Archiver > STREETER > 1998-09 > 0906471486

Subject: Capt. George W. Streeter
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 08:38:06, -0500

While looking up something on the internet unrelated to any Streeters,
I found that there was a link to the Chicago Tribune's 150 Defining
Moments in the history of Chicago. They are giving chronologically,
and in July 11, 1886 is an article about when Capt. George Wellington
Streeter landed on the north shore of Chicago (still known as
Streeterville today) where his boat, the Reutan, ran aground. For
any who hasn't heard the story, Capt. George W. Streeter tried to
claim squatters rights to the land. I have copied the text of the
article here. If you would like to see the photos, including the
Reutan, Capt. George behind jail bars, or the little shack he lived
in (which I haven't put in this e-mail go to this Web site:

photo of the Reutan is: http://chicago.digitalcity.
photo of Capt. George: http://chicago.digitalcity.
photo of the shack: http://chicago.digitalcity.

I will probably submit the article with the photos to the next
Streeter Family Association's newsletter which as had refered to Capt.
George several times before. So far no one in the association as
been able to tie Capt. George to any know descendants of Stephen and
Ursula STREETER. I once read the book "Captain Streeter Pioneer" by
E. G. Ballard. It is written like George wrote it himself. It says
that his parents were William and Catharine (MARION) STREETER. His
siblings were James, Henry, Francis, Susan Ann, Jan, Marion, May
Douglas, Ellen, Laura and Chauncey. George was born in Chandauqua,
Ontario Co., NY about 1831/32 and he was raised in Flint, Genesse Co.,
MI and he died in Chicago, IL on 24 Jan 1921.

Someone once sent me copy of "My Twenty Year's Experience in
Streeterville District of Lake Michigan" by Mrs. Edwards, a friend of
Capt. George and his wife. I also have a copy of the article that
ran in the Chicago Tribune, "Streeterville's First Citizen Dies".

Now here's the article. Enjoy! Nancy Streeter

July 11, 1886

Captain Streeter's boat, the Reutan, after he had repaired it and
renamed it for his second wife, Maria. Spelling was never one of his
strengths. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society)

George Streeter's District

For more than thirty years, the colorful captain defended his
"deestrick" with dubious documents and a shotgun.

July 11, 1886

With the wind picking up off Lake Michigan, the passengers who had
traveled to Milwaukee on Captain George Wellington Streeter's
homemade steamboat surveyed the darkening skies and Streeter's
rickety vessel. They decided to take the train back to Chicago. Their
prudence did not stop the irascible "Cap'n" Streeter from defying the
advancing storm. Along with his wife, Maria, he pointed the Reutan
south and headed into Chicago lore as the unlikely founder of one of
the city's most exclusive neighborhoods.

Captain Streeter had plenty of problems with the law that resulted in
frequent, though short, stays in jail. (Tribune file photo)

At around 3 a.m. on this date, the day after Streeter set out from
Milwaukee, his storm-tattered craft rammed into a sandbar that
extended about four hundred feet from shore around what is now
Superior Street. At daybreak, he noticed he had run aground near the
properties of some of Chicago's richest and most influential
residents. One of them, N. Kellogg Fairbank, gave Streeter permission
to remain until he fixed the boat.

But Streeter, a Civil War veteran who had pieced together a colorful
career as a showman, a circus promoter, a Mississippi River steamboat
operator, and an excursion guide, stuck around. Over time -- with the
cooperation of nature's forces, which filled in sand between his boat
and the shore, and of contractors who were happy to dump debris
around the boat -- Streeter found himself in the middle of more than
one hundred acres of land that had not existed before he arrived, an
area roughly north and east of the streets that came to be called
Grand and Michigan Avenues. Streeter could spot a good opportunity,
especially one that he had rammed into. The captain declared this
territory the "District of Lake Michigan" (the "Deestrick," as he
called it) and informed Fairbank and his other dumbfounded neighbors
that the land not only did not belong to them but that it was part of
neither Chicago nor Illinois. From an office at the Tremont Hotel, he
sold parcels to gullible buyers.

The Streeter shack looked out on open land in 1906. In this view, to
the northwest, the Water Tower can be seen in the distance. (Photo
courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society)

For more than thirty years, Streeter defended his shantytown with
vague legal arguments -- including some dubious documents allegedly
signed by President Grover Cleveland -- and a loaded shotgun, which
he readily pointed at any police officer who tried to evict him. But
in 1918, the courts ruled against him. In addition, economic forces
overtook him. Development boomed just to the west of his shack on
land that even then was called Streeterville. When the Michigan
Avenue bridge opened in 1920, commercial and residential construction
flooded the area north of the Chicago River, despite legal fights by
Streeter's heirs. Their last volley was repelled in 1940, when a
federal court dismissed the clan's final claim. But who could blame
them for making such a fuss? Consider what came to occupy Streeter's
landfill: expensive shops, exclusive restaurants, the Chicago campus
of Northwestern University, and some of the city's highest-priced
-- Byron P. White
Reprinted from "Chicago Days: 150 Defining Moments in the Life of a
Great City", edited by Stevenson Swanson, Contemporary Books.

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