Illinois' First European Settlement
Peorians and visitors alike are often surprised to learn that Peoria was the first European settlement in Illinois, and one of the earliest in Middle America. Standing atop Peoria's world-famous Grandview Drive, and looking out into the beautiful river valley, it's easy to see why the Native Americans lived here for more than 12,000 years.
Illinois River Country's origins trace back to France. In 1673, French fur trader Louis Joliet and French missionary Fr. Jacques Marquette canoed into the Peoria river valley and reported to France the riches of its new colonial territory. Later, in 1680, French explorer LaSalle, along with 30 men, built a small fort on the east bluff of the Peoria river valley and christened it Fort Crevecoeur (meaning broken heart). The fort was the very first European building ever constructed in the Midwest.