River Road's Izaak Walton League was Pioneer Home

The prosperous Jefferson Woodside Farm is now home to a local conservation organization.

Joseph Jefferson and his sons, Hiram, Daniel and Luther were pioneers of the Des Plaines River valley. They arrived by 1839.

The travelers were Wealthy farmers from Vermont and they purchased land on a glacial ridge adjacent to the Des Plaines River, ensuring fertile soil.

The Jeffersons built a large enterprise on their Woodside farm. Hiram and his father built two log cabins on the land, which were later replaced by a frame house and in about 1856 by the brick house, which now houses the .

The Izaak Walton League is a nationwide conservation organization. Founded in Chicago in 1922, the League focuses on conservation of natural environments for recreation. In 1918, the fledgling forest preserve district acquired the Jefferson homestead, which had been divided by the construction of River Road. The Des Plaines chapter was chartered in 1926, and in 1929, the forest preserve granted the organization use of the building and grounds, where they have remained since.

Fittingly for the future home of a conservation organization, the Jeffersons were closely in tune with the land. The Woodside Farm included a grist mill, built in 1841 ahead of fellow pioneer Socrates Rand. The grist mill was a vital part of the farming community and included a general store. The Jefferson homestead further established itself as the center of the south side of town by establishing a school in one of the house's rooms, prior to the creation of the township school. By 1860, the grist mill was handling 50,000 bushels of grain and was producing 10,000 bushels of flour each year. Much of the lumber for the plank road, which evolved into present-day Milwaukee Avenue was sawn at the Jefferson mill. By 1880, the farm covered nearly all the components of agrarian life, including a blacksmith shop, slaughterhouse, icehouse, and sawmill; Hiram Jefferson even ran an excursion steamboat down the Des Plaines River to Leyden Township.


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