The Indian Boundary Line

by Hank Morris

Like many diagonal streets that interrupt the grid patterned streets of Chicago, Rogers Avenue comes from a past far earlier than the surveyors who laid out Chicago’s streets. An ancient Indian trail, the passageway we now know as Rogers Avenue holds a special historic significance.

On August 24, 1816, the Treaty of St. Louis designated this particular trail to be a boundary dividing the land between the Native Americans and white settlers. Signed on behalf of the United States by Illinois’ first Governor, Ninian Edwards (1775-1833); Auguste Chouteau (1749-1829), and William Clark (1770-1838, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and brother of the Revolutionary War hero Gen. George Rogers Clark, after whom Clark Street is named), the treaty was negotiated with the Council of Three Fires, the united tribes of Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Pottawatomie. White settlers were permitted to settle south and east of the boundary line.

The line ran southwesterly to what is now Ottawa, Illinois. The boundary existed until the Treaty of Chicago in 1833, when Native American tribes were driven out of the area.

This treaty line exists now as Rogers Avenue, which runs from Eastlake Terrace to Ridge Boulevard, and then starts and stops a few times in the Chicago neighborhoods of Sauganash and Forest Glen. The same trail picks up again briefly as Forest Preserve Drive, just west of Narragansett Avenue and continues the path to Belmont Avenue between Highway 171 and River Road. Rogers Avenue is named in honor of the same man after whom the community of Rogers Park is named, Philip Rogers.

Although the boundary now exists in history, it has lent its name to a very familiar landmark in our community, Indian Boundary Park, which lies directly in the path of the trail. Further down the trail, at the end of Forest Preserve Drive, the history of the trail is further memorialized by the aptly named “Indian Boundary Golf Course.”

mainplaque2A historic plaque was installed at Clark Street and Rogers Avenue on the Northeast corner. Presently it is partially hidden by the housing of the traffic light controller for this busy intersection. The plaque reads as follows:

Indian Boundary Lines

Clark Street honors George Rogers Clark whose brother William Clark with Ninian Edwards and Auguste Chouteau, in 1816, negotiated indian treaty ceding land including Chicago site from Rogers Avenue to Lake Calumet. Erected by Chicago’s Charter Jubilee, Authenticated by Chicago Historical Society, 1937.