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University of Illinois Library at 




AUTHOR: Alvord, Clarence 




Illinois, the 

PLACE: Pontiac, III. 


UIUC Master Negative 95-4398 

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

University Library 
Urbana, Illinois 61801 



Alvord, Clarence Walworth, 1868-1928. 

Illinois, the origins : an address / by Clarence Walworth Alvord. 

[Pontiac, 111.] : Illinois State Reformatory Print, [1909?] 

21 p. : port. ; 24 cm. 

Military tract papers ; no. 3 

"Before the trustees, faculty, and students of the Western Illinois State Normal School, 
Friday, December 3, 1909." 



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No. 3. 




Associate Professor of History, 
University of Illinois 









Within recent years an interesting phenomenon within 
the schools of Illinois as well as in the state at large is forc- 
ing itself on our attention. I refer to the ever increasing 
activity in the celebration of important events in the history 
of the territory that has come to be known as the State of 
Illinois. The forces back of these recurring celebrations, 
although we are more or less unconscious of them, have 
sprung from a feeling of state unity and state personality; a 
feeling that has grown rather late in the West. We have 
not been surprised in the past when such states as Massa- 
chusetts, New York, and Virginia, held celebrations in honor 
of their great men and the events that are land marks in 
their development, because in these eastern states there was 
nurtured during the colonial period a particularism which 
gave to each of them an almost national existence at the 
time they entered the Union; but within these states of the 
great Mississippi Valley, there was no long period of terri- 
torial unity preceding the condition of statehood and the en- 
trance into national relations. The boundary lines that run 
this way and that upon the map of the West are generally 
artificial in character, and have been drawn for the most 
part by men that were not directly connected in any way 
with the states which have thus been marked off. Take the 
case of Illinois itself. To the average Illinoisans there has 
been very little significance that a line separated us from our 
sister state to the east, for the peaceful increase of the two 
communities, thus divided by an artificial line, has run so sim- 
ilar a course that no event in the past of either has given 
cause for a very material differentiation. The immigrants 
who have settled to the east or to the west of that particular 
line have been of the same stock, and the reasons for fixing 
any particular settlement on this side or that side of the line 
have been accidental in character, and have not in any way 
emphasized a difference between the people. 

The development of a state personality, this feeling of 
solidarity, has taken place in Illinois, not during her terri- 
torial period, but during her period of statehood. And now 

p 31121 




that almost a century has run its course since the time when 
this territory was declared of age, this consciousness of the 
distinct personality of the great Prairie State has stored up 
sufficient force to arouse in us a feeling of pride in our past, 
as something in which other states have not participated. 
One of the forms by which this consciousness exhibits itself 
is in the celebration of anniversities, such as has drawn us 
together tonight. 

There is another way in which we are proclaiming our 
pride in the past of our state that is equally significant, 
namely, through the work of our historians. Perhaps in no 
state in the Union is there greater activity in the study of 
local history than is found in Illinois. Our State Historical 
Society is among the largest. The State Historical Library 
is showing an activity which rivals the work of any other 
institution of similar kind and is, I hope, wisely expending 
the appropriations made by the legislature. There is a 
praiseworthy activity in the local historical societies; and the 
individuals who are working upon Illinois history are in- 
creasing in numbers every year. The state legislature, aside 
from its appropriation to the State Historical Library, has 
displayed its interest in another way, by passing a bill re- 
quiring a knowledge of state history from all candidates for 
teachers positions. This action on the part of the legisla- 
ture may be open to criticism; but, from our view-point to- 
night, it is an exhibition of state pride, of the consciousness 
of a past, the knowledge of which is regarded as a valuable 
acquisition for the citizens of this community. 

This development of an appreciation of the state's past 
among our people should be a cause of congratulation, for 
the result of this energy, although it may be occasionally 
misdirected, will finally exercise great influence upon our 
citizens, when our true history is better known, because we 
have a past that has been of great value to humanity, a past 
which, on the whole, we may contemplate with pride. 

