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Before Epiphany

Before There was an Epiphany...

Sometime in 1673 the French missionaries Marquette and Joliet made their way through difficult swamp land that the Native peoples of this region called "Chicago" or "smelly onion". That moniker may well explain why nothing much happened around here for another 160 years until there was a need of a horse and coach trail to cut through the Illinois prairies. Before folks got their "Kicks on Route 66" people leisurely meandered through the "High Prairie Trail", today's Ogden Avenue. Mississippi River traffic, western expansion, quarries, mines and the then big cities (St. Louis, Quincy, Joliet, and Galena) attracted much attention and demanded progressive development. Trenching and digging for the Illinois-Michigan Canal was well on its way in the 1830's and the founding of a new city called Chicago was not far away. Farmers and settlers started to arrive. Land parcels and territories were for sale. These were exciting times for thousands of people looking to start a new or better life on the prairie.

One of the first settlers of what is today our parish was Peter Crawford, a proud son of Scotland. In 1848 he bought 160 acres of land for $2,400. In time this tract of land and others would become home to many farmers and small merchants which they simply called "Crawford's land". These 160 acres today make up the area between Kostner, 26th Street, Pulaski and Cermak. Crawford's land was part of Cicero Township in 1857. The city limits of Chicago ended at Western Avenue, but were later extended to Pulaski Avenue (then Crawford Road) in 1869. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 basically destroyed the city and forced civic and business leaders to reconstruct the city with a massive redevelopment. The McCormick Reaper Works was rebuilt on Western Avenue and many of its employees looked for housing in "Crawford". The 10 cent train ride to city central from the Keeler Station on the Burlington Railroad made Crawford an ideal place to make a home. Schools and churches were erected quickly to meet the needs of the growing immigrant community from many parts of the world. Crawford soon became home to the Dutch, Germans, Irish, Bohemians and the Poles. The Catholic faithful of the late 1800's needed to travel a good distance to practice their faith at the one Catholic Church in the area, Blessed Sacrament, still located at 22nd and Central Park. This was soon to change.

 

 


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