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 second of our two part look at how the Village of Burr Ridge was named.
It’s hard for us to imagine just how rural Burr Ridge was back before it was, indeed, "Burr Ridge." Women tell stories of husbands taking tractors during snowstorms; children in the 1940s and 1950s recall hunting in small woodlands. The area wasn’t merely dotted with farms, it was mostly farms. Where there were farms, there were farmers; and where there were farmers, there was "The Prairie Farmer."
"The Prairie Farmer" was a newspaper originally published in 1841, and created to serve rural America. The paper was extremely popular here in the Midwest, and particularly in the Chicago area, which was an agricultural hub. By the 1920s, "local man" Burridge D. Butler was the successful publisher of this piece of historic Americana.
According to author James F. Evans in "The Prairie Farmer and WLS: The Burridge D. Butler Years," Butler wrote:
“My phenomenal reconstruction of Prairie Farmer must get the attention of every advertiser... I took an old paper and made it sparkle with freshness."
Butler viewed his leadership — beginning in 1928 — of WLS Radio here in Chicago, with similar no-nonsense, seeing the interests of the working farmer as honest and direct: "...no politics, no schemes, just square-toed affairs."
Radio in our rural area was a necessity of life. WLS (World’s Largest Store, founded by Sears, Roebuck and Co.) was the station designed for the agricultural majority. Butler’s description of his WLS station and the role of "The Prairie Farmer" (with shows like the popular Chicago-produced "National Barn Dance") make this point clear. Here, he writes on July 1, 1939 in "Broadcasting" magazine:
"WLS in Chicago has intensive coverage of the rich Middle Western market. WLS proves its audience in this area and throughout the country by the letters they write — definite evidence that they are listening."
And from one of these listener letters, Butler quotes:
"Radio is so much a part of life that we take it for granted. Time signals in the morning speed my husband off to work and the children to school. Household programs provide me with a wealth of helpful culinary and housekeeping information. News periods keep us in touch with all that is happening in the world; play-by-play sports broadcasts hold intense interest for my husband and son and the many musical and dramatic programs supply entertainment for all of us. Yes — and the commercial programs supply constant and valuable shopping suggestions."
So, did Burr Ridge get its name from Burridge D. Butler? Well, there’s no written record of that. The federal 1940 census shows his address as E. 5th St., Hinsdale. However, his popularity, advocacy for the everyday farmer, working relationships with International Harvester executives and Hinsdale address all seem to make it seem possible. More research and written proof is needed to be more conclusive.
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 Road, Burr Ridge IL
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