Early Deerfield Area History

Trader and trapper John Kinzie Clark (1792-1865) arrives at Fort Dearborn. One of Deerfield's most memorable pioneers, he is raised by Native Americans who call him nonimoa or Prairie Wolf. Hired to carry mail by horseback between Chicago and Milwaukee, he stops in Deerfield with provisions for early settlers and later moves to Deerfield. Clark is buried in the Deerfield Cemetery.

On December 3, Illinois, part of the Illinois Territory since 1810, becomes the 21st state of the Union.

The Ott family of Baldenheim, Alsace, Johann Jacob Ott, 48, and his wife Maria Elizabetha put their hay wagon; rack and trunks in a shipís hold and spend 40 days crossing the Atlantic. On arrival, parents and children Jacob, Caspar, Christian, Lorenz, Philip, Magdalena first settle in Pennsylvania near the Allegheny River.

Jesse Wilmot comes by flatboat up the North Branch of the Chicago River and spends the winter alone as he†scouts the area.

Daniel Wright (1778-1873), Lake Countyís first settler, builds a log cabin just west of Ryerson Woods.

In the spring, a group arrives following the Des Plaines River. Jacob Cadwell, his wife, five sons and two daughters settle at the corner of two trails now known as Deerfield and Waukegan Roads and call it Cadwellís Corners.

The first public road is established from Chicago to the state line following an old trail, the Milwaukee Trace, later called the Milwaukee Road. By the next year, a lumber wagon drawn by 4 horses operates as a stage between Chicago and Milwaukee on the road.

The oldest Ott son, Jacob, is sent to the Deerfield area (Cadwellís Corners) and finds a "Garden of Eden" of tall oak trees, fertile land, plentiful wild game and only a few settlers.

Caleb Cadwell and his wife, Eleanor, purchase 80 acres of heavily timbered land and 80 acres of prairie in Deerfield Township.

The rest of the Ott family comes and they build five of the ten log houses that go up along Saunders Road, among them the Caspar Ott home.

Land in the area first becomes available to purchase and costs as little as $1.25 per acre.

In the fall, Lyman Wilmot (1806-1896) brings his wife Clarissa to settle on 240 acres of wild land in the vicinity of Wilmot School.

In December, the area is named Le Clair.

Corduroy Road, the first road through Deerfield, is in operation. Later it is renamed Telegraph Road, Lincoln Avenue and finally Waukegan Road.

The first township school, Wilmot School, a one-room, log schoolhouse with a dirt floor, is built on the northwest corner of Deerfield and Wilmot Roads. Lyman Wilmot deeds land from his farm for its construction.

Cadwell School is built on the southwest corner of Deerfield and Waukegan Roads. Later known as the Deerfield Grammar School, it is moved east to the present site of Deerfield School District 109 in 1903. In 1913, it burns down and is rebuilt the same year.

At a meeting to rename the town, John Millen suggests Deerfield after his hometown in Massachusetts.

The area's first saw mill is established along the Des Plaines River and advances local construction from log to wood frame buildings.

In April, at the first meeting of Deerfield Township, Caleb Cadwell is elected its first supervisor. On May 4, he is appointed postmaster of the first post office in Deerfield, located in a house at 699 Waukegan Road. Cadwell manufactures hubs and wiffle trees for wagons and carriages.

Elijah M. Haines describes Deerfield Township as "mostly timbered land" - except for a small skirt of the Grand Prairie. The soil is of an excellent quality and the farmers are generally in a prosperous and thriving condition.î

George Rockenbach remembered that as a boy in the 1850s he "looked up and saw two panthers sitting in front of him" while going through woods in the Deerfield area. Sightings of pelicans, lynx and wolves are also reported.

The Deerfield Cemetery on the northwest corner of Waukegan Road and Central Avenue is chartered. The oldest date on a tombstone is 1848. In 1916, the ornamental iron gate is installed.

Abraham Lincoln is in Lake County campaigning for the presidency.

The U.S. Civil War. 58 soldiers from the Deerfield area serve in the Union Army during the War of the Rebellion. 15 are buried in the Deerfield Cemetery.

The Chicago Fire razes an area of three and one-half square miles and lights the sky over Deerfield so brightly that a newspaper can be read outdoors at midnight.

The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad comes to Deerfield. The train enables the town to transport goods and materials to Chicago and strengthens local industry. A boxcar is used as a temporary station.

The Chicago Fire intensifies the demand for bricks. Suitable clay is found along the North Branch of the Chicago River and brickyards open in the area. The National Brickyard, founded in 1896, employs many of the townís residents and is located on County Line Road (now Lake Cook Road).

Due to increasing development in the area, a third train station is built along Deerfield Road. In 1917, the station burns down, except for the freight room. Two neighborhood women save the express packages.

With less than 500 residents, Deerfield is incorporated. John C. Ender is the first president.

Deerfield Area Historic Landmarks

Caspar Ott Log House, 1837, the oldest standing building in Lake County, was restored to its original appearance in 2001 by the Historical Society.

Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Passenger Depot, built in 1903 and rebuilt after a fire in 1917. In 1998, through the efforts of the Historical Society the station is preserved and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Deep Dene Barn, formerly part of a 15 acre estate built in 1915 for Seth Gooder, the barn is now located at Caruso Middle School. Efforts by the Historical Society, other community groups and the Village saved at least part of a local landmark.

Edward L. Ryerson Historic District, a 552-acre preserve in Riverwoods containing woodlands, several endangered species, 6.5 miles of scenic trails and a Greek revival mansion, Brushwood, once the summer home for the Edward L. Ryerson family of Ryerson Steel fame. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Frank Lloyd Wrightís Friedman House, 1956, located in Bannockburn, was saved from demolition at the last minute in 2001 largely by publicity generated by the Historical Society and other preservation groups,

Orphans of the Storm Animal Shelter, built in Riverwoods in 1928 by famous dancer and humanitarian Irene Castle. It is now the largest animal shelter in northeastern Illinois.

The Trail Tree, a 300 year old tree on Carlisle Avenue used as a directional guide by Native Americans.

The Lyman Wilmot House, according to local history a safe house on the Underground Railroad, is documented in one of the few detailed stories that have survived about the Underground Railroad in this area.


Dretske, Diana
Lake County, Illinois: An Illustrated History
Carlsbad, CA: Heritage Media Corporation, 2002

Fleet as a Deer: Dedication of the New Deerfield Post Office
Deerfield-Lincolnshire Rotary Club, 1978

Haines, Elijah M.
Historical and Statistical Sketches of Lake County
Waukegan: E.G. Howe, 1852

Halsey, John Julius
A History of Lake County, Illinois
Roy S. Bates, 1912

Pitt, Paul
Bicentennial Plus Three: A History of Deerfield

Reichelt, Marie Ward
History of Deerfield, Illinois
Glenview: Glenview Press, 1928



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