Chicago was significant to Oxford Township. Many of our pioneers, especially Czechs, spent their first weeks, months, or years in Chicago (Illinois) before migrating west to our area. Some were joining friends and family already here. Some wanted to leave the disease and pollution of the city. The Civil War (1861-65) impacted Chicago’s economy, causing over 6000 businesses to go bankrupt and 100 banks to close. The big fire in October 1871 destroyed over 17,000 houses and left one third of the population homeless. The financial panic of 1873-79 caused widespread unemployment in Chicago. These events may have driven some to try life in Oxford.
After the railroad was built (1871) to Oxford Junction, people came via train. Later those tracks carried visitors, businessmen, produce and manufactured products back and forth. The farmers of our area were among those of the Midwest who turned to Chicago for a way to dispose of their harvest and also for farm equipment and goods of all kinds. Chicago was the greatest grain port in the world, having twelve grain houses (elevators) by 1858. By 1861 it was the largest lumber market in the world, sending lumber west to the prairie states as soon as the railroads were built. The massive Union Stockyards opened in 1865, replacing several scattered stockyards, and received much of Oxford’s livestock via train and truck until it closed in 1971.
Obituaries in the Oxford Mirror usually mention Chicago relatives of the deceased and/or funeral attendees and/or the deceased’s earlier time in that city. Chicago received many Czechs from the Trebon area in South Bohemia, as did Oxford Township. Some of these people knew each other in the “old country” and maintained friendships in America.
note – 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago, and 1888 Republican Convention there.