Burr Ridge Local History
One of the wealthiest communities in the U.S., Burr Ridge has humble beginnings. Much of the Village’s original property was farmland and property that formerly housed the Bridewell Prison Farm. On October 30, 1956, 143 local residents incorporated as the Village of Harvester–reflecting the importance of the nearby International Harvester research facility. In August 1962, the Village changed its name from Harvester to Burr Ridge. For a more detailed history of Burr Ridge visit the Village’s website and read “From Harvester to Burr Ridge, 1956 to 1970s.” Stop by the library to peruse A Very Special Place by Purdie McCullough and Images of America: Burr Ridge.
A visit to the Flagg Creek Heritage Society’s Historical Museum and the Vial House will bring the history of Burr Ridge and its surrounding area to life. An affiliate of the Pleasantdale Park District, the Flagg Creek Heritage Museum is open the first Sunday of every month, April-October from 2 – 4 pm. and from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on most Mondays all year.
- Anne M. Jeans
- Bridewell Prison Farm
- Burr Ridge and the Dove Bar
- Chief Shabbona and the Potawatomi
- Civil War Letters
- Flagg Creek Heritage Society
- From Harvester to Burr Ridge, 1956 to 1970s
- Grimes’ Murders
- Lyonsville Cemetery Civil War Commemoration
- Lyonsville Congregational United Church of Christ
- Plainview School District 106
- Pleasantdale School District 107
- Robert Vial Family
- Tiedtville, Santa Fe Park and Santa Fe Speedway
Anne M. Jeans: Teacher Extraordinaire
As you drive along 91st Street, past Anne M. Jeans Elementary School and Burr Ridge Middle School, you may not realize that Burr Ridge Community Consolidated School District #180 is just over a 100 years old. A portion of what is now part of Burr Ridge #180 was known for a time as Byrneville, Illinois in deference to the Byrneville Railroad station. (History of Palisades Community Consolidated School District). The station was an important commercial site for the area’s dairy farmers who relied on the train to transport their goods to markets such as Chicago. Byrneville had little to offer residents other than being a train stop.
Without a school, children from Byrneville had to walk three miles to attend Cass School. William Jeans, Professor John Doolin of Lemont, Mr. F.C. Tiedt, and Mr. William Wachter resolved to build a school for the community. In 1910, the Byrneville one-room school house was built. The structure remained in use until 1994 when the Burr Ridge Middle School was rebuilt.
For many years, the Byrneville School’s only teacher was Anne M. Jeans. Ms. Jeans was an extraordinary teacher who devoted her life to education. She taught all of the elementary grades and handled all of the school’s janitorial work. Former students fondly remember her skill as a teacher. She provided students with extra curricular activities, scheduled field trips to Springfield, Illinois, directed school plays and held recitals as fundraisers. One student recalls that Ms. Jeans would bring a soup bone to school for the upper class girls to prepare for the school lunch. Read Burr Ridge School District Celebrates Its 100th Birthday for more memories of Anne M. Jeans.
Ms. Jeans changed the school’s name from Bryneville to Palisades–to better reflect the area’s hilly terrain. As the area’s population increased, the district made additions to the one-room schoolhouse. In 1947, Ms. Jeans retired from teaching, but continued working as the principal for Palisades School. After 42 years of service, Ms. Jeans retired in 1958. The district showed their heartfelt appreciation by holding a community-wide retirement party for her. This remarkable teacher’s legacy still remains a part of Burr Ridge C.C.S.D. 180. In 1979, the district renamed Palisades West School in honor of Anne M. Jeans. Ms. Jeans died at the age of 95 in 1988.
Left to right: A school book used by Anne M. Jeans and the guest book from Anne M. Jeans’ retirement party.
Bridewell Prison Farm
The upscale community of Burr Ridge shares a history with a prison farm and a pig farm. Originally referred to as the House of Correction Honor Farm Colony, the prison farm evolved from the City of Chicago’s 1918 purchase of some 300 acres of farm land. Much of the farm’s produce went to the Chicago House of Corrections also known as Bridewell. The articleThe Bridewell Farm from Pleasantdale Its’ History in Commemoration of the Bicentennial provides interesting information about the farm as it was operated under the supervision of Mr. Redmond J. Lyons.
