with citizens' disfavor, and the problem of diverting sewage to the canal was taken up with Cook County. Much legal work had to be done to obtain rights from property owners on that strip of land. It was nearly a decade after the fire that the sewers were completed and connected with the Sanitary District system.

Since l952 virtually all of Skokie receives its drink of water through Evanston. That city has a thoroughly modern plant on the lake front, with pipes reaching out 5000 feet into the lake, 30 feet under its surface. Its purification follows the most recent scientific methods.

So disaster eventually brought improvement and modernization. With water from the city and sewage through the canal the as yet beneficent shadow of Chicago had reached this far.

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CHAPTER EIGHT - BOOM AND BUST

The fire of 1910 was hardly a candle's flicker to the excitement a dozen years later. "THE FIRE" consumed barely two business blocks. "THE BOOM" consumed most of Niles Center.

Niles Center - Story of the Great Expansion Northward

So shouted "The Economist" of November 10, 1920 in letters two inches high across its front page. This was "a weekly financial, commercial, and real estate newspaper" published in Chicago. Under the above caption followed in bold type: EXTENSION OF THE ELEVATED TO NILES CENTER AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE CHICAGO, NORTH SHORE AND NORTHERN RAILWAY TO WAUKEGAN RESULT IN UNPRECEDENTED ACTIVITY IN AFFECTED COMMUNITIES.

"GREATEST DEVELOPMENT AND EXPANSION MOVEMENT IN THE HISTORY OF CHICAGO IS PRESAGED IN CONNECTION WITH PROGRAM OF THE INSULL INTERESTS."

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"Investors Paying $5000 per Acre for Attractive Homes!"

Chicago has not in a long time experienced a boom anything like the present movement now developing in the northern part of Cook County, following the news of the construction of the Chicago, North Shore, and Northern Railway's line, beginning at the intersection of the Chicago and North Western Elevated at Howard Avenue, thence west to Niles Center.

Chicago Commerce of April 4, 1925, telling the story with less gusto and more attention to literary style, begins:

"For nearly seventy years Niles Center drowsed and doled in the shade
of the little grove where Lincoln, Oakton, and Carpenter Road intersect,
content to be a country crossroad with two trains to the city a day some
days.

Now the whole atmosphere of the village is changed, electrified,
thrilled at the sight of "L" Cars."

"Hick-chewing-a-straw" attitude of the big city press during the early part of the century an attitude which changed tune with the extension of rural delivery and the resulting new market for subscriptions.

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First New 'L' Extension

There had been no new 'L' extension since America's entrance into the First World War. Within the next eight years Chicago's population made such rapid growth that by 1923 it would require the addition of the equivalent of ten square blocks annually to provide for the increase. The cities along the lake were likewise filling up. The only northern outlet for overflow was the Skokie Valley. The 'L' branch to Dempster and the electric railway would open up this area.

From the coming of the Milwaukee Road to Morton Grove in 1872 the history of public transportation in our township would make a chapter by itself. There was no transportation to Morton Grove to meet the train.

Niles Center people walked the mile and a half to the depot and did not consider it martyrdom. Some did it regularly and, returning home in the early darkness of the winter evenings, carried a lantern to light their paths.

The North Western branch came through Tessville to Niles Center in 1911. From about that time until the coming of the 'L', there was one attempt after another to organize a street railway, or interurban, or bus route to connect the township villages with Chicago.

Three times supposedly watertight plans died aborning.

One was the extension of the Lincoln Avenue street car line from the Bowmanville corner (Lincoln, Lawrence and Western) through Tessville, and Niles Center to Morton Grove. All paper work was done, the spade work ready to start, and the line was to be in operation by January 1918. It must have been a World War I casualty. A line was granted right of way on Oakton from the east to west limits of Niles Center, and at the same time another from Howard north and west through the township. The legal work for both was finished by 1916, but these likewise, fell by the wayside.

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Region Remote

With transportation, and somewhat off the beaten lines of travel, the region was felt to be remote. To Chicagoans, even of Rogers Park, the township seemed much farther than just "over the line." Because of that the promoters pointed out that the 'L' would open up country which would be nearer the Loop than North Evanston, the shore towns, or even many points of Chicago.

