History of Richton Park

The Village sits astride the famous Sauk Trail which was used by the Sauk and Pottawatomie tribes for moving between settlements and sacred areas stretching all the way from the Mississippi around the Rock Island area all the way to what is now Ottowa, Canada.

The trail was also used by settlers. When the Illinois Central railroad was built, the intersection of the two became a very busy area, laying the foundation of the beginnings of Richton Park.

When Missouri was a territory and was petitioning to become a state many wagon trains of settlers would go west to Missouri on Sauk Trail to make sure that state entered the Union as a free state and not a state that supported slavery. And many years before the Civil War started, Sauk Trail was part of the underground railroad that secretly transported many slaves to their freedom in Canada.

After the arrival of the Illinois Central Railroad in 1852, developers established a depot and platted a small agricultural village where the rail line crossed the Sauk Trail. In 1926, the Illinois Central Railroad electrified its suburban lines, with Richton as the last stop. Local residents incorporated the village, re- naming it Richton Park. There was a brief burst of real-estate development, but Richton Park remained a tiny community surrounded by farms heavily planted with asparagus.

When the IC originally intersected Sauk Trail the two were on same level ground and Sauk Trail was, of course, just a dirt road. A viaduct was later built to run Sauk Trail under the IC tracks. Sauk Trail was for many years had four very narrow lanes going under the tracks. Freehs Inn, which is now in old downtown Matteson, use to stand by the Richton Park train station. It was torn down to make room for the new commuter parking lots back in the early 80s.

When Chicago's suburban sprawl finally pushed into the area in the late 1960s and 1970s, the village's population boomed as it annexed new housing developments. There were 2,558 people living in the village in 1970. By 1980 the population had grown to nearly 9,403, and in 2000 the village had 12,533 residents.