Today the City of Chicago is 179 years old. It was incorporated as a city on March 4, 1837 although it was a town since 1833.
There were many colorful characters who first settled the area but I wanted to concentrate on the owner and operator of Chicago’s first hotel, Mark Beaubien.
Beaubien was the younger brother of Fort Dearborn Indian Trader, Jean Baptiste Beaubien and was born in 1800 in Detroit, Michigan. He married Monique Nadeau and with his six children at the time, Josette, Mark Jr., Oliver, Joseph and Emily came to Chicago, according to his own account, to visit his brother in 1826.
“I arrived in Chicago in the year of 1826, from Detroit; came with my family by team; no road only Indian trail. I had to hire an Indian to show me the road to Chicago. I camped out doors and bought a log house from Jim Kinzie. There was no town laid out; didn’t expect no town. When they laid out the town, my house laid out in the street; when they laid the town I bought two lots where I built the old Sauganash, the first frame house in Chicago”
The Sauganash was both a tavern and hotel and Beaubien was said to have been quite the fiddle player. He was a jovial, fun-loving man from most accounts and visitors to Chicago long told stories of the old Sauganash. The Sauganash was located at the Southeast corner of Wolf Point where the north and south branches of the Chicago River came together.
He was also Chicago’s first ferry keeper (taking Chicagoans back and forth across the south branch for free while visitors paid a fee). He was also Chicago’s last light-house keeper.
Part of the Beaubien legacy can still be found and it exists in Lisle, IL. Beaubien purchased a building from William Sweet in 1840 along the SouthWest Plank Road (now Ogden Ave) in what is now Lisle, IL. He operated it as a tavern and it was a toll house along the Plank Road from 1851 to 1857 and you can still visit the building! It is now part of the Museums at Lisle Station. Although the building was moved a few blocks south of its original location it is much the same as when Beaubien had purchased it.
Beaubien passed away on the 16th of April in 1881 in Kankakee, IL at the house of George Mathews who married his daughter Mary.
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