As the farm became less economical to run, portions of the land were sold in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Many long time residents of Burr Ridge remember seeing the prisoners working in the fields. To learn more about this fascinating piece of Burr Ridge history and how that farm land became part of Burr Ridge, read Bridewell Prison Land Key to Burr Ridge History, Future by Roy Koz, The Doings August 14, 2003, pages 7, 10.
Burr Ridge and the Dove Bar
Everyone loves a Dove Bar–especially during the hot summer. Did you know that this delicious ice cream treat is made in Burr Ridge? Read Welcome to Brrrrr Ridge, Illinois Home of the Dove Bar Suburban Life June 17, 1987 page 10 and Ice Cream Fans Love the Dove Bar The Doings July 5, 2007 page 29 to learn more about the Dove Bar’s history and relationship to Burr Ridge.
Chief Shabbona and the Potawatomi
From the 1690s until their removal from Illinois, the Potawatomi lived along the Calumet, Chicago, and Des Plaines Rivers in Du Page and Cook counties. They established close economic and social ties with French fur traders. As American settlers gained influence in the Upper Mississippi Valley, the Potawatomi began to resist encroachments on their territory. During the War of 1812 the Potawatomi sided with the British, and on August 15, 1812, a hostile band attacked Fort Dearborn which burned to the ground. Chief Shabbona, a great-nephew of the Ottawa chief Pontiac, fought in Pontiac’s Rebellion and was with Tecumseh when he died during the British defeat at the Battle of the Thames in 1813.
After Tecumseh’s defeat the Potawatomi sought peace with the United States, and in 1816 they began receiving tribal annuities from the U.S. government. From 1816 to 1829, the Potawatomi entered into seven treaties in which they ceded more of their land to obtain additional stipends. Despite his prior alliance with Tecumseh and Pontiac, Chief Shabbona became an important liaison between the white settlers and Native Americans. In 1827, he dissuaded members of the Winnebago from going to war against the white settlers. Shabbona also kept the Potawatomi from joining the Sauk leader Black Hawk’s war against white settlements along the Rock River. Shabbona had witnessed the military superiority of the United States Army. A friendly visitor to many early pioneer homes including Joseph Vial in Lyons Township and Israel Blodgett in Downers Grove Township, Chief Shabbona traveled across northern Illinois warning settlers to go to Fort Dearborn to find protection from Black Hawk’s attack.
After Black Hawk’s defeat in 1832, the United States government increased its efforts to relocate Native Americans from their ancestral territory to west of the Mississippi River. In 1833 thousands of Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Ottawa gathered in Chicago to relinquish their land in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin in the Treaty of Chicago. Over several years the Potawatomi left Illinois in small groups. As the last Potawatomie left Chicago, they camped on the Joseph Vial farm along what is now Plainfield Road west of Wolf Road.
Dedication of MarkerOn May 5, 1930, the La Grange chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution held a commemorative ceremony to dedicate a historic marker noting the last camp site of the Potawatomi in Cook County. During the ceremony, Alice Vial read entries from her grandfather Joseph Vial’s diary that described life as a pioneer. Joseph Vial’s great grandchildren Muriel and William Vial drew the ribbons to unveil the granite boulder used as the historic marker. This marker still stands at the northwest corner of Wolf and Plainfield Roads.
The marker reads: Last Camp Site of the POTAWATOMIE INDIANS in Cook County 1835; Erected by LaGrange Illinois Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution MAY 15th 1930.
Civil War Letters at Flagg Creek Heritage Society
This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War in which some 618,000 Americans died. Hiram M. McClintock, of the 127th Illinois Regiment, was among those who lost his life. The Flagg Creek Heritage Society has a collection of Civil War letters that include letters Hiram wrote to Sarah North, a letter from Edward Vial, a letter from a mother to her Confederate son, and a Union nurse’s letter. These letters vividly bring to life this piece of our nation’s history–you can read them online.
