Mythbusting local Burr Ridge history: “Founding Families” and Potawatomi experience, Part 1

<p>George P. Godfrey  | Submitted  | Photograph by Sharon Hoogstraten</p>

George P. Godfrey  | Submitted  | Photograph by Sharon Hoogstraten

Each week, we will be taking a look back at the fascinating history of Burr Ridge and separating fact from fiction. This week, we bring you the first part of a three part series on how our “community identity” came to be.

These next weeks, we look at local history from a nearly lost lens of Potawatomi experience, with an eye toward the opportunity to hear from one of our foremost Illinois leaders, George P. Godfrey, Ph.D., author, scholar, honored member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and President of Potawatomi Trail of Death Association.

In past columns we clarified that the immediate area was not on the “Trail of Tears,” as it is named by the National Park Service. But we can not discount the very real fact that frontier families populated because Potawatomi families were displaced. Our streets bear names, but do we know the stories of, for example, Shabonna? Do we ask?  

Storytelling: we all use this powerful way of communicating to teach, share, impart. We have those types of cautionary tales used to warn and protect; of trickster tales where humor and quick wit inspire the outsider or underdog. And then there are those stories we share from generation to generation: we build a narrative of how we see ourselves as a community over time. These are the kinds we see when folks talk about their ancestors: of family roots and hardy stock, of Horatio Alger rises and heroic stoicism in the face of adversity. For Burr Ridge area residents, hard work, independent thinking, farm pioneers, family resilience and entrepreneurship (among others) are a strong part of the community conversation that extends over generations.

But what of those parts of the story about which we don’t often hear, because their descendants are not as numerous or present in our immediately available area? We may know Joseph Vial’s views, because he left a diary and his family yet lives here and nearby. Oral histories passed on from family and neighbors can usually be sourced. But how does our story change when we include voices that represent the removals? Of struggle, survival, endurance and triumph?  What of those voices who were here before the largely European settlers? Those voices are rare. And, perhaps, all the more valuable for the perspective they offer.

We suspect at the Flagg Creek Heritage Society, that Dr. Godfrey’s personal wisdom, leadership and natural storytelling will extend our understandings of our place in local history: inspiring us to re-define what we mean when we say “founding.”

If you want us to “myth bust” a piece of area history, we may select it to be featured! Send it to us at: info@flaggcreekheritagesociety.com

The Society operates the Flagg Creek Historical Museum and the Robert Vial House located on the grounds of the Pleasant Dale Park District at 7425 S. Wolf Road, Burr Ridge IL

This content was submitted by a member of the community. We’d like to hear from you, too! To share stories, photos, video or events for our calendar, please email Community News Manager Michael Cronin at michael.cronin@wrapports.com or use the online submission tool.

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