GREAT CHICAGO FIRE
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about 3.3 quarter miles in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U. S. disasters of the 19th century, the rebuilding that began almost immediately spurred Chicago’s development into one of the most populous and economically important American cities.
The fire started at about 9 p.m. on Sunday October 8, in or around a small barn that bordered the alley behind 137 DeKoven Street. The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. Michael Ahern, the Chicago Republican reporter who created the cow story, admitted in 1893 that he had made it up because he thought that it would make colorful copy. While the barn was certainly the first building to be consumed by the fire, the official report at the time stated, “whether it originated from a spark blown from a chimney on that windy night, or was set on fire by human agency, we are unable to determine”.
The fire’s spread was aided by the city’s overuse of wood for building, a drought prior to the fire, and strong winds from the southwest that carried flying embers toward the heart of the city. The city also made fatal errors by not reacting soon enough and citizens were apparently unconcerned when it began. The firefighters were also tired from fighting a fire that happened the day before. The firefighters fought the fire through the entire day and became extremely exhausted. Eventually the fire jumped to a nearby neighborhood and began to devastate mansions, houses and apartments. Almost everything that crossed the fire’s path was made of wood that had been dried out for quite a while. After two days of the city burning down it began to rain and doused the remaining fire. It is said that over 300 people died in the fire and over 100,000 were left homeless.
VILLAGE OF ALSIP, ILLINOIS
The Village of Alsip was first settled by Europeans of mostly German and Dutch descent in the 1830′s as a truck farming area. Prior to being settled by Europeans, the area was inhabited by the Potawatomi Indians, a large Potawatomi settlement was located nearby. French explorers and missionaries, includingMarquette and Joliet, visited the area during the 15th and 16th centuries, establishing a Catholic mission church here in 1696 near what is now 122nd Street and Loveland Avenue. The mission church eventually burned down, forcing its parishioners, mostly French trappers and Native American converts, to travel east to another French mission near what is now 123rd Street and Vincennes Avenue in Blue Island. Alsip later developed into a small industrial center. One of the first industries to emerge was a clay quarry and brick factory owned and operated by Frank Alsip. The business, which was established in 1885, was one of the area’s largest employers. Although the Alsip family did much for the economic development of the area, they did not reside in the community that would later bear their name; preferring to reside instead in the City of Chicago. When the village was incorporated May 2nd, 1927, it was named after the Alsip family. Since that time, Alsip has grown to cover approximately 8.5 square miles. Today, Alsip is a combination of business and residential areas with a population of approximately 21,000 residents. Alsip is also now the home of over 800 commercial, industrial, retail and corporate businesses. Some of these businesses include: Coca Cola, Griffith Laboratories International Headquarters, Crown Cork and Seal Inc., and Landis Plastics.
Alsip is located in the south/central portion of Cook County Illinois, and is about 19 miles Southwest of downtown Chicago. Alsips northern edge borders the City of Chicago, making it conveniently located for business and residential alike. The population of Alsip is relatively young with a median age of 26.9 years. 49% of the working population is employed in white collar positions. The remaining 51% are engaged in work categorized as blue collar. 60% of Alsip families have incomes between $35,000 and $65,000 annually.
The families of William Pitt Alsip were all skilled brick makers in Pennsylvania, before migrating to Iowa. William Alsip and his wife Mary Ann Meeker and their children were living in Iowa where William and his sons were all skilled brick makers engaged in brickmaking there. Almost immediately after the Great Chicago Fire, they closed their operations there and move the entire operation to the out skirts of Chicago and started making bricks. William Alsip, his sons Francis “Frank”, William Jr.,