Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Gurdon S. Hubbard- 1802 - 1886
Nature Bulletin No. 143   February 21, 1948
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

GURDON S. HUBBARD. 1802 - 1886

In the spring of 1818 a gangling, penniless, 16-year-old Vermont boy named Gurdon S. Hubbard got a job as a trading post clerk for the American Fur Company and came to Chicago. Leaving Montreal, he spent months coming by boat with a party of fur traders up the St. Lawrence River and through the Great Lakes. Here i8 how he describes the last day of that trip, having camped at the mouth of the Calumet River.

"We started at dawn. The morning wag calm and bright, and we, in our holiday attire, with flag flying, completed the last twelve miles of our lake voyage. Arriving at Douglas Grove, where the prairie could be seen through the oak woods, I landed, and climbed a tree, gazed in admiration on the first prairie I had ever seen. The waving green, intermingling with a rich profusion of wild flowers, was the most beautiful sight I had ever gazed upon. In the distance the grove of Blue Island loomed up, beyond it the timber on the DesPlaines River, while to give animation to the scene, a herd of wild deer appeared, and a pair of red foxes emerged from the grass within gunshot of me.

"Looking north, I saw the whitewashed buildings of Fort Dearborn sparkling in the sunshine, our boats with flags flying, and oars keeping time to the cheering boat song. I was spell-bound and amazed at the beautiful scene before me. I took the trail leading to the fort, and, on my arrival, found our party camped on the north side of the river, near what is now State Street. A soldier ferried me across the river in a canoe, and thus I made my first entry into Chicago, October 1, 1818. .

Yet that boy, perhaps more than any other person, by his own efforts, vision and enterprise, helped make Chicago the roaring metropolis we know today. Before he died here, in 1886, he saw the Indian driven out by white settlers; the wilderness change into fertile farms; and a lonely fur trading post become the crossroads of America.

You can't always tell what will happen when a boy climbs a tree to get a good look at things.

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