Did you know that land and plants from Lemont went into the creation of Chicago’s Lincoln Park? And that you can walk the Keepataw Trail that traversed through that property?
On the north bluff of the Des Plaines River Valley, between the river and Argonne Laboratory, is Waterfall Glen, managed by the Du Page Forest Preserve District. The main trail of Waterfall Glen passes through the area, following a path developed many years ago by Boy Scouts as Keepataw Trail. The scouts earned a unique badge for hiking, camping, and helping to maintain the trail.
Once the area was farmland with a lumber mill along Sawmill Creek. It became Forest Preserve property in 1925. In the 1970s, Argonne Laboratory, adjacent to the park, donated some of its unused land to expand Waterfall Glen. In the years between the use of the property as farmland and later as recreation land, it was put to another little-known use.
Chicago’s Lincoln Park began as City Cemetery, in operation from 1843 to 1859. After the Civil War, a decision was made to relocate the remains buried there and create a park. The park was named Lincoln Park, as Lincoln’s assassination had just occurred. The Lincoln Park Commission, later to become the Chicago Park District, was created in 1869 and began to relocate the graves. The process took many years, and seems to some extent incomplete. To this day remains are occasionally found, due to the fact that grave markers were destroyed during the Chicago Fire.
In 1907, in accord with many landfill projects, 107 acres of Lemont land became a nursery that provided topsoil and plants for Lincoln Park. It was located on the bluff southeast of the present location of the Rocky Glen Waterfall, on the eastern side of Waterfall Glen.
Those who hike and bike the trail through the area have puzzled about the remnants of a small structure with “LPS 1921” carved into the stone. Although there is some ambiguity, it is thought the carving is for “Lincoln Park School”, which was actually a small administration building used by the nursery.
In front of the lookout point on the main trail the viewer will notice a broadening of the river. This is the “borrow pit” from which topsoil was removed to cover Lincoln Park with fertile soil for its lawns, field, and gardens.
Other areas of historical interest are found along the old Keepataw Trail, including Signal Hill, a high ground used by Native Americans to send smoke signals, and the picturesque waterfall shown above. Surprisingly, the name of the preserve did not come from the waterfall, but was named in honor of Seymour “Bud” Waterfall, an early president of the district.
If you find yourself with nothing to do at 8:30 am on Labor Day, September 7, why not join the Lemont Area Historical Society for a walking tour on Keepataw Trail? The one-hour tour will include Sawmill Creek and the waterfall, and maps will be distributed for those who would like to make a longer hike on their own, and tour guide Richard Lee promises some surprises. Reservations are required, and the fee is $5.00 cash. The tour will begin at the Rocky Glen parking area near Cass and Bluff Roads. Call the Lemont Area Historical Society at 630-257-2972 to make reservations and for more details.
I plan to be one of the guides on this tour, and autographed copies of my book, The Mystery at Sag Bridge, will be available for purchase.