By John F. Di Leo -
The state of Illinois celebrates its 198th birthday on December 3, 2016. I don’t know if it’s customary to bake a cake for a whole state – Michelle Obama’s food labeling requirements would require too big a label, and probably mandate that it be covered in arugula instead of frosting – but we’ll do what we can to celebrate the anniversary, perhaps with a few tidbits of history and opinion tossed in for good measure.
Illinois was the home of many native American tribes when the Europeans arrived (the best known being the Illini, from which we get our name); among our first historically notable Western settlements were at Kaskaskia, in the southwest, on the Mississippi, and at Chicago, in the northeast, on the shore of Lake Michigan.
Like much of the Midwest, these early settlements were started, or gradually taken over, by French explorers and traders. French Jesuit missionaries established a mission at the very old Illini village of Kaskaskia in 1703… and it was Frenchmen who established Chicago as well, with Jean Du Sable being credited as the first to move in amongst the Potawatami residents on Lake Michigan’s southwestern shore.
Illinois grew up along with the rest of the western frontier… our territories’ names and boundaries changed regularly throughout the 19th century, as pieces of territories broke off to become their own states. The Illinois territory was established as such on February 3, 1809, and on December 3, 1818, Illinois statehood was formalized. We became the 21st state, 198 years ago today.