On this day 200 years ago, Illinois was accepted as the 21st state in the United States of America. The journey to statehood, however, wasn’t an easy one. Illinois’ past has its fair share of turbulence, and was even almost rejected for statehood. And did you know that a black man founded the city of Chicago? This piece of history is one of the many fascinating aspects of Illinois’ history.
The early settlement days
Picture yourself as an Indian during a time when France claimed a great deal of territory in North America. You find yourself fighting in the French during the French and Indian War but ended up on the losing side, forced to concede territory to the British.
The Native Americans did not take kindly to British rule, and the territories went through bouts of instability and minimal governance. By the 18th century, many people left the settlements. There were only one thousand settlers and around 300 slaves left.
Du Sable’s role in the region
During British rule, Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable founded a major settlement near the Chicago River with his Indian wife, Kittihawa. Known as the Father of Chicago, he was a free black man. Du Sable’s alliance with the Americans placed him at odds with the British during the American Revolution, resulting in his capture.
If you ever find yourself captured, you should take a cue from du Sable’s predicament: He evaded additional wrath from the British by managing a neighboring territory on their behalf and later returned home. His Chicago settlement eventually became an important spot for the grain and fur trades.
Settlement uncertainties and chaos
The fur trade became a lucrative venture for additional settlers living in the eastern and western territories. Despite du Sable’s successful endeavors, most settlers deemed the landscape inhospitable, with barren prairies and minimal trees interspersed throughout the region.
Nevertheless, a politician named Daniel Pope Cook started a petition for statehood, but federal officials believed that the population figures within the region were inflated. Luckily, Pope had an uncle in the House of Representatives by the name of Nathaniel Pope. Nathaniel amended the petition by extending the territories to the Michigan River, an area of major commerce. As a result, President James Monroe granted Illinois statehood status in 1818.
Despite statehood, Illinois faced population struggles as the terrain continued to be an issue.
Many settlers resided in the southern part of the region, where trees and greenery were more plentiful. As more settlers flocked to the area, they realized that the prairie landscapes were more accommodating to farm life than initially thought.