Hiram, the eldest son of James and Phebeett McClintock, was born October 18, 1840, on a farm located where County Line Road is in Burr Ridge. Hiram became a school teacher and during his tenure at the “Skunk Corners” school (Joliet Road and East Avenue), Sarah North was his student. McClintock’s letters to Sarah are full of tenderness and hint at a relationship that would surely have culminated in marriage had he not died. The letters provide a glimpse of this thoughtful, good-natured young man whose wartime experiences mirrored those of thousands of other young men.
On September 5, 1862, Hiram enlisted in as 1st Lieutenant, Company H, 127th Illinois Regiment. Company H (formed in Lyons) served as guards for Confederates imprisoned at Camp Van Arman, near Camp Douglas in Chicago. In November 1862, the 127thdeparted Chicago via the Illinois Central railroad to Cairo, Illinois where it boarded the steamer Emerald on route to Memphis, Tennessee. On March 13, 1863, McClintock was promoted to Captain. McClintock’s letters relate the Regiment’s experiences up to the Company’s assault on Vicksburg where he was killed. Read the 127th Regimental History, The Union Army, vol. 3 to learn more about the events that Hiram recounts. On January 28, 1889, P.G. Gardener helped organize the La Grange Post 667th of the Grand Army of the Republic which was named the Hiram McClintock Post.
His friend, Sarah North (Samuel Vial’s stepdaughter) never married. She taught at the Poet’sCorner school in La Grange Park, Illinois.
Flagg Creek Heritage Society
Since 1976 the Flagg Creek Heritage Society (FCHS) has preserved the history of the Flagg Creek area. The Flagg Creek area which runs along the Des Plaines river has a rich history dating back to the Potawatomi settelements, the fur trade and early settlers. The Society maintains the Flagg Creek Historical Museum and the Robert Vial House located on the Pleasant Dale Park District grounds at 7425 and 7385 South Wolf Road in Burr Ridge. The Museum is open the first Sunday of every month, April through October from 2 – 4 pm. and from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on most Mondays year round.
From Harvester to Burr Ridge, 1956 to 1970s
After the end of World War II, families began leaving urban areas to build homes in “the country.” The open space and inexpensive land made home ownership attractive and affordable. The rural landscape surrounding Chicago began to transition from farmland to housing developments. Land developer Robert Bartlett purchased the 280 acre Charles Mihm farm in DuPage County, divided it into one to two acre lots, and in 1947 began selling the lots as part of Hinsdale Countryside Estates. The subdivision was approximately one square mile bordered on the north by U.S. Route 66, 79th Street on the south, County Line Road on the east, and the Emil Denemark farm on the west. [Harrison, Jackie. “Incorporation allows area control.” The Doings 24 September 1981, page 4].
Although residents of Hinsdale Countryside Estates enjoyed the open space and rural atmosphere, the dirt roads churned up dust and rains turned the roads into mud. At night it was almost impossible to find the County Line Road turnoff on old Route 66 as there was no street light. These problems as well as International Harvester’s decision to build a large research center nearby prompted Harry Whittaker, president of the Hinsdale Countryside Estate’s homeowners’ association, to spearhead a movement to incorporate.
Homeowners voted for incorporation on October 30, 1956, in a garage on Drew Avenue. Resident Al Henry proposed naming the village, Harvester, as a nod to the nearby 414 acre International Harvester experimental farm site. When the Village of Harvester incorporated it consisted of 80 homes with a population of around. Harry Whittaker served as mayor from 1957 to 1965. [Doings, page 5; Haldane, Neal “Burr Ridge first mayor recalls formation of village” Suburban Life, 2 September 1981; “Harvester, New Village, Picks Leaders” Chicago Daily Tribune. 27 December 1956, page W2].