The event which we celebrate here this evening is one 
that marks a distinct epoch in the history of Illinois, a change 



in life that is of such a character that we may say that the 
whole previous history of the territory had but little effect 
thereafter; for the entrance of Illinois into the Union was 
not an event closely connected with the 18th century events 
of this particular region. Up until 1809, we may regard Illi- 
nois as simply a portion of the great western area, the des- 
tinies of which were still to be determined. The particular 
locality known as Illinois had not differentiated itself in any 
material way from other parts of the western territory; and 
in writing the early history of the state, one is obliged to 
ignore later state lines. We have to tell the history of the 
Northwest, or the history of the Central West, or the his- 
tory of the whole Mississippi Valley, not the history of Illi- 
nois. Take the important figures in the history of the region 
during this earlier period, and you will find that in every 
case they do not belong particularly to Illinois, but to the 
greater area of which this district was but a part. We can 
advance no exclusive claim to Joliet, Marquette, LaSalle, 
the great discoverers of the Mississippi basin, any more 
than can our sister states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, 
Indiana. The events that led to the first settlement of Illi- 
nois by Frenchmen were closely connected with the imperial 
policy of the court of Louis XIV, aii all inclusive policy 
which would colonize the whole Mississippi basin, and re- 
garded the planting of the little villages of Cahokia and 
Kaskaskia as but the advance posts of a great French com- 
munity. That these were within Illinois meant nothing to 
the French; and the founders of the settlements, the priests 
first and the later soldiers, belonged not to Illinois but to the 
whole Mississippi Valley, where they and their contempor- 
aries planted similar missions, villages, and forts. This 
lack of real territorial history is also true of the period of 
the English and Virginia control of the country. The parti- 
cular English merchants and officers who occupied Kas- 
kaskia, Fort de Chartres, Cahokia, were not men that may 
be claimed by Illinois alone, but belonged to a great number 
of other states. George Rogers Clark, the greatestlhero of 


them all, the man, who was one of the instruments of Provi- 
dence in saving for the new state that was being born the 
Great Northwest, belongs to the people of Kentucky and 
Indiana, as well as to us. 

So coming down the line, we do not find any point in 
which the Illinois territory may be said to have a peculiar 
history until the separation of this territory from Indiana 
by act of Congress in 1809. And even then, from 1809 until 
the state was admitted to the Union in 1818, the active forces 
that were to make Illinois the state she has become were 
not completely developed; for it was not until the actual 
entrance of the state into the Union that the full flood of 
immigration, which was to raise the territory from insignif- 
icance to prominence, occurred. Therefore, although 1809 
might rival the date of 1818 as the barrier between the past 
of Illinois and her future, still the more important event of 
the entrance of the territory into the United States may 
more justly be acknowledged as marking that wonderful 
change of which we today are conscious. 

It is my purpose this evening to sketch roughly the 
population of Illinois at the moment that she passed from the 
territorial state, at the moment that she shook oil' her connec- 
tion with her past, at the moment when she ceased to be but 
a part of a greater whole, and became ILLINOIS. At that 
time, there were but few elements in the state that gave 
great promise of the future development. The settlements 
that went to make up the Illinois of that day were confined 
to the southeastern part of the present territory and were 
distributed in somewhat of a half moon shape along the Illi- 
nois, Mississippi and Ohio rivers, stretching from Peoria to 
Shawneetown and extending inland from the river banks but 
a few miles. The elements of this population are of such a 
character that it is not so very difficult for us to analyze it 
in order to gain an understanding of what was this Illinois 
of 1818, which passed from her territorial estate into that of 
full statehood. 


The oldest element in the region was the French. It is 
a problem, not yet solved, to discover exactly what were the 
influences upon the later development of Illinois that have 
come from the French population scattered along the Amer- 
ican Bottom; but tonight I shall venture to advance an 
hypothesis. The history of these French villages was al- 
ready over a century old in 1818. Cahokia had been estab- 
lished as a mission station of the Seminary of Quebec as 
early as March 1699, and Kaskaskia was made a mission 
station of the Jesuits in the following year. From that time 
there was a slow infiltration of population, largely from 
Canada, although some few families of the American Bottom 
traced their origin directly to France, via New Orleans. And 
yet, the population was never large. Perhaps in the most 
prosperous days of the French regime the French population 
in the American Bottom did not number over two thousand. 
But that period was before the King of France had ceded in 
1763 all claims to the eastern bank of the Mississippi to the 
British King. From the time of the arrival of the English 
soldiers in the country of the Illinois, in October 1765, there 
was an ever increasing emigration from the eastern to the 
western bank. At first the enterprise of Laclede and Chou- 
teau in founding St. Louis attracted many of the French to 
the more favorable situation on the western bank; but after 
the first excitement caused by the announcement that the 
Illinois country was no longer French, the population of the 
American Bottom remained practically stationary, although 
there are indications of some re-immigration from St. Louis 
to Kaskaskia and Cahokia, after the French learned that 
France had also ceded the western bank to Spain. This sit- 
uation was unchanged until 1778. By the arrival of George 
Rogers Clark and the Virginians, on a July night of that 
year, the immigration from the eastern bank to the western 
bank became much more rapid. The history of the contact 
of these Frenchmen of Roman Catholic religion and Gallic 
culture with the large framed, energetic, uncultured Ameri- 
can pioneers, was dramatic in character. The story of the 


tyranny they suffered as the French tell it themselves in the 
Kaskaskia and Cahokia Records thrills today our hearts and 
arouses our sympathy. Shortly after the arrival of Clark, 
the prominent and influential Frenchmen began to leave the 
villages and established themselves on the Spanish side. It 
is a mistake to think of the Illinois French of the mid-eigh- 
teenth century as unenterprising, ignorant, superstitious, 
terms of disparagement that are used in describing them by 
writers of the last years of the 18th or the beginning of the 
19th century. Those who remained on the eastern bank did 
not represent the best elements in the French population. 
The great leaders of the French, leaders in their economic 
and political development, had deserted them and had trans- 
ferred their citizenship to Spain. The census of the Missouri 
side that was drawn up by the Spanish Commandants in the 
early nineties reads today like a census of Southern Illinois of 
1778. You find in the villages of Missouri the names of the 
men who had sympathized with the American cause, who 
had sided with George Rogers Clark, who had made it pos- 
sible for him to hold the Northwest, who had given of their 
property for his support, and who had marched with him 
over the flooded ground of Illinois to conquer Vincennes. 
Here in the Spanish villages you find Gabriel Cerre, Charles 
Gratiot, the families of the Saucier, of the Brazeaux, of the 
Beauvais, of the Charlevilles, men who were the leaders of 
the Illinois country when the Virginians made that famous 
march from the Ohio River and occupied the villages of the 
American Bottom. 

This emigration began in Kaskaskia earlier than it did 
in the northern village of Cahokia, because in the former 
village was stationed the garrison left by Clark and in its 
neighborhood settled the Americans who first found their way 
into the Northwest as immigrants. The oppression of the 
Virginians, therefore, fell upon the Kaskaskia French much 
more severely than upon their northern neighbors, and des- 
pair of better conditions drove them sooner to the Spanish 
bank. Between -1^78 and 1790 about 70% of the population 


of Kaskaskia fled before the advancing Americans, and there 
was left in the village only a few families of the less enter- 
prising class. 

The village of Cahokia, on the other hand, had been able 
to maintain order during these trying years, and its French 
citizens had displayed a remarkable capacity for local self 
government. Here for years there was practically local 
autonomy, and the citizens supported an efficient administra- 
tion, which suppressed disorders in the community and even 
compelled the few American pioneers who found their way 
into the neighborhood to obey the laws. On the whole, Ca- 
hokia led a peaceful life during the same years that were such 
trying ones for her southern neighbor; and at the end of the 
period her population showed a slight increase. After the 
United States had established in 1790 her government over 
this region, the number of English speaking pioneers in- 
creased slightly. These men of our backwoods were aggres- 
sive, self-reliant, and were much more capable of taking care 
of themselves than the French; nor were they willing to ac- 
cept the authority of the older settlers, whom they held in 
considerable contempt. Without question, also, the re- 
ligious differences played a part, and the Scotch-Irish 
Protestant refused to obey a Roman Catholic Frenchman. 
For these reasons there was an almost immediate change in 
the personnel of the official class after 1790. The names are 
generally English, German, Irish, while the number of 
French names was diminishing to the vanishing point. 