In the Chicago Evening Post of May 23, 1925, one W. C. Jenkins wrote an article on "The Skokie Region of Tomorrow a Prophecy." He said that in winter this new area was cut off from cold lake winds; that many North Shore residents had found these winds so disagreeable that they were giving up their lovely shore homes and moving farther west. (The man who dreamed that one up hadn't crossed the open spaces past the Oakton 'L' and North Western stations two or four times a day for fourteen winters!) As a further incentive he predicted curving streets and private courts as "being more attractive than a rectangular system."

He made one ultimately correct prophecy that the population would grow at three times the rate of growth in the city.

The pages of The Economist and Chicago Commerce are peppered with dollar signs as they report fabulous speculation.

"An operator has just closed the purchase of seventy acres half a mile from the right-of-way for $210,000, or $3000 an acre. One operator bought ten acres on Main Street near the Chicago, North Shore and Northern three months ago for $25,000; he sold one plot for $5000 and has sold the rest for $45,000.

"Kenneth C. Brown & Co. have a beautiful piece of frontage on the north side of Dempster Street from Niles Center Road to the Chicago, North Shore and Northern right-of-way, of about 1400 feet of frontage, which is being sold at from $150 to $300 a front foot. They opened the subdivision a week ago and sold 400 feet of frontage the first day."

(This is the quarter mile to be seen looking east from the Bronx Building, and "THE VILLAGER" of April 24, on page 20, has an excellent photo of it as it was then.)

"45 acres at the intersection of Howard, Lincoln, and Cicero have been purchased by George F. Nixon & Co. for subdivision purposes. It is admirably located for development, and from a residential viewpoint could not be more attractive, as it is on the edge of a beautiful strip of the forest preserve, heavily wooded."

(However, it was cut off from actual contact with the forest preserve by the already granted right-of-way. These acres are now the campus of Niles Township High School.)

"Edward and Maurice Aaron have acquired from Arthur Salinger & Co. the 125 x 96 northwest corner of Howard and Dodge for $30,000 just north of the projected 'L' extension.

Les Perron has purchased the southeast corner of Main and Gross Point Road for $20,000.

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'Booming Fast'

These are only samples from pages and pages dizzy with figures. Just one more: "Many Niles Center lots have reached the stage where the boom is booming fast that is, they have reached the resale stage. A buyer buys; he holds his lot a month or two; and then he sells. And he makes money. William C. Galitz, President of the Niles Center State Bank, pointed to a corner lot, 75 x 125 feet, in a choice location the corner of Lincoln and Main Street. 'That lot,' he said, 'sold for $3200 two and a half years ago. It was resold eighteen months ago for just about $10,000. Then six months later it was sold again for $20,000, a bit more than double. Now it's on sale for $45,000.'

"At first the average price for small residence lots 35 x 125, was about $800. They sold fast. Now the same ones resold, or new ones on sale for the first time, are going like hot cakes for $1350." And finally:

"One can readily see what the new line (Chi., N.S. & M.) means to this community; it will mean new life, much construction, new business centers, new picturesque residential communities, all of which are only awaiting the spark of transportation to bring forth a beautiful new city."

But the glowing prediction flared up, sputtered and went out. Even while it was being written the event that caused the prophecy's failure had already passed into history. For, a thousand miles from the scene, in Wall Street, the stock market had broken. Unknown to the luckless final buyers, the Great Depression was on.

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Eyewitness Picture

First person narrative has so far been avoided, but here we break to rule to paint an eyewitness picture. Coming to Niles Center in the late summer of 1937, the author spent many Sunday afternoons roaming the streets to learn the lay-out of the town she was to serve as librarian. Even a stranger could read in the very pavements the story of boom and bust. There lay the streets, criss-crossing and the wide-open prairie through neat rectangles with grass growing up through the cracked asphalt! The curbs and sewers and walks were in, but the streets were silent. Over the empty prairie, with views of a mile in any direction, here and there rose a lone apartment house. It was customary to walk in the streets since there was no traffic, for the sidewalks were heaved by the frost and the broken squares of cement tilted crazily. On Oakton, from Long Avenue west to Austin, even an active five-year old by my side gave up the perilous pleasure of scaling the miniature mountains and sliding down the opposite slopes.

But in the spring abandoned orchards blossomed; and in June the prairie was beautiful with wild roses and bluebells, and later with Queen Anne's lace. In summer the birds sang a varied concert; all day the plovers cried their shrill "kill-deer" where Hines' Lumber Yard is now and in the morning and evening the prairie chicken called his three plaintive minor notes and the partridge drummed.

