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Peoria Illinois History

Peoria Illinois History

The Native Americans:

Archaeologists 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 settlement.

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.

The French:

1673 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[2], Peoria's most notable black settler, who later founded Chicago.

With 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 United States.

1778 The New Village:

General 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 chapel.

The War of 1812:

American 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.

The Americans:

  • 1813 American soldiers erected Fort Clark where the French village once stood ? now the site of Liberty Park (Liberty Street and Water Street).
  • 1819 Josiah Fulton, Abner Eads, and five other young men came to Peoria by keelboat and horseback. They were the first American pioneers to settle here.
  • 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 Fort Clark.
  • 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:

The 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.
  • 1861 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 Park.
  • 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 1900s:

Besides 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.

Peoria Today:

Peoria, 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 of 370,000.

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 policy polling.

Find out more about Peoria's history:

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