June 2010: I Didn’t Know That!

How well do you know the North Shore? There’s a lot of hidden history here that might surprise you even if you’re a lifelong North Shore dweller.

For example, did you know the inventor of the telephone was from Highland Park? No, not Alexander Graham Bell. His name was Elisha Gray. And if his timing had been better, he’d be a household name today.

Unfortunately Gray invented his “device for transmitting vocal sounds telegraphically” at exactly the same time as Bell. Their applications arrived at the patent office on the same day, February 14, 1876. After years of litigation, Bell was granted the patent. But don’t feel too sorry for Gray. He also co-founded Western Electric Company.

Each month we offer a quiz question to test your North Shore knowledge.  Try your hand at this one:

Sheridan Road is named for Phillip Henry Sheridan. Who was he?
A. A frontiersman and Pony Express rider whose grave is in Deerfield
B. A Civil War general
C. An early settler of mixed blood whose Native American name was Sauganash.

The answer? B! Sheridan was a West Point graduate who had risen quickly through the ranks during the Civil War. By the war’s end he was commander of the cavalry. He is remembered for his ruthlessness in the campaign against Native Americans after the war. In 1884 Sheridan was named commanding general of the U.S. Army. He was living in Chicago when the Great Fire broke out in 1871. The mayor declared marshal law and put Sheridan in charge. Fort Sheridan is named for him and there is a statue of him on horseback at the Belmont exit along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

A.  No, that was John Kinzie Clark (1792–1865). He delivered goods to settlers in Deerfield while carrying mail on horseback between Chicago and Milwaukee. Clark was raised by Native Americans who called him “Prairie Wolf.” The Lake County Forest Preserve’s Prairie Wolf Slough is named for him.

C. No, that was Billy Caldwell, the son of a European father and Native American mother. The Indians called him Sauganash, meaning “Englishman.” He helped negotiate treaties that ultimately banished Native Americans west of the Mississippi.  In recognition of his efforts, the federal government gave Caldwell a huge tract of land along the North Branch of the Chicago River. Today that property (near the Edens and Caldwell Avenue) is home to Caldwell Woods Forest Preserve, Billy Caldwell Golf Course and the Chicago neighborhood of Sauganash.