Miss O’Leary’s Cow

One of the most important events in the city of Chicago’s history is the time it burned done in 1871. On October 8th the fire began and the fire started in Miss O’Leary’s barn and a reporter at the time jokingly said that the cow kicked down a lantern while O’Leary was milking it. This wasn’t true though as she was actually with her husband in bed when the fire started. Despite the fact that it was a joke and the reporter even admitted it was people still blamed O’Leary. According to this story this led her to have a miserable and lonely life. When she died she was said to have died with a broken heart because of all the blame laid at her feet. My informant first heard this story from his high school history teacher. This legend was taught near Chicago because of the personal connection to the event. He knows that there isn’t much truth to the whole story, but he still likes it as a result of it having a local connection.

This story is probably told in order to create a sense of identity of people in and around Chicago. It is similar to a formative myth because while it wasn’t about the founding of the city, it was almost totally rebuild except one building and it was the rebirth of the city.