History of Riverside Township, Il.
From: History of Cook County, Illinois
By: A. T. Andreas
Published by: A. T. Andreas, Publisher Chicago, 1884


Riverside Township comprises but four sections, namely, Nos. 25, 26, 35 and 36, situated in the southeast corner of the town of Proviso. Nearly three fourths of this territory is embraced in the village of Riverside, also incorporated, and therefore under the control of its legislative board of officers.

The first white settlers in this section were two men, Indian traders, David and ‘Barney” Laughton, who came here as early as 1828 and built a trading house near the Bourbon Springs, between the present villages of Lyons and Riverside. These men lived here for many years and are yet well remembered by the old settlers of this locality. Mr. White, an old settler of Lyons Township, says that to the best of his knowledge sons of these two traders are at present citizens of Cook County. The first religious meetings held in the neighborhood were at Lyons, and the gospel on such occasions was dispensed by Rev. Stephen R. Beggs, then residing at Plainfield. but who was in the habit of preaching occasionally for the inhabitants of the former place. Stephen Forbes, the first Sheriff of Cook County, came to Chicago in 1829 and in the fall of 1831 located near where is now the village of Riverside; later, Mr. Forbes purchased considerable land in this vicinity. He was intimately acquainted with the Laughton brothers, above mentioned, and when they both died within a week of each other, he helped to bury them. Mr. Forbes died of apoplexy, in Chicago, at the house of his son-in-law, Nathan S. Peck, on Tuesday, February 11, 1879, at the advanced age of eighty two years. Others who were also early settlers in this locality have already been mentioned in the history of Lyons and Proviso townships, “to which chapters the reader is referred.

The town of Riverside, as now constituted, was organized in 1870, the first action to this effect being taken at a meeting held September 24, 1870. on a petition of the legal voters of Sections 25, 26, 35 and 36, Township 39 north, Range 12 east. At this meeting it was asked that the above mentioned sections be set off as a separate township from the town of Proviso, to be known as Riverside; the petition was granted and the first town meeting was held on the 22nd of November of that year. At the first election, thirty nine votes were polled, resulting in the selection of the following officers: Thomas Wright, Supervisor; Joseph E. Ditto, Assessor; J. H. Best, Clerk; T. G. Kinman, Collector; M. Fox, L. Y. Sehermerhorn and A. Egerton, Commissioners of Highways; C. G. Case and S. R, Cole, Justices; W. P. Harris and George Nigg, Constables. Those filling the principal offices of the township from 1871 to the present time will be found in the subjoined roster, compiled fron4 official sources:

Supervisors.— T. G. Kinman, 1871—74; Charles Coryell, 1874-75; H. F. Jennison, 1875-76; George Chambers, 1876-81; John Q. Wells, 1881-84.

Assessors.— Joseph E. Ditto, 1871-73 ; T. G. Kinman, 1873-74; E. L. Sherman, 1874-81; C. D. Sherman, 1881-84.

Clerks.— J. H. Best, Jr., 1871-73; J. B. Ditto, 1873-74; A. C. Blayney, 1874-83; Fred K. Crowe, 1883-84.

Collectors.— Joseph F. Ditto, 1871-73; J. H. Best, Jr., 1873-74; T. G. Kinman, 1874-75; E. P. Teale, 1875—84.

Justices.- E. P. Teale and L. Y. Schermerhorn, 1873-77; Thomas W. Blayney, 1871-85; George S. Collins, 1881-85.


