Peoria County, Illinois  Genealogy Trails



Peoria County History

By: Candi H. for the Peoria County, IL Trails History and Genealogy site. Fort Map provided by Steve Slaughter.

This information has been abstracted from Charles Balance's, History of Peoria Illinois, 1870 and 
The History of Peoria County, Illinois, 1880. Both books can be found at the main Peoria Public Library.

The information tells of when the first civilized men came and others that traveled to the Peoria region. 
Along with a brief description of the Aborigine Indians. This information starts in 1673 and ends in 1778.



Chapter II
Early History of Peoria 
C. Balance; the History of Peoria Illinois, Peoria, IL, 1870, Pages 5-7

So much, by way of introduction, for the geography of Peoria. Now for its history. And here I find, as Mr. Lincoln said of the rebellion, I have 'a big job on hand', not big because of the difficulty of arranging materials so extensive and voluminous, but big because of the difficulty of composing a readable history out of materials so very scant. ...
I therefore commence my history of Peoria only about 196 years ago, the date of the arrival of the first white man at this place. But about this we know but little. It is said that Father Marquette, on the 10th of June, 1673, accompanied by a gentleman from Canada by the name of Joliet, five Frenchmen, and two Aborigine Indians, as guides, passed from Green Bay across to Mississippi river, by the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and after having descended the Mississippi as far down as the mouth of the Arkansas, ascended by the way of the Illinois to Lake Michigan and part of them to Canada; but the object of Joliet being merely to ascertain whether the Mississippi entered into the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, he returned as soon as he ascertained that fact, by the easiest route; and it being the sole object of Marquette to preach to the Indians, and neither of them desiring to plane a colony, they probably kept a very meager journal respecting this country, and what they did keep was lost, so that the world was but little benefited by their discoveries.
Either of those men might have been of great serves to the world, by carefully describing this country and its inhabitants, and then preserving their journal; but we have nothing from them but the great truth that the Mississippi does not run into Pacific Ocean! And that Illinois is a rich country.



The History of Peoria County, Illinois, 1880
Page 449

The first white men known to have set foot on the site of Peoria were Father James Marquette, a French Jesuit missionary and Louis Joliet, a native of Quebec, from which city they started in the Spring of 1673 accompanied with five Canadian assistants, on an exploring expedition, under the authority and behalf of the French Government. Going across by the way of the Wisconsin river to the Mississippi, they followed down the "Great River" in their canoes. When nearly opposite to Peoria, they landed one day and seeing the tracks of men upon the sand, which led off across a meadow - prairie - Marquette and Joliet instructed their comrades to remain with the canoes and they resolved to follow the path to see where it led. Marquette says in his memoranda of the expedition, that they traveled about "ten leagues from thence when they came to a village on the bank of the river and two other villages on a hill a half a league from the former." This was on Sunday, the 25th day of June 1673. They spent Sunday and part of Monday with the Peorias, a branch of the illini Confederacy and then pursued their journey, promising to return at the end of four moons. ... They returned to the the Illinois and ascended to the village of the Peorias, where they arrived about the first of August and after remaining some time, during which Father Marquette preached to them, the company continued their journey. 


Chapter III
The Subject Continued. LaSalle, Hennepin and Tonti
C. Balance; the History of Peoria Illinois, Peoria, IL, 1870, Pages 7-11


The next visit made to Peoria by civilized men was seven years after Marquette and Joliet had passed, when Mr. La Salle, accompanied by Hennepin, a Franciscan monk and Tonti, an Italian military charter, visited the place. Upon the veracity of Hennepin, alone we rely for an account of that hazardous adventure or I know of no account of that voyage but that kept by Hennepin. He says: "This day [Jan. 1, 1680] we went through a lake formed by the river, about seven leagues long and one broad. The savages call that place Pimiteoui; that is in their language, a place where there is abundance of fat beasts. When the river of Illinois freezes, which is but seldom, it freezes only to this lake, and never from thence to the Meschasipi, into which this river falls. We found ourselves, on a sudden, in their camp, which took up the two sides of the river. M. de La Salle ordered his men immediately to make their arms ready, and brought his canoes on a line, placing himself to the right and M. Tonti to the left; so that we took almost the who breadth of the river. The Illinois, who had discovered our fleet [of eight canoes] were very much surprised to see us coming so swiftly upon them; for the stream is very rapid at that place. Some ran for their arms, but the most of them took flight, with horrid cries and howling. The current brought us, in the mean time, to their camp, and M. LaSalle went the very first ashore, followed by his men, which increased the consternation of the savages, whom we might have easily defeated; but, as it was not out design, we made a halt to give them time to recover themselves, and see that we were no enemies. M. LaSalle might have prevented their confusion by showing his calumet, or pipe of peace; but he was afraid the savages would input it to our weakness." 
La Salle had much trouble, while at this place both with the savages and with his men. Both seem to have been treacherous; and to cap the climax of his woes he ascertained that a vessel called the Griffin, freighted with furs, in which he had invested nearly every thing he was worth and perhaps more, had been lost on its way down the lakes to Montreal. Under these circumstances, he built a fort to protect what he had with him, while he would return to Canada for more men and supplies. As a memento of his trouble, he called the fort Creve-Coeur, which in French means broken heart. 

LaSalle went back to Canada for men and supplies to carry out his enterprises. But the Indians becoming hostile, Tonti left that part of the country and fled to Green Bay and took shelter under the Indians in that region; so when La Salle returned, in the next spring he found Fort Creve-Coeur entirely abandoned Nor do I find that it was ever occupied; and Charlevoix, who traveled through the country about forty years after wards, says it was then entirely abandoned. When LaSalle found that Tonti had abandoned that part of the country he went to Green Bay and brought him back to the Illinois where he assisted to build a vessel, in which they sailed down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. He seemed to have done much hard service for LaSalle in his lifetime, and to have risked much to recover his remains after his death. Tonti seems to have held possession of the country for France for several years after La Salle's death; but I nowhere find evidence that he occupied Creve-Coeur or Peoria.

Fort Creve-Coeur is in Tazewell County
Map from Steve Slaughter!



The History of Peoria County, Illinois, 1880

Page 450


In 1698 and Englishmen by the name of Daniel Cox, passed down the Illinois river and in the memoirs of his explorations entitled "Cox's Carolina" he speaks of the beautiful lake and adjacent country. He named the river Chicagou and the lake Pinkatori. 
On Friday, October 3, 1721, from Canada, Charlevoix visited the site of Peoria.
From the formal declaration of La Salle of the French possession of the Mississippi valley, after his descent tot he mouth of that river, on April 9, 1682 until the year 1763 French held dominion over the country. In the latter year it was ceded to England, but the Government did not take formal possession till two years later, and was forced to abandon it in 1778; when the State of Virginia assumed control of all the country west of the Ohio river and organized the county of Illinois. The following year a French colony named la Ville de Maillet was established by M. Hypolite maillet, on the border of the lake. {See The History of French claims.}



Chapter IV
The subject continued - particularly with regard to the Aborigines
C. Balance; the History of Peoria Illinois, Peoria, IL, 1870, Pages 11-17

There were only wandering savages in these parts, who business was to catch fish and hunt deer enough to support life, while they, as a matter of much more importance, spent much of their time in hunting another, and they killed or were killed, as courage, skill or luck would have it; Then with regard to the aboriginal inhabitants I have no history to give. They were wild men, without any literature or permanent habitations, and had never been in a superior condition.



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