#SmallTownSaturday – Dixon, IL

1909 postcard of Front Street in Dixon

For this week’s #SmallTownSaturday we’re travelling to Dixon, Illinois (pop. 15,135)! This town is situated along the Rock River in northern Illinois in what is known as the Rock River Valley region.

Before white settlers moved into Illinois’ Rock River region, it was home to various indigenous groups, the oldest known being the Illini. Eventually the Illini were driven further south by a coalition of other indigenous tribes, mainly the Sauks and Foxes. These indigenous tribes lived along the  Rock River and prevented white settlers from fully inhabiting the region. It was not until the end of the Black Hawk War in 1832 that this region was truly open to settlement by non-indigenous peoples.Read More

#SmallTownSaturday – Introduction

1864 Johnson and Ward’s Map of Illinois

*Originally posted on June 28, 2017*

This Saturday, we are beginning our #SmallTownSaturday series!

When we think of Illinois history, we most commonly think of the Prairie State’s big cities, rife with big events: Chicago’s riots, rallies, fires, and fairs; Springfield’s Lincoln landmarks; Champaign-Urbana’s University scene. Often, we tend to overlook the equally significant cultural heritage, historical events, and notable figures of the small towns in Illinois.

Through our Small Town Saturday series, we hope to introduce you to some of the lesser known yet noteworthy stories from our state’s past while celebrating the small towns where they unfolded.Read More

#SmallTownSaturday – Rantoul, IL

Aerial photograph of Chanute Air Force base in the 1920s with the village of Rantoul in the background.

This week we’re landing in Rantoul, IL (pop. 12,815) for our #SmallTownSaturday!

Few settlers inhabited the wooded area north of Urbana until the Illinois Central Railroad arrived in the early 1850s. Robert Rantoul Jr., a U.S. representative from Massachusetts and a director of the Illinois Central Railroad, drafted a charter for a railroad that included tracks running from Urbana to Chicago. The project was completed in 1854 and Rantoul Station was built, named after Robert Rantoul Jr. A town began to form near the station as settlers built homes and set up small businesses. By the time Rantoul received an official charter in 1869, it had 1,634 residents.… Read More