In 1868 David A. Gage was the owner of a beautiful tract of land of nearly 1,200 acres, lying on the Desplaines River and only some four miles distant front the city limits. The natural beauty of the locality, its proximity to Chicago and its consequebt desirableness, as a place for subarban homes, soon attracted the attention of certain prominent Chicago gentlemen, and a company was speedily formed for the pnrpose of planting here on the banks of the Desplaines. the model suburb of Chicago. Accordingly in April. 1869, the Riverside Improvement Company was organized under a special charter granted by the State of Illinois, to carry the above idea into execution, i. e. to prepare a town and depend upon people to live in it. when it was completed. The company was com of the following well known men Emery E. Childs, Leverett W. Marray, Henry E. Seelve, David A. Gage. Alphens C. Badger, George M. Kimbark, and William T. Allen. The first step of the new organization was to secure 1,600 acres of land in which was included the tract belonging to Mr. Gage. known as "Riverside farm." and containing 1,200 acres. finely wooded and with many charming features of rural scenery. The next thing was to improve it in such a manner as to combine the conveniences of the city, such as gas, water, macalamized roads, walks, and drainage, with all the beauties of landscape gardening and the essential advantages of the country. To accomplish this truly desirable result. the company secured the services of Fred Law Olmsted, a noted landscape architect, who made a patient and thorough topographical survey of the property and furnished the plan upon which the village has since been built. The methods of construction were entrusted to L. Y. Schermerhorn, civil engineer, under whose superintendency the roads, walks, drainage and planting were executed, as were also the plans for gas and water works. In their preliminary report to the Company the architects. Messrs. Olmsted, Vanx & Co., speaking of the disposition of a finely wooded tract, said "The people of Chicago, in common with those of our large cities, are just beginning to wake up to the value of public pleasure grounds ; they will, during the next five years, be educating themselves by constant discussions to better understand the real elements of their value. They will gradually realize that, while pleasing grounds and drives of a certain kind may be obtained by them near the city after several years, a great deal of what constitutes the charm and gives the value of parks elsewhere cannot be acquired by Chicago - at least in the present generation. if ever. If then you can while they are thus eager for it, aud while they are aggravated by the natural difficulties of their position, present them with a complete park, comparing favorably with any existing town park in respect to beauty, and rich in those elements in which the Chicago parks are, and for the next fifty years will be, most provokingly deficient, you will be sure to attract to Riverside a degree of attention, admiration and appreciation which you could do in no other way. Your wooded district referred to is so happily furnished by nature that it would be praeticable, we think, within a year to form a park at Riverside which will surpass the New York or Brooklyn parks, a park to which a citizen of Chicago might, therefore, take a citizen of New York, or even London, with pride and satisfaction." After some deliberation the Company adopted the suggestions embodied in the above report, and appropriated this wooded district for a park. It contains nearly 160 acres, lying on both sides of the river, and is connected by bridges for the use of vehicles and pedestrians. The entire area is covered with a fine grown forest of oak, ash, linden, hickory and black walnut.

Resident sites at Riverside are of the most liberal dimensions. the smallest lots being laid off no less than 100 feet front by 200 feet deep thus affording sufficient ground for spacious lawns, the cultivation of trees, shrubs, flowers, small fruits. etc. ; besides allowing space for barns and out buildings remote from the dwellings. These advantages in addition to the fact, that out of the 1,600 acres comprising the village plat, 700 acres were set apart forever for roads, borders, walks, recreative grounds and parks, served to make the place doubly attractive to seekers of ideal suberban homes. So energetically in fact, did the company pnsh the work of improving and beautifying Riverside, that within two years from its founding they had constructed ten miles of roads, seven miles of walks, sixteen miles of drains and sewers, planted 47,000 scrubs, 7,000 evergreens and 32,000 deciduous trees ; 2,500 of the latter were large shade trees, some of them nineteen inches in diameter and eighty feet high. Gas works had also been constructed and over five miles of gas mains laid ; the roads and driveways of the village, as well as the stores and private residences being supplied with gas at city rates. An artesian well was also sunk to the depth of 735 feet, front which a constant snpplv of pure and healthful water sufficient for a population of ten thousands people, is still obtained. A substantial water tower of stone and brick, itself an elegant bit of architeetnre, was erected, into which the water is forced by a steam pump and from thence distributed through mains to all parts of the village. rrluis tower is 108 feet lngh, and from a balcony some 70 feet front the ground, reached by winding stairs within, a fine view of Riverside and its surroundings may be had. In addition to the gas and water works buildings, the company had within the same time built and completed a handsome stone chapel (now the Presbyterian Church of Riverside) at a cost of nearly $20,000, a neat and imposing block of stores and offices, constructed of red and Milwaukee brick and which were then ocenpied as a market, supply store, drug store and post office. They had also erected a beautiful building, on the banks of time Desplaines, with broad verandas overhanging that picturesque stream ; this was known as the Refrectory and Billiard Pavilion while built at the same time, amid situated a little east of this and connected with it by an elevated walk, was another strikingly handsome edifice, the Riverside Hotel. This building, which was originally designed for a summer resort hotel, is constructed in the shape of an E, with two conrts 57x83 feet, open to the sonth. The length of the main building is 260 feet, width at tIme wings 104 feet, length of verandas 1,042 feet, and 15 to 20 feet wide, length of balconies to third story 368 feet. The rooms were all large. light and airy, supplied with running water and lighted with gas, with a grate and chimney to each, thus rendering it equal in its arrangements and appointments to any of the hotels in the city. In the construction of the building, Mr. Jenney, the architect, adopted the Swiss style of architecture, as that being the best adapted for a rural hotel; giving as it does, opportunities for broad verandas, overhanging roof, shaded balconies, and many pleasing though comparatively inexpensive details. Until 1879, the hotel was kept by H. M. Kinsley; when at that date, it not proving a profitable venture, the idea of keeping it as a public honsc was abandoned. It has since been occupied as a tenement house. The grounds about it however have been well kept up and it is still a beautiful place.

