City and seat of justice of Cook Co, IL, is situated on the west side of Lake Michigan, and occupies both sides of the river, from which it takes its name, and is built on the border of a prairie, elevated a little above the level of the lake. Few towns have a more advantageous position. The river, formed by the confluence of two branches, in the upper part of the city, is deep and spacious enough for a vast number of steamboats and vessels of various kinds, which have assembled from different points on the lakes, the St Lawrence,, the Erie and Welland canals, and thickly line the wharves for some distance up the streams which form the harbor. The shore of the lake, naturally shallow, has been extended into deep water, by means of two piers, which projecting from both sides of the harbor, protect it from the accumulation of sand. The streets of Chicago are generally broad and pleasant, lined with trees, and leading to the open prairie, or affording fine views of the lake. The buildings have the appearance of unusual comfort and convenience, while many of the public edifices are surpassed by those of few cities in the Union. Large warehouses and stores, five or six stories high, splendid hotels, churches, fine public schools and dwellings, frequently magnificent, are some of the structures which strike the eye, and excite admiration.
Twenty years ago, the lands of the adjacent prairie were the property of the Pottawatomie Indians. In 1833, the tribe removed, by treaty, to lands in Missouri, and gave up their prairie to the settlers of Chicago; since then, it has continued to increase, and of late with unexampled rapidity. The Illinois and Michigan canal, by connecting the navigation of the lake with that of the great river of the state, has caused the current of trade, which formerly flowed toward the Mississippi river, to turn toward the "garden city", making it the market of the rich productions of Illinois, and of the vast quantities of goods from New York and other eastern cities. The branches of commerce in which Chicago is most extensively engaged, are lumber, grain and cattle, It exceeds all other western cities in the quantity of lumber exported; vast forests of pine and other trees, covering the northern part of Wisconsin, while immense numbers of cattle, from the interior, are here slaughtered and transported westward, frequently to New York.
The canal, which has contributed so largely to the growth of Chicago, is worthy of extended notice. Commencing about 3 miles above the mouth of the river, it traverses the valley of that stream, and of the Des Plains, and terminus at Peru, the head of steamboat navigation on the Illinois. The whole length is 106 miles, width 60 feet, depth is 6 feet. A navigable feeder, four miles long, communicates with Fox river, and the canal descends 20 feet by two locks toward the Illinois. It was begun in 1836, and finished in 1849.
The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, commences at Chicago, and extends to Galena, the head of steamboat navigation on the Mississippi and the depot of a region rich in lead. The central road will unite it with the Mississippi river near the mouth of the Ohio, while the Southern and Central Michigan roads connect it with the eastern states.
Population: in 1840 was 4,479, in 1850 was 29,964 and in 1852 was 38,733.