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Happy Birthday, Highland Park
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Pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles navigate the 21st Century Green Bay Road and Trail as Highland Park, Illinois celebrates its sesquicentennial as an Illinois municipality, March 11, 2019.
Many others traversed the moraines and ravines carved out by glaciation on the shores of Lake Michigan before French voyageurs and coureurs des bois navigated the Mishigami (Ojibwa for Lake). Archeologists have found traces of mammoths´ footsteps as well as early Woodland tribes. Later, the Pottawatomi hunted and traveled along these shores and the well-worn paths paralleling the lakefront.
The 1833 Treaty of Chicago ceded this area´s lands to the United States of America. Signed by a confederation of Native American tribes, this document opened land to new settlers, speculators; and soon, a new form of transportation: the railroad. First families such as the Rectenwalds, Stupeys and Stipes from Prussia and other German states; the Loesch from Luxembourg; the Mooneys and Moroneys from occupied Ireland; and the English Daggitts built cabins and established hand-tilled farms.
Some of these new immigrants, such as the young Irishman Thomas Maroney*, took jobs building the railroad. Rail magnate and former Chicago Mayor Walter E. Gurnee held controlling shares in the North West railway. It was he who had established the Highland Park depot in 1855. When the new wood-burning engines steamed north, they bypassed the fledgling Lake Michigan port towns of Port Clinton -- with its United States post office, light house, sawmill and other shops -- and Saint Johns.
In 1867, the Highland Park Building Company formed and subsequently purchased 1200 acres from the Port Clinton Land Company “for the purpose of laying out a town at Highland Park, and buying and improving and selling lands and lots in said town.¨
Two years later, The City of Highland Park, Illinois incorporated on March 11, 1869. Frank Hawkins, the building company’s resident sales manager, became the City’s first mayor. Other members of the Company included Cornelius R Field (sales), William French (engineer), Horace Cleveland (landscape architect, and the Reverend William Wallace Everts. Cleveland and French recognized the natural beauty of the ravines, moraines and bluffs carved out by glaciation millennia earlier; their designs conserved the native landscape that Highland Parkers enjoy today. Happy Birthday, Highland Park, Illinois
*Maroney joined the 89th Illinois Infantry ¨Railroad¨ regiment during the American Civil War. He died from an infection at Union Hospital Number 2 in Tennessee in 1864.