This new government established under the United States 
was inefficient and proved itself incapable of maintaining 
order in the communities, nor was it able to ward off the at- 
tacks of the Indians. At the same time, Spain was making 
earnest efforts to induce immigration into her Mississippi 
possessions, and in particular had great hopes of alluring 
the French from their allegiance. Similar in religion, and 
accustomed to the same kind of government, there was rea- 
son to believe that under proper encouragement the French 
would cross the river and that the eastern bank might be 





completely deserted. The diplomacy used by the Spanish 
was eminently successful. The priests of the American 
Bottom, such as Father LeDru, Father St. Pierre, Father 
Gibault, were persuaded to leave the shrinking population 
of the American villages and to identify themselves with the 
growing communities on the Spanish shore. The three 
priests accepted the parishes at St. Louis, St. Genevieve, 
and New Madrid. Besides thus discouraging the French 
by taking away their spiritual leader, the Spanish encour- 
aged the Indians in their attacks upon the American villages, 
and then to make assurance doubly sure, they offered large 
tracts of land to enterprising Frenchmen who would come to 
them. The result was that the many Frenchmen who still 
lingered on the American side, particularly the men who had 
managed to maintain good order at Cahokia, gradually passed 
over the river, so that by the end of the century the number 
of these oldest settlers on the American Bottom was very 
small; and their influence upon the politics, upon the econ- 
omic conditions, and even upon the social life had become 
almost a negligable quantity. There remained of the French 
occupation of the American Bottom, little more than a mem- 
ory. Here and there a few families still lingered in their 
old homes, but the prominent French names of the early 
19th century, such as Menard and Jarrot, belonged to men 
who are not descendants of the old French families, but are 
new comers, who had adjusted themselves to American pio- 
neer conditions, and by this adjustment had won the esteem 
of their fellow Americans. Since the year 1800 there is 
scarcely a public name of any prominence in Illinois history 
that belonged to the old French families of the American 
Bottom. The Illinois of the 19th century was thus cut off 
from that influence that is so marked in St. Louis and in 
some of the smaller towns of the western bank; and the 
French Creoles have never played a part in Illinois affairs 
in anything like the way that they have done in the villages 
across the river. 

Before the United States had established the govern- 


ment in Illinois territory in 1790, a few American families 
had found their way to this region. These had come in the 
wake of George Rogers Clark's army. Possibly a few of 
Clark's soldiers also had settled in the locality, although the 
muster lists of Clark's troops do not contain very many of 
the names of the early Illinois pioneers. In 1780 several 
frontiersmen under the leadership of Henry Smith, evidently 
coming from Virginia, reached Kaskaskia, and were per- 
mitted by Col. Montgomery, one of the officers of George 
Rogers Clark, to settle on the bluffs at a place then known 
as Belle Fontaine. They built a small stockade fort, and 
were able to defend themselves here for a decade, until the 
United States took possession. Another small community, 
a few years later, settled at Grand Ruisseau, a few miles 
south of Cahokia, and acknowledged the court of that place 
as the government of their little community. Up and down 
the American Bottom there were scattered also a few farms 
and stockades. We have a list of these early Americans in 
the region, a list that contains the signatures of 131 settlers 
Some of these may have been small boys, probably were, 
but they are the names of the first English speaking citizens 
of the Illinois territory, and from them were sprung some of 
our later well known families; for example, the Oglesbys and 

These new comers could obtain lands in two ways, one 
illegally, and the other legally. The illegal manner was to 
petition the court of Kaskaskia or of Cahokia for grants. 
Neither of these courts had the least authority to take cog- 
nizance of such petitions, but the exigencies of the case 
seemed to demand action; and, therefore, both did grant to 
many Americans farms of 400 acres. The Cahokia court, 
which was more careful in its legal acts, made their grants 
subject to the condition of confirmation by the proper author- 
ities. The Kaskaskia court, which was more disorganized 
and more nearly controlled by the newcomers, seems to have 
acted without much thought of right or legality. The legal 
manner of obtaining lands was to buy them from the French; 


and this was not very difficult since so many of the French 
were migrating to the western shore. 

