Crystal asks: Why is Chicago named that? In the 1780s, Jean Batiste Point du Sable built a farm at the mouth of the Chicago River, becoming the first non-native permanent settler. It was in 1830 that the small town’s name was officially recorded as “Chicago.”Given the city’s roots, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that “Chicago” derives from a Native American word. One of the popular theories is that it was named after a chieftain named Chicagou who was reportedly drowned in the Chicago River. Unfortunately, as he was not fluent in any Native American languages (and in fact only spoke French), the versions of Native American place names that he recorded often survived in a somewhat mangled form, as was the case with Chicago.