Tessville farmers and Morton folk and those at Niles must have watched pea-green with envy while their neighboring villagers sold their farms for sums that occasionally reached six figures. But, if they missed the boom, they were spared the collapse. Twenty-five years more and another World War were to pass before they had their turn, and then it would be in a real estate development that had firm foundation and stability not the mirage of speculation.

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CHAPTER NINE - IN THE SHADOW OF CHICAGO

Niles Center had enlarged its boundaries during the boom of the Twenties. As originally incorporated, it was about one square mile in area. The north boundary was Main Street, east boundary Cicero, south Mulford, and west Long Avenue.

Annexing section after section of previously unincorporated land, the village expanded to Central on the north, touching Wilmette and Glenview, to the canal on the east, to Touhy and Pratt on the south. Minor annexations have been made since.

Thus it became the largest area under village form of government in the United States and it still is. Oak Park is the largest village in population.

We sometimes hear it said that Skokie is the largest village in the world, but that is putting the comparison on an impossible basis for the meaning of the word "village" differs from country in the Old World. For that matter it has no standard meaning in America.

It seems that Skokie has received more than its due proportion of space in this series, it perhaps has been inevitable because the author spent nineteen years in, with, and for Skokie. The second and main reason is that the town has a rather more spectacular story. Exciting things happened to it, and even ordinary events have a tendency to take on exciting twists.

The other three towns grew, prospered, and progressed steadily under direction of able and energetic men. But in the central village the leaders seemed frequently to find the dramatic just waiting to be touched off .

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Tessville Incorporated

Tessville incorporated in November 1911 under its old name which had previously been unofficial, honoring Johann Tess, one of the earliest settlers, who had come from Germany in 1856.

The growth of population was a minor reason for organization, for it was only 365.

Chicago's relentless push northward is mentioned as one cause. Could it be that residents feared annexation by the city some day? Niles Center surely offered no such threat as yet, though ten years later it might have been eyed with suspicion.

Whatever the spur, the idea seems to have been spearheaded by Leopold Bree.

The first meeting was held in Bree Hall at Lincoln and Touhy. Frank Meier was elected President, his brother John the Clerk, and Charles Tess, Treasurer. The boundaries were set virtually as they are at present Jarvis to Devon, and McCormick to Lamon, and the portion south of Pratt running west to Carpenter Road.

In the roll call of presidents from that time on, every name is German, indicating the same origin linking this village with the others. Like the rest of the township, too, at the time of incorporation it was still agricultural, with gardening and flowers the specialty.

Lincoln Avenue, crossing diagonally from southeast to northwest through Tessville, became a state highway in 1932, and a little later Pratt, cutting the village from east to west. These became pleasure drives through the well wooded area. With an eye to the future the Council voted to set out ten thousand young elms in the parkways, which became an added enticement to buyers.

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Name Change

Soon real estate operators sensed the value in a more descriptive name for the town, and persuaded the Council to consider the matter.

In 1935 the Council circulated a petition to change the name to Lincolnwood. It met with almost unanimous favor. The choice was appropriate for the village had plenty of both Lincoln Ave. and woods.

The change brought results, or something did, and farms began to disappear and beautiful residences to take their place. This development, unlike the boom in Niles Center in the 1920's was not the fever of speculation.

The progress of Lincolnwood following its name change stirred ambitions in Niles Center.

Real estate men claimed that the very rural sound of that name was a disadvantage. They contended that prospective buyers balked when they considered the farmerish address they would have to give to their friends.

To the loyal scions of early families this was outright insult. They pointed out, not without reason, that the name was appropriate to the location, and that it hadn't handicapped the village nor stunted its growth. The argument reached fever heat, and the town split into two embattled factions.

A contest inviting suggestions for names was held, and 1168 entries were submitted. For some reason there was a trend toward Scotch names from the Waverly novels. These naturally evoked jeers from the old settlers, for such titles belied the German origin.

When the tally was made, "Oakton" and "Ridgeview" had run stronger than other suggestions, and an unofficial vote was staged to make a final decision. "Ridgeview" polled 1089 and "Oakton" 890.

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Niles Center Referendum

Now a petition was filed by those who opposed any change. The opposition came up with their petition to re-name no definite choice being indicated. Mayor George Blameuser called for a referendum to settle the matter.

Few political issues in the town have stirred the voters to more action. There were letters to the press. Circulars were dropped at doors. The night before the election there was a street demonstration. The outcome of the vote was triumph for the re-namers, and defeat for the champions of the old one.