As you may see from the figures that I have given, the 
number of American settlers, 131 in all, was not very large 
in 1790. It formed, however, the advance guard of the later 
immigration. This advance guard was slow in being strength- 
ened by recruits. American immigrants came to Illinois 
between the years 1790 and 1800 only in sufficient numbers 
to bring the population slightly above the figure it had 
reached in the most prosperous times of the French regime, 
fifty years before. After a century of occupation the terri- 
tory of Illinois could count within its borders a little under 
2500 people. 

To us moderns who view the fertile fields of grain ex- 
tending in every direction through the state and who know 
the mineral wealth below the surface of the ground, it seems 
amazing that there was not a rush of settlers to the region 
in spite of the difficulties that confronted them. These dif- 
ficulties were, however, very real, and we must pause a 
moment to take account of them, for otherwise we shall 
never appreciate the various causes which made the entrance 
of Illinois into the Union such a significant turning point in 
her history. 

The first difficulty that deterred immigrants from com- 
ing to the territory was the prairies that have proved in the 
end her richest possession. The pioneer looking for lands 
had a rule of thumb for selecting lands. It was this. 
Where the largest and tallest trees grow, there lies the most 
fertile land. Illinois is a prairie state. The greatest part 
of her territory was treeless. The natural inference was 
that the land that could not produce trees must be worthless 
as farm land. If you will read the journal of George Wash- 
ington's trip to the West, you will notice how enthusiastic 

he grows over the land of tall timber. ' 
the rule known to all westerners. In 

He was but applying 
1786 James Monroe, 

the later president, wrote of the Nort/hwest; "A great part 
of the territory is miserably poor, especially that near Lakes 


Michigan and Erie, and that upon the Mississippi and the 
Illinois consists of extensive plains which have not had from 
appearances, and will not have, a single bush on them for 
ages. The districts, therefore, within which these fall will 
never contain a sufficient number of inhabitants to entitle 
them to membership in the confederacy." Historians have 
frequently asserted that Clark's soldiers gave such glowing 
accounts of Illinois that they attracted thither many settlers. 
The number of Americans drawn to Illinois by these so- 
called glowing accounts do not appear in the records, save 
for the few that have been noted. There may have been 
1500 Americans all told when the 19th century began. Cer- 
tainly not all Clark's companions were favorably impressed 
with the territory, or we should have found a larger popula- 
tion. John Todd, appointed in 1779 county lieutenant for 
this region, one of Clark's best friends, said he preferred 
Kentucky to Illinois, "either for the ambitious man, the 
retired farmer, or the young merchant." He found the 
climate particularly unwholesome. Another quotation and 
this time from the citizens of Illinois themselves will show 
how universal was the unfavorable opinion of the land. In 
a memorial written by the people of Illinois in 1805 occurs 
this statement. Because of the extensive prairies between 
Illinois and Vincennes, "a communication between them and 
the settlements east of the river (the Wabash) can not in the 
common course of things, for centuries yet to come, be sup- 
ported with the least benefit, or be of the least moment to 
either of them." 

Besides this traditional low estimate of the value of 
prairie lands there were real obstacles to their occupation. 
The only means of easy communication with the other states 
was by water, so that if a farmer or merchant expected to 
send his products to a distant market he must settle near a 
stream. Hence the early settlements of Illinois were placed 
like fringes along the river banks. Prom such a location 
the farmer had another advantage, for the banks of the 
streams were wooded, and it was with wood that he built his 


house and barns, and it was with wood fires that he cooked 
his meals and kept warm in winter, for the period of the 
general use of coal had not yet arrived. 

The above reasons were sufficiently weighty to deter 
settlement on these supposed wastes and it was not until 
1814, four years before Illinois was admitted to the Union, 
that the first daring pioneers penetrated into the prairies 
and set up their log cabins and barns, the precursors of the 
farm buildings of the modern era. 

