Steele Family: Farmers Along Waukegan Road
William Steele settled in Lake Forest with his sons in 1838, only five years after a treaty was signed with Native Americans to open up the land for settlement. Originally from Scotland (via Canada, where William’s wife and daughter died), the family came to Chicago to work on the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
William’s sons Matthew, Andrew and (later) James Steele bought large tracts of west Lake Forest over the years to farm. Their holdings stretched from Rte 60 (Town Line Road) toward Rte 176 (Rockland Road) in Lake Bluff along Waukegan Road, including present-day sites of the Middlefork Savanna, Elawa Farm, Lake Forest Place, and Christ Church of Lake Forest.
Matthew was one of many who ventured to California in 1849 for the Gold Rush. Upon his return, he and a brother began a saw mill at Port Clinton (Highland Park), where Andrew became the first Postmaster. For many decades Matthew provided Chicago with lumber via Lake Michigan barges.
Andrew died young, but Matthew married pioneer Ellen Atteridge (one of Thomas Atteridge’s daughters) and produced three sons: William, James, and Thomas. All were active in civic affairs in Lake Forest with their families.
The James Steele farm at 1101 Waukegan Rd was sold in the 1980s to become part of Lake Forest Hospital’s expansion.
The William Steele homestead stands today at 1100 Waukegan Rd. For a time, William continued the farming tradition. William’s son, Roy, moved the family to town so that his children, including present-day resident Joseph Steele, could attend the Lake Forest schools. The family, appropriately, moved to Atteridge Road.