Other farms in the area were also being acquired for housing developments. Denver Busby purchased farmland that ran along a ridge of bur oaks located south of Plainfield Road. He subsequently divided the farm into five acre lots which became Burr Ridge Estates. A.E. Fossier and Company created the Woodview Estates on land located south of 55th Street and east of the Cook County TB Sanitarium. [McCullough, Purdie. A Very Special Place. Village of Burr Ridge, 1967, page 7]. Most of Burr Ridge Estates and Woodview Estates fell within the Hinsdale School District and Sanitary District. In September 1957, homeowners who were paying taxes to these districts requested annexation to Hinsdale. The Village of Hinsdale approved the annexation which provoked a storm of protest from some Hinsdale residents who pushed for a referendum on the issue. On August 12 1961, Hinsdale residents voted against the annexation. [Doings, page 5; McCullough, page 8]
Homeowners from Burr Ridge Estates and Woodview Estates then approached the Village of Harvester about annexation. Representatives from International Harvester also joined the negotiations. Before the annexation could proceed, the Village of Harvester had to agree to Burr Ridge Estates’ and International Harvester’s requests to change its name. International Harvester wanted to change the name of Harvester to avoid the connotation of the village being seen as a company town, and residents also petitioned for a name change. [Suburban Life; Doings, page 5].
In August 1961, the Village of Harvester annexed the International Harvester Farm and agreed to change its name to Burr Ridge. A lawsuit filed by the Village of Willowbrook held up the annexation of Burr Ridge Estates. On October 25, 1962, the Cook County Court approved the annexation, and officially changed the village’s name from Harvester to Burr Ridge. [Doings, page 5; McCullough, page 8]. According to the village website as well as a Doings article, the name Burr Ridge originates from the bur oak trees near County Line and Plainfield Roads originally located on the Busby farm which later became Burr Ridge Estates. [Koz, Roy “From a pig farm to a prestigious address” 25 July 2002, page 7].
Burr Ridge continued the Village of Harvester’s commitment to maintain large lots for housing and to preserve open space. In 1963, Burr Ridge annexed the Four Pines Dairy Farm and began construction of Carriage Way, a planned development, which included homes, apartments, and the Tower Industrial Park (now Burr Ridge Industrial Park). [1998 Calendar and Annual Report, Village of Burr Ridge, page 4; Doings, page 5].
The village expanded south with the annexation of 143 acres of the Ruthie Farm which had been acquired by the Tameling family. In 1971, the Braemoor subdivision was built on this property. The American Growth Development Corps purchased the Chicagoland Council of Boy Scouts of America’s Training Center in 1971 for the construction of the Burr Ridge Club which was completed in 1972. The Boy Scouts had purchased the property in 1949 from Luther Rogers, a wealthy Chicago businessman. The property contained a wide variety of trees and plants specially designed for the Rogers’ estate by a Parisian landscape architect. [McCullough, page 8; Doings, page 5] The village established the Burr Ridge Industrial Commons in 1973 on what had been the Denemark farm (79th Street and South Frontage Road). [1998 Burr Ridge Annual Report, page 4].
Burr Ridge has grown from the small village of Harvester to a community
of 10, 749 residents and an area that encompasses 7.139 square miles. With large residential lots set among beautiful natural settings, parks, great local shopping and a large commercial tax base, Burr Ridge is “a special place to live.”
On December 30, 1956, 13 year-old Patricia and 15 year-old Barbara Grimes left their Chicago home to view Love Me Tender at the Brighton Theater. The sisters never returned home–their bodies were found 25 days later on January 22 in what is now Burr Ridge. Forensic evidence indicated that the girls were most likely murdered elsewhere and their bodies were taken to what was then a rural area east of the intersection of County Line and German Church roads.
Although Edward “Bennie” Bedwell confessed to the murders, the case against him fell apart when his so-called accomplice was in jail at the time of the murder. [Chicago’s Most Baffling Crime by Ed Baumann]. Read “Girls’ Murders Still Unsolved After 50 Years” by Jennifer Duda, The Doings December 28, 2006, page 3 to learn more about this mysterious cold case.