Closely connected with the above retarding forces was 
the tradition widely spread throughout the country that 
Illinois was particularly unhealthy. The evidence for this 
seemed to be conclusive for the French had always suffered 
from malaria and the first comers among the American 
pioneers suffered from the same complaint. There was very 
good reason for this general experience. The French had 
chosen the bottom lands where there were always standing 
pools of stagnant water, the breeding places of malarial 
bearing mosquitoes. Even on the undrained prairies simi- 
lar breeding places were numerous, so that it is not sur- 
prising that the first experience of the early inhabitants 
was the "shakes" for which recourse was had to quinine and 

The reasons thus given were not, however, insurmount- 
able nor would they have had prohibitive force sufficient to 
account for the slow infiltration of immigrants. Other 
causes were more effective. The first of which was the dif- 
ficulty in obtaining titles to lands. The American Bottom 
had practically been granted away during the French 
Regime. What was ungranted had been illegally given to 
immigrants by the British military commandants and the 
Virginia courts. Most of these land grants were written in 
the French language, and drawn according to French law, 
a cause of difficulty to the agents of the United States sent 
to settle the various legal questions arising from them. 
The illegality of the numerous land grants increased the dif- 
ficulty, particularly as Congress had passed a blanket con- 


firmation of all grants that might have been made in good 
faith. To this there was added an act by the Continental 
Congress in 1788 and another in 1791 by the United States 
Congress granting land to the settlers already in Illinois. 
In this way the utmost confusion resulted and no one was 
assured of a good title to any property he might purchase. 
This difficulty was not overcome until almost the date of the 
entrance of Illinois into the Union. 

This confusion retarded immigration more completely 
because this granted land was the only purchasable land in 
Illinois. Squatters might settle here and there, but no one 
was able to secure any kind of a title except to the land 
which had been granted before 1791. Matters seemed to 
take a more favorable turn, when in 1804 a land office was 
established in Kaskaskia; but unfortunately no land was to 
be offered for sale until existing private claims were adjusted. 
Now began a systematic attempt to bring order out of chaos; 
but the subject was a difficult one and delay after delay was 
granted, so that it was not until 1814 that the sales of public 
land in Illinois began and immigration was really encour- 
aged by the possibility of purchasing indisputable titles 
to the fertile fields. Notice that this again was only four 
years before the admission of the state to the Union. 

From this time on every encouragement to settlement 
was given by the national government. At the very time 
that the public lands were thrown on the market a new act 
of importance went into effect, by which squatters in Illi- 
nois were granted the right of preempting a quarter section 
and of entering the land upon the payment of one-fourth of 
the purchase price. This meant that those who had already 
improved lands in the expectation of purchase as soon as the 
land office began operations had the first right. 

This delayed opening of the land in Illinois by the 
United States was no intended slight to the territory, for 
there was no land in the territory which the national govern- 
ment had a right to sell. The United States had adopted 
the policy of obtaining by cession from the Indian claimants 



all lands before opening it to entrance by settlers. Before 
1803, the surface of Illinois was covered by the Indian claims, 
except the region around the French villages and five small 
tracts in various parts of the territory, which had been ob- 
tained for the purpose of building forts. With the year 1803 
began the first series of Indian treaties which was finally to 
drive the Indians from the border of the state. The first 
treaty was naturally enough with the Illinois confederations 
whose claim to the southern part was extinguished in 1803; 
and in 1804 the Sauks and Foxes ceded the territory west of 
the Illinois and Fox rivers; and in 1805, the land on the 
Wabash claimed by the Piankashaws was also purchased. 
This practically ended the first series of Indian treaties and 
nothing more was attempted until after the close of the War 
of 1612, when by another series, the most important treaty 
of which was with the powerful Kickapoos in 1819, all Illi- 
nois except the extreme north was opened for settlement. 
It was therefore not until the time when Illinois entered the 
Union that conditions were really favorable to immigration. 
The influence of these retarding factors in Illinois is 
conspicuous in the census reports as far as we have them. 
We have already seen that at the time France ceded the 
West and Canada to England in 1763, there were about 2000 
white settlers in the Illinois country. At the time of the 
occupation of the territory by George Rogers Clark the 
population was probably a scant 1500. By 1790 this number 
had fallen to below 1000 on account of the emigration of the 
French to Missouri. Although there are no figures the de- 
crease in the French population during the next decade was 
very marked, but there was compensation for this in the 
immigration of Americans and Canadian French. During 
this time the Morrisons, the Reynolds, the Menards, came 
to Illinois. In 1801 the population had passed the maximun 
of French settlement and reached almost 2500. Compare 
this with the population of other western states. Kentucky 
in 1801 boasted a population of 220,000 and Ohio 45,000. 
Indiana which had suffered from the same retardation as Illi- 


