Charles Southern

In 1836 Elijah Hough (pronounced Huff) and his family moved into the area from Massachusetts. Others in the family were his wife Electa, his daughter Cornelia, and two sons, Oramel and sixteen-year-old Roselle.

Roselle worked as a butcher and supervisor in the Chicago meat packing business until 1850, when the two brothers opened their own meat packing plant. At the London Exposition of 1852, their beef won first prize for the quality of the imported meat products. He was later a partner in the firm of Hough, Hills and Co., soap and candle manufacturers. This company used the by-products from the meat packing company.

Roselle Hough. Courtesy Roselle Historical Society.

Roselle joined the Union Army on September 10, 1861, with the rank of major. He served in Missouri, where he was wounded. He reenlisted June 13, 1862, with the rank of colonel. In 1864 Colonel Hough was active in recruiting volunteers for the army. With his help 6,000 men were recruited. On May 1, 1865, as chief marshal he led the funeral cortege for slain President Abraham Lincoln down Michigan Avenue. An estimated 37,000 people were in the march, with more than 150,000 lining the streets. This event was the culmination of his public service.

After being elected the first president of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce in 1864, and serving as a founder of the Union Stock Yards in 1865, Roselle retired from the meat packing business.

Meanwhile north Bloomingdale Township had remained rural, with few people and little business. The Civil War had little effect of this region. In 1868, however, when Roselle Hough returned to the area, he found things changing. Cotton production in the South had all but stopped as an aftermath of the war. There was a demand for cloth that could be produced from flax. Roselle began growing this crop on land he had bought from his father, before Elijah’s death in 1851. He also formed the Illinois Linen Company and built a large flax factory to manufacture linen and rope. He found the soil good for growing flax, and so had a profitable business.

When Colonel Hough started this company, he had one major problem; there were no all-weather roads, and travel to Chicago was an all day trip. The Chicago & Pacific Railroad Company, now the Milwaukee Road, solved this problem by building a rail line between Chicago and Elgin. The original plan called for the line to go along Lake Street through Bloomingdale; but because Hough had financial and political clout, he was able, for $10,000, to have the route resurveyed. This took the railroad through the Roselle section of Bloomingdale Township. In 1875 he had his land platted, and called it Roselle.

From the 1874 Atlas & History of DuPage County, Illinois.

Because he needed many workers and little housing was available, he erected many buildings. The most famous and the largest, except for the factory, was one to house his workers, called the “Bee Hive,” because it was always so busy. But with progress came problems. Because the population of the area was small, and most of its inhabitants were farmers, Hough had to hire men from Chicago, the only place with an adequate labor supply. He hired ruffians and ex-convicts, the only men he could get to do the type of work called for in the flax fields and mill. The men would go to the two saloons in the area after work, start fights, and in a few cases, gunfights. Roselle became comparable to the “wild west,” and was often referred to in those days as “Raise Hell.”

Colonel Hough stayed in Roselle until 1880, at which time he sold his business interests in this area Hough then settled in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he had a cattle company and land holdings. In declining health, the Colonel returned to Chicago in, 1890, where he died March 8, 1892.

In 1895 the flax mill was shut down. Cotton was once again king in the South; moreover the Roselle soil had become exhausted after its many years of growing flax. These two reasons rendered the flax mill useless.

The building was converted to a tile and brick company by Chicago businessmen who had purchased the property. By then Roselle had lost all of its wild west flavor, and was once again a middle-American farm town. By 1900 the clay that had been found in the area also gave out, and the brick and tile company was closed. This factory was located on the northwest corner of what is now Roselle and Irving Park roads.

The Hattendorf Home, 1890. Courtesy Roselle Historical Society.

In the year 1898 a few of the business men of Roselle formed an organization called the “Roselle Park Club,” in which they sold stock. In a wooded picnic area at the northwest corner of Park and Irving Park, this group built a pavillion with a dance floor, food stands, game rooms and a bowling alley. In 1908 the Milk Dealers Association had their picnic at the grove, with trains bringing over 6,000 people from Chicago. Many groups and organizations used these facilities in the years to come, making it one of the most popular recreational spots in the northwest area. The last of the buildings was destroyed by fire on Halloween night in 1939.

Medinah Country Club. Courtesy Roselle Historical Society.

The Village of Bloomingdale was incorporated in February 1889, combining the present day villages of Bloomingdale and Roselle. The village board meetings were held one month in Bloomingdale and the next month in the Roselle section of town. Three trustees were chosen from each part of the town, the boundaries being identified by the plat of 1874. The mayor was elected by popular vote from either part of town. In 1922, because of financial problems between the two sections, Roselle was incorporated as a village. At that time the population was 225 on a land area of about one square mile. Roselle still has six trustees,who are elected at large, and a mayor.

In 1902 a charter was granted by the State of Illinois to the Roselle State Bank. It was and is still located on the corner of Irving Park Road and Prospect Avenue although the original bank building was replaced by the present modern structure in 1959. Because most people who lived in the Roselle area were German, the first bank statement was written in German. The first directors were J. H. Hattendorf, W. Kruse and three brothers H. H., C. A. and W. F. Franzen. This business is still strong after eighty years of operation.

By 1922 Roselle provided electric service for those who could afford it. Illinois Bell built an exchange in 1938 because of the increase in business. A new village hall was built in 1934 to replace the barn that had been in use since 1922. The public library was started in 1941, and in 1982 a new library building opened.

T.V. Channel 5 on June 25, 1972, featured Roselle in one of its specials. When sixty-year-old Trinity Lutheran Church advertised a church for sale, the station noticed the ad. The focus of the show was upon the church and other institutions as stabilizing influences on the community. Interviewed were Reverend Trieglaff, then pastor of Trinity, Mayor R Frantz, and Mrs. R Fenz, the oldest resident born in Roselle.

After World War II the population nationally began to shift to the suburbs, and Roselle grew from a small village of 694 in 1940 to a 1983 population of over 17,000. There are currently 3,872 single family homes and 2,677 multiple family dwellings. Current industry includes firms in lithography, in tool & die, and in other light industry.

Roselle is actively working on a new town center, making major improvements on Main Street, and restoring buildings as landmarks as recommended by the Roselle Historical Society. Several have been marked and restored. Roselle looks forward to a bright future.

The Author

Charles Southern was elected chairman of the Roselle Historical Society in January, 1978, the year of its establishment. He has continued as an active member ever since.

%d bloggers like this: