Each week, we will be taking a look back at the fascinating history of Burr Ridge and separating fact from fiction. This week we begin our two part look at the how the Village of Burr Ridge was named.
We in the area probably don’t think much about the naming of the village. We see the familiar oak leaf in signage, Park District booklets, and the occasional mailing. We may see parks and streets with the word “oak” and even spot burr oaks still standing. But the name “Burr Ridge” has a bit of mystery.
This week we explore how the Village of Burr Ridge came to its name. While not a “myth” exactly, we do want to source how the name developed and explore the stories out there.
Myth: The Village was named because the area was covered in burr (or bur) oak trees.
Fact: The early natural environment, based on early topography maps and natural history essays, was not noted to have more oaks than other hardwood trees typical of the south and western DuPage/Cook County area.
The glacial retreats approximately 100,000 years ago sculpted moraines to our south and west, and final glacier retreats about 12,000 years ago created a series of “shorelines” that we now associate with our rolling hills. The areas between the moraines became areas of fast-moving meltwater, Salt Creek being one of them. Wetlands formed above dolomite limestone, and glacial clay made the ground firm. But, by approximately 4000 BC, the rich soil that later drew so many founding farm families, began to take its final form that we know today.
Hardwood trees (primarily maple, hickory, and oak) grew; and our area landscape was about where the east forests met the west prairie grasses. When early frontier settlers arrived from Europe, they burned off prairie grass to flush out game and for farming and cleared hardwood forests for building. The hardy burr oak, however, could survive the burning heat; with groves typically on upland areas and along rivers. Still, only 15% of the area was hardwood; the rest was prairie. And it is the roots of those long-lost prairie plants that give our area its rich soil.
So rich, in fact, that farming became the area’s main “business." Area farm families such as Babson, Bielbe, Bulthuis, Busby, Craigmile, Denemark, Keller, Kraml, Rodgers, Ruthe and others worked the land with success. Produce, dairy and pig farms defined the area (even a prison farm, Bridewell, operated here beginning in 1918; but that’s a story for another time). Of course, the International Harvester research facility, with a focus on equipment engineering and testing, operated on some of former family farms.
By 1938, as the aerial photograph shows, there was little forested area at all.
Author Richard A. Thompson wrote in his 1985 book "DuPage Roots": “Burr Ridge took its name from the Burr Ridge Estates, as it joined Woodview Estates, the village of Harvester, and the International Harvest Center in 1961.”
The Village of Burr Ridge writes, “the Busby family, whose farm included the ridge along County Line Road near Plainfield road that they called the ‘burr ridge’ due to a large stand of burr oak trees”.
However, a local oral history source says that it was named after the well-known and loved Burridge D. Butler, owner/publisher of the popular national publication the “Prairie Farmer”. Butler purchased “Prairie Farmer” in 1910 and then began broadcasting (with International Harvester) an even more popular show on WLS Radio. The Butler family lived on the southeast corner of County Line and Plainfield Roads predating the neighborhood of “Burr Ridge Estates."
Next week, we dig deeper into Burridge D. Butler, “Prairie Farmer," WLS, the role of International Harvester, and our name’s possible origins.
What can not be questioned, however, is that in August 1962 the community of Harvester became “Burr Ridge."
If you want us to “myth bust” a piece of area history, we may select it to be featured! Send it to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 Rd., Burr Ridge IL
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