J. Seymour Currey Tells of the Arrival of First Explorers
Lake Shore News (Wilmette, Illinois), 25 Dec 1914, p. 5

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It is now almost a hundred years since white men, of whose movements we have authentic records, began moving [unclear[ through the extensively wooded tracts along the north shore with a view to settlement. In this account we pass over the adventurous journeys of the explorers, missionaries and traders, made through forests and over prairies, on lakes and rivers, along the north shore as well as throughout the vast spaces of the interior. In the time which had elapsed since the discovery of the great [unclear] in 1673, down to the time of which we are writing, these regions had been traversed by white men in search of knowledge or profit, or in missionary enterprises. It is difficult to realize that it is now more than 240 years since the first explorers beheld these shores and drew maps of the region which we inhabit; that contours and outlines were laid down on these maps, names bestowed, and descriptions written, which correspond quite accurately with the localities as we know them at the present day.

Fort Rebuilt in 181[?]
In the year 181 [?] Fort Dearborn at the mouth of the Chicago river had been rebuilt after the destruction of the old fort and the Indian massacre four years before. A few traders and settlers had followed the reestablishment of the military post, and the place began its existence as a frontier settlement. The Pottawatomie iIndians were here in great numbers at that time, the graces of whose camps and villages were found in this neighborhood at the present time. The War of 1812 was over, and the Indians who had sided with the country's enemies in that war, had resumed peaceful relations with the scattered white settlers, though it was not yet quite safe to wander far from the shelter of the fort. There were still to follow the wild alarms and terrors of the Black Hawk war in 1832, but after that outburst of savage hostility had subsided the tribes were transported to their reservations in ithe west, and permanent peace was at last secured.
In the year 1816 [?] when the new era in the settlement of CHicago was opened a young man twenty-four years of age appeared on the scene of whom we shall here give some account. His name was John Kinzie Clark, a nephew of John Kinzie known as "Chicago's firs settler." He was a half brother of Archibald Clybourn, who also ccame to Chicago about the same time. Young Clark was born at Fort Wayne, and grew up among the Indians, so that he was familiar with their languages and possessed a perfect knowledge of Indian life and character. Owing to his antecedents he was called "Indian Clark," and his name is often met with in the early annals of Chicago and the north shore region. His services as guide and scout were naturally in great demand by the militray people and settles, as he knew the country in every direction. He married a daughter of Stephen J. Scott, an early settler in this neighborhood of whom mention has been made in former articles. During the Black Hawk war he was a soldier at Fort Dearborn and was employed in carrying dispatches from Gen. Winfield Scott to Gen. Atkinson at the Four Lakes [now Madison, Wisconsin.]

Knew the Territory Well
"Indian Clark" knew the north shore well and without doubt often passed over the Green Bay trail which in later years became the famous Green Bay road, for it must be remembered that there were frequent and regular communications kept up between the forts at Green Bay and Chicago from the earliest days of the American occupation. After the Black Hawk War "Indian Clark" settled permanently at Northfield on the north branch of the Chicago river, near the present site of Glenview. The earliest settlers in this region found Clark as a neighbor, and many stories are told of him especially of his prowess as a hunter. He kept a drove of ponies on his place at Northfield, and when he appeared at the cabins of the settlers he was generally seen mounted on one pony and leading one of two others behind him, their halters hitched to the tail of the one following. These ponies he would offer to sell. Sometimes there would be a deer which he had shot thrown over the back of one of the ponies. B. F. Hill [Benjamin Franklin Hill], an old resident of Evanston, related that on one occasion he saw Indian Clark passing along with three deer, two slung across a pony he was leading, and one behind himself on the pony he was riding. Deer were very plentiful in the region at that time, as well as game of other varieties. During the first year of John A. Pearson's residence here (1854) [unclear], Mr. Pearsons saw three deer pass near his house, then situated on the [unclear] end of the lot at the northwest corner of HInman avenue and Grove street. Some men who were with him procured a gun and attempted to shoot one of them but without result. One of the deer ran to the lake and plunged in pursued by two of the men in a boat. [illegible] There were plenty of wolves and [illegible] could be heard at night in the neighboring forests. B. F. Hill, who with his father came here in 1836, related some years ago at a meeting of the Evanston Historical Society that the number of wild animals in the country was immense. "You could hardly drive from one ridge to the other any day," he said, "without starting up a drove of deer. You would think we ought to have had plenty of venison to eat, but we did not get any, for a good reason,--we hadn't a gun in this country hardly that was capable of shooting a deer over six or eight rods away."

Pigeons were Abundant
But the most abundant game in the early day, and even down to the eighties, was the wild pigeon, or "passenger pigeon" as it is called in the text books. This splendid game bird was found in inconceivable numbers all over the eastern and western states, but strange to say it has in he last twenty years become utterly extinct. The Audubon society have for several years past published a standing offer of five hundred dollars to be given to any one who will discover a nest of the wild pigon anywhere in the coutry, and will send a man to examine the birds in order to make the identification certain. So far the society has not met with any success whatever, thought many reports have been received, resulting, however in every case of finding the so-called discovery to be the abundant mourning dove. Although at one time the wild pigeon was the most numerous of all American birds, there is not known to be a single living specimen in existence today. Its total disappearance is utterly unaccountable, and though many explainations have been offered none has proved generally acceptable. It remains one of the mysteries of nature that probably can never be resolved.
Wild pigeons were so abundant here in Evanston that they were taken in traps and nets and sent to market in Chicago in great numbers. Ell Gaffield [unclear] procured a large fishing net which he spread out over the surfaces of the ground and supported it on posts. The ends and [unclear] were tied down and an opening left at one corner. OVer the space inside he would scatter corn and would then retire to give the birds a chance to gather for the feast. "In two minutes," it is related, "the ground under the net would be alive with pigeons, and a jerk of a rope attached to the net would imprison them all." Gaffield called this operation "pigeon fishing," and he made considerable sums of money by selling the birds at three dollars a dozen. The location of the trap was on Asbury avenue, between Greenleaf and Lee streets, so we are told in the late Mrs. Crain's "recollections." Others followed a similar practice and at each season when the migrating flocks appeared the pigeons were trapped by wholesale.
The slaughter of wild pigeons was carried on everywhere throughout the country, and the Chicago market was overwhelmed with birds arriving in some cases by the carload. In accocunting for the extermination of an entire species of game birds, as has occurred in the case of the wild pigeon, the conjecture may be hazarded that while the methods we have spoken of could scarcely have caused the death of every individual specimen, sill, inthe case of birds of gregarious instincts, a reduction in their numbers below a certain point might easily have had the effect of accellerating their complete extinction through the sheer loneliness of the last survivors.

J. Seymour Currey
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President of Evanston Historical Society says it is over 240 years since the explorers first beheld these shores.

Date of Publication:
25 Dec 1914
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  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 42.07225 Longitude: -87.72284
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J. Seymour Currey Tells of the Arrival of First Explorers