Lyonsville Cemetery Civil War Commemoration
The Flagg Creek Heritage Society (FCHS) in conjunction with the Philip H. Sheridan Camp # 2, Illinois Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), and the Lyonsville Cemetery Association held a Civil War Commemoration on September 8, 2012, at the Lyonsville Cemetery, Indian Head Park, Illinois to honor the Civil War veterans buried in the cemetery. It was a picture-perfect fall day, and the cemetery’s lovely grounds added to the service. Lyonsville Cemetery was organized in 1848, and includes the graves of 15 Civil War veterans and two unknown Civil War soldiers who most likely died on their way home from the war. Edmund Polk, a veteran of the War of 1812, is also buried in the cemetery.
Steven J. Westlake, Past Department Commander of the Illinois SUVCW welcomed the audience seated outside on the cemetery grounds. The 10th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, The Rockford Zouaves, and Burr Ridge Boy Scout Troop #69 posted the colors. Jerome Kowalski, National Chaplain of the SUVCW preformed the invocation. Mr. Westlake and Indian Head Park Mayor Richard Andrews also provided introductory remarks.
The Lyonsville Congregational United Church of Christ choir provided a choral interlude which was followed by a historical perspective on the Civil War. Mr. Max Daniels portrayed President Lincoln and recited parts of the poem Bivouac to the Dead. FCHS Board Director Mrs. Hazel Sharp referenced the collection of Civil War letters from Captain Hiram McClintock that FCHS has in its archives. She also related the important role that the Lyonsville Congregational United Church of Christ played in the Civil War. Seventy-two men were mustered in from the church. Local soldiers on leave from the Illinois 127th Regiment would place the muster roll on the communion table and ask for recruits to fill the ranks of those who were injured or died. For more information on the Illinois 127th read Roger Boedecker’s Civil War Service of the 127th Illinois Volunteer Regiment.
One of the SUVCW’s main projects is to obtain federal funds to replace worn headstones of Civil War veterans. Stephen J. Westlake and David C. Bailey, local members of the Illinois SUVCW, spearheaded the project to replace headstones for 11 of the 15 Civil War veterans buried in Lyonsville. David C. Bailey, Sr., Past Department Commander researched the service records and pensions files of the Civil War soldiers honored with new gravestones. His research will be available at the FCHS museum. As Mr. Bailey read the soldier’s biography, a SUVCW member placed a red rose and a sprig of green on the grave. Mulligan’s Battery, Illinois SUVCW provided an artillery salute with a Civil War era cannon. The sound of the cannon was deafening and the acrid smell lingered in the air—giving the audience a sense of the horror the soldiers experienced on the battlefield. The choir led the audience in singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, which was followed by a rifle salute and the playing of taps. National Chaplain Jerome Kowalski offered the benediction. The Commemoration ended with the retiring of colors, and left those in attendance with an appreciation of the young men who fought and died for the Union. View the Lyonsville Cemetery Civil War Commemoration set on Flickr for more photos.
Lyonsville Congregational United Church of Christ
Originally called the Congregational Church of Flagg Creek, Lyonsville Congregational United Church of Christ is the oldest Congregational church in Cook County, Illinois. As early as the 1830s, settlers in Lyonsville and Flagg Creek gathered at homes for prayer meetings. The Vial home, then a 16 square foot log cabin, housed the first meetings; later the members met at other homes. On May 14, 1843, under Reverend E.E. Wells’ and Luther Rositer’s guidance, the pioneer families officially established a congregation with the goal of building a church. In 1848, the members established the Lyonsville Cemetery which is still located on the hill behind the church.
In 1853, the congregation began planning in earnest for a church building. The building project was completed in 1858 at the cost of $1,800. Using the proceeds ($186.55) from a church dinner, the congregation added a parsonage in November 1879. At its 90th Anniversary in 1933, the Lyonsville Church had a membership of 449.
