An unassuming park in the far southwest Chicago suburbs holds the last vestige of the area’s prehistory.
An old Indian trail followed the Des Plaines River along what is today Route 171, or Archer Avenue, in southwest suburban Chicago, Illinois. Across Archer Avenue on the north side of the Des Plaines River and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, nestled in a subdivision at the corner of 85th and Willow Drive, lies Healing Waters Park.
The park, which consists of a small pond and a row of boulders 92 yards in length, is the last vestige of the area’s prehistory. Long before the first Europeans set foot on the land that would one day become the village of Willow Springs, the Algonquian peoples traveled to this area to drink from springs that reportedly possessed healing powers.
The boulders that mark the location are arranged in a precise north-south direction, with a circle of smaller stones at the southern end. “A circle of boulders contained the ceremonial eternal flame kept burning by the Mascoutin Society, a religious group,” a plaque at the park explains.
The Mascoutin were a tribe of Algonquian-speaking American Indians also known as the “Fire Nation” or “Nation of Fire”, though their name literally meant “a treeless country.” They were virtually eliminated by rival tribes and disappeared from records around the Revolutionary War.
The plaque continues: “The Indians came to this place to be cared for until healed.” Although the pond and its miraculous waters remain, it is surrounded by a black fence and a sign warns visitors against attempting to collect or drink the water.
Jim Graczyk and Donna Boonstra, Field Guide to Illinois Hauntings (Alton: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2001).
Willow Springs Historical Society, Untitled Plaque, 1984, Healing Waters Park, Willow Springs.