Books that delve into Riverside’s history often focus on life after the formation of the Riverside Improvement Company, Frederick Law Olmsted’s contribution to the design and notable architecture that made the village a sylvan retreat for Chicago’s elite back in the 1870s.
But people were here before Olmsted walked the banks of the river and designed the village’s meandering roadways and lush parks.
Prior to the first white settlers arriving around 1830, Native American tribes called the area home for centuries. The area near the Des Plaines River south of the railroad tracks served as hunting grounds and, apparently, as a burial ground.
That reality hit home last week when a sewer construction crew unearthed very old human remains near the river along Bloomingbank Road. It’s uncertain just who that person was — an early settler, a Native American, a former soldier with Winfield Scott’s army.
The Army Corps of Engineers and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office say they are going to do more testing and research. Opportunities to find out more about just who lived here almost two centuries ago are rare, so we hope that enough additional work is done to determine, as much as possible, whose remains were uncovered.
And maybe this could spark additional research on Native American activity in this part of Riverside. A gateway to the past is literally beneath our feet.