To complete the enterprise, and to afford the best possible facilities for reaching the village from the city, other than by steam cars, a flue bonlevarded drive or parkway was proposed, to connect Riverside with Chicago ; and its construction was undertaken by the latter city and town of Cicero, through which the road was to pass. This parkway is one hundred and fifty feet wide, and is divided into a central roadway forty feet wide, the drive proper and used only for pleasure vehicles, a bridle path ten feet wide, enclosed between two borders of turf eight feet wide, and avenues of trees ; then on the other side is a walk. and ontside of these are roads on each side, twenty-five feet wide,for heavy traffic; the cost of tile road was nearly 840,000 per mile, or a total of $480,000.

Among those who were the first residents of Riverside, and who built for themselves houmes witilin its favored shades were : David A. Gage, F. F Chiids. H. C. Ford, L. Y. Schermerhorn, John C. Dore, F. F. Nexsen, E. T. Wright, Charles Gladding, J. P. Merrill, W. W. Chandler, H. F. Jennison, Telford Burnham, J. H. Hollister, David Blakely, D. F. Chase, Horace Enos and John A. Rice. Of the above none are at present living in tile viilage. Those who located here at the same time and who still remain are : W. T. Allen, L. W. Murray, Watts De Goyler, W. L. B. Jenney, H. E. Seelye, Rev. H. Trowbridge and others whose names ore not now at hand. Among those deceased are: George M. Kimbark, E. L. Sherman and George Gilbert. The present estimated population of Riverside is nine hundred.

Riverside Presbyterian Church edifice was built originally by tile Riverside Improvement Company, and was for several years used as a union church, services in it being conducted under the auspices of the Union Christian Association of Riverside. The present society was organized September 15, 1872, with the following nanled persons as its principal members. H. F. Seelye, W. T. Allen, E. F. Nexsen, George Gilbert and J. C. Cochran. Rev. James H. Throwbridge has been the pastor of the Church from its organization to the present time. The present membership of the society is fifty six. Shortly following the organization of the church on a denominational basis, the new society pnrchased the building from tile Improvement Company, but in 1879 had the misfortune to see it almost completely destroyed by fire, only the bare walls remaining of a structure which had originally cost nearly $15,000. Nothing daunted by this calamity, the congregation immediately began rebuilding, and within a year following, the present edifice was completed and ready for occupancy. The present Trustees are W. T. Allen, B. F. Ives, C. O. Gregg. E. F. Hollister and E. R. Spear.

The Episcopalians have also had an organization here for the past ten years but have, as yet, no house of worship. Late in the fall of 1883, however, they began the erection of a church edifice, on Parkway Road, a few blocks north of the depot, which will be completed by the summer of 1884. Among the lead- ing members of this organization may be mentioned W. A. Havemeyer, John Q. Wells, Mrs. B. W. Sherman and N. W. Mundy. The present pastor is Rev. Mr. Lewis, of the Episcopal Church at Lagrange.

The first public school was established in Riverside in 1874-75; the school building, a frame structure, having two rooms, being completed and opened in the winter of the former ever. The first teachers were Professor W. H. Downing and his sister, Miss Downing. as assistant. A few years ago the house was enlarged by building an additional room to meet the increased attendance of the school. The present teachers are trofessor V. Butler, principal, Miss Nora Boyne and Miss Mary Maserve, assistants. The number of pupils now in attendance is ninety eight. A new graded school building, to be built of brick, and of a size suitable to the demands of the place, is now contemplated. and will, in all probability, be erected daring the present year.

In closing this brief sketch of Riverside, it is a matter of regret to have to say that it has never met the expectations of its founders. Not withstanding the vast amount of money expended and labor bestowed to make it a place attractive to those seeking suburban homes, it has, for some reason, brought only bitter disappointments and heavy financial losses to those who originated and carried out the ideal plans upon which it was built. During the last ten years the place has made but little progress. Litigation, financial embarrassments, and reports widely circulated concerning its unhealthy character, have done much to retard a growth, which otherwise, it might have enjoyed. However, its prospects are improving and in the near future, the chances are, that Riverside will assume a more favorable position in the confidence of the public, and rise to the eminence of being counted among the most popular of Chicago's many suburban towns.

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