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La Grange -- Early Village History

In 1870s the people chose to set up a village government.  There were 70 families living in the immediate area.  On May 26, 1879, a petition was filed with the State of Illinois for the incorporation of La Grange as a Village.  Two weeks later on June 11 a vote was taken, 42 to 32, and the village was incorporated.  Village officials were selected in July with the following results:

Village trustees served one year terms.  At the first board meeting Franklin Cossitt was elected Village President.  Each year the Board continued to select one of the board members as president until 1886.  At that time the law was changed.  The Village President was chosen in the general election to a one year term.  Three trustees were elected each year to two year terms.   
Lyman built the Stone Avenue station near Unold and Robb's West Lyons depot.  Local architect John Tilton designed the station.  The limestone was from a local quarry. 

In 1892 the "Citizens Association" as a watchdog group for the citizens.  The association's early concerns included:

  • street improvements
  • improved fire protection
  • sidewalks
  • liquor licensing
  • drainage and catch basins
  • milk inspection
Cossitt built the Fifth Avenue (now La Grange Road) train station when the Burlington Road could not be convinced that a station was needed.  The station originally lacked the covered platform. 

Other early issues of the Village Board included police protection, street lighting, distribution of electric power and distribution of clean drinking water.

David Lyman was Cossitt's son-in-law.  Lyman has lived in Hawaii and is responsible for the naming of Waiola.  A spring-fed stream ran through the newly formed village and Waiola is the Hawaiian word for 'spring'.

Sarah North was the first teacher in La Grange.  Her salary was $30 per month for teaching in the elementary school of old district #6.

La Grange's northern boundary was the border between Lyons and Proviso Township.  In 1879-80 the appropriation bill for La Grange was $350.  The poll tax was $1.50 per year for which two days of labor could be substituted.  In 1883 the Suburban new was published.  In 1905 the La Grange Citizen started publication as a competitor.

Trolley service reached La Grange in 1897.  This photo from around 1900 shows one of the line's wooden trolleys at the west end of its run on Hillgrove Avenue east of Brainard.  For a fee of five cents a rider was carried to a Chicago terminal at 48th and Harrison in about 40 minutes.

The first bank in Lyons Township was organized in 1899.  The same year the Lyons Township Hall was built at Fifth Avenue and Harris Avenue.  For many years the Village of La Grange rented office space in the township hall.

By 1900 the La Grange Road station had been much improved.  The turreted building was called Sackett's Building and was occupied by grocery and drug stores in the village's early days.  The smoke rising from behind Sackett's Building was from Moody's Laundry.

For most of La Grange's first 30 years residents moved around mostly on foot.  Many farmers owned a one-horse carriage, the more effluent had surreys which could seat up to six.  Horses and carriages could be rented from the two livery stables, Durland's and Jay F. Packer's.  Three blacksmiths were kept busy keeping the horses shod.

By 1900 Dr. George Fox served as Village President.  The village's central business district had grown to include thirty stores.  Ten doctors practiced in the community.

In 1901 the first mail carrier started delivering the mail.  La Grange took over operation of water and electric utilities, however the North Shore Electric Company took over the generating plant in 1906.

The first automobile in La Grange was purchased by a H. F. Brainard in 1903.  By 1910 automobile were common in La Grange and they came in many forms -- Stanley Steamers, electric cars, roadsters and mass-produced Fords. 

Until the 1920's there were repeated effort to merge the Villages of La Grange and La Grange Park.  The issue was put to the voters of the two villages.  The residents of both villages rejected a merger.

A fire on December 1, 1924, destroyed the beautiful Emmanual Episcopal Church on South Kensington leaving nothing but the rectory and bell.  Another fire in 1925 burned down the first hospital--the La Grange Sanitarium and Hospital on Cossitt.

In December of 1925, L. G. Mathews was dismissed in a dispute with the Board of Trustees over questions of financial irregularities and frequent absences.  In support of their chief the entire police force resigned.  Colonel Walter N. Curtis, commander of the American Legion Post 41, volunteered the post's members to serve as a temporary police force.  The Village accepted his offer.  Curtis served as temporary police chief until he was relieved by Colonel William Peterson (another post member with military police experience).  In early 1926 the Board appointed Fire Chief Henry Pullman to also serve as the police chief.

Read the following LaGrange Citizen articles for more background information:


Seven new churches started between 1886 and 1906:

The story continues in La Grange 1930s and Later.

Recommended background reading:

The primary source of this information includes but is not limited to:

Some of the above information was obtained through the LaGrange Park Public Library.

Last Modified:  02/01/2004