nois contained also about 2500 people. The next census, 
that of 1810, shows the result of the extinguishing of Indian 
titles and the promised land sales, for Illinois population 
numbered over 12 000. But the next eight years saw the 
actual opening of the land office, the further extinguishing 
of the Indian land titles, and the beginning of settlements on 
the prairies. The forces retarding immigration were at last 
removed. Under the favoring influence of these conditions 
the population leaped to almost 40,000, an increase of about 
28,000 in eight years. 

One naturally asks whence came this influx of new men? 
What drove_them to the frontier border to make new homes? 
The answer is not so very difficult, although much investiga- 
tion into the origins of our early population remains to be 
done by our historians The route to Illinois generally used 
was by the Ohio, its branches, or by land along its banks, 
for no longer was the route from the lakes, which was in 
such constant use by the Canadians, often traveled. Not 
yet was the Erie Canal opened, which was to bring a tide of 
immigration from New York and New England. On the 
Ohio in arks, rafts, and other crafts the age of the steam- 
boat was not yet come or else along the banks on horse- 
back or by foot, came the immigrants who were to make the 
great state of Illinois. The easiest route to Illinois deter- 
mined the character of its earliest population. The immigrants 
came from Pennsylvania and the south, and the south in- 
cluded not only the seaboard states but also Kentucky and 
Tennessee. Conditions in these older states drove many to 
seek for newer lands. A drought in North Carolina in 1816 
and the land boom in Kentucky may be cited as subsidiary 
causes of emigration. A more important factor was the in- 
creasing production of cotton in the South and the resulting 
extension of the plantation system with its slave labor. The 
small farmer was slowly driven to the uplands or forced to 
emigrate. The more enterprising took the latter course. 
With these small farmers there went now and then a large 
landowner who wished to free himself from the system of 
slavery. Such was Edward Coles. 


These new arrivals made their way to Shawnee Town, 
which was the centre whence the roads to the various parts 
of the territory diverged. Here was a small log cabin vil- 
lage incapable of supplying the necessities of the floating 
population. Situated on the banks of an unfriendly river 
which threatened yearly to wash the village out of existence, 
Shawnee Town continued to thrive on immigrant trade and 
because it was the chief export point for the agricultural 
products in the extreme south. At Shawnee Town the im- 
migrant made his purchase of land by depositing his first 
payment and then with his family and all his household 
goods journeyed to the new farm. 

Thus, Illinois was first settled by southern men and the 
character of the population of the southern part of the state 
is still that of the south rather than of the north. Streams 
of immigration from other sources had already begun when 
the state entered the Union. For instance, Birkbeck and 
Flower had already begun their English settlement. In 1817 
John M. Peck brought his family from Connecticut; but the 
influence of these important pioneers of Illinois belong to 
the period of statehood rather than the earlier years. The 
family histories of our early governors, senators, represent- 
atives, and other officials prove the origin of our population. 
These are almost exclusively of southern birth. Up to 1842, 
all the governors were southern born or educated. The 
northern influence belongs to the middle of last century. 
The true pioneer period is southern. 

It is time to close. The purpose of this address has 
been to show how new was the era in our history that began in 
1818. The men who attended the birth of the new state were 
almost as new as the state herself. They were unconnected 
with and ignorant of the past development of the region. 
The long drawn out eighteenth century with its romance 
and its peculiar hardships was a thing of the past The hand- 
ful of French families scattered along the river banks were 
a negligible quantity, scarcely known and not understood by 


the new comers. The past held no traditions for the new 
state. Her future lay in the hands of those who had just 
come and those who were to follow. The future was full of 
hope, the past was as if it had never occurred.