Friday, January 27, 2012

Old Settlers of Chicago

My cousin Jeff recently found another link between our ancestor William Moulton Butler and Chicago on the great site, Internet Archive. He found reference to William in a book commemorating the Thirteenth Annual Reception for the Old Settlers of Chicago, as held by The Calumet Club. The booklet lists the events for the evening of the reception and the Old Settlers of Chicago.
William's mention in the program for the Thirteenth Annual Old Settlers reception in 1891.
It is not clear whether William attended the event, or whether he was just acknowledged as an Old Settler of Chicago. I had never heard of this reception so I did a little digging. I found that The Calumet Club was a private social club in Chicago located at Michigan Avenue and Twentieth Street.
A view of the Calumet Club, Chicago, from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views at the New York Public Library.
The Calumet Club was started in 1878 and many of its programs focused on the history of Chicago. It was therefore a natural choice for the club members to recognize the first settlers of the city. The first reception was held May 27, 1879, and the criteria for recognition as an Old Settler was to be a resident of Chicago and "of age" prior to 1840. William is not mentioned at the first reception but I do find reference to him in 1890 and 1891. I was not able to find any other mentions of the receptions online.

In fact, I could not find many mentions of the Calumet Club or the Old Settlers reception online. I do not know if there are more records of this club, or even how William became noticed, as by the time the receptions started he lived in Hobart, Indiana.

This new information rekindled my interest in William's time in Chicago. In a search for Chicago history I came across The History of Chicago, From the Earliest Period to the Present Time by A.T. Andreas, which contains three volumes of Chicago history from it's earliest days through 1885. All three volumes are available on Internet Archive:

The History of Chicago, From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, I
The History of Chicago, From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, II
The History of Chicago, From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, III

Volume II has a reference to William, again, as an Old Settler.

The first clipping mentions the Old Settlers Society, founded in 1871. The men listed signed the constitution of the society in 1871. You'll note William M. Butler listed as having arrived in Chicago in 1836. I found references to a similar club for African-American Chicago settlers, but nothing more about the Old Settlers Society.

I would be interested to know if any records of the Calumet Club or the Old Settlers Society survived the great fire of 1871. Feedback welcome!


Frances Elizabeth Schwab said...

RR Donnelley is a long-time (1860s) Chicago company (printer) and used to have an amazing archive. I don't know if they've kept it or not, but it's very likely the founders were members of the Calumet Society so maybe there is someone there you can contact. Years ago the company actually had an historian on staff.

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Frances, a very good tip! Following your lead I found that the R.R. Donnelley company has gifted their company archive to the University of Chicago Library. It can be found at

I'm going to contact the library and see if they can help. Thank you!

Liz Stratton said...

Loved the detail in your post and the links to Internet Archive. It is amazing what you can now find online!

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

Thanks Liz! I am quickly learning that the Internet is also constantly changing...these books were not online the last time I searched for William.