There had been enough of public to do, generating useless ill feeling. No more choice was offered to the people. The decision went to a committee responsible to the Council, From entries which have been submitted councilmen voted on five: Oakton, Ridgemoor, Woodridge, Westridge, and Skokie.

Of the twenty-three ballots cast, Skokie received fifteen. It was done quietly and the name sent to Springfield for approval. Some small dissent was registered there because of possible confusion with Skokie Valley, but it was accepted.

The news reached Skokie one evening and spread fast. As this name had not had much publicity it came as a surprise and brought lively comment.

The most frequent criticism voiced by the dissatisfied was, "So now we've gone back to the Indians, have we?"

The opposition to change tried to resist the new name and perpetuate the old. Some held out for as long as two or three years on revising the title of their business or organization. Today only one remnant of the old term remains, Niles Center Road, reminiscent of the old German village.

One reason for its quick acceptance by the majority was the fact that the word was already in use. A little to the north is the Skokie River. The North Shore line running through the town is officially the Skokie Valley Branch. Cicero Avenue had been Skokie Highway for some years and several establishments along its route had incorporated the name into their business titles.

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'Big Swamp'

And now for its meaning. "Big Swamp" seems to have won such general acceptance that it will doubtless stick, yet there are other possible translations, each supported by scholars of Indian life and language. One is "Red Lands." The Foxes call themselves by a variety of names: "Musquaka," "Miskokie," "Misquaking," all signifying "Red Land People". "Misko" and its variations for Red, and "ak" for Land. Perhaps differences are due to the white man's hearing rather than the Indian's pronunciation.

Another theory comes from J. Seymour Currey, one-time president of Evanston Historical Society, in papers of 1906. He says that "Muskoutons" means "The Fire People," then might simmer down to mean "swamp," after all for the territory in question was peat bog, and the name, he says, "had reference to the smoke which is seen rising from such places. People living in Rogers Park tell me that smoke hangs over the bog there, indicating that there is slow combustion underground."

Perhaps, again, this is one and the same thing with "Red lands," with swamp vegetation dried and reddened by the fires beneath.

Another school of thought is that it is simply and directly signifies "swamp". "Muskoki" the Algonquin equivalent for "muskeg" a Chippewa word which has passed into the English language to signify "shaking, trembling land."

Still another authority in Illinois State Agricultural papers of 1856, defines "Wabskokie" as "wet prairie." The Chicago Tribune of August 10, 1940, reporting the change in the village name, regrets "that still another syllable was lost along the trail, and Niles Center will not bear the charming name of Che-Wabskokie" "Big Wet Prairie."

To which we might retort, that, anyway, the name hasn't the odor of wild onions, the well established translation of "Chicago."

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CHAPTER TEN - THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH . . .

We cannot pass over World War II without recording that Skokie was struck by the first blow.

Gordon Mitchell was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a student living in the upper rooms of the log cabin of Central Methodist Church. The main floor of the rambling structure housed the church with its several organizations and the pastor's family. The second floor was rented to men students. Gordon had lived there until going into service shortly before Pearl Harbor. His star of gold is on the service flag of the church.

A long chapter could be written about the work of the local VFW for the service men. Under the leadership of Robert Throop, Sr. the boys were kept in constant reminder of their hometown by a systematically planned series of letters and gifts. It was a bright chapter in dark years.

Following a brief interlude after the war the township began to develop in earnest. Construction had been at a standstill from the beginning of the Depression. When peace came the strict priority on materials held back building for another four or five years. Meanwhile the need of homes here as in the rest of the nation had become acute. The northwest suburbs were the natural outlet for Chicago's jostling crowds.

Industries, likewise, began to flee the Big City to escape transportation problems and the blight, and to follow the trend toward decentralizing.

The G. D. Searle Pharmaceutical Company had moved here before the war. Foreseeing the need of more space for future growth, the firm had purchased a portion of the Peter Blameuser farm off Oakton west of the North Western tracks. Now it expanded to become one of the largest industries in the area.

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'Ocean liner'

Searle's first building, at the north end of the property, was so designed that, viewed from Oakton, it startled you with its resemblance to an ocean liner grounded out there on the open prairie. The post war additions have shut off the view and ruined the illusion wrecked the ship!

