West Chicago Prairie Stewardship Group Preserving the West Chicago Prairie since 1983

Short History of the West Chicago Prairie

Glacial period: Land is covered by ice.

Around 11,000 years ago: Ice melts. Surface of preserve is formed by outwash from debris of the West Chicago moraine, just to the east.

Prior to European settlement: No Indian artifacts have been found on the site, though it was likely used for hunting and travel.

1829: Land ceded by treaty to federal government; acquired in 1833.

1840: Land surveyed and purchasing begins.

around 1850: Railroad buys land from original purchasers. Land is held for future development and leased out.

around 1920: RR line built.

1929: Stockyards are built.

1930 – 1945: Very active.

1937: The branch of the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin electric line that is now the Geneva Spur of the Illinois Prairie Path shut down. The rails were removed during World War II for the scrap.

1945 – 1971: Little activity, though there are some attempts at revival.

1970: 16-year old Jonathan Voelz persuades Floyd Swink to visit the area. Swink writes a letter about the property, but nothing happens at the time.

1971: Two fires of suspicious origin destroy the grain elevator and the cattle barns.

1971: Stockyards closed and property sold to developers.

Sometime between 1971 and 1974: Sand was quarried from a section near the current entrance by scraping off the top soil and scooping out the exposed sand.

1975: West Chicago mayor Dick Truitt “discovers” the Prairie. While attending a class at the Morton Arboretum, he tells Ray Schulenberg about the property. Schulenberg and Wayne Lampa of the DuPage Forest Preserve District visit the site and declare it “some of the finest native prairie remnants in the greater Chicago area”. This kicks off the preservation efforts.

1979: The City of West Chicago and the FPD purchase the original 150 acres, with the help of temporary funding from The Nature Conservancy.

1982: Mel Hoff is appointed Volunteer Steward on November 18 and forms the West Chicago Prairie Stewardship Group. The first work day is held March 26, 1983.

1986 - 2010: The Forest Preserve District purchases several adjacent plots bringing the total size of the preserve to about 360 acres.

2006: After years of fits and starts, the City of West Chicago approves Illinois Nature Preserve status for 120 acres of the preserve on March 6, to be called the Truitt-Hoff Nature Preserve. This is basically all the original purchase, less the areas containing the Commonwealth Edison easements. The following day, the Forest Preserve District, which has been waiting for West Chicago to act, also signs application. The application is approved by the Nature Preserve Commission on May 2.

2007 and 2012: The Nature Preserve Commission grants Nature Preserve Buffer status to most of the area in the additional plots added to the preserve by the Forest Preserve District over the years.

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