Early Deerfield Area History
Trader and trapper John Kinzie Clark (1792-1865) arrives at Fort Dearborn.
One of Deerfield's most memorable pioneers, he is raised by Native Americans
who call him nonimoa or Prairie Wolf. Hired to carry mail by horseback
between Chicago and Milwaukee, he stops in Deerfield with provisions for
early settlers and later moves to Deerfield. Clark is buried in the Deerfield
On December 3, Illinois, part of the Illinois Territory since 1810, becomes
the 21st state of the Union.
The Ott family of Baldenheim, Alsace, Johann Jacob Ott, 48, and his wife
Maria Elizabetha put their hay wagon; rack and trunks in a shipís
hold and spend 40 days crossing the Atlantic. On arrival, parents and
children Jacob, Caspar, Christian, Lorenz, Philip, Magdalena first settle
in Pennsylvania near the Allegheny River.
Jesse Wilmot comes by flatboat up the North Branch of the Chicago River
and spends the winter alone as he†scouts the area.
Daniel Wright (1778-1873), Lake Countyís first settler, builds
a log cabin just west of Ryerson Woods.
In the spring, a group arrives following the Des Plaines River. Jacob
Cadwell, his wife, five sons and two daughters settle at the corner of
two trails now known as Deerfield and Waukegan Roads and call it Cadwellís
The first public road is established from Chicago to the state line following
an old trail, the Milwaukee Trace, later called the Milwaukee Road. By
the next year, a lumber wagon drawn by 4 horses operates as a stage between
Chicago and Milwaukee on the road.
The oldest Ott son, Jacob, is sent to the Deerfield area (Cadwellís
Corners) and finds a "Garden of Eden" of tall oak trees, fertile
land, plentiful wild game and only a few settlers.
Caleb Cadwell and his wife, Eleanor, purchase 80 acres of heavily timbered
land and 80 acres of prairie in Deerfield Township.
The rest of the Ott family comes and they build five of the ten log houses
that go up along Saunders Road, among them the Caspar Ott home.
Land in the area first becomes available to purchase and costs as little
as $1.25 per acre.
In the fall, Lyman Wilmot (1806-1896) brings his wife Clarissa to settle
on 240 acres of wild land in the vicinity of Wilmot School.
In December, the area is named Le Clair.
Corduroy Road, the first road through Deerfield, is in operation. Later
it is renamed Telegraph Road, Lincoln Avenue and finally Waukegan Road.
The first township school, Wilmot School, a one-room, log schoolhouse
with a dirt floor, is built on the northwest corner of Deerfield and Wilmot
Roads. Lyman Wilmot deeds land from his farm for its construction.
Cadwell School is built on the southwest corner of Deerfield and Waukegan
Roads. Later known as the Deerfield Grammar School, it is moved east to
the present site of Deerfield School District 109 in 1903. In 1913, it
burns down and is rebuilt the same year.
At a meeting to rename the town, John Millen suggests Deerfield after
his hometown in Massachusetts.
The area's first saw mill is established along the Des Plaines River and
advances local construction from log to wood frame buildings.
In April, at the first meeting of Deerfield Township, Caleb Cadwell is
elected its first supervisor. On May 4, he is appointed postmaster of
the first post office in Deerfield, located in a house at 699 Waukegan
Road. Cadwell manufactures hubs and wiffle trees for wagons and carriages.
Elijah M. Haines describes Deerfield Township as "mostly timbered
land" - except for a small skirt of the Grand Prairie. The soil is
of an excellent quality and the farmers are generally in a prosperous
and thriving condition.î
George Rockenbach remembered that as a boy in the 1850s he "looked
up and saw two panthers sitting in front of him" while going through
woods in the Deerfield area. Sightings of pelicans, lynx and wolves are
The Deerfield Cemetery on the northwest corner of Waukegan Road and Central
Avenue is chartered. The oldest date on a tombstone is 1848. In 1916,
the ornamental iron gate is installed.
Abraham Lincoln is in Lake County campaigning for the presidency.
The U.S. Civil War. 58 soldiers from the Deerfield area serve in the Union
Army during the War of the Rebellion. 15 are buried in the Deerfield Cemetery.
The Chicago Fire razes an area of three and one-half square miles and
lights the sky over Deerfield so brightly that a newspaper can be read
outdoors at midnight.
The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad comes to Deerfield. The
train enables the town to transport goods and materials to Chicago and
strengthens local industry. A boxcar is used as a temporary station.
The Chicago Fire intensifies the demand for bricks. Suitable clay is found
along the North Branch of the Chicago River and brickyards open in the
area. The National Brickyard, founded in 1896, employs many of the townís
residents and is located on County Line Road (now Lake Cook Road).
Due to increasing development in the area, a third train station is built
along Deerfield Road. In 1917, the station burns down, except for the
freight room. Two neighborhood women save the express packages.
With less than 500 residents, Deerfield is incorporated. John C. Ender
is the first president.
Deerfield Area Historic Landmarks
Caspar Ott Log House, 1837, the oldest standing building
in Lake County, was restored to its original appearance in 2001 by the
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Passenger Depot,
built in 1903 and rebuilt after a fire in 1917. In 1998, through the efforts
of the Historical Society the station is preserved and listed in the National
Register of Historic Places.
Deep Dene Barn, formerly part of a 15 acre estate built
in 1915 for Seth Gooder, the barn is now located at Caruso Middle School.
Efforts by the Historical Society, other community groups and the Village
saved at least part of a local landmark.
Edward L. Ryerson Historic District, a 552-acre preserve
in Riverwoods containing woodlands, several endangered species, 6.5 miles
of scenic trails and a Greek revival mansion, Brushwood, once the summer
home for the Edward L. Ryerson family of Ryerson Steel fame. Listed in
the National Register of Historic Places.
Frank Lloyd Wrightís Friedman House, 1956, located
in Bannockburn, was saved from demolition at the last minute in 2001 largely
by publicity generated by the Historical Society and other preservation
Orphans of the Storm Animal Shelter, built in Riverwoods
in 1928 by famous dancer and humanitarian Irene Castle. It is now the
largest animal shelter in northeastern Illinois.
The Trail Tree, a 300 year old tree on Carlisle Avenue
used as a directional guide by Native Americans.
The Lyman Wilmot House, according to local history a
safe house on the Underground Railroad, is documented in one of the few
detailed stories that have survived about the Underground Railroad in
Lake County, Illinois: An Illustrated History
Carlsbad, CA: Heritage Media Corporation, 2002
Fleet as a Deer: Dedication of the New Deerfield Post Office
Deerfield-Lincolnshire Rotary Club, 1978
Haines, Elijah M.
Historical and Statistical Sketches of Lake County
Waukegan: E.G. Howe, 1852
Halsey, John Julius
A History of Lake County, Illinois
Roy S. Bates, 1912
Bicentennial Plus Three: A History of Deerfield
Reichelt, Marie Ward
History of Deerfield, Illinois
Glenview: Glenview Press, 1928