Lyonsville ChurchThe church’s important role during the American Civil War reflects the values and commitment of its members. Local soldiers on leave from the Illinois 127th Regiment would place the muster roll on the communion table and ask for recruits to fill the ranks of those who were injured or died. The Lyonsville Cemetery, located on the hill behind the church, has the graves of 17 Civil War veterans. In 1889, the Hiram McClintock Post of the Grand Army of the Republic donated a bronze plaque honoring the fallen soldiers of the 127th Regiment. Lyonsville Congregational Church remains a vital part of the Burr Ridge area.
Plainview School District 106
Churches and schools formed the heart of pioneer communities. As early as 1843, the farm families of Lyons Township built a log cabin schoolhouse (near Lyonsville Congregational Church) to educate children from the areas now known as Indian Head Park, La Grange Highlands and Pleasantdale (Burr Ridge). The first teacher was Mary McNaughton who married Samuel Vial.
In 1866, the farm families constructed a new one room schoolhouse (near Willow Springs and Plainfield Roads). The school later moved to the present site of La Grange Highlands School–this relocation occurred sometime after 1867. The residents named the school “Plainview” due to the view its location provided of the surrounding land. In 1941 and 1948, the community expanded the building to accommodate the increase in students. On December 21, 1955, the Board of Education renamed Plainview School as La Grange Highlands.
Pleasantdale School District 107
In 1843, area families built a one-room log cabin near the Lyonsville Church to use as a school–this was the first school in Lyons Township. Plainview School District # 106 and Pleasantdale School District # 107 trace their beginnings to this log cabin.
Pleasantdale: Its’ History in Commemoration of the Bicentennial, pages 18-21, provides a brief history of the Pleasantdale schools. In 1861, a one-room schoolhouse, known as the Flagg Creek School, was built and was part of School District # 3. In 1901, Flagg Creek School became affiliated with School District #107, and at some point the school’s name changed to Pleasantdale. In 1887, a fire destroyed the building, and a new one-room schoolhouse was built, which served the community until 1927 when it also was lost to a fire. Fortunately, Miss Marie Derby, the school teacher, kept her wits about her when she saw flames shooting out from the walls, and quickly called a recess. Once outside, the students realized the danger that they had escaped as they watched their school burn to the ground.
The students continued with their classes first at the Edgewood Valley Country Club and then in the Lyonsville Congregational Church basement. In September 1928, a new modern, two room brick school building opened. Irving Keller, a graduate of the Flagg Creek School, was the builder. Pleasantdale School educated many of the early Flagg Creek area families whose daughters returned to teach at the school—including Ruth Vial Martin who taught from 1921 to 1923.
Robert Vial Family
In 1834, Robert Vial along with his mother Louisa and brother Samuel arrived from Orange County, New York to Lyons Township, Illinois. They traveled from New York State via the Erie Canal and Great Lakes to Chicago, Illinois, and by stagecoach to Lyons Township, Illinois to join their father Joseph. When Joseph arrived, the area was still home to the Pottawatomi with only a handful of other settlers living in the area. Prior to their removal from Illinois, members from the Pottawatomi, including Chief Shabbona, frequently visited Joseph Vial and his family. They referred to Robert as the “papoose.”
Joseph built a log cabin on Plainfield Road near Flagg Creek for his wife and children. In 1835, he added another room to his 16 by 16 square foot cabin. The home’s strategic location along the Chicago and Ottawa stagecoach route led many travelers to stop for a meal at the Vial home while the stagecoach horses were switched out. In 1836, Joseph was appointed postmaster for Flagg Creek (the area was first known as Goshen, then Flagg Creek, and later Lyonsville), his home also functioned as the post office. It also served as the location for the first Cook County Democratic convention (known as the Flagg Creek Convention) in 1836, and was a gathering place for religious services.
In May 1856, Robert Vial married Mary Roe Ketchum in a private home located on what is now Plainfield Road, east of Willow Springs Road. Mary Roe Ketchum was born in Newberg, New York in 1834. Her family moved to Illinois in 1838, and in 1857 her father relocated to Iowa.
