The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 28PREEMPTION CLAIM OF BERNARD BIRD TO A LOT IN LA SALLE
May 26, 1848
When the log cabin in question had been built by John Dillon and John Martin in La Salle in the winter of 1838 the town had had two frontier stores, a blacksmith's shop, and a substantial tavern. Residents numbered approximately 200. Canal workers living in the vicinity had built all matter of shapes and sizes of shanties in which to shelter themselves. The roofs of these mostly crude structures variously were composed of straw, grass sod, and wooden shingles.
By late 1842 canal work had ceased due to unpaid debt on the part of the I and M fund. Former workers left the line for good or found employment in agricultural ventures in the surrounding countryside. The town of La Salle was virtually deserted. Canal work resumed in July 1845 at which time the contract for the steamboat channel and basin at La Salle was re-let (see document 17). When the canal opened in the spring of 1848 La Salle, the western terminus, was thriving again. The town had a new grist mill and warehouse at the canal's edge and substantial homes lined the main street.
Points to Consider
Describe Bernard Bird's property.
Why had this lot never been fenced?
Why had this house been vacant over the winter of 1842-1843?
How many separate owners had the house located on lot 6 in block 126 had over 1838-1848? Why had there been so many owners over such a short period?