For many millennia after that, the history of the Green Bay trail remains unclear, although indigenous tribes probably followed the path hunting and trading. In the 1600s French explorers Joliet and Marquette used the route in their travels, and it is also likely that French Canadian fur traders and coureurs de bois (“wood-rangers”) traversed the ancient trail. We know that tribes of the Algonquin family, most recently the Potawatomi, used it until the early 19th century.
|Chicago area map of the Green Bay trail.|
During the first decades of the 1800s, early settlers, remote from the more heavily traveled east-west transportation routes, welcomed the first mail carriers. Their nearly 500-mile round trip between Fort Dearborn in Chicago and Fort Howard in Green Bay took one month on foot in winter. (In summer the mail was sent by boat on Lake Michigan.) Pay for this extremely difficult trip was $60 to $70. Death by freezing and starvation, or at the hands of hostile tribes, was a frequent hazard.
In 1832 an Act of Congress established the Green Bay trail as an official post road, although it was marshy and nearly impassable for a horse and wagon. Locally the road, marked by trail trees, had what was known as a “wet” and “dry” route. The wet route ran along higher ground. The dry route ran closer to the lake near the present-day Sheridan Road.
The Green Bay trail starts in Chicago with the two alternative routes mentioned above, each of which gave rise, in the period of European settlement, to an important highway. The first, which is the one more commonly identified with Green Bay road, started at the north end of the Michigan Avenue bridge and ran north along the height of land between the lake shore and the North Branch of the river. The route led north on Rush Street as far as Chicago Avenue and from there northwesterly for a mile to the intersection of Clark Street and North Avenue. Continuing northwest, the trail kept inland from the lake some distance, coming in sight of it between Chicago and Milwaukee only at Grosse Pointe (now Evanston). It passes Waukegan three miles inland, Kenosha and Racine Wisconsin about five miles inland.
|CLICK MAP FOR A FULL SIZE IMAGE|
|The northern end of the "Old Jambeau trail" aka: the "Green Bay trail."|
Today the original Green Bay trail is covered in part by Sheridan and Green Bay Roads. The Shore Line was abandoned in 1955; the right-of-way was then leased to the Green Bay trail Committee for development.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.