Goose Island was a small clay island in the 1840s at the confluence of the North and South branches. Its namesake, the island we know today, is the result of an excavation for making brick in 1857.

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William Ogden, Chicago's first mayor, started the Chicago Land Company in 1853, and began excavating land to the east of the North Branch to make brick. Over the course of four years, he had dug what became a shortcut around the bend in the river. The canal is known is the Ogden Canal, and the island is sometimes referred to as "Ogden Island".