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History Overview and Timeline

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Native American Habitation

10,000 - 8,000 BC:

Paleo village sites, (Clovis man) exist in the Glacial moraine area south of Chicago.

"Mile high glaciers covered northeastern Illinois. As the ice receded, tundra colonized the land and over time gave way to pines and spruces.  The climate grew warmer and drier. Prairie gradually expanded from the south and west."  - Save the Prairie Society, Walking Tour Brochure 1994.      


Over 50 Potawatomi villages exist in the vicinity, one in what is now Oakbrook (near Mayslake), Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park and along the Des Plaines river...

"There would have been families camped southward along the Salt Creek area, and along Cermak about every two or three miles... small camps".  - Historian, Myles Goddard, Midwest SOARRING, 1999 interview with  Lana Gits

Early 1800's:

Trappers and a few settlers arrive - mostly French, English and Scotch - Irish.  Many intermarry with the local Potawatomi. Their descendants are known as "Metis" a French - Indian word meaning  mixed - blood.

"By the 1850's, most of the Indians in the Westchester area would have been fur traders, mostly from these Metis families."  - Joseph Standing Bear, Midwest SOARRING - 1999 interview with L. Gits


The "Indian Boundary Trail":  The Potawatomi, Chippewa and Ottawa cede a portion of land to the U.S. Government. This treaty supposedly provides for Native Americans to retain land west of this line.

"[The trail]... enclosed a twenty mile strip and  followed a southwesterly course along the old  Illinois - Michigan Canal... The northern boundary line crosses Butterfield Road at approximately Hillside Avenue.  -Ann Hoogstra, Ruth Lommatzsch, "Progress, Pride, Growth"


Illinois becomes a state.


President Andrew Jackson's "Indian Removal Act" (officially adopted in 1825), is aggressively pursued during the 1830s'.  This results in a "forced" migration of all purebred Native Americans onto reservations west of the Mississippi.  By 1836 only the Metis, or Native Americans of mixed blood, remained in the Cook and DuPage County area.

Early European Settlement

For more information on this time period see Early Settler History 1832-1850.

1830: August  4th:

Chicago is platted. At this time the population does not exceed 75 persons. (Epof C., 170)

1831: January, 15th:

Cook County is organized and includes what is now Lake, McHenry, DuPage and Will counties.  Chicago (not yet a town),  is named as the county seat.


Black Hawk War


Aaron Parsell settles in sec. 29 along Salt Creek, (now Westchester).


Thomas Reed Covell settles along Salt Creek in section 28, (now part of  Proviso Township).


Town of Chicago incorporated. "Balloon" framing developed in Chicago.


September: Important treaties held in Chicago cause Chippewas, Ottawas and Pottawatomie to cede their land to the U.S. Government. This includes: parts of northeastern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and large tracts in Michigan and Indiana.

German Lutheran Immigration to DuPage and Cook Counties


Dunklee's Grove settled. Yankees, Smith and Dunklee establish a claim on wooded land along Salt Creek that eventually becomes known as "Dunklee's Grove" (Now part of Bensenville, south of Addison)


German Hanovarians, Graue and Koehler settle south of Dunklee's Grove in a wooded area  settlers referred to as  "Graue and Koehler's Woods" (south of present day Addison).  This area was later referred to as Churchville, due to the establishment of another church in the same locale.  The  Dunklee's Grove  area becomes the center of German Lutheran immigration to the Chicagoland area.  Among the immigrants is Wilhelm Graue's son, young  Frederick Graue (then 14), future owner of the Graue Mill in Fullersburg.

"This was a country of grass. Ordinarily it grew to a height of four feet, in the lowlands much higher. The centuries old trails of local Indians served as roads for the colonists. A trip to Chicago instead of the four hours it takes today, took several days. There were no bridges". - Pastor Wolf, "History of St. John's Congregation, 1849-1899"


Chicago becomes a City with William B. Ogden as the first mayor.  (EoC, p. 272) Pop:


DuPage County is organized, from part of Cook County.


First church in DuPage County is dedicated in Dunklees Grove -"The German Consolidated Reformed-Lutheran Church at Addison, in DuPage County, Illinois". (A new church was built in 1862 on this site).

1847 - 1856

Pastorship of Rev. E. A. Brauer, third leader of the Dunklees Grove congregation. (Eventually, his ministry includes the Franzosenbusch School District where he preaches at the schoolhouse on Sundays. (Historians believe remains of this structure form the core of the Prairie House).

Township of Proviso, Beginnings of Franzosenbusch

For more information on this time period see Life in "Proviso" (1850 - 1900).


The Townships of Proviso and Lyons were established. German immigrants arrive in the region in greater numbers  fleeing  oppression  from within the German states caused by overpopulation, failed revolutions against the monarchy  and chronic political, religious and social unrest.


Frederick Graue, also of Hanover, Germany, finishes his grist mill in Fullersburg (now part of Oakbrook): The Franzosenbusch farmers rely on the mill for their milling needs.  See also Graue Mill.


Seven members, some recently arrived from Germany, join the Evangelical Lutheran Parish of Addison, DuPage County.  They resided approximately 9 miles south of Dunklees Grove, in Cook County, Proviso Township in an area called "Frenchman's Grove".  (Due to the fact that there was a single French man living in the district which was for the most part German, the locals referred to this as "Frenchman's Grove. The German translation was "Franzosenbusch").  Due to the hardship of traveling the distance from "Franzosenbusch" to the mother church in Dunklee's Grove, these members request and are granted permission to establish a separate school district in 1852. (Officially referred to this district as the "Southern District").  These residents remain part of the Lutheran Parish in Addison where they attempted to attend church on a regular basis, until they formed their own congregation in 1858.:

"Heinrich Mesenbrink, Sen., Hein. Degener, Fried. Meyer, Fr. Degener, Fr. Volberding, Hein. Volberding and Wm. Mandel.  These 7 joined Ch. Puschek and Hein. Evers... these 9 formed the so-called Southern School District of the Parish of Addison".  (Franzosenbusch)  - Immanuel Lutheran Church records, Rev. Johannes Strieter, 1872-1878.


