Prior to the 1830s, the area now occupied by Evanston was mainly uninhabited, consisting largely of wetlands and swampy forest. However, Potawatomi Indians used trails along higher lying ridges that ran in a general north-south direction through the area, and had at least some semi-permanent settlements along the trails.
French explorers referred to the general area as “Grosse Pointe” after a point of land jutting into Lake Michigan about 13 miles (21 km) north of the mouth of the Chicago River. After the first non-Native Americans settled in the area in 1836, the names “Grosse Point Territory” and “Gross Point voting district” were used through the 1830s and 1840s, although the territory had no defined boundaries. The area remained only sparsely settled, supporting some farming and lumber activity on some of the higher ground, as well as a number of taverns or “hotels” along the ridge roads. Grosse Pointe itself steadily eroded into the lake during this period.