PIRATES OF LAKE MICHIGAN. The Chicago Tribune had an article today about a gang of pirates who roamed Lake Michigan in the 1850’s. Their booty included lumber. Here is an article from the New York Times from October 10, 1855 calling for action against the pirates and reporting estimates that it would take a “strong force of hundreds of men.” The pirates are reported to “have carried on their operations with a boldness, coolness and desperation rarely equaled in the records of highwaymen.” This article reports that their leader declared himself the king of an island in Lake Michigan, but was eventually assassinated. It also tells about other pirates on Lake Michigan, including “Roaring” Dan Sweeney, who seized a ship in 1908 by outdrinking the captain and crew but “found no fortune in his pirating.” Apparently one of Sweeney’s claims to fame was that he once killed a man by dropping a piano on him. The article concludes by telling about how “Captain George Wellington Streeter stranded his boat on a sandbar on the lake just north of downtown in 1886, then stranded declared that his land was outside of the jurisdiction of Illinois law.” Streeter held “Streeterville” –sometimes at the point of a gun–for 32 years. Streeterville is now an important part of Chicago. I posted about Streeterville here.

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