"The first schoolhouse is built in the Southern District of the mother church, Zion Lutheran Congregation in Churchville (now Bensenville).  This Southern District is also referred to as "Franzosenbusch".

"...which at the same time had a teacher's residence.  Pastors Brauer and Franke of Addison also preached 14 daily afternoons in it... The building erected had two rooms, in one of which the teacher lived and the other served as the school room." - Rev. Johannes Strieter, Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church.


Franzosenbusch settlers form their own congregation, Immanuel Lutheran Church.

A Second schoolhouse is built.

"In 1858 they built the second school house here on the northwest side of the land." - Rev. Johannes Strieter, ILC. 

(It is believed that this structure was later moved to the west side of Wolf, across from the 1951 school, incorporated into a residence and destroyed by fire).


Current research indicates that during this time period the 1853 schoolhouse is converted to a residence and is most probably moved across Wolf Road near the SW corner of Cermak and Wolf.  (This site is later incorporated into the Village of Westchester.)


Immanuel Lutheran builds its first church - east side of Wolf Road just south of Cermak.  The Hinsdale and LaGrange congregations are originally served from here.  In 1871 the LaGrange congregation was asked to establish its own cemetery.  The church remained in service until it burned to the ground on January 24, 1975.


October 17, The Chicago Fire:

"We saw the flames of the Chicago fire in 1871 so clearly that by their light we could read at night."  -Mr. Henry Thiele, son of  original settler, Christian Thiele, Westchester , Tribune, Wednesday April 3, 1932


The Village of La Grange was organized in nearby northern Lyons Township.


Immanuel Lutheran dedicates a new cemetery southeast of the church.

"...the soil for the most part is prairie loam. When first the settlers arrived, as well as now, the township was mostly open prairie.  [Franzosenbusch ]... located in the southwestern part of the town of Proviso... has about 50 inhabitants... it has a  store, a shoe makers' shop, a wagon shop, a blacksmith shop two cheese factories and a saloon, besides a German man School and church.  -"History of Cook County, Andreas, 1880.


The Village of Maywood (founded April 6, 1869 by Colonel William T. Nichols) is incorporated.


The Village of Elmhurst (previously known as Cottage Hill until 1869) is incorporated.


A number of citizens of the settlement known as Harlem in eastern Proviso Township petitioned the Honorable Richard Prendergast, Judge of the County Court, to call an election for the purpose of determining whether or not there should be an organization of a Village of Harlem.  On April 16th the Village was formed.   (In 1907, the Village of Harlem changed it's name to the Village of Forest Park.  See Historical Society of Forest Park.)


Western Springs is incorporated.


The Village of LaGrange Park is incorporated.

A New Century of Growth


The Village of Bellwood is incorporated.


The Village of Hillside is incorporated.


Funeral trains begin coming to Mount Carmel Cemetery from Chicago.   See Rapid Transit In Westchester.

"The unpaved roads were often treacherous if not impassable during periods of rain or snow. Horse-drawn vehicles of the day were both slow and uncomfortable. Given these circumstances, transporting  the deceased by train was viewed as a potential, but somewhat more expensive alternative".  -"The Story of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroads", by L. Plachino, 1986


August 12 the Village of Harlem changed it's name to the Village of Forest Park.  See Historical Society of Forest Park.


The Village of Broadview is incorporated.


Checkerboard Air Field created.


Mrs. Stella Nelson and her husband, Ruben (future Village President), move into a frame home near the southwest corner of Wolf and Cermak. (The future Franzosenbusch Prairie House).


The Village of Westchester is incorporated.


The Chicago Rapid Transit Company (forerunner of the CTA), opens a passenger line between Des Plaines and Roosevelt Roads.  See Rapid Transit In Westchester.                                     Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection


Stock market crash ends Samuel Insull's dream for a modern Westchester.  Plans for the town center are never carried out. Plots fail to be developed.


The Chicago Rapid Transit Co., extends the Des Plaines and Roosevelt line to 22nd Street in Westchester.  It is discontinued in 1951.  See Rapid Transit In Westchester.                        Photo by B. L.. Stone


Days of Restoration


Save The Prairie Society is established to save Wolf Road Prairie from further development. This area is recognized as a valuable remnant of presettlement Illinois. 


Incorporation of the Westchester Historical Society as a nonprofit organization. (Now known as the "Franzosenbusch Heritage Project"). In this year, WHS moves the old house from Podcor property on 22nd and Wolf to a plot on Constitution Drive, owned by Save the Prairie Society.                       Photo by Larry Godson.


An anonymous donor gives substantial start-up funds to WHS.


Village of Westchester grants a Building Permit WHS.  Work begins on historic Franzosenbusch Prairie House - site of  future museum and nature center.


Three sides of the Prairie House exterior are now substantially complete in a farmhouse style of the mid 1870's. Work is steadily progressing to finish the project. Upon completion a restoration of the 1853 schoolhouse, as well as a Nature Center, will be open. The Franzosenbusch Heritage Society (formerly the Westchester Historical Society) and Save the Prairie Society wish to share with the public a unique environment where history, culture and ecology meet.

Information compiled and written by Lana Gits.  Later modifications Lana Gits and Jim Arbuthnot.

Last Modified:  08/29/2005