THE VINCENNES TRAIL

This was once an Indian portage from the Calumet River in southeastern Chicago along the route to Vincennes, Indiana. There were signal stations on the north and south ends of the trail. The first farmers of the area found Indian implements in the early 1830's.

The Vincennes Trail, used by the first white settlers, crossed through what is now Beverly Hills and Morgan Park in Chicago. ("Blue Island" was the name the early settlers and Indians gave to the whole ridge area of Beverly Hills and Morgan Park. They called it that because of the bluish vapor that could be seen from a distance on this table of land that was about thirty-five feet higher than the surrounding prairie. The village of Blue Island takes its name from this.) The trail went south to 103rd Street, then west for about half a mile, turning south to avoid a swamp. The trail crossed through what is now Mount Olivet Cemetery. From there it went diagonally southeast to the bottom of the ridge and followed an almost direct southern course.

In 1833 the Potawatomi met in their last great council with the white men, and it was decided that the Indians would move out of Illinois. It took another fourteen years before settlers saw the last of the Indians. In 1847 E. A. Barnard, standing on the old Vincennes Road, saw the last Indian wagon train leaving our area.

A reporter for the Chicago Democrat traveled over the Vincennes Trail before its survey in 1833. The trail he rode over ran from Gresham to 91st Street, where it went west up the hill, to the top of the ridge and then went almost directly south. There were milestones at 115th Street and 123rd Street where the road went west of Western Avenue and proceeded downhill at the south end of the island at nearly the same place where Western Avenue is.
Following the survey of 1833, the Vincennes Road followed a course just west of the present Vincennes Avenue. Farmers from Indiana and Illinois would bring their goods to market via the Vincennes Road.

In 1852 the Rock Island Railroad laid a line of tracks that ran through Beverly Hills, Morgan Park, and Blue Island. In order to lay the rail bed the railroad had to drain the land, which had formerly been a swamp. It was decided to alter the Vincennes Road again, this time to run parallel to the Rock Island Rail- road tracks. This move had been made possible by the draining of the railroad land., During the fall hundreds of animals would be driven along the Vincennes Road on their way to the stockyards at 12th Street. About this time settlers were moving farther west by the thousands. There was increased traffic during the day because of this movement. At night many of them would camp on the farm of a William Wilcox because of its good well water. By the 1840's the road had several saloons, a few picnic groves, and some houses at about 103rd Street. The reason for the large number of saloons was early legislation that forbade taverns west of the Vincennes Road.

Vincennes Avenue is still a busy commercial thoroughfare in Chicago. A marker for the old Vincennes Road of 1833 is located about a block and a half from the writer's home.

-[From Mrs. Walter F. Heinneman, A History of Beverly Hills, pp. 3, 5; Beverly Review, February 7, 1973, P. 7; Suburban Star, July 5, 1923, pp. 1, 2.1