Robert and Mary Vial FamilyRobert and Mary had six children who survived to adulthood: Mary L., Edmund, Frederick, Eugene, Robert C., and Alice. Robert received his father’s post office appointment in 1853. Along with Joseph and other Vial family members, Robert helped start the Congregational Church of Flagg Creek (Lyonsville Congregational Church) in 1843. The first church building was located in a schoolhouse on Joliet Road across from its current location. In 1858, the building that is now the Lyonsville Congregational United Church of Christ was dedicated.
Robert served as a church deacon, school director, township supervisor, and as treasurer of Lyons Township schools from 1858 to 1900. Due to his trustworthiness, he served as a de facto banker holding funds for schools, churches, and individuals at his home. A firm believer in the value of education, his children all received a college education. As wife of the church deacon Mary was active in the Lyonsville Church Women’s Society, visited the sick, and assisted with childbirths. Dorinda Daily, the Vial’s live-in housekeeper, often helped Mary with her church and family duties. Hired at 16 years of age, Dorinda remained part of the family until her death.
The elegant home that Robert Vial built in 1856 stands on the Pleasant Dale Park District property at 7425 South Wolf Road, Burr Ridge, Illinois. The restored home is part of the Flagg Creek Heritage Society and Pleasant Dale Park District and remains a lasting tribute to the Vial family’s long legacy in the community. In 1989 the home was moved from its original location on the Timber Trails Golf Course to the Pleasant Dale Park District property.
Visit the Flagg Creek Heritage Museum to learn more about the Vial family and house.
Tiedtville, Santa Fe Park and Santa Fe Speedway
In the late 1800s, Tiedtville had about 200 residents nestled around 100 acres of woods. After the canal workers left the area, Fred developed a picnic area on a wooded grove near the Santa Fe railroad stop. The Santa Fe railroad agreed to make special stops on the weekends, which attracted many city dwellers to the the picnic site. City dwellers would visit for a day or stay in a cabin to fish and hunt. The railroad built two spur tracks: one at the tavern for delivering beer and coal and the other track transporting passengers to the Park. Tiedt expanded the area’s attractions adding a dance hall and bowling alley. The enterprise was lucrative with Tiedt sometimes making $1, 500 to $2,000 a day. (“Where racing is a family affair” by Copper Rollow, Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1986).
Using his business acumen, Fred continued to grow his business enterprises. In 1896-97, Fred expanded the picnic grove to include a $6,000 quarter mile track for horse and bicycle races. Horse-drawn land scrapers consisting of sixteen teams of horses built the track which included two grandstands. Initially, farmers raced their horses. As the picnic grove and race track expanded, they were called Santa Fe Park. During the 1920s, a tornado wiped out the grandstands, and racing was discontinued. (“Where racing is a family affair” by Copper Rollow, Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1986).
Fred also continued to build upon the family’s success, and started the annual Farmer’s Harvest Day Picnic. The event began as a way to help local farmers celebrate the end of the harvest. The popularity of the Farmers’ Day Picnic continued well into the 1950s. The Santa Fe Railroad, eventually, canceled its special arrangement with Santa Park due to the rowdiness of the passengers. This, along with the Great Depression, adversely impacted Santa Fe Park.
Fred Tiedt and his wife (Amanda Prescott) had four sons: Ralph, Lawrence, Howard, and Emery. When Fred died in 1946, his son Howard took over Santa Fe Park. Exhibiting the same entrepreneurial skills as his father, Howard formed a corporation to rebuild the race tracks–this time capitalizing on the growing popularity of stock car racing. In 1953, the Santa Fe Speedway opened. The Speedway had a quarter and a half mile track with a motor cross course and two grandstands. The track used blue clay from southern Illinois for its surface. Howard added motorcycle races and other promotions such as the Tournament of Destruction and Powder Puff. Howard died in 1990 and his daughter managed the Speedway until it closed in 1995. Read Stan Kalwasinski’s history of the Santa Fe Speedway for more information about this popular venue.