Peoria CVB

A Historical Timeline of Peoria, Illinois

(Initial, abbreviated research by Dan Rothwell, 1 June 2005)

"Peoria is the most ancient civilized settlement in Illinois..."

1673 Louis Joliet (1645-1700, age 55) and Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675, age 38) were sent by the French Canadian Governor, Frontenac, to explore the Mississippi valley and take possession of it for France. They traveled by canoe, leaving MacKinac Island May 17, 1673, descending the Mississippi River to 300 miles below the mouth of the Arkansas River; they then returned up the Illinois River to Lake Michigan. At present day Chicago, they had paddled some 2,750 miles. These two French explorers were the first Europeans to see the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and the first to see what is now the Peoria area. (An Illinois State Park is named after Father Jacques Marquette and Joliet; Illinois is named after Louis Joliet).

1673-1765 (92 years) The Peoria area was under French control.

1680 The French explorer, Robert Cavelier de La Salle (1643-1687, age 44) led the next European group to descend the Illinois River and explore the Peoria area. La Salle's party included an Italian named Henri de Tonti and a Priest, Father Hennepin. The explorers encountered the Peorias Indians, who made their home around the lake that now bears the name; this area of the river naturally expands into a surface some three miles wide and twenty miles long. About two miles downstream from the lake and the major Peorias village, La Salle built a Fort in 1680 that he named Crevecoeur, which is French for "Heartbreak". (The Illinois city of La Salle is named for this explorer).

1691 Fort Crevecoeur was later abandoned, but in 1691, Fort Saint Louis, which was originally built upstream, was relocated to Lake Peoria. Although this settlement was not continuously occupied, French traders frequented the area.

1765-1778 (13 years) The Peoria area was under British control.

1778-1800 (22 years) The Peoria area was Virginia and Northwest Territory.

1800-1809 (9 years) The Peoria area was Indiana Territory.

1809-1818 (9 years) The Peoria area became Illinois Territory.

1811 Peoria is first credited as being a permanent settlement.

1813 Fort Clark was built, which became the nucleus of present day Peoria.

1818 Illinois became the 21st state; Kaskaskia was chosen as the first Capitol site and Shadrach Bond was elected the first Governor.

1820 The Capitol of Illinois was relocated to Vandalia.
1825 Peoria County was established on January 13, 1825.

1837 The Illinois legislature met to consider a new location for their Capitol. Twenty-nine towns sought the honor; the six thought to have the best chances were: Illiopolis, Peoria, Jacksonville, Alton, Springfield and Vandalia - Springfield won.

1840 Philander Chase, the first Episcopal Bishop of Illinois, founded Jubilee College. In 1838, Chase purchased 2,500 acres of wilderness just west of Peoria on which to establish a school, primarily to train missionary priests for the newly established Episcopal Diocese of Illinois. The corner stone was laid April 3, 1839, for the first wing of the English Gothic stone quadrangle building that would include the chapel. Ultimately the college grounds covered almost 4,000 acres and included several faculty homes, a two-story boarding house, classrooms, print shop, store, library, saw mill, grist mill and complete working farm. At its peak, in the 1850s, there were some 50 students enrolled, ages 8 to 20. Fires in 1849, and again in 1857,c destroyed a number of the College's buildings. Chase died September 20, 1852, and the College closed in 1862. For the next 70 years, the grounds were gradually sold off, until in 1934 when Dr. George A. Zeller donated the remaining acreage and buildings to the State of Illinois. In 1971, a Citizens Committee was organized to raise funds and lobby for a major restoration effort. Today, Jubilee College is the centerpiece of a 90-acre State Historic Site managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Visitors can see a restored chapel, complete with box pews, walnut pulpits and an antique organ. Chase's study, classroom and dormitory are all furnished with period antiques, plus there is a small museum. The location is 15 miles northwest of Peoria near Brimfield on Route 150.

1844 The city of Peoria was chartered.

1850 The population of Peoria was 5,095.

1860 The population of Peoria was 14,045.

1870 The population of Peoria was 22,849.

1880 The population of Peoria was 29,259.

1896 Bradley University, located at 1501 West Bradley Ave., Peoria, IL, was established when it was chartered on November 13, 1896, as the Bradley Polytechnic Institute, a two-year junior college. Mrs. Bradley initially gave 17 ½ acres plus $170,000 for buildings.

1940 The population of Peoria was 105,087.

1980 The population of Peoria was 124,160.


Note: Peoria is the third largest City in the State of Illinois, at a population of about 130,000 and a metro area of about 350,000. Major industries include manufacture of heavy machinery, earth-moving equipment, steel and chemicals; also an important rail center.

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