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Early Development of the Calumet River
The Calumet River was once called the Callimink. It was called the Callimink by the Potawatomi Indians who used the river for hunting and fishing. The mouth of the Calumet river was once considered as a site for Fort Dearborn but the idea was rejected. The Potawatomi Indians were granted the Callimink Valley by the Treaty of Tippecanoe in 1811. Later the Indians donated land (the Notre Dame Tract) to a Catholic order at South Bend, Indiana. In 1830 Reverend William See was granted permission by the commissioner's Court of Peoria County to operate a ferry across the Callimink River at the head of Lake Michigan. By 1833, the Callimink River became the Calumet River. Lieutenant Jefferson Davis conducted a survey for a ship canal, which was to connect the Calumet River to the Mississippi River. In 1839, a toll bridge was built across the Calumet River. In 1856, the area where the Calumet River joined Lake Michigan was in a decline because of the closing of its lighthouse. By 1869 the federal government provided funds for construction of piers and the improvement of the channel. After the Chicago Fire of 1871 there was increased commercial traffic and the Calumet area became more populated. The area began to grow and the community became known as South Chicago.


 Early South Chicago Factory District

The Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Company was incorporated by a group of enterprising and wealthy businessmen. They named James H. Bowen as president of the company. Their first office was in William Gear's general store on the River at 93rd Street. They relocated to their first new building, built on Harbor Avenue, the first street to be made in South Chicago. They applied to the legislature for a land charter and created a subdivision.. For them to completely retrieve all the land they wanted to buy for the company they had to evict the long-term residents of that area. Since the people had never gone to court to settle the legal proceedings to make the land officially theirs, they had nothing else to do but leave with many feelings of anger and frustration toward the company. By 1871, the company had acquired 6,000 acres near Lake Calumet. Some of their accomplishments were that they graded, drained, and opened streets. They also built docks, dredged, and straightened river lines. They also constructed hotels and a railroad facility.
 


James H. Bowen "Father of South Chicago"

James Harvey Bowen was the first person who opened the Calumet River and Harbor. He is known as the "Father of South Chicago". He brought the first boat into the Calumet Harbor on April 11, 1871. He was a very important figure in the development of the Calumet region. Bowen's first contact with the Calumet Area was when he became president of the Calumet and Chicago Dock and Canal Company in 1867. He helped to improve the Calumet area. The way he improved the river was by draining sloughs, deepening the river and building piers and docks. He organized the construction of railroad lines and bridges around the Calumet area. Many other things were built because of this man. Bowen also donated an old building located on Harbor Avenue between 91st and 92nd street, which became the first firehouse for the first Fire Department of South Chicago. Disaster struck on May 1, 1881 when Bowen was thrown from his buggy at a railroad crossing on Commercial Avenue. What happened was that the horse became startled when he heard an engine blow off steam. The horse jumped, which caused Bowen to fall off the buggy into a ditch on the east side of the street. Mr. Doyle carried Bowen to the South Chicago Hotel where they tried to save him. But on May 3, 1881 he died at age 59. In his honor a school was named after him, Bowen High School. (Article by Anaisabel P.)




Mouth of Calumet River 1873