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Captain George Streeter

Cap Streeter was born in 1837 near the town of Flint, Michigan. On July 10, 1886, the former Mississippi River boat captain and circus owner ran his steamboat, the Reutan onto a sandbar near East Superior Street in Chicago, Illinois. Unable to move the vessel, Streeter claimed it made up the Independent District of Lake Michigan. Slowly, landfill connected the Reutan to the city. In 1889, Streeter and his common-law wife, Maria, moved into a larger ship which had run aground in the District and named it the Castle.

That summer, N.K. Fairbank, who claimed rights to the area, arrived to inform Streeter he was an illegal squatter and would have to leave. Street chased Fairbank off with a shotgun. Shortly thereafter, Streeter chased away the constables who had come to evict him. Further attempts to remove them were met with gunfire and scalding hot water. After one such raid resulted in an arrest for assault with a deadly weapon, Streeter was acquitted on the grounds that buckshot was not considered deadly.

Although Fairbank sued Streeter in 1890 and won, Streeter maintained his hold on the District, which was now home to prostitutes, transients and other "undesirables." During the World Columbian Exposition, Streeter refloated the Reutan and used it to ferry passengers to Jackson Park and Streeterville.

From 1894 on, there were many attempts to forcibly remove Streeter from the District. In cases in which police were injured by axe and gunfire, Streeter and his men were invariably found not guilty due to acting in self-defence. Streeter's fight for what he considered his land continued until his death on January 24, 1921, although he and his second wife left Streeterville to move to East Chicago, Indiana in 1918.

The site of Streeter's shanty is currently occupied by the John Hancock building.