Bell and Howell, makers of moving picture equipment, in Lincolnwood, Bell and Gossett in Morton Grove, and A. B. Dick in Niles one for each village were the advance guard of the rush of industry to the township.

It would be a long and tedious roll call if we were to list impartially all the establishments that have come to line Oakton and the railroads in Skokie, and fill the open spaces of East Prairie and the three other towns.

However, mention should be made of one more, Rand McNally, because the name is familiar to the nation.

These, in turn, brought homes as the potential for employment increased. Growth in population induced merchants and lined the once empty streets with stores. Marshall Field's location at Old Orchard was one of the most notable commercial events. Greater shopping facilities drew more home seekers, a steady spiral.

Newer residents will find it hard to imagine the emptiness of the land from Crawford to the canal across Skokie and Lincolnwood, and east of the railroad in Morton Grove and Niles, ten years ago, before the industries big and small began arriving.

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Tremendous Growth

The three smaller towns were well at the top of the state record of building permits. Skokie, being the largest and emptiest, capped them all month after month, year after year, until it became known as the most rapidly growing community in Illinois, some say in the nation. It was approximately 5000 in the 1930 census, 7172 in 1940, above 14,00 in 1950, 43,000 plus in 1956, and 52,135 for the census taken this summer, 1958.

The sister villages have grown proportionately. As a hundred years ago they echoed to the blows of the ax, so in this decade they have resounded to the grind and crash of the bulldozer and steam shovel.

In this they are in the tradition of the metropolis.

In l830 Chicago was a hamlet of log houses with less than one hundred settlers. Reaching 4479 in l840, topping a million before l890, two million by l9lO, with its present three million plus, it is reckoned one of the "seven wonders" of America.

Such rapidity of growth is disruptive to all institutions. Not only are churches, synagogues, and schools unable to speed up their construction effort fast enough, but their programs cannot keep abreast of the demand on them.

Take the Public Library, for example. New projects and services for the community, carefully planned, are frequently found too meager by the time they can be put into effect.

Book stock cannot increase at the rate of population. While one book is being processed for the shelves two families move in to borrow it! The standard for a town of this size is two and a half books per capita. There are now 52,136 in Skokie so the quota would be more than 125,000 volumes five times the capacity of the present library quarters! This is typical of the problems faced by institutions in this area.

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Jewish Migration

Another migration, Jewish, began about 1950, drawn by the inviting newness of the still uncrowded spaces, and pushed by the infiltration of the Negro population into Hyde Park and other old Jewish neighborhoods. Their synagogues, under able spiritual leaders followed, having the dual purpose to hold them loyal to the ancient faith and traditions, and at the same time integrate them with their Gentile neighbors.

While busy with their own groups, notably B'nai Brith, they still have diverted great energy to all the community services, the PTAs, League of Women Voters, YMCA, and whatever makes for a solid community and good citizenship.

Even though the subject is too recent to call history, the record is not complete without a passing mention of the Tri-County Suburban Council which has been ringed around Chicago in a policy of containment. Regardless of the arguments pro and con, and despite unquestionable need of some lines of cooperation with the City, credit is due the late Skokie President George Wilson, for bringing the town into a league and acting as their first leader.

How bewildered the pioneers would have been had they been given a forecast of our present day problems! When the little town at the river's mouth was a long, hard day's journey away from these northwest settlements, what would have been their disbelief if they could have heard of its eventual encroachment upon them! Vocabulary itself has changed. What would they have made of such discussions as zoning, blight, stream pollution, area planning?

It is now just a century and a quarter since John Joseph Ruland plodded westward from the lake shore.

In that short time our township has entered the fifth epoch of its life: the log cabins in the forest, the agricultural period, the market towns, the modern suburbs, and now the industrial phase.

As we see the new homes and the well landscaped grounds of the industries, we hope that fifty or a hundred years hence it will not have fallen victim to blight, the disease of cities the world over. We hope that economists and city planners can find the cure or prevention before dry rot begins to eat at the heart of these prairie towns.

No one can foresee the great events which may produce another epoch in our history. As the economic and political upheavals in central Europe in the mid-nineteenth century determined the early racial nature of our pioneer life; as the extension of the 'L' swept away the farms; as the second world war accelerated population growth started migrations from the overcrowded city, and turned the residential suburbs into an industrial region; so some event half a world away may again modify the character of Niles Township.

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The VILLAGER Thursday July 10, 1958

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Skokie Historical Society