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Peoria County History


This book can be found at the main Peoria Public Library.
C. Balance; the History of Peoria Illinois, Peoria, IL, 1870
The Geographical Position of Peoria - Chapter ,1 pgs 1-4
Transcribed by: Megan R.



The Geographical Position of Peoria

If you wish to see where Peoria is, place yourself in front of any large map of the United States; raise your eyes as far north as Lake Michigan. Near its westerly shore, in the State of Wisconsin, you perceive several small streams, which, running a southerly course, unite and form the little river Desplaines. Turn you eyes to the right, and you will see, near the south end of Lake Michigan, in the State of Indiana, many small streams, and a great swamp, which form the Kankakee River. This river, as you perceive, runs into the State of Illinois, and mingles its waters with those of the Desplaines, and from their union to the confluence with the Mississippi river their united waters bear the name of the Illinois. Follow this stream from its head to its mouth, and you see a great many smaller streams which pour their waters into it, so that it becomes a large river.

Now again raise your eyes to the lake, and you will see a canal, extending from Chicago, on Lake Michigan, to LaSalle, on the Illinois River. At the latter place a fine basin has been formed for the reception of canal-boats and steamboats. From this basin to St. Louis there are no rocks, nor 'sawyers', nor other impediments to navigation, except in very cold weather from ice, and occasionally in a very dry fall there fails to be water enough. 

This river and canal give direct communication between St. Louis and Chicago (two of the most flourishing cities in America), and through them with all the world. About half way between these famous cities, you perceive an expansion in the Illinois River, about twenty miles long, called Lake Peoria. At the lower end of this expansion, on the southwest side, you perceive a number of railroads concentrate. At this point drive a stake, and append to it a line a hundred miles long, and strike a circle two hundred miles in diameter, and you will enclose more first-rate arable land, unfit for cultivation, than you would by striking a circle, of the same diameter, any where else on the face of the globe. At this spot, in 40 deg. 40 min. north latitude, and 12 deg. 40 min. west longitude from Washington, stands the beautiful City of Peoria. And here might the poet well exclaim,

"Where Nature's God, in forming earth of naught,
Performed the last of all the works he wrought,
There stands Peoria, there in beauty shines
The fairest town-site on this earth's confines;
Like some great architect, for skill renowned,
Whose works of art do everywhere abound,
All which are good, but that performed the last
Out vies the rest, and can not be surpassed."

The river is placid and, except during freshets, clear. The whole town-plat is free from inundation. From the river to the bluff (about three-fourths of a mile) the soil is a sandy loam, and consequently generally dry and free from mud. The front of the bluff is mostly composed of pebble, but on and beyond the bluff the soil is rich loam, based on yellow clay. The land rises gradually from the water's edge until it attains an elevation of about seventy feet; but it recedes again considerably before reaching the bluff, so as to make the elevation appear considerably greater than it really is. From the top of this bluff, or rather from the top of a house on it, a scene of exceeding beauty is presented. All the houses in the city, residences, stores, churches, factories, etc., as well as the river and lake and hills beyond, may be seen from one spot.

In Mr. Parkman's 'Discovery of the Great West', page 156 in note, he says, in speaking of Utica, "This is the only part of river-bottom, from this point to the Mississippi, not liable to inundation in the floods." If by 'river-bottoms' he means alluvial lands, this is a great mistake. The town-sites of Hennepin, Henry, Lacon, Chillicothe, Rome, Peoria, Perkin, Havana, Bath, Beards-town and Meredosia are all alluvial lands, and free form inundation.

From the description given of Lake Peoria, its width is generally supposed to be greater than it is. It is generally described as being twenty miles long, and from two to three miles wide. This will do pretty well for a high-water description, but not for a low-water one. In low water, opposite the foot of Main Street, it is only about a half-mile and twenty-one rods wide. It becomes a little wider two miles up ; but at about four miles up are the Narrows, a point of land subject, it is true, to inundation, but for the most of the year making one lake two lakes. Above the Narrows the lake becomes wider, - at some places, perhaps, a mile wide. Opposite Chillicothe there is a long island, immediately above which the river becomes compressed into its usual width. This lake formerly abounded in fish, ducks and geese, beyond any place I ever saw; but the have been greatly diminished and the ducks and geese have nearly disappeared. In early time's swans, brants and cranes were also tolerably plenty, but now I seldom see one; especially, the beautiful white crane, which makes a handsome pet, I think entirely, disappeared.

The hills in the vicinity contain an inexhaustible supply of coal, and wood for fuel is abundant. Food can be concentrated here in greater quantities, and lower prices, than at most places: consequently here should be a great manufacturing city. And this should be the great granary of all this region. Here should be concentrated, through the winter, all the grain of this immensely fertile region, to be transported in the spring, east, west, north or south, according to the exigency of trade.



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