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The first known European visitors were French voyageurs, who referred to the area, encompassing what would become Rogers Park and Evanston, as 'Grosse Pointe,' after the large point of land now marked by the Grosse Point Lighthouse. The French explored the shoreline, but did not attempt colonization. After the War of 1812, the United States acquired the French lands around Lake Michigan, and Grosse Pointe became Grosse Pointe Territory.

After living here for centuries, the Potawatami were forced to cede all their lands to the U.S. in a series of five treaties dating from 1795 to 1833. The government then parceled out plots of land to pioneer settlers who were moving from the East. The first permanent settler of Grosse Pointe was Major Edward H. Mulford, a jewelry dealer from New York City. In 1836, Mulford bought 160 acres and improved the land with the Ten-Mile House, a house and tavern which held the territory's first post office and the first court of Cook County.

By the 1840 census, Grosse Pointe had 330 residents. Boundaries of Grosse Pointe changed as more land was annexed into the district. In 1850 Grosse Pointe territory was renamed the Township of Ridgeville.

Ridgeville was split into Evanston & Lake View on February 15, 1857.

Ridgeville Township extended south through the area that would become Evanston and that of Rogers Park into what would become the City of Lake View. So, Rogers Park originally resided in Ridgeville Township. In the 19th Century, Ridgeville Township was dissolved and recast as the Townships of Rogers Park and Evanston. The area of the Township of Evanston embodied the entire area that comprises the City of Evanston and is defined by the City Limits of Evanston.

First Farmers

The original purchase of land in Gross Pointe, the original name the area, part of which was to become RP/WR, was by 24-year-old Philip McGregor Rogers in 1836. Rogers, a Irishman who was raised on the frontier near Watertown, N.Y., came to the Town of Chicago in 1834; his brother, unimpressed with the area, moved further west, but Philip stayed and married a widow, Mary Ward Masterson Hickey, who had extensive land holdings in what is now Edgewater. He bought the first 600 acres of what would grow to be 1,600 acres by the time of his death in 1856. He built a log cabin and established an orchard and vegetable farm that he sold to the Chicago market. He cleared the woodland, supplying lumber and fuel (charcoal) to the growing metropolis.

The next predominant group of settlers were families from the West Rhine area of Germany (now Rhineland-Palatinate). Many emigrated in the early 1840s, seeking relief from the repressive anti-revolutionary measures implemented by the newly formed German Confederation, after years of being on the front lines of the Napoleonic Wars.

These farmers from the fertile Rhine Valley shared a proud cultural history, dating from the Roman Empire. They were largely Roman Catholic, literate, with at least a basic education, and extremely loyal and diligent in service to their local community, and especially to their close-knit extended family community.

Taking advantage of a government sale of inexpensive land in the early 1840s that was largely cleared and offered access to a growing market, several families purchased modest tracts of land in Ridgeville. Initially, their farming of fruit and vegetable crops were restricted to the high ground on top of The Ridge (roughly from present-day Ridge Boulevard to Western Avenue), constrained by marshland to the east and seasonal flooding from the tributary of the Chicago River to the west.

In the late 1840s through 1870s, another group of immigrants arrived from the independent Duchy of Luxembourg, which had been recently dramatically partitioned and faced economic strains from the years of war. Culturally similar, these early families inter-married and shared resources as they built the new community of Ridgeville.

Life was difficult for these early settlers; there were no water or sanitation services, only three unpaved roads, no direct access to Lake Michigan, and no local stores, church, or school until St. Henry Church was founded in 1851. Many farmers, or often their wives, walked or drove a wagon the 9 miles each way to take their produce to the market in downtown Chicago.

Historic Encyclopedia of Illinois (1905) Vol. 2, page 781

" ... in April, 1850, Ridgeville Township was organized, Ebenezer Bennet presiding as Moderator at the first election, at which 93 votes were cast. The first town officers elected were Edward Murphy, Supervisor; S.S. Billings, Town Clerk; Philip Rogers, Assessor; Jacob Smith, Collector; Peter Smith and E.H. Mullford, Justices of the Peace; David Wood, Charles Miller, and Martin Young, Commissioners of Highways; Otis Munn, Overseer of the Poor, and Andrew Faber and Jacob Smith, Constables. ... "