In 1853, William B. Ogden's Chicago Land Company purchased land on the east side of the river to excavate clay for brick-making. "Starting from the south, workers excavated a channel northwards, and by 1857 the channel had rejoined the river forming a shortcut past the bend in the river." The completion of this canal, which was made navigable by dredging it to 50 feet wide and 10 feet deep, formed what is now Goose Island, the only island in the Chicago River.
Goose Island's access to water made it the perfect place for industry. By the late 1800s the small island was covered with tanneries, breweries, and soap factories, and by 1887, there were "two grain elevators, eleven coal yards, and a railroad" among these other industrial businesses. The name of Goose Island is rumored to have come out of this time of industrialization. Irish factory workers took up residence on the island during this period, and it is believed that they brought with them flocks of geese and kept them as livestock.