Soon we were in the arms of our dear, kind friends. A messenger was dispatched to “the garrison” for the remaining members of the family, and for that day, at least, I was the wonder and admiration of the whole circle, “for the dangers I had seen.”
CHICAGO IN 1831.
Fort Dearborn at that day consisted of the same buildings as at present. They were, of course, in a better state of preservation, though still considerably dilapidated. They had been erected in 1816, under the supervision of Captain Hezekiah Bradley, and there was a story current that, such was his patriotic regard for the interests of the Government, he obliged the soldiers to fashion wooden pins, instead of spikes and nails, to fasten the timbers of the buildings, and that he even called on the junior officers to aid in their construction along with the soldiers, whose business it was. If this were true, the captain must have labored under the delusion (excusable in one who had lived long on the frontier) that Government would thank its servants for any excess of economical zeal.
The fort was inclosed by high pickets, with bastions at the alternate angles. Large gates opened to the north and south, and there were small posterns here and there for the accommodation of the inmates. The bank of the river which stretches to the west, now covered by the light-house buildings, and inclosed by docks, was then occupied by the root-houses of the garrison. Beyond the parade-ground, which extended south of the pickets, were the company gardens, well filled with currant-bushes and young fruit-trees.
The fort stood at what might naturally be supposed to be the mouth of the river. It was not so, however, for in those days the latter took a turn, sweeping round the promontory on which the fort was built, towards the south, and joining the lake about half a mile below. These buildings stood on the right bank of the river, the left being a long spit of land extending from the northern shore, of which it formed a part. After the cutting through of this portion of the left bank in 1833 by the United States Engineers employed to construct a harbor at this point, and the throwing out of the piers, the water overflowed this long tongue of land, and, continually encroaching on the southern bank, robbed it of many valuable acres; while, by the same action of the vast body of the lake, an accretion was constantly taking place on the north of the harbor.
The residence of Jean Baptiste Beaubien stood at this period between the gardens and the river-bank, and still farther south was a rickety tenement, built many years before by Mr. John Dean, the sutler of the post. A short time after the commencement of the growth of Chicago, the foundations of this building were undermined by the gradual encroachment of the lake, and it tumbled backward down the bank, where it long lay, a melancholy spectacle.