The Native Americans:
can trace early man in Peoria as far back as 10,000 B.C.E. Artifacts
and burial mounds yield evidence of a Native American civilization that
was highly organized, ritualistic, and in harmony with nature. By 1650,
the Illini Indians, a part of the Algonquin Nation, populated the area.
The major tribes of the Illinois Confederacy were the Peoria, Kaskaskia,
Michigamea, Cahokia, and Tamaroa.
The Peoria (through French
Peouarea, from Peoria Piwarea, 'he comes carrying a pack on his back': a
personal name) were one of the principal tribes of the Illinois
confederacy. Franquelin, in his map of 1688, locates them and the
Tapouaro on a river west of the Mississippi above the mouth of Wisconsin
River, probably the upper Iowa River. Early references to the Illinois,
which place them on the Mississippi, although some of the tribes were
on the Rock and Illinois rivers, must relate to the Peoria and locate
them near the mouth of the Wisconsin River. When Marquette and Joliet
descended the Mississippi in 1673, they found them and the Moingwena on
the west side of the Mississippi, near the mouth of a river supposed to
be the Des Moines, though it may have been one farther north. When
Marquette returned from the south, he found that the Peoria had removed
and were near the lower end of the expansion of the Illinois River, near
presentday Peoria. At the close of the war carried on by the Sauk and
Foxes and other northern tribes against the Illinois, about 1768, the
Kickapoo took possession of this village and made it their principal
About the same time, a large part of the Peoria
crossed over into Missouri, where they remained, building their village
on Blackwater fork, until they removed to Kansas. One band, the Utagami,
living near the Illinois River, was practically exterminated, probably
by the northern tribes, during the Revolutionary War. Utagami, according
to Dr. William Jones, may mean the Foxes, who were known to the
northern Algonquians as Utugamig, "people of the other shore." The Foxes
claim to have annihilated the Peoria for the help they gave the French
and other tribes in the wars against them (the Foxes). The main body of
the Peoria remained on the east bank of the Illinois River until 1832,
when, along with the other tribes of the old Illinois Confederacy, they
sold to the United States their claims in Illinois and Missouri; the
consolidated tribes, under the names of Peoria and Kaskaskia, were
assigned a reservation on the Osage River in Kansas. In 1854, the Wea
and Piankashaw united with them, and in 1868, the entire body removed to
Indian Territory in Oklahoma, where they remained.
Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet explored the shores of
Peoria. 1680 Robert Cavalier Sieur de LaSalle and Henri de Tonti
constructed Fort Crevecoeur on the east bank of the Illinois River. 1691
Old Peorias Fort and Village
Tonti and Francois Daupin de
LaForest built Fort St. Louis II (frequently called Fort Pimiteoui),
believed to have been located at the foot of Mary and Adams streets. The
Immaculate Conception Mission was established here by Jesuit
missionaries. A village grew up around the fort. This first European
settlement in Illinois had trading posts, a blacksmith shop, a chapel, a
winepress, and a windmill.
During the 1760s Jean Baptiste Maillet, a
French-Canadian, assumed a leadership role in the village. In 1773
Maillet sold his property to Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, Peoria's
most notable black settler, who later founded Chicago.
British victory in the French & Indian War in 1763, France
relinquished the Illinois Territory to Great Britain. However, the
British did not effectively take immediate control and the French
villagers remained. In 1778 George Rogers Clark captured the Illinois
Country for Virginia, and in 1784 Virginia ceded the Territory to the
1778 The New Village:
Clark appointed Maillet military commander in 1778. Maillet moved 1.5
miles south of the old village and built a fortified house. This
settlement later became known as "LaVille de Maillet." It is now the
site of downtown Peoria. The New Village had log houses and barns
surrounded by gardens, orchards, and roaming farm animals. Carpenter,
blacksmith, cobbler, carriage, and trading shops lined the narrow
streets. The French villagers had also constructed a large windmill,
winepress, an underground wine vault, and a gilt-lettered wilderness
The War of 1812:
forces thought the French villagers were supporting Indian skirmishes
with the westward-bound pioneers. In October 1812, they massacred the
inhabitants of Chief Black Partridge's village. A few weeks later, the
Americans burned French Peoria to the ground, took the inhabitants
captive, and transported them downriver to Alton. These acts were later
condemned and the French villagers were compensated for their losses by
an act of the United States Congress. The Native Americans, who for
centuries had enjoyed the bounty of the Pimiteoui valley, were forced to
abandon it and migrate west.
American soldiers erected Fort Clark where the French village once
stood ? now the site of Liberty Park (Liberty Street and Water Street).
Josiah Fulton, Abner Eads, and five other young men came to Peoria by
keelboat and horseback. They were the first American pioneers to settle
- 1825 The county was organized and the village name was
officially changed from Fort Clark to Peoria. Until 1831 when Cook
County was formed, Chicago was part of Peoria County.
- 1832 A
company of local men, led by Abner Eads, fought in the Blackhawk War. In
fear of possible Indian threats, Peoria residents started to rebuild
- 1835 Peoria was incorporated as a town. Construction began on a courthouse and jail.
- 1845 Peoria was incorporated as a city.
The Civil War Era:
citizens of Peoria were sharply divided on the issue of slavery. Many
abolition rallies were met with resistance from Southern sympathizers.
The Jefferson Street home of Moses Pettengill, a wealthy local merchant,
was a station on the Underground Railroad.
- 1854 Abraham
Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas gave impassioned speeches on the
courthouse steps regarding the issue of slavery. The three-hour speech
Lincoln gave is considered a landmark in his career and established the
foundation for the principles of self-government and liberty for all
people that would carry him to the White House six years later.
The day the Civil War began, Peoria Mayor William Willard led a war
recruitment rally for eager volunteers. Camp Lyon, where 7500 Union
soldiers were trained, was established at the west gate of Glen Oak
- 1862 Camp Peoria was organized near Adams and Mary streets.
In all, 536 Peoria County men gave their lives for the preservation of the Union.
The Early 1990s:
being a prominent stop on the Vaudeville tour, Peoria was known as a
wide-open town of liquor, entertainment, and sometimes indulged in the
more risque side of things. Because of its proximity to river
transportation and access to corn for grain-alcohol, Peoria was one of
the largest manufacturers of liquor in the United States. Many of the
mansions that remain on High Street and Moss Avenue are a direct result
of the Peoria Whiskey Baron era.
Illinois, today, is the largest city on the Illinois River and the
county seat of Peoria CountyGR6, Illinois, in the United States. As of
the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 112,936. The Greater
Peoria Metro area, including suburbs and surrounding, has a population
Peoria has become famous as a representation of the
average American city because of its demographics and its perceived
mainstream Midwestern culture. On the Vaudeville circuit, it was said
that if an act would succeed in Peoria, it would work anywhere. The
question "Will it play in Peoria?" has now become a metaphor for whether
something appeals to the American mainstream public, and Peoria is
often used as a test market for new products, services, and public
Find out more about Peoria's history: