The largest county in the Midwest -- Cook County, Illinois -- is also a burned county. While abstracting probates three counties away in Indiana, I came across three pages copied from pre-Fire Cook County probate court records from the 1840s. The originals turned to ash in the Great Chicago Fire 141 years ago.
These records connect two early Midwestern movers and shakers. Micajah Terrell Williams -- an Ohio politician-entrepreneur with an interest in improved transportation and a founder of Milwaukee, Wisconsin -- had died in Cincinnati. William B. Ogden, Chicago's first mayor and a transportation leader cut from much the same cloth, was making a claim on Williams's estate. Following Williams's death, Ogden had been involved with land Williams had owned in (among other places) La Porte and Porter Counties in Indiana. Williams's probate appears to have been a tangled and lengthy affair, and there may be more to the story.