Monday, December 3, 2018

What was found buried on Budlong Farm, the world's largest pickle farm in Bowmanville (Chicago), Illinois?

Lyman Budlong (1829-1909) was a remarkable pioneer in the pickle industry. He built a massive farm and processing factory on 700 acres in Bowmanville, Jefferson Township, Illinois. The Budlong Pickle Factory was established in 1869.
Lyman Budlong

He built a two-story frame house with a wagon shed attached and sheds for salting the pickles. It has been enlarged occasionally as the business increase is required.

The area is known as Budlong Farm (now called Budlong Woods) and is a neighborhood in the Lincoln Square community of Chicago.

The farm's boundaries were Bryn Mawr Avenue on the north (5600 north); Foster Avenue on the south (5200 north); Western Avenue on the east (2400 west); and Kedzie to the west; (Budlong  Woods western boundary was changed a little to the east when the North Shore Channel was completed in 1910).

Budlong grew tomatoes, onions, carrots, and head lettuce, but his vast money crop was cucumbers, which he processed on-site, becoming the world's largest supplier of premium pickles. 
At the peak of his vegetable operation around 1900, he seasonally employed about 1500 women, children, and 800 men, harvesting 12,000 bushels of vegetables daily and 150,000 bushels of cucumbers per growing season. Later, he changed his crop to flowers, growing them in many greenhouses.

Lyman Budlong died on November 6, 1909, and was buried next to his wife, Louise Newton Budlong, in Rosehill Cemetery, just a stone's throw from his massive pickle empire.

The Budlong company was eventually absorbed by Dean Foods.
Overlooking the Budlong Farm Fields.
Field workers picking pickles.
Horse-drawn delivery wagons.
Budlong Farm grows flowers in a massive number of greenhouses.
Bowmanville was developed in 1850 by a local innkeeper named Jesse Bowman. Not one to follow the rules, Bowman "made the wagon/cart paths and forest near present-day Foster and Ravenswood Avenues his own," laying claim to many of the plots of land in the area without actually owning them. "He then sold the land—that wasn't his—to unwitting buyers" and disappeared before the new "owners" discovered that they did not actually own the land that Bowman sold them.

A large hill just north of Bowmanville was named Roe's Hill [1] for property owner Hiram Roe. Roe lived in a cabin and ran the Jug TavernRosehill Cemetery opened in 1859. The entrance faced the North Western Railroad depot at Rosehill Drive, right at Hiram Roe's Tavern, as an encouragement to mourners and picnickers to make day-long outings to the area.
The first business in Bowmanville, a tavern, was opened in 1868 by Christian Brudy. A short time later, Thomas Freestone built a tavern and hotel to serve the people visiting the Rosehill cemetery grounds.

One fine day, Lyman was excavating for a gravel pit on the far west edge of his farm. He found an Indian burial mound in the middle of California Avenue, 165 feet north of Foster Avenue, at what today would be 5215 N. California Avenue.
Chicago, Tribune, Sunday, August 30, 1903 - page 41.
Fourteen skeletons were found arranged in a circle, with their feet pointing to the circle's center. The Indian tribe was probably Potawatomi and lived in the Bowmanville Indian Village. The account further described the location: "When California Avenue is opened, the site will be on the highway." Today, this location is in the shadow of the Swedish Covenant Hospital complex.
Looking north on California Avenue from a few feet north of Foster Avenue. The burial mound would be located within the red highlighted section.
A second reference to this burial location is found in the book "Evanston, It's Land and Its People," published in 1928, on page 65, by Viola Crouch Reeling of the Fort Dearborn Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.
"A gravel pit excavated on the Budlong farm in Bowmanville in 1904 disclosed to view a grave containing fourteen skeletons buried in a circle, with their feet toward the center. The bodies were apparently well preserved until exposed to the air, when they crumbled, leaving only the skeletons. This was probably a Potawatomi Indian burial mound."
There is no record that the 14 bodies were relocated. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Was Rosehill Cemetery Initially named Roe's Hill?


  1. Interesting story. I never knew that area of the city was a pickle farm with an Indian mound. Of course, it was just a 'neighborhood' when I was growing up.

  2. Was Jesse Bowman related to the Bowmans of the Bowman Dairy Company? My family had milk delivered to our house, lived in Wheeling, IL, by the Bowman Dairy in the 60's.

  3. Thanks so much for this wonderful article from my neighborhood from birth to marriage. My parents moved to Budlong Woods (2753 W.Balmoral) in 1953. The area was being developed for residential use. This is the firsr time I’ve